The Bible is quite clear that God is immutable and unchangeable. On one hand. On the other hand it says in several places that God repented.
It seems as if the Bible is in contradiction of itself.
It isn’t, though.
If one reads the text carefully and in context, you can see that God’s repentance is merely His response to man’s response to Him.
Does Prayer Make God Change His Mind—Repent?
Yes. But not in the New Testament meaning of repentance. In the New Testament, repentance means not only changing one’s mind, but changing one’s lifestyle and instead of bent on the path to Hell, a person changes direction toward God and His ways. It is the outward and inward change of a sinner in possession of Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness.
Yes, in the Old Testament way when Moses prayed for the whole of Israel, interceding for them when they refused to believe and trust God by entering the Land of Milk and Honey. God said He would strike them dead with disease and pestilence.
If we take a glance at God’s warnings to Israel, several times He told them to keep His covenant, to listen to Him and obey. Here are two examples…
Exodus 15:26 And He said, If you carefully listen to the voice of Jehovah your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and you give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will not put on you all the diseases which I have put on Egypt; for I am Jehovah your Healer.
Exodus 19:4 You have seen what I did to Egypt; and I bore you on wings of eagles and brought you to Me.
Exodus 19:5 And now if listening you will listen to My voice, and will keep My covenant, you shall become a special treasure to Me above all the nations, for all the earth is Mine.
God repented of His decree to destroy Israel because of Moses’ intercession begging for forgiveness for the people. God’s ultimate plan would have absolutely been carried out even if He had destroyed the people of Israel in one fiery swoop. But look.
After forty years, all the adults that had turned their backs on God, refused to listen to Him, refused to obey Him, died in the wilderness.
The same consequence occurred, just not in one event beside the Jordan River.
God decreed that Nineveh would be destroyed if the people did not repent of their evil ways. The people repented and God relented. However, 70 years later when the people of Nineveh succumbed to the evil ways again, God destroyed the city.
In the Bible, when God repents of what He says He will do, it is because His people have repented. It is because prayerful intercession has been made.
James declared, “The prayers of a righteous man avails much,” for this very reason. John said in 1 John 5 that intercessory prayer is our privilege and God grants our requests. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. Yet, he adjures us against interceding for a person who sins unto death – just the ones not sinning unto death.
The word John uses for death means physical, the death of the body. It is possible for God’s children to act or think in such a way they are of no use to God on this earth and He yanks them Home. Since God is omniscient, He knows when a stubborn person will not repent. Therefore, even prayer of a righteous person cannot prevail against God’s consequences for disobedience of His children. We know this “sin unto death” is not the sin of unbelief. We are commanded to pray for the lost because the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.
“But,” John says, “praying for a brother or sister who is not sinning unto death, who sincerely profess Jesus as their Savior, praying that their sins may be pardoned, and that they may be delivered from evils and the chastisements of God, and preserved in Christ Jesus will avail much.” Those are powerful words and promises delivered by God’s prophet John.
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