By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
Does God ever change His mind? And if He does, how can I change His mind?
Yes, of course!
One evening in my Bible study group, my friend raised this exact question, asking whether or not God ever changes his mind. The group immediately began an intense discussion.
I said, “Yes, no doubt.”
Most of the group said, “No, of course not. God is unchangeable, immutable, He could not change his mind.”
Making a simple perusal of the Bible, I find five passages that say He is unchangeable and four passages where He actively changes His mind.
First, the Bible says God is immutable and never changes.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19)
“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29)
“God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change—he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.” (Psalm 55:19)
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind.” (Psalm 110:4)
These verses seem rather clear cut. But if God never changes, what shall we do with the five passages which say that He has changed His mind?
Next, the Bible also recounts four times when God actively changes His mind.
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1. When God told Hezekiah to get his affairs in order because he was going to die.
When Hezekiah heard God’s decree, he pleaded with God for more time. God responded by changing His mind about Hezekiah’s impending death, promising him fifteen more years. Right on schedule, fifteen years later, Hezekiah went on to glory.
Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. he prophet Isaiah went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (2 Kings 20:1-3)
And God changed his mind.
The word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life.” (2 Kings 20:5-6)
2. When God promised Ahab that He would put him to death and that dogs would lick his blood off the street.
The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. … Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’” (1 Kings 21:17-19)
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted … he went around meekly. (1 Kings 21:27)
Then, God changed his mind.
The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” (1 Kings 21:28-29)
3. When God was seeking to kill Moses until his wife, Zipporah, interceded.
Near the beginning of the book of Exodus, there is a rather strange and enigmatic passage involving Moses and his wife, Zipporah. Moses had just finished arguing with God about whether or not he was the right person to lead the Hebrew slaves out of bondage.
“The Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:14), and God sent Moses’ brother Aaron, to accompany him as a spokesperson. They left for Egypt.
“In a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely, you are a bridegroom of blood to me”, she said (referring to circumcision, dedicating him to the Lord). (Exodus 4:24-25)
So, God changed his mind, and “the Lord left him alone” (Exodus 4:26).
Note that the Bible never explains why God intended to kill Moses. Perhaps, God was upset because Moses failed to practice circumcision, which was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant which set the Hebrews apart from all other nations. Maybe God was angry at Moses’ defiance of His command. But Zipporah’s quick, wise response saved Moses’ life.
4. When a Canaanite woman pleaded with Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter.
Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” (Matthew 15:21-22)
But the Canaanite woman “came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
And Jesus changed His mind.
Finally, what are the biblical requirements for changing God’s mind?
There is a common denominator which pulls together the actions of each of these people who asked God to change His mind and He responded.
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1. Live a pure and holy life.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
I suppose that this is a most important requirement of all. The Bible says that God will not hear the prayers of a heart which has sin in it.
Like Hezekiah, we must be able to tell God that we have walked with him in righteousness. Or like Ahab, we must turn completely away from sin, seek God’s forgiveness, and live differently.
When we awaken in the morning and think about the things that we must do today, ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Pray to live a life for Christ any price.
That will please God—and you will have built the foundation of faith necessary to ask Him to change His mind.
2. Live a life of humility before the Lord.
“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)
Pastor and Theologian Charles Finney described pride as “a disposition to exalt self, to get above others, to hide our defects, and to pass for more than we are.” Founding Father Daniel Webster called pride “inordinate self-esteem; conceit; ostentatious display.”
My definition? “Pride is an over-concern with myself.”
It’s difficult for God to change His mind when our pride makes us more concerned with ourselves than we are with God.
But when we lay down our desires and put Him first, He responds. Like Ahab, we learn to “walk meekly” before Him. And like Zipporah, we acknowledge that He is God with our actions.
Only when we put Him first will He change His mind on our behalf.
3. Pleading with a grief-filled heart of sorrow, repentance, and/or fasting.
There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel (1 Kings 21:25-26).
Can you imagine how much Ahab had angered God by His actions? The Bible literally calls him out as the worst of the worst.
And yet, Ahab begged for and received God’s forgiveness. There are times when we fall on our knees, and we weep and plead for God to change His mind. He responds to true repentance and an honest heart.
The Canaanite woman changed Jesus’ mind through genuine sorrow and strong faith. She wouldn’t stop begging Him to heal her daughter because she believed with all her heart that He could.
4. Praying and fasting, which “greases the wheels” for God to change His mind.
One of my pastor friends gave the best definition for fasting that I have ever heard: “Fasting is a voluntary choice not to eat for a period of time in order to focus one’s attention on prayer during a significant moment in life.”
I like to define fasting like this: “to abstain from food and/or drink for spiritual purposes.”
Fasting is a lost art among many contemporary Christians. The Bible shares at least ten different ways fasting can impact our spiritual lives. Fasting can be hard work, but it is certainly worth the effort
A father brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus for healing. The father told Jesus that the disciples had tried to extricate the demonic spirit, but had failed.
Later, in private, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t do it. Jesus replied, “This kind only comes out with much prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
Fasting shows God that you are serious, willing to put aside your own needs and desires to focus on Him.
5. Just keep on praying.
Hezekiah didn’t hear the prophecy of his death and simply give up. He prayed and prayed, turning his heart toward heaven and expecting an answer. God responded to his consistent call.
The Canaanite woman is another example of that kind of persistence. She asked Jesus for healing and asked again. When He sent her away, she just kept asking. She got and held His attention … and Jesus healed her daughter.
I love the parable of persistent prayer Jesus shared with His disciples in Luke 18:1-8:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
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Does God Change His Mind or Not?
Let me give you a few options to consider when dealing with the dichotomy of these Scripture passages.
1. Stop worrying about the passages and trust that God has it all figured out.
I always want to know the “why” when Scriptures teach us things that seem to disagree with one another. So, I keep studying. But it is okay to rest in a childlike faith.
2. Admit that the passages are there, and you don’t have the slightest idea how to deal with them.
This approach is also just fine. After all, the Bible is filled with all sorts of passages that we struggle to understand. Part of having faith is trusting that our finite minds can’t always understand the infinite.
3. Wait until we go to heaven when God will reveal all.
There are so many mysteries that I look forward to understanding in heaven! I wonder if we will immediately have all our questions answered when we arrive, or if we’ll simply be swept up in worshipping God and not think about anything else!
4. If God changing His mind is within the parameters of His character being unchangeable, then; He has every right to be both unchangeable and able to change His mind at the same time.
This is where I land on the subject. I believe that His character is solid, immutable, and able to be counted on in all situations. And God also desires to have an intimate relationship with us through Jesus Christ.
Relationships require interaction! So, I believe that when we pray, He responds. We can ask Him to change His mind, and if our request is within His plan for our lives … and if it reflects His character … He will.
Samantha, I hope this answer is helpful for you as you seek God’s heart, grow in your relationship with Him, and pursue His plan for your life.