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Does God Change His Mind?

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DOES GOD CHANGE HIS MIND?

Exodus 32:14, in speaking of how God did not bring about disaster to the people of Israel says that He “changed His mind” (NAS).  The King James Version says He “repented,” while the NIV says He “relented.”

A similar situation is found in Isaiah 38 (parallel passage found in 2 Kings 20) where God announced through Isaiah that Hezekiah’s illness was fatal, but after the king prayed and wept God had Isaiah announce that he would live 15 years longer.

What happened?  Did God lie?   Did He change His mind?

I Samuel 15:29 says, “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” (NIV.)  This passage states that lying and changing one’s mind are two human characteristics that God does not have.

The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament (Harris, Archer, Waltke) says that the word found in Exodus 32:14 and I Samuel 15:29 that is variously translated as repent, change mind, or relent is the Hebrew word naham.  It is translated in the KJV most of its 38 times of occurrence as “repent.” Most of these refer to God, not to man (shub is used of man’s repentance, defined as turning from sin to God.)

“Unlike man, who under the conviction of sin feels genuine

remorse and sorrow, God is free from sin.  Yet the Scriptures

inform us that God repents (Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 32:14; Judges

2:18; 1 Samuel 15:11, et. al.); ie, He relents or changes His

dealings with men according to His sovereign purposes.  On the

surface, such language seems inconsistent, if not contradictory

with such passages which confirm God’s immutability …. : “The

Lord has sworn and will not change His mind (Psalm 110:4).  When

naham is used of God, however, the expression is anthropopathic

and there is not ultimate tension.  From man’s limited, earthly,

finite perspective it only appears that God’s purposes have

changed … Certainly Jeremiah 13:7-10 is a striking reminder that

from God’s perspective, most prophecy (excluding messianic

predictions) is conditional upon the response of men.  In this

regard, A. J. Heschel (The Prophets, p. 194) has said, ‘No word

is God’s final word.  Judgement, far from being absolute, is

conditional.  A change in man’s conduct brings about a change in

God’s judgment.”’ (p. 571-572.)

Another pertinent scripture is found in Jeremiah 18:7-11:

“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 that I had intended to do for it.”

Here are some observations and conclusions:

  • The NAS translation of naham as “change of mind” and the KJV translation as “repent” might not be as accurate in context as the NIV’s “relent”. (The Hebrew word literally means to breathe out deeply or emotionally.)

2)   We might add that not only a change in man’s conduct can get God to relent, but also intercessory prayer (see Exodus 32, also 2 Chronicles 30– Hezekiah prayed for those who were unclean and yet ate the Passover.)

 

  • We understand from 2 Peter 3:9 that God does not want anyone to perish. Therefore He has set His mind for good for us.  But since we are free agents, we can do anything we want with our lives, including opposing His will. He may in this case allow disaster to fall on us (including the loss of our souls in hell) but He never wanted it that way because hell was not made for us, but for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41.)

 

  • Therefore it is inaccurate to say that God changes His mind since He has from the very beginning wanted only the best for us. He may announce an intention (Isaiah’s telling Hezekiah he would die, Jonah telling Ninevah it would be destroyed, etc.) and then change His announced course of action when men change their actions (or pray); but this is a sign of His mercy, not His untruthfulness nor His unreliability.

 

—-Prepared by Latayne C. Scott

 

 

king saul

The Blackened State

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Parables

TThe Blackened State

When I read a book, I often wonder what first sparked the author’s imagination to begin reading that book. Often it is to illustrate a moral dilemma, as you see in the writings of Jodi Picault. Others write books about their own lives; sometimes, I think, to sort out their feelings and perhaps thereby to help others in similar situations.

With a pure nonfiction, like a Bible study, it’s often hard to ferret out the book’s beginnings in the mind of the author. All physical books begin with an idea in an author’s mind, a representation that grows and usually changes during the writing process. With a book like The Parables of Jesus, an inductive Bible study, there’s little that’s personal in its pages. I do mention that I’d loved them since I began teaching them in fifth-grade Bible class. But that’s not the origin of the book.

People who know me might assume that the biggest spiritual struggle of my life was whether to stay in or leave my beloved Mormon church. It’s true, that was wrenching. But I found in my new life as a Christian, I began struggling with God in a way I never had as a Mormon.

Here’s a passage from The Mormon Mirage that describes what came to a crisis point in my life when I had been a Christian for about ten years:

I came to a time when I hung on only by my fingernails and Scripture passages. The summer of 1983 I hungered so desperately for the ability to trust and be vulnerable to God that I asked Him to take my life if I could not experience that. In 1984, in spiritual beggary, I read completely through the Bible eight times, fasted, prayed, learned every synonym in English, Spanish and German for the verb “plead.”  God brought extraordinary friendship, spiritual companionship, into my life. Ten years after leaving Mormonism, I began to recover from it.

I didn’t consider suicide, but I didn’t want to live. I lived in a blackened state, with the elusive full light of God always just beyond my fingertips.

Some people might think I am describing depression (a tendency I don’t believe I have ever had, even in very difficult life circumstances, thanks to the grace of God) but for me, it was a wrestling match with God. And it has happened over and over in my life.

The Parables of Jesus is an example of what I have done during those times. In this book, I immersed myself in the only thing I could depend on:  the words of Jesus. I chose those parables, those distilled gems of His mind, to hold onto.

I invite you to join me in the fruits of my own struggle.  Let’s look at the words of Jesus together.

You can do it as an individual, or you can do it with some friends. Let His words help and change you as they did me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Splintered Tree

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The Splintered Tree

Years ago, after a storm in the mountains, I walked through the damp, needle-strewn soil and saw the damage that had been exacted by the lightning the night before. I saw a tree blasted apart and immediately thought of an aspect of my life.
 
I’d invested years of my life in a relationship. I wasn’t perfect in it, but I was sacrificial. Not everyone you love loves you back. Not everyone you bless wants to bless you.
 
But as sudden as that crack of light last night, I knew it was over. The Lord had spoken. I was relieved, I admit that. But I was left feeling like the tree, wrenched apart. I knew it couldn’t be put back together. Sometimes in the life of a Christian, there is a John Mark with whom you can be reconciled, and there may be an Alexander the metalworker, with whom you can’t.
 
I picked up a shard of the tree, and kept it for many years. It was a symbol to me of an event that changed my life. Like the Israelites who took stones from the middle of what was a raging, flood-engulfed riverbed, I looked at it often. It became a memorial to me.
 
However, the photo below is not of that tree, nor of that shard.
 
That’s because I decided to throw away the splintered wood, the memorial of that pain, as I forgave.
 
Now, not even the memory has all those sharp edges. Forgiveness rescued me from my hurt, and the Lord rescued me from the hurter.
 
 
(photo courtesy of air-and-space.com)

 

splintered tree

Raw Beginnings in the Gospel of Mark

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The Raw Beginnings in the Gospel of Mark

 

Though I’ve read through the Gospel of Mark at least 40 times (and in three languages), this time reading the first two chapters struck me in a new way, with its rawness, its almost-violent use of language.

 

There are no angels singing and people adoring at a nativity. Mark starts out in a wilderness, with a herald living on a siege diet of what’s at hand, not going to the people but straight-talking to them as they come in droves from their comfortable cities to see him.

 

Don’t get too relaxed, he tells them. Change up your minds (meta—as in metamorphosis –of your thinking processes.) In exchange, you get washed clean of the past – but this is not about the past, but rather the future. Someone is coming, and He outclasses me. I’m ready to pass the good-news baton to the anchor runner who’ll finish this race.

 

When that “He” arrives for His baptism by the wild man in camel coat, all of Creation spasms. The heavens, fixed since day two of Genesis, are torn open (the same Greek word is used for the ripping of the Temple veil at His death.) This is no gentle peek into heaven.  The invisible Holy Spirit becomes visible. God speaks for the first time in centuries. But the trouble for Jesus is just beginning.

 

That same Spirit chases Him – the same word used for casting out of the camp a leper or a scapegoat – even further into the desolation. His only companions are slinking wild animals. Satan is given free rein for 40 days, giving his best shots at a continually-weakening mortal. At the end, only supernatural help keeps Him alive as the deacon angels try to repair the damage.

 

John’s reward for his service is a prison cave with no coming rescue. Jesus tells everybody that time is up and they have to change their minds and believe in some good news that no one knows yet.

 

He calls people to drop everything and follow Him. His first miracle is when he wins a shouting match with a demon. Shut up and get out, He says, and the demon leaves after putting his unwilling former host into convulsions.  A leper comes to Him and Jesus breaks the rules by touching him. This time the convulsion is in the guts of Jesus (the verb for “to have compassion” literally means that His organs seize up with emotion.) Jesus heals and preaches; and His reward for his service is so much notoriety that He ends up, again, out in the desert.

 

Mark, as he writes his good news, begins it with putting everyone on notice. This is no sweet message.

 

If the cost was this high for the best of us, what hope is there for the rest of us?

 

Thank God Mark didn’t stop there.

 

Copyright, Latayne C. Scott

 

 

 

 

 

About Those Pink Hats– A Christian Woman’s Reaction

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After I saw all those pink hats, and found out what they meant, I did what I never thought I’d do. I decided– and announced publicly– that I was going to start wearing a head covering while praying or speaking publicly at church.

From most ancient of times, a headcovering has been highly symbolic. For Christian women, it is a symbol of submission to the ultimate authority of God. For all my years as a Christian I have tried to exemplify by my respect and silence in church worship that I acknowledge that authority and that of my husband and church leaders.

However, the symbolism of a woman’s head covering has been perverted by those who wear deliberate rebellion–the sign of ones own genitals on their heads. https://www.pussyhatproject.com/

I chose to take back the meaning God gave to head coverings. Those who know me well know I hate bringing attention to my own appearance. This is hard for me to do. I don’t expect anyone to follow this example nor do I judge any woman who chooses to pray with her head uncovered. But for me, any symbol on my head is from this day forward that of submission to my God and His Word.

As soon as I’d announced that, I got criticism. Why didn’t I criticize Donald Trump for his crude statements (against which the women said they protested)? Why shouldn’t women use their constitutional rights to peaceful protests? Why was I criticizing the women who wore the hats? Jesus loved women, right?

I began by admitting my own faults and gratitude for grace, then tried to answer the questions:

Many things I’ll write about condemn me. I don’t always live what I believe. No wonder I’m a Christian – where else in the world can you get a get-out-of-jail-free card, have all your shameful acts forgiven—and forgotten– by an omniscient Creator who chooses never to think of those sins again? What a deal. And all I have to do is be truly sorry and keep coming back to Him.)

I’ll answer from a Christian viewpoint, what I as a Christian think. I believe that’s what you want.

It’s about symbols, symbols, symbols. Not people. Not marches.

First, I do not like, do not approve, and was aghast when I learned of what Trump said. But here is how I view that: it was a private conversation between men, it was 12 years ago, and most important Mr. Trump issued a public apology. (Many, many links to this statement on the internet.) What does a Christian do when asked for forgiveness? I forgive. Doesn’t mean I approved the sin. Doesn’t mean I have warm feelings toward the sinner.

Second, I didn’t condemn all the women wearing the pink hats. For two reasons: look back over comments on my wall and see that some who approved of Saturday’s activities had no idea what the meaning of the pink hat was. That’s why I posted the link. Some didn’t even know what they were supporting. They had good motives to support the rights of others, for sure, though. (More about that later.)

Of course I believe that peaceful protest is a right. I marched in the first Right to Life protest march in the city of Albuquerque! And the Bible shows clearly it’s right to insist on your governmental rights. Paul in Acts 22 did just that.

But it also tells us that governmental authorities are more than they appear. Romans 13:1 says God Himself put them in place. (And this article expands on it better than I have room for, here. http://www.challies.com/…/at-least-5-things-scripture-teach… )

No, I don’t approve of Trump’s sin, don’t like his personality, but he says he is sorry so I forgive. The Bible gives us the example of using your governmental rights, so I’m good with that. It also tells us we must submit to governing authorities. Thank God for the right today to express a contrary opinion about an authority’s actions without having your head chopped off—but when Paul wrote this originally, he was talking to people living under the horrors of Roman emperors. Yet Paul’s portrayal of women was not as chattel nor possessions. The way early Christians treated their women was waaaaaay above their surrounding culture.

Now, I did condemn something, and I did it not because of my personal preferences, but because God has spoken on some matters. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul talks about body parts, and the NIV at least says that there are parts of the body that should be treated with special modesty. I would assume that’s talking about genitalia, wouldn’t you? But does the wearing of something with a crass name that represents that body part—is that honorable? And for the life of me I can’t see how wearing a pussy hat (or the more extreme examples of the yard-long vaginas) makes a woman less of a sex object or magnifies her inherent worth. Okay, she’s protesting an apologized-for statement made 12 years ago. Really?

The whole point of what I was saying is that God has spoken about the power of symbolism. The power of symbolism has been harnessed by God Himself since Creation. Things stand for more than they seem to be: Abel’s sacrifice, a rainbow, a tower, a tabernacle, a temple, a cross.

Head coverings for women are a big deal symbol. They have something to do with angels (and I have NOOOO idea what that really means.) They are powerful statements. My problem was that as a Christian woman, I felt moved to reclaim, to retreat to, to run to this most ancient symbol.

Head coverings for women in the New Testament are about submission. Of course worldly women don’t want to talk about submission. But that’s the essence of Jesus’ life. Submitting is what He did, right up to the point of death. No wonder that’s the tipping point where people won’t go any further. His teachings, and His Kingdom, are obnoxious to the human spirit. As Matthew 21 shows, who He was and what He requires is a stumbling block so big most can’t do it.

That’s the example we are to follow. Not asserting the message that this is my body and I will use it in any way I like. Scratch below the surface of the altruistic marches and it’s really about the idolatry of the body, sexual freedom: to use, if you want, your female body in a way that exchanges natural sexual urges for unnatural ones (Romans 1:26), throw off any sense of being obligated or submitted to anyone, to kill the innocent, helpless unborn you create in your quest to live for oneself — and, and, and condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with you as a bigot.

The Bible says specifically that sexual sins ARE NOT like other sins (1 Corinthians 6:18.) They’re worse. It is sinning against your own body, the polar opposite of standing up for its rights.

In the women’s movement, the standard is what makes them feel good. Our standard is the Maker’s instruction manual for the women whose bodies He designed and maintains, molecule by molecule, moment by moment.

(Christian women often join “causes” because they feel great empathy for the downtrodden. (May I mention that almost all charitable work done in the western world up until 1900 was done by Christians?) Jesus said to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and so we try to empathize with anyone who is mistreated. That is right and good. But compassion is also a symbol. Someone once pointed out to me that even though Jesus could have healed everyone with whom He came in contact, He didn’t. Was His compassion limited? No, He had a point, a purpose, for what He did. He was always pointing people to His Father. THAT was the point, not compassion. If Jesus Himself with unlimited power didn’t heal everyone, if He did what He did to glorify God, what focus does that give me, for my exercises of compassion and empathy? How in the world could I possibly join with a group that claims to help females when they enable them to abort other females more helpless and literally downtrodden than they ever were? When that group says that the sensations of your own body matter more than those of others and more than any standard given by an eternal God? When they would exclude God from the conversation at all?)

My argument is with the symbol on tops of the heads of the women who marched. The Bible says a head covering (hair or cloth, I don’t think it really matters) is a sign that a woman understands the idea of submitting to an authority. Nothing could be more hateful to the modern women’s movement. When I said I was going to start covering my head, at least in certain situations, I was retreating to the original meaning of a woman’s head covering. It points not to me, not to others, but to God.

And it has nothing to do with what the pink hats represent.