GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER
A third attribute of God's greatness is that of being UNCHANGEABLE. This is true of God in His entirety and this quality extends to each attribute.
1. The testimony of the Scriptures to this characteristic of God is quite extensive. The immutability of God underlies the entire message of the Bible. In explicit statement, God identifies Himself to Moses, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exod. 3:14). This statement means that God is always the same. He is not, "I was" or "I will be," but always the "I AM." It is therefore in agreement with this fact that He declares, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6). In contrast with creation in its variation the Psalmist declares, "But thou art the same" (Psa. 102:27).
What is true of the being of God is also true of every aspect of His being. In moral character God remains unchanged, for He is "the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning" (James 1:17 ASV). His mind does not change (Num. 23:19; Job 23:13), nor His thoughts (Psa. 33:11), nor His purpose (Ezek. 24:14), nor His word (Isa. 40:6-8), nor His promise (Heb. 6:17), nor His oath (Heb. 6:18), nor His wrath (Psa. 7:11), nor His activity (John 5:17).
2. The explanation of this attribute is quite simple, but its comprehension is quite difficult because we tend to think of God in terms of created things in which there is change. God is immutable in the sense that He never differs from Himself. In His greatness He never develops or diminishes. In His goodness He never advances or retreats. He never gets better or worse. He never changes within Himself. He never becomes something other than what He already is. It is affirmed of the second person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is therefore true of the entire Godhead, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8).
But the immutability of God does not mean immovability. God does change in His dealings with men and things in order that He may remain unchangeable in His being. In God's dealings and attitude toward one man, God did change (1 Sam. 15:10-11), in order that He might not change in His attitude toward evil (1 Sam. 15:29). God did change in His response to Nineveh because the Ninevites changed in their attitude toward God (Jonah 3:4, 5, 9, 10), and thus God remained unchangeable in His grace and mercy and kindness (Jonah 4:2). Changing circumstances and moral conditions make it necessary for God to change in His manifestation and application of Himself. So "it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth" (Gen. 6:6), "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord...And God remembered Noah" (Gen. 6:8; 8:1). Like mercury that responds to changes in temperature, God also changes toward the varying responses of men and remains the same.
Many theologians refer to the simplicity of God. The purpose is to differentiate from multiplicity of parts and relations. In this sense the divine essence can experience no change such as is true where there are many parts? It is the shift of these parts in their relationships that constitutes change within. And it is the addition of elements to these parts that produces change from without. But with God neither of these things are true. God is self-existent, so there can be no addition from without, and He is self-composed, so there can be no change within. In His self-sufficiency He is God now, He was always God in the same way, and He will ever be God into eternity.
3. The practical value of this great truth comes to full fruition when viewed on the changing background of creation. In a changing world, which is constantly being depleted of power and substance, it is encouragement to the prophet to know that with the Lord, the Creator, there is no fainting or weariness. Power and strength flow from a constant source and it is always available to those who wait upon the Lord (Isa. 40:28-31). The heavens and earth shall perish. They shall wax old as does a garment and they shall be changed. But the Lord will endure; His years shall have no end. Through all the changes in creation, He will remain the same. In this fact there is the guarantee for continued existence and life for those who belong to the Lord (Psa.102:24-28).
The eternal counsels of the Lord never change, so it is determined that eventually all these will be realized in the course of the centuries. Blessed indeed is that nation that makes such a God its Lord (Psa. 33:11-12).
The everlasting covenants of God to His people are the guarantee that all His promises to His people will be kept. Even though Israel has sinned, the reason they are not consumed rests in the fact that God does not change (Mal. 3:6).
The character of God is that of a perfect and unchanging holiness. This is the basis of all true morality. Moreover, this unchanging holiness guarantees that moral distinctions will persist through all the changing patterns of human kind. Many may make ever so great an attempt to initiate a new morality, but it will be in vain, for that One who is the ground of true morality does not change (James 1:13-17).
This changeless character of God stands as a warning to unbelievers. The unbelief of men does not negate or change God, who must ever be true to Himself, and therefore will eventually punish unbelievers (2 Tim. 2:13).