Does God Change His Mind? Riding a Bike with King Hezekiah
“Remember now, O Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”– Isaiah 38:3-5
A fervent prayer is a prayer motivated by passion and purpose. It is when someone reaches into the depths of their soul and pours their heart out to God, at the most intense of levels. When I think of fervent prayers in the bible, I think of Hannah weeping and praying to the Lord to open her womb. I think of Nehemiah’s prayer of brokenness that Jerusalem lie in ruins. I am also reminded of the fervent prayer of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38, as he was facing death. He passionately requested to God for mercy, healing, and extension of life. God granted His request and extended his life fifteen years. Does this mean that God changes His mind as we understand a change of mind?
The people of Judah were facing a national crisis, as their godly king, King Hezekiah had death knocking at his door. There was not an appointed heir to the throne because Hezekiah had no children, and he had yet to appoint a close relative as his successor. Because of lack of preparation, God warned him to set his house in order (Isaiah 38:1). But this predicament was a national problem as well. Judah’s arch enemy, the Assyrians, were on the march and were about to invade and attack. How would Judah survive if their trusted king was not there to lead them through the battle? As God clearly spoke to King Hezekiah about his date with death, the Bible says that Hezekiah turned and faced the wall and began to pray. His prayer is in our text above. God granted his request and extended his life. In the years that followed, he had a son who would eventually become his heir to the throne of Judah.
Admittedly, the extra years were not the best years of Hezekiah’s life. They were years that gave way to turmoil and heartache. But the story does raise the theological question of whether or not God changes His mind. There are references in scripture where God is said to change His mind (Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:9-10), yet the Bible also makes it clear that God does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19) and is described as changeless (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). Which one is it? Does God change His mind or does He not?
When the text suggests that God changed His mind, it cannot be interpreted as how you and I would understand a change of mind. From our vernacular standpoint, God “changing His mind” sounds as if God was going to do a particular act, but instead changed His plan and did something different. But we must be careful in attempting to see God’s actions and intentions through human understanding. To God, such an event would be no change at all; for He is all knowing and always knew what He was planning to do in the first place. When a person changes their mind, they do so because they have received new information about a particular matter. But this is never the case with God. God cannot receive new information; for He is omniscient. He is immutable, meaning He does not change. So when something might appear to be a change to us in relation to God, it is really no change to Him at all. The apparent change was etched in stone by the sovereign hand of God before the foundation of the world.
I once heard it explained in this manner; if you were riding a bike into the wind, then stopped and turned around, you might think that the wind changed because it went from hindering you to helping you. In actuality it didn’t change, you did. Prayer most certainly changes things, but it does not change God. Prayer changes you! Oh how the Christian must passionately embrace the doctrine of the immutability of God; for it serves as an anchor of stability in our ever changing world!
– Pastor Eric