God and the winds of change

Each of us has our own unique experience of 2020, the year that brought us a disruptive pandemic, and our own perspective on what it all means. But one thing we all share in common: we have all felt the winds of change, and those winds are with us now.

We call it “the new normal,” but the way in which we go about our lives has changed. We adjust, we adapt, we recalibrate, we embrace the changes to the best of our abilities.

Change can be a good teacher. It can lift us out of the ruts into which we fall. It can improve productivity. It can expand our horizons. But change can also be painful, distressing, bewildering, overwhelming, and most unwelcome.

Yet in the midst of all our change there is God: absolutely dependable, completely trustworthy, and not susceptible to change. Long ago, the Old Testament prophet Malachi received a message from God to his people, which said: “Because I the Lord have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed” (Mal 3:6).

God’s changeless quality is like a ship’s anchor, preventing us from drifting out to sea in a storm, at the mercy of wind and waves and currents. God’s changelessness is like a rock foundation in place of sand on which to build a stable life. God’s character, truth, and promises are utterly reliable.

Numbers 23:19 reminds us that “God is not a man, that he might lie, or the son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

But hang on! If God does not change, indeed if God cannot change, how can God relate to a world filled with constant rapid change? How can such a God relate to me, understand my life, respond to my needs? Isn’t belief in an unchangeable God ultimately less of a foundation for wellbeing, and more of an impediment?

The key mistake in this line of thinking is to confound God’s immutability with immobility – to claim that because God does not change, he therefore cannot act.

The Bible teaches that God is not susceptible to change, but that does not mean that he is paralysed into inaction when unexpected changes occur. The Bible reveals numerous indications that God is not only the greatest of all possible beings, but is a person of changeless character.

The Bible displays equally numerous indications that God is far from immobile, far from unresponsive, far from impervious to our changing circumstances, far from passive in the face of our changing human needs. In Hosea 11:8 God is even said to have experienced a “change of heart” because his compassion is stirred by Israel’s plight.

The winds of change do not catch God by surprise – neither the winds of global historic change, or repressive government legislation sprung on an unprepared public, or economic uncertainty, or pandemic pandemonium, or the small but significant changes that occur in your personal circumstances and mine.

Nothing is beyond God’s reach. No crisis paralyses God into inaction. No challenge compromises God’s character, or weakens his resolve, or empties his promises of their power and meaning. I have no doubt that God works all things together for the good of his people (Rom 8:28).

Theologian Michael Horton puts it well:

We do not know how God is immutable or how realistic the comparison is between his analogies and his essence. Yet God teaches us enough to enable us to know that he is infinitely other than we are and at the same time inseparably one with us – the object of our awe as well as our assurance.[1]

Let us pray.

Our Father in heaven, utterly unlike us, yet intimately aware of us, help us to discern the fingerprints of your definite actions all around us and deep within us – your compassion, your mercy, your love, your chastening, your divine purpose. 

And help us to respond to you as grateful children, in wide-eyed awe, and confident trust, and deep assurance. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, and for your greater glory. Amen.

Rod Benson is Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He enjoys preaching, cooking, snorkeling, and reading a good book. This talk was a staff devotion presented on 1 February 2021.

[1] Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 242.

Image source: Club Marine

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