Does God Change?

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Westminster Confession of Faith

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

My goodness how we change. As we age, the aches begin to dog our joints and names seem to evaporate from the tip of the tongue. Things which our twenty-year old selves thought were dull and boring, become familiar and comforting. The values which thirty years ago were heralded as timeless and obvious, are now held to be outmoded and bigoted. What is to stop today’s values suffering the same fate in a few decades?

And then there are the smaller, fleeting changes which occur hour by hour. Joy turns to sorrow, anger flares up and then ebbs into regret. Compassion pricks our conscience, and sympathy brings tears. At times life is an emotional rollercoaster which doesn’t seem to stop.

Around five centuries before Christ, Heraclitus of Ephesus argued that change is the very essence of existence, claiming: “everything flows”. Not so God. Around the same time as Heraclitus was writing, Malachi was prophesying: “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). There is no change in God.

But doesn’t this mean we have a cold, inert God? Isn’t a changeless God, who is not subject to decay or the whims of emotion, simply like a rock? The short answer is: no! The slightly longer answer is that God is quite the opposite. God is entirely alive and entirely active. He cannot become more alive, since he is perfectly alive. He cannot be more compassionate, because his compassion is already entire and pure. In other words, God does not change since he is already perfect, and already as alive as it is possible to be.

Like those who first heard Malachi we should take this as a comfort. God’s love for us does not wane or change, and it is already pure and total. God’s goodness is entire and eternal. He is a firm foundation for our faith. He is utterly reliable, and a safe haven for all our hope.

A Bodiless God

“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.” (Deuteronomy 4:15–18) - The Israelites were warned not to imagine God as having any form, as being like anything which he has created. What nonsense it is to imagine God as being simply a larger version of something he has created. That would be like imagining Mary Berry is in fact a large Victoria Sponge!

The God who is Immense

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27) - God’s immensity doesn’t mean that he is simply a very big being, bigger than anything else. It means that he is present everywhere. There is nowhere where he is not: as the old prayer has it, he is “everywhere present and fillest all things”. He is omnipresent

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