Can God change His mind if He can’t change?

Can God change His mind? Seems like an easy yes-or-no question, but sometimes people make things way more complicated than they need to be. One of the attributes of God is that He does not change. The theological term for this “immutable,” and no, that does not mean you can’t hit “mute” on your remote to get Him to stop talking. That doesn’t work on anyone; believe me, I tried. Usually they get louder and angrier when I try to mute them. Next time you point a remote at someone and they ask, “What are you doing with that remote?” do not say, “Trying to mute you.” Trust me, it will not go well.

Actually immutable means “unchangeable.” This is where most of the confusion comes in. The character of God has never and will never change. He will always be holy, just, all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful – just to name a few. God never changes. What can change is His relationship to us. That is at the heart of the message of Jesus. He died so we could live in a restored relationship with God. Our bad behavior and mistakes severed our relationship with Him; a sinless God can only stand as a judge over us. But Jesus came down to our level, walking among us and ultimately dying in our place, taking the death penalty for our crimes so we could have a relationship with God as sons and daughters rather than convicts.

The change happens when we change our minds and our behavior; God then responds by changing His mind about what He was planning to do with us. This might be a hard pill to swallow, but there are quite a few Scriptures to support this. In Jeremiah 18:8 God promises, “if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.”

Conversely, in v. 10 God says if a nation “does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” God also commands Jeremiah in 26:3 to prophesy to the cities of Judah, hoping it would result in repentance. “It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings.”

In Jonah, after Jonah finally got around to warning the Ninevites that God was planning to destroy them in forty days, the Ninevites fasted and mourned, saying, “Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” (3:9) Much to Jonah’s chagrin, God responded in verse 10. “When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.”

“Changed His mind” comes from a Hebrew word which has a lot of potential meanings including “repent,” “relent,” “changed his mind,” “be sorry,” and “rue.” According to the New International Dictionary of Old Testament theology and exegesis, it denotes “the personal relationship of God and people” and it “nuances the emotional dimension of remorse in making a change.” As with all words, the meaning is not clear without a context. Most translations do not say “God repented” since doing so would seem to make God a sinner. Many translations use “God relented,” but that gives a connotation that God is often angry and vengeful and the would-be victims of His wrath were lucky that He decided to reverse course. Jonah knew that was not true. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents (or changes His mind) from sending calamity.”

So what are God’s plans for you? Do you want God to change His mind about them? Certainly we all make mistakes, but are we truly sorry for our bad behavior or are we counting on God to change His mind about the definition of justice? He never promised that, but He made it clear that if we change our minds and behavior, He will change His mind about the punishment we deserve and give us grace instead.


Unfermented wine or a half-baked idea? The Truth about Alcohol in the Bible

Jesus was a pacifist. Jesus was a vegetarian. Jesus was a bold Asian dude with a pet dragon named Jet Li. It seems everyday someone makes a new claim about Jesus. Usually this is done to help support a movement or an organization and their core beliefs. One such core belief is called Teetotalism, which is the practice of complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. While no one is saying Jesus was a wino, some people claim that Jesus did not drink alcohol at all.

There are problems with this position:

  1. It contradicts Paul’s statement to Timothy: No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Clearly Paul is saying to drink wine for medicinal purposes. In other words, a little NyQuil is fine if you have a cold, but there is never any reason to get drunk. A little alcohol is the key here. In another letter, Paul says, Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Notice he does not say, “Don’t drink wine,” but instead “Don’t get drunk on wine.”
  2. Jesus and His disciples drank wine at the Last Supper, which was also a Passover meal. Four cups of wine were served at every Passover representing Sanctification, Remembrance, Redemption, and Praise. Jesus and the disciples drank the first two cups and ate the meal just as they would any other year in celebration of Passover. Then Jesus introduced something new with the third cup. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:25) The third cup, the Cup of Redemption, would no longer serve as simply a remembrance ofIsrael’s redemption from slavery inEgypt through blood of the Passover lamb; it now serves as a remembrance of humankind’s redemption from the slavery of sin through the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to remember this every time we participate in Communion. In other words, The Last Supper was the first Communion.
  3. It essentially denies the divinity of Jesus. John says that turning the water into wine was the “first of his miraculous signs Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (2:11) If Jesus only turned the water into unfermented wine (grape juice) as the teetotalers would have you believe, then what caused the disciples to put their faith in Him?

Every so often I go to a restaurant and order water with a slice of lemon. With the sugar packets already on the                         table, it’s like getting free lemonade! Mmmmmm, ghetto lemonade. I tried ordering water with grapes once, but a                   bunch of teetotalers started following me when I turned my water into grape juice.

Jesus did not turn water into grape juice. In those days, wine was required at all feasts. It was common to mix the                  wine with water to dilute it so that it lasted longer – usually “one part wine to three parts water” (Soncino Talmud,                  Pes. p.561, n. 7) to start with and becoming more watered down as the party went on and the guests’ palettes became            less sensitive. But when Jesus turned the water into wine, the master of the feast exclaimed, “Everyone serves the           good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good             wine until now.” (John 2:10) 

Choosing to abstain from alcohol is a noble cause, but it should not be based on half-truths and coercion. I grew up in a denomination that specialized in that. They railed against alcohol, condemning all who even tasted it because they knew the dangers of drinking and they wanted everyone to avoid them. While I believe it was all done with good intentions, twisting the truth in order to protect someone is even more dangerous. I call it the Forbidden Fruit principle because Adam did exactly that and it backfired.

In Genesis 2:16-17) God commanded Adam. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Later in Chapter Three, the serpent asks Eve what God said. She replies, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (3:2-3) Look closely. Did she quote the command word-for-word? Actually she added “neither shall you touch it.” Where did she get that? Most likely from Adam. God had not yet created Eve when He issued His command. Adam must have told it to her later – well, his version of it anyway.

We do that often, don’t we? Instead of telling a child, “Don’t touch the stove when it is hot.” We say, “Don’t go in the kitchen.” Every child will push the boundaries. Once he enters the kitchen and nothing bad happens, he will walk towards the stove, put his hand near the stove, put his hand over the burner and slowly move it closer and closer until he touches it and get burned. This is what happened to Eve. What was she doing near that tree in the first place?! Every tree was permissible to eat from, but she wanted to get close to it and check it out. When the serpent questioned the command of God, she got more curious. She walked up to the tree to get a closer look. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (3:6) What convinced her that maybe God was wrong? Adam had her believe that if she even touched the fruit that something bad would happen to her. When nothing immediate happened to her after just touching it, it was easy to take the next step and eat the fruit. Adam, though he did so to protect her, actually made her more vulnerable to temptation because he lied to her by adding to the command of God.

It is easy to tell someone not to drink alcohol. It causes all kinds of disease, kills many innocent people from drunk driving, and destroys lives with alcoholism. But when we cloak our warnings about drinking alcohol as divine commands, we are hurting the very people we are trying to protect. Satan will challenge these “commands,” asking, “Did God actually say…?” and when they discover that Jesus Himself drank wine and Paul advised Timothy to drink it, they will not be able to resist the Forbidden Fruit.

Don’t dangle forbidden fruit in front of people. They will look at it, examine it, touch it, and taste it even moreso because it is forbidden. Give them the truth and trust in God to protect them.