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This is a general study on "The God who changes His mind"



Does God Change His Mind?


Considerations from Scripture



Contents :


1. The Unchanging Nature of God

2. The One Thing that makes God Change

3. Various other Examples

4. Examples of Those who failed to repent & received the judgement

5. Examples of those who DID repent and live




1. The Unchanging Nature of God

     Our starting premise is that God is an unchanging God. In Himself, in His personality, in the way He responds or works with His created world, He is unchanging. That is why the Bible teaches that He is a “faithful” God because He will not change His ways.

     This is why again and again we find the statement that God will not change His mind:


Num 23:19 God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind.

1 Sam 15:29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man that he should change his mind.

Psa 110:4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind


  The sense or idea being conveyed here is that God is not like man who, by whim or fancy, may change his mind. When God makes a decision He makes it in the awareness of ALL the facts and in the light of His perfect wisdom and totally holy and pure nature. If the facts don't change, God will not change His decision.



2. The One Thing that makes God Change

       Although God will not change if the facts of a situation remain unchanged, when man repents and changes, then God will also often change what He said previously, simply to fit the now prevailing facts. In that sense REPENTANCE is the one thing that causes God to make a fresh statement that is contrary to His previous statement.

      As one dictionary puts it, “God is described as repenting (using Hebrew naham which always has the strong sense of changing mind in it), in the sense that he changed his attitude to a people because of a change within the people.”


2.1 An Example : Relenting in respect of destroying Israel

Exo 32:14 Then the Lord relented (old versions, ‘repented' meaning changed his mind) and did not bring the disaster he had threatened .


     The circumstances here were that while Moses was on Sinai, Aaron and the people had worshipped the golden calf.  God then threatened to destroy them (32:10) but Moses interceded and gave Him reasons not to.   The Lord then changed His mind.

     We need to be quite clear about this: God made a statement, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them”. The Lord indicates that if He was left to it, He would simply destroy Israel for what they have just done. That is one option open to Him. We should not, therefore, see it as a direct statement of definite and unchangeable intent, although at first sight it appears that. What God is looking for, is Moses response. He is hoping that Moses will respond in a righteous way.

    When Moses, as the representative of this people, answers, he gives the right responses.  As one commentator puts it, “We are not to think of Moses as altering God's purposes towards Israel by this prayer, but as carrying it out; Moses was never more like God than in such moments, for he shared God's mind and loving purpose”. What we are saying here is that God makes a statement of intent which perhaps can be seen by the (careful) observer as being an option. It does not mean that He is definite in that intent, although the undiscerning observer may think that.


2.2 A General Principle

Ezek 33:13-15 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things that he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die', but then he turns away from his sin and does what is just and right - if he gives back ….and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.” (Also Ezek 18)


    We should note various things here.   First, God may say something, but the opposite is then seen to happen, e.g. righteous will live, he then dies. Second, we should observe why that happens. It is simply because the person has changed and his change brings about a change in response in God. The originally righteous man can incur the wrath of God, when he has turned from his righteousness, and the originally wicked man can be spared the declared wrath of God when he has repented.


2.3 The Principle Stated Again

Jer 18:6-10 . "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.


    Here it is again: God may declare a word of destruction but if the people repent, then the Lord will change that word and not act against them.


2.4   A Second Example : Grieving Over Saul

1 Sam 15:10,11 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I am grieved (repent in older versions) that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions”.

1 Sam 15:23 Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you

     The circumstances here are that God had chosen Saul, Saul had been disobedient and God rejected him. Again we must be quite clear about this for it raises another significant point about how God moves.

First, God chose Saul (1 Sam 9:16,17).

Second, God knows everything, even the future, yet when He speaks He speaks as in the present, as if He only knows the present. If we had heard the prophecy, we might have thought this was God only decreeing good for Saul, but He simply said that Saul will deliver Israel and rule over them. He did not say he would do it successfully until the end of his life. The lesson is that we need to listen carefully to prophecy and not go beyond what God has said.

The third thing to note is that the reason for God rejecting Saul (going back on his appointing), was that Saul had not lived up to the responsibilities of that office and thus disqualified himself.


2.5   A Third Example: The overturning of Ninevah

Jonah 3:4 Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty days and Ninevah will be overturned

Jon 3:10 When God saw all they did and how they turned from their evil ways he had compassion (repented, older versions) and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened

     The verses are quite clear. God proclaimed destruction for Ninevah. That was the simple and straight forward word that came, they would be destroyed. But then the king speaks, “Who knows, God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish”. And that is what happened, God “changed his mind” and did not destroy them. Why? Because the people repented. They changed and therefore God changed what would happen.

   Note again and again here, that when God speaks He speaks in the present, to address the situation as it is, “Ninevah will be overturned”. We can try to spiritualise “overturned” and make it mean morally but both Jonah (the prophet!) and the people believed it meant physical destruction, for surely that was what God would have done if they had not repented.


3. Various Other Examples

       There are various other examples where God relents, or changes his mind, in response to change in his people:


3.1   Gen 6:6-7

      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

     Note here that God who knows all things, must have known what would happen and therefore you would think this wouldn't come as a surprise to Him as it seems to do. Again, it is a case of God who lives in the present, as the “I AM”.


3.2   2 Sam 24:16

       When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand."

      Here God intervenes after He has sent out the destroying angel and withdraws the command to stop it going any further. Also 1Ch 21:15


3.3  Ps 106:44-46

       But he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented. He caused them to be pitied  by all who held them captive.

    Their cry affected His heart and he relented.


3.4   Jer 26:2, 3 .

       Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.

      The intent was that the word would bring conviction, the people would repent, and God would thus not need to bring judgement.

3.5  Joel 2:13,14

       Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing

     Again the Lord offers to change His judgement if they change their mind


3.6  Am 7:1-6


      This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king's share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!" So the LORD relented. "This will not happen," the LORD said. This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!" So the LORD relented. "This will not happen either," the Sovereign LORD said.

      We have here a sense of prophetic intent, and it is only when the prophet pleads that the Lord relents and says He won't do it.


3.7  Ezek 18:30-32

       "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

       Declaration of intent - but a way out. God will change His mind, if…….



4. Examples of Those who failed to repent & received the judgement


4.1 Moses

     Num 20:9-12   Harshly and with self-centredness Moses struck the rock instead of commanding it, and thus forfeited his right to enter the promised land.  Surely he could have sought God for forgiveness, but didn't.  Thus he died on a mountain.  Yet see that he didn't forfeit his right to a place in heaven, for he appears on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus.


4.2 Jephthah

      Judges 11:30-39   Jephthah made a foolish vow.    When his daughter appeared he could have sought God's forgiveness for it (and received it) or he could have offered his life instead (as Moses did on the mountain) and received God's commendation. Instead he foolishly went ahead and took the life of his daughter. As God said elsewhere he is not blessed by the death of a person.


4.3 Young prophet

       1 Kings 13   The young prophet allowed himself to be led astray by an older prophet. When he was told what would happen, he did not repent and turn to God for forgiveness. Thus he was killed by a lion.



5. Examples of those who DID repent and live


5.1 Abimelech

      Gen 20   He took Abraham's wife and was told by God, “You are as good as dead” v.3 and warned that if he did not return her he would die, v.7.   He repented and lived.


5.2 Moses

      Exo 4:24   The Lord was “about to kill” Moses when his wife intervened and did for him what he ought to have done (i.e. be circumcised).    When this was done the Lord didn't kill him.


5.3   King Jeroboam


      1 Kings 13:4-6 The king stretched out his hand against the prophet and it became leprous.   When he cried out in repentance and the prophet prayed for him his hand was healed.


5.4 King Hezekiah

      2 Kings 20:1-6    God clearly decreed “You are going to die, you will not recover”. Hezekiah repented and God brought the word that He would extend his life by 15 years.




•  God makes decrees.
•  Those decrees can be changed by the response of men and women to them.
•  God does not want to bring death as judgement and although He will decree it, yet He will also “change His mind” and not bring it about when that person repents.

•  When God speaks, even though He knows the future, He speaks as in the present, and when things turn out badly, He almost seems surprised and grieves over the outcome.






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