Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does God Change His Mind?

In a recent blog posting by Ray Comfort at Comfort Food he makes the case that God does not change His mind. The key verse that Ray uses is found in Genesis 6:6 "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."

Now you need to know that Ray is a bit of a masochist. He has nicknamed his blog "Atheist Central" as an attempt to share the Gospel with people that would otherwise never step into the church. It is his virtual soap-box on the Internet.

Well, just like a pack of wild dogs the atheists pounced on Ray's explanation. They did not buy it at all. And since this is an objection that you are likely to face one day let me add my understanding and exegesis of this text.

There are a couple things that you need to know about this passage. First, God often speaks using anthropomorphic terms of expression that we can understand. God is far above all of us and all together separate. So we see that He often speaks using language to express emotions that we can relate to.

Second, God cannot change ( Malalachi 3:6, James 1:17 ); He is perfect in all His ways, so there must be a way to reconcile this seeming contradiction.

Third, you need to understand that Genesis was not written in English, it was written in Hebrew. So it is a mistake to take a word like "repented', as seen in Genesis 6:6, and plug it into an English dictionary. You can not take a Hebrew word, translate it into old English, then try to apply its semantic range in modern English. That is making a translation out of a translation out of a translation. Funny, that this is often the accusation that is thrown at those of us who believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

Now usually the word for “repent” that we see in the Old Testament is the word שוב (shuwb). It means to turn away from or to revoke or reverse. This is not the word that is used in Genesis 6:6. The word that is used in this passage is the word נחם (nacham).
Nacham means to be sorry, to grieve. It means to draw breath forcibly, to pant. Do you remember as a kid sobbing so badly that you found it hard to catch your breath? That was Nacham. What Moses was telling us in Genesis 6:6 was that God was so grieved because of the world’s wickedness that it was as though God was unable to grab His breath. This interpretation is further supported by the word עצב (‘atsab) found in that same verse. “It grieved the Lord” or “it ‘atsab the Lord” ‘Atsab means to carve. So the disobedience of the people that God had given so much was like a knife carving His heart.

Have you ever loved someone who did not return your love? Imagine yourself showering that person with love, affection and many gifts; only to have those gifts ignored or destroyed. Think about how you would feel after all of your invested time and money were treated with total disregard. Would you be nacham? ‘Atsab?

Man’s heart is only evil continually. This was the condition of humanity before the flood and what it is today. God knew that He would one day grieve over His creation. He knew that the ones to whom He had given everything would treat Him with utter disrespect and total disregard. Yet He loved them, and us, so much He created us anyway. And He knew that while many would suffer under His omnipotent wrath that some would one day be reconciled to Him. So He gave everything in the death of His Son Jesus Christ.

Now tell me; if you had given everything, even the life of your child, to reconcile a rebellious people and they treated it with absolute disdain, what would you do?

*Do not be surprised if the Numbers 23:19 comes back at you when rendering this exposition.

"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"

The word "repent" found in Numbers 23:19 is nacham. However, it should be noted that the context is clearly speaking about His word not His actions. God will never regret what He has said but He is clearly grieved by the rebellion that is manifest by His creation. (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30)


Sam said...

Weep for my son, then slaughter them!

Ryan said...

Hey I liked what you had to say on Ray's blog. I was also encouraged by your open air videos. I will be visiting your blog again. blessings, Ryan

Delle Elsom said...

These were wonderful thoughts!!!

joshua said...

Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

Gods plans can not be thwarted...

ExPatMatt said...

"Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

Gods plans can not be thwarted..."

Unless there are iron chariots involved (Judges 1:19) ....

(I know, I know - it's an atheist favourite, but like a wild dog, I couldn't help it!)

joshua said...

God did not plan on Judah taking the valley...He was with Judah in taking the mountains (a difficul task, due to the terrain).

It would not be wise to assume that the writer was saying God was unable to defeat iron chariots, based on isogetical interpretation.

Unintended implication is never a good proof for argument.

This would be the same as a Christian creating Doctrine on what is not said in the Bible.

Example - The Bible doesn't mention computers, so God Obvisouly doesn't want Christians to use them, or know about them.