CAN AN ALL-KNOWING GOD CHANGE HIS MIND?


Here is a good one from Lee.  It poses a serious question.  Enjoy-anita

****************************

Dan and Mike have been preaching through some early books of the Bible, and in reflecting on the book of Exodus, I came across a passage that has puzzled me for years. To wit, Exodus 32:10-13 wherein Moses implores God not to destroy the Israelites and God changed His mind [Ex 32:14 NAS].

My problem with this translation that God changed His mind is this: how could an omniscient God who knows everything and all outcomes “change His mind.” First of all, He would have known Moses was going to ask Him to do so and His actions would have taken that fact into account.

One commentary I often consult—based on the NIV Bible version—explains that God “relented,”  and notes, “The word ‘relented’ does not mean that God changed His mind but that He embarked on another course of action.” I have to say, that explanation didn’t console me one bit. It sure sounds like He changed His mind.

I went back to look at Moses’ request and the logical arguments he used as he petitioned God for mercy against His people. Moses makes the argument that God, by destroying the Israelites, calls into question His own integrity. Moses says 1) God, You by Your power and glory brought this people out of Egypt, why would you kill them now, 2) God, You leave yourself open to criticism from the Egyptians who will say You brought the people out for evil intent (in order to kill them), and 3) God, remember Your covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob) to multiply their descendants as the stars.

As I thought about Moses’ arguments to God and consulted other commentaries, I came to some interesting conclusions. 1) The people rebelled and showed their idolatrous hearts; why shouldn’t God destroy them? That God brought them out of Egypt is related in no way to their later acts of rebellion. 2) Is God afraid of having His name profaned? Ezekiel 20:4-29 discusses God’s concern to protect His name, but notwithstanding that fact, when the people became evil in His sight, He allowed the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Romans all to kill and drag His people into exile and even destroy His temple. 3) And the covenant argument fails to hold water because God proposes to make a whole new nation of Israel beginning with Moses [Ex 32:10] who is himself a child of that covenant.

I think I found a better answer than Moses’ persuasive logic. In the writings of Matt Slick, president of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), he discusses this portion of Scripture. His thought on this passage is that Moses is a type here for Jesus (he is reflecting some of Jesus’ character). God has gone so far as to tell Moses to leave Him alone [Ex 32:10] and let Him destroy the people. So why did God relent and listen to Moses after all? Slick, in his argument, says it’s because of Jesus. Jesus says Himself that the Bible is about Him [John 5:39]. Slick states, “Certainly, such an important figure [in the Bible] as Moses must reflect Jesus in some way, and he does.” Slick further argues, “As Moses interceded for his people, Jesus also intercedes for His. God listened to Moses because God would listen to Jesus.”

Slick concurs with my thinking in saying, “If God changed His mind, in that He adapted to new information, then God does not know all things [1 John 3:20].” Further, he concludes, “It would make more sense to say that God waited for a reason [to act], threatened to destroy Israel, and allowed Moses to intercede on their behalf so they would be saved.”

An interesting side note exists in relation to the passage in Ex 32. When Moses returned to the camp from Sinai and found the people reveling with their golden calf, he ordered the Levites to take up their swords and go into the camp and kill those who opposed God. Some 3,000 men died as a result. In the NT passage where Peter preached [Acts 2:41], 3,000 were added to the new church. Slick observed, “When the Law was given, 3,000 died. When the gospel was given, 3,000 were saved.” To God be the glory!

By:  Lee Pierce

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s