Christians are taught even as kids in Sunday school that God is omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (in all places), and omniscient (all knowing). These statements, held as fact by most biblical scholarship and tradition, raise some interesting paradoxes about how and why God does certain things. One question often hotly debated is whether or not God can change his mind. It would certainly appear so based on several passages in Scripture, including Genesis 18, Jeremiah 18:7–10, Jonah 3:10, and Genesis 6:6. It is considered a tenet of Christian theology that God is unchanging and immutable. We know that Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrew 13:8), and “the grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). And yet, why does God feel “sorry” for making humanity in Genesis 6? Why does God relent on the destruction of Israel in Exodus 32? Why did God “regret” His exaltation of Saul into kingship in 1 Samuel 15?

While it is true that God is unchanging in character and in His ultimate plan, the Bible clearly shows that God can also allow for flexibility and be sincerely present in the moment to moment lives of His children. Theologians will often make distinctions between the perfect will of God versus the permissive will of God. The first would be when everything happens as God commands. The second is when God uses disobedience and imperfection to bring about His will. Romans 8:28 clearly states that all things will work according to God’s purposes, whether those with free will obey or disobey God’s commands. Nothing and no one can thwart God’s ultimate purposes.

It seems clear that God does allow different potential outcomes to events on a smaller scale. His ultimate outcome is not deterred by these intermediate steps – humans are free to obey and disobey God’s commands until the day of judgment. God expresses grief over specific decisions that He made in the Old Testament when humans choose to abuse His mercy with their free will. God created humans in physical bodies on the earth, yet they corrupted themselves and the earth with continuous evil thoughts, desires, and deeds, and God grieves over their very creation as a result (Genesis 6). God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and preserved them in the wilderness offering them a covenant. When they chose to accept the covenant, they turned and worshipped idols. God tells Moses that He plans to destroy them because of this. Moses then pleads with God and reminds Him of His promises. God did not change and did not apologize for His righteous anger; God had mercy because of Moses’ compassion (Exodus 32). The people of Israel later wanted a king, and God chose Saul for them, though He clearly told Samuel that in asking for this king, Israel rejected the Lord as their king (1 Samuel 8:7). When Saul disobeyed God and committed evil on the throne, the Lord became saddened – not because He made a mistake in allowing Saul to become king, but because that meant Israel would suffer. Israel wanted a king and they got a carnal one that grieved God. God will give you what you ask for!

God wants us to submit our hearts to Him. Those whose hearts take pleasure in the Lord will be blessed by Him (Psalm 37:4). Those who complain and ask for their passing impulsive desires to be satisfied by the Lord may be given what they want.

To learn more about God’s character and other complex doctrines of the Christian faith, check out some of the online Bible studies at International School of the Word. Consider starting with Basic Theology or Biblical Apologetics. Visit today to get started on an affordable online biblical education!

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