God is Not a Man, that He should Lie (Numbers 23:19)

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

Multiple times in The Bible the writers record that God “repented” of something He was going to do or “changed His mind”. But this prophecy says that God cannot lie and cannot repent. So which is it?

I think that the answer is a “sorta both”.

See, God is looking from the perspective of Heaven when He speaks. He is looking from the position of One Who knows everything. So His ever intention is as clear to Him as the clearest water. But the writers, people, are looking from the perspective of Earth. Our view is limited, so we speak in terms that make sense to us. Parents (and those who had parents) know the old trick of telling a child that what no one wants to happen will happen unless they do something. For example, the (to the children) unexpected trip to Disneyland the next day is canceled unless everyone cleans their room. Do the parents really want to take away a trip to Disneyland? I don’t think so. A trip like that requires planning and budgeting and, possibly, scheduling days off work — it’s a mess. I can’t think of a single person who would go through all that trouble just to piss it all away on a kid not cleaning their room. However, if the parent has been consistent about following through on statements like that then the child assumes that Disneyland is a non-starter unless his room is clean. From the child’s perspective, his parents have changed their mind and he had something to do with that. From the parents’ perspective, the intent never was to cancel the trip, but to motivate their child to do what should have been done anyway. So, too, does God deal with us, I think. To liken God to the parent and us to the child is to downplay the magnitude of the disparity of understanding between creation (us) and Creator (God), but it serves to illustrate how both could be possible. God did not want to dole out punishments and judgments, but was prepared to do so if the conditions were not met for Him to do what He really wanted to do. Did He repent? Nope. Did He change His mind? Absolutely not. He just did, on a far larger scale what every parent has learned how to do. So, from His perspective, everything went precisely as planned while from our perspective, we changed the mind of God. Funny old thing.

The foregoing is all well and good, but doesn’t really seem to be terribly applicable in day-to-day walking with God. But tucked into that statement is comfort the likes of which is hard to find anywhere else in scripture. See, this prophecy is spoken by Balaam to Balak. Balaam was about as carnal as a believer can get with regard to money while Balak was a Gentile. Me? I’m a Gentile; a non-Jew, so this prophecy — where it is general — is spoken to me just as much as to Balak. God is not a man that He should lie. God is not a politician. And while my illustration of us not really changing the mind of God may sound to some like God lied, just remember that in the illustration both God and the parents were willing to carry out the bad thing they did not want to do. It was a matter of them not wanting to do the bad, but preferring to do the good and both we and the children thinking that we had a direct impact on what happened which, to an extent, we did. God is not a son of man that He should repent. God has nothing to repent of. His thoughts toward people are all good all the time. He wants to do us good, but we refuse to clean our rooms. If I cooperate and do what I’m asked/told, then good things can come — blessings like love and jot and peace and patience (Lord, how impatient I am) and all those good things … and material blessings, too, I suppose (though I’m unconvinced about the extent to which some material things are a blessing). One of the NT writers said that all the blessings of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ. ALL THE BLESSINGS! God does not lie. All the blessings are mine for the asking. So much joy and peace and such that I can’t contain it. Mine for the asking. Kinda overwhelming.

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