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 NASB

This should be easy.

God doesn’t lie; He always keeps His word.

We’ve already talked about this concept a little, so we shouldn’t have any problem grasping it here.

But, there’s another level to this, more easily seen when we look at the first half of the verse in the NRSV:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Truthfully, this has been a puzzle to some, because they look at the God of the Old Testament and then they look at the God f the New Testament and they thing, “Wait a minute; maybe He DOES change His mind.”

Or, could there be another explanation for this?

This is a good place to talk a little about the contextual nature of Scripture, or learning to understand how to read the Bible.  WAY too often, I see people quoting the WORDS of Scripture but using those words in a Western thinking 21st (OK, often a 20th) century understanding of the word. It’s as if those words carried all the same contextual meaning in the days of the Babylonian exile, about 2600 years ago, in the middle east area we now think of as Iraq and west into what is now modern day Israel, among a group of people who spoke ancient languages that are no longer spoken in our time, even if there are languages that go by the same label, as they do today in California, or wherever you live.

Here’s the thing.  They don’t.  Those were different people living in very different circumstances with a VERY different concept of the world around them.  They didn’t have access to the scientific explanations as to why a lot of things are the way they are.  They lacked the perspective of being able to review a broad expanse of history ranging over a very broad portion of the earth in which to gain a better understanding of why things are as they are.

And, they wrote about God within the contextual understanding of how they perceived Him.  No, God wasn’t leaning over their shoulders whispering, “Hey, write it this way.”  He inspired their understanding and, within their best attempt to illustrate what they perceived, they wrote the words of Scripture.

Were those understandings perfect?  No, how could they be?  That’s why we don’t spend all our time spinning our wheels in the endlessly hopeless pursuit of proving that every word written in Scripture was without error.

Think about it, if you were being held to every opinion or perception you had when you were 5 years old, how serious would anyone take you right now?  Santa Claus isn’t real (I apologize here to anyone who was careless enough to hand this to their small children to read; this is adult stuff, people).  Most of you didn’t grow up to be major league baseball players or princesses or whatever you thought was going to be your future in your incompletely formed childish personality.

God was seen in the earliest parts of recorded understanding primarily as a God of judgment.  Don’t think so.  Trying reading that creation narrative again.  One strike and you’re out.  OK, it was a very BIG strike; I get that.  But, a God of judgment, nevertheless.

Throughout most of the OLD Testament period, He came to be viewed more as a God of mercy.  He still judged you and what you did, but He gave you a method for clearing your slate, atonement, by way of animal sacrifice.  A God of mercy.

But then, in the fullness of time, He came directly into the realm of the creation in the person of Jesus and revealed Himself to be a God of radical grace.  Yes, there was still a right and wrong, but now His mercy took the form of an ultimate atonement that He provided one for all to everyone who believed in Him.

Grace is that attribute that perfectly dissects judgment and mercy.  Judgment says you were wrong and have to pay the price.  Mercy says you were wrong but get to pay a lesser penalty.  Grace acknowledges fully the price of judgment and then removes it entirely from our account.


So, did God CHANGE there?

No, He became more fully revealed to us.  He is as He always was.

And we are the recipients of great grace.

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Continue on.

Always praying for you,

Your Older Brother,

Pastor Joe

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