God Changes His Initial Decision

January 15, 2011

Does God change His decisions, thus His mind? Many, such as Calvinists, say He does not. However, we read in Scripture that He does, and that He does so based upon our petition and repentance and obedience. Has not God condemned the whole world –everyone in it? Yes. Jesus says that “whoever does not believe [in Him] stands condemned already…” (John 3:18) but that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (v.16) True, God knows ahead of time who is going to follow Christ, but the crossing “over from death to life” (5:24) comes as a result of something we do –that we repent, ask for forgiveness, and start walking a different road. (Luke 13:3 & 1 John 1:9 & Matt. 7:13,14) This is a choice He gives us, and if we make this right choice, God changes His decision (judgement) as to our eternal destination. Yes, He knows all things –past, present, and future– but there still is a change that is made –even though He knows ahead of time whether or not the change will be made.

The book of Jonah is a classic example of this. God told Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (1:2) We then read again in 3:1-4, “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and… proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.'” The Lord was decreeing destruction for Nineveh, for we see in verse 3 that Scripture is telling us that this second time, Jonah did obey God’s command to “proclaim to it the message I give you.” (v. 2)

But what happened? Did God destroy the city as He threatened to do? No, for, “The Ninevites believed God. The declared a fast, and… put on sackcloth.” Even the king did this, commanding everyone to “be covered with sackcloth [–a sign of repentance]. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” –v.8 The king was commanding everyone to petition and repent. For, “Who knows? God may yet relent [change His mind concerning our fate] and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (v. 9)

Let’s meditate on the next verse: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” (v. 10) What brought about the change in God’s dealings with them? It was His compassion and concern about the city’s inhabitants (4:11), but it was also a direct result of the repentant reactions of the Ninevites concerning God’s warning. And not only this, but God changed their fate as a result of someone else’s actions (–Jonah’s) when he himself (finally) repented and obeyed God’s command –that being, to be the one to bring the message of warning.

This teaches us then, that God desires to send humans to other humans to proclaim warnings, including that about one’s inevitable fate in Hell, but that the change of destiny is contingent upon the actions (belief / repentance / obedience) of the messenger, as well as that of those who otherwise have certain doom awaiting them. For as God Himself laments, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11 & see also verses 7-9 of warning to the watchman.) Calvinists need to comprehend that God would not be, throughout Scripture (and history), trying to persuade people to repent if He had not preordained that He would not irresistibly force man to do so.

Another example of God relenting (changing His mind) for the benefit of many people, yet based upon the response of as few as just one who stood in the gap, is found in Ex. 32:11-13. This is when Moses repented on behalf of the Israelites and petitioned God that He not destroy them in spite of their idolatrous sin with the golden calf. Verse 14 tells us, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.” Ps. 106:20-26 confirms this: “They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull… They forgot the God who saved them… So He said He would destroy them –had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to keep His wrath from destroying them. Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. So He swore to them with uplifted hand that He would make them fall in the desert…”

There are many other examples of God turning from His “initial” intent –whether that was to destroy, let die, or help. Here are some more instances:

1. 1 Kings 21:20-29 –because Ahab repented

2. 2 Kings 20:1-7 –because Hezekiah wept and prayed

3. 2 Chron. 33:10-13 –because Manasseh repented

4. 2 Kings 13:14-19 –because Jehoash treated God’s promised victory without zeal

5. Mark 6:56 –healing came because of choosing to, in faith, touch Jesus.

6. Mark 9:46-52 –healing came because of crying out, in faith, for mercy. As Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.”

7. Luke 7:50 –salvation came because of the actions which proved faith in Jesus –that of weeping, repentance, and worship. As Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

8. Gen. 18:20-32 –because Abraham petitioned the Lord to save at least Lot’s family from being destroyed along with all of Sodom

9. Gen. 6:5-7 –because of their wickedness “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth… for I am grieved that I have made them.'”

10. Num. 14:19-23 –because of Moses petition again, God forgave the people’s mistrust in Him, therefore not putting them to death; however, He changed His promise He had made back in Ex. 3:8. They now were not going to be allowed into the promised land. This was the direct result of their disobedience coming from their unbelief. (See also Heb. 3:7-4:11 & Ps. 95:7-11)

11. 1 Sam. 15:35 –when “the LORD was grieved that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Because of Saul’s “rebellion” (v. 23), God had Samuel decree to him, “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king.” (same verse) Then God told Samuel to go anoint another man “I have chosen [instead].” (16:1) We see that a human’s choice (to reject God’s word), initiates a response from God –a change of plan. The issue isn’t that God does or doesn’t know ahead of time that this will happen; He does, but the issue is that there is a further reality –that is, that history is played out due to “cause and effect.” This “cause and result” plan IS the plan –God’s preordained plan.

Therefore, to the Calvinists, we remind them: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7,8) But alas, Calvinists can’t wrap their minds around the fact that God indeed extended to all mankind, at the onset of creation, the gift of choice. So they continue to believe that God is the one pulling the puppet strings –sowing for one person to please his sinful nature, sowing for another person to please the Spirit.

But for the rest of us who walk in the Truth, we understand: God does change His decisions (thus His mind) in relenting from promised decrees (good or bad / life or death / Heaven or Hell), as well as in being regretful for having brought something about. For though God has always known everything that is ever going to happen, and He dwells both inside and outside of time, we do learn from Scripture that He decrees new / different outcomes based upon the actions of those who believe Him –believe Him enough to repent, petition, and obey.

with love,

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