How Is God Unchanging, Yet Changes His Mind?
If God is truly immutable, how can it be said that He changes His mind, or repents? Firstly, repentance or a change of mind on God’s part should not be equated with a change of character. God may change His mind on the basis of conditions already stipulated, but He will never change His moral character.
Secondly, God changes His mind because of a change in man; God appears to have changed because man changed his relation to God. God has said that He would reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Therefore, if man changes his relation to God, God’s reaction to him automatically changes (1 Samuel 2:30-31; Jeremiah 15:6; 18:7-10). However, it is man who has really changed, and not God. Thus, this ascription of mutability to God is merely anthropocentric. [Anthropocentrism is a figure of speech which describes or regards actions of God from a human viewpoint.] In a similar way, the sun does not really “rise” and “set”; the earth turns and makes it appear so.
Haley, in his book on alleged Bible discrepancies, has a good illustration. He pictures a man in a field standing just south of a pile of rocks, which would be north of him. The man then moves 180 degrees and stands just north of the pile of rocks, which then stand south of him. Directional relations between the man and the pile of rocks are then the exact opposite of what they had been before the man moved. So, the pile of rocks has changed its position from being north, to being south. Yet, the pile of rocks has not actually moved; it is the man who has moved. Nevertheless, the relational change between the pile of rocks and the man can just as effectively be ascribed to the rocks as it can be to the man. Of course, in this illustration, the pile of rocks represents God and the man represents a repentant person.
Prayer is Powerful Because God Doesn’t Change and Does Change
All of this pays great tribute to God’s patience, mercy, and kindness in that He allows men to intercede with Him on behalf of others.
It does not diminish the efficacy of prayer in the least to assert God’s immutability. God’s immutability is the understructure of efficacious prayer. If God were volatile, changeable, and mercurial, man could never depend on prayer to affect God in ways desired. It is because Jehovah is a God of unchangeable principles that man can depend on Him to treat man in a predictable manner and give to his prayers the expected answer.
Though the Lord is omnipotent He allows Himself to be moved by the petitions of men. It is almost incomprehensible to realize that a God so great listens to the prayers of men. This difference between God and man can be seen in comparing King Ahasuerus to God (Esther 4:9 – 5:2; Luke 13:6-9; 18:1-8).
This is not to say that God will grant every petition, for sometimes He does not (2 Samuel 12:15-23; Luke 22:39-46; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, though there are times when not even prayer will work, there are, no doubt, many times when nothing but prayer will work. Certainly, Christians ought to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NASB).