SOAP Journal – 29 March 2017 (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

Balaam, the for profit prophet, reaches Balak, the king of Moab, and they get right down to business. Balaam tells the king to set up seven altars and seven sacrifices and after he has offered those seven sacrifices, Balaam goes off at a distance and meets with God and receives words to speak concerning the Israelites. The first time does not go well, in Balak’s opinion. The Israelites are blessed by God. So Balak decides that maybe God will curse them or let Balaam curse them from a different location. Maybe if Balaam and God see the Israelites from another angle, then a curse will be forthcoming. Verse 19 is the beginning of God’s response to that.

God’s response boils down to this idea: God does not change His mind. He has no reason to.

God is not a man, that He should lie. He did not just see the Israelites at a propitious angle and think that He wanted to bless them, but might change His mind if we take Him over to some other vantage point. Likewise, God is not going to be convinced by any reasoning I might present. He has already heard my reasoning and already knows how solid or flimsy it is. The word that is translated lie could also mean deceive, disappoint, or fail. God is not going to fail in what He says He is going to do. If He says it, then it is going to happen.

God is not a man … that He should repent. God has no reason to repent of anything. To repent would imply that one had done something wrong and God is incapable of doing anything wrong. But the word can also mean to be sorry or to rue. I rue certain decisions I have made to this day, but I recognize that they were bad decisions. God, knowing the end from the beginning, is not going to make a bad decision. He has nothing to rue. Every decision He makes is the best one and works toward His desired outcome.

The questions asked were for Balak, in their original context. Has God made a promise that He does not intend to follow through on? There have been several times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers that God has said something to Moses like “Let me destroy these people and I will start over with you.” and those times seem to contradict what God is saying through Balaam. Taken in their context, though, it becomes clear that God was trying to prompt Moses’ compassion and provoke Moses to intercession. In any one of those instances, God would have been fully justified in wiping out the lot of the Israelites. They had transgressed His Law and had whined against Him and against His chosen representative. In no way would God have been outside what is right and just if He had destroyed every last whining Israelite.  But Moses prays and God is then able to make the action He wanted to perform — being merciful and sparing the rebellious Israelites — an answer to Moses’ prayer. It is a win-win for God. God does what He intended to do (spare the Israelites) and grows Moses’ faith and prayer life in the process.

Back to Balak and Balaam.

The whole of their exchange with God is an object lesson in God not changing His mind. Balak tries three different vantage points hoping that one of them will change God’s mind. None of them does. And none of them could. God told Balak at the second location that He (God) was not going to change His mind, but Balak persisted.

Am I trying to drag God around to some place where the circumstances look favorable to what I want? If so, have I stopped to consider that God has already seen things from that angle? None of what I have to say is news to Him. There is no view that shows my desires to advantage. If God has answered me, then His answer stands. I will not; can not change His mind. There is no reason for Him to change it.

Father, thank You for not allowing me to change Your mind about anything. The longer I walk with You, the more I see that I am wrong when I disagree with You and that Your will is the best case scenario for me and the situations I face in life.

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