“For I am the Lord, I change not;” – Malachi 3:6a (KJV)
With respect to a biblical defense of The Unchanging God, we have a wealth of examples in God’s Word.
Examples from both the Old Testament and New Testament regarding God Himself include Psalm 55:19, Psalm 102:27, Daniel 7:14, James 1:17, Hebrews 1:12, Hebrews 13:8, etc.
Examples from both the Old Testament and New Testament regarding His Law, His Food, His Imperishable Seed, etc., all extensions of Himself, would include John 6:27, John 12:34, James 1:17 (again), as well as 1 Peter 1:23 and other passages.
What is meant when it is said that God never changes, changes not, or is unchanging? If there may be philosophical differences between these terms, I do not know. Nevertheless, I will use them interchangeably in this post.
What I mean when I say that God is unchanging is that His Person, to include his personality, attributes, expectations, ways, mannerisms, etc., do not change over time. The purpose of this post is to seek to demonstrate this point with five examples from God’s Word.
As often as I am able, I will be trying to impress these points upon you, dear reader, using both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Let’s jump in.
His Standards For Worship
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24 (KJV)
The Unchanging God has always had standards for worship. As it is written, and the Scriptures can not be broken, we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. This can only be done by His grace, through faith in His Eternally Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We can see here in this passage from the Old Testament what happens when we fail to worship Him as He has commanded:
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. 4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. 5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. 7 And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.” – Leviticus 10:1-7 (KJV)
Compare that with this passage from the New Testament and you should notice a very similar response when Ananias and Sapphira failed to worship God in spirit and in truth:
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” – Acts 5:1-11 (KJV)
If ever there were a verse that could be used as a proof text for the regulative principle of worship, it would be John 4:24. Can you discern from these passages that the LORD cares about the manner in which He is worshiped? I pray that it would be true of you.
His Preference For Obedience & Mercy
“And Samuel said,
Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to hearken than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22 (KJV)
God has always preferred obedience or mercy (depending on the context) to sacrifice. Other examples include Ecclesiastes 5:11, Hosea 6:6, Psalm 51:16, Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, Micah 6:6-8 and Mark 12:33.
His Acceptance of Sacrifices
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” – Hebrews 11:4 (KJV)
Irrespective of God’s preference for obedience rather than sacrifice, provision for sacrifices has been around for almost the number of the days of man. Sacrifices have been with us in our relation to God since the very beginning when animals were killed to provide a literal, physical, temporal covering for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21. Since their inception, sacrifices have always been a covering for man; a means by which he may approach a Holy God.
As the passages in the previous section on worship suggest, this must be done in a particular way commanded by God. You will note that there is a good deal of overlap across the subjects of obedience, worship and sacrifice. There are at least two types of sacrifices, which also share a good deal of overlap: spiritual and temporal.
The following are two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, of temporal sacrifices found acceptable to God:
“And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:” – Genesis 4:4 (KJV)
The verse in the heading of this section, Hebrews 11:4, ought to provide greater context for why one offering made by Abel was acceptable and the other offering made by Cain was not. Some have speculated that it had something to do with the initial sacrifice made in the Garden of Eden by God who killed the animals to provide Adam and Eve with a physical covering of animal skins, but I believe Hebrews 11:4 ought to lead us in this matter.
“41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” – Mark 12:41-44 (KJV)
What more can be said regarding this wonderful passage from the Gospel of Mark? Sacrifice is proportionate and was always proportionate, whether it was done by virtue of the mitzvot in the Old Testament or by grace in the New Testament.
We know from this article on GotQuestions: “There were five possible elements of a sin sacrifice—a young bull, a male goat, a female goat, a dove/pigeon, or 1/10 ephah of fine flour. The type of animal depended on the identity and financial situation of the giver.” Truly, the proportion of the sacrifices made unto God could have been its own section.
Next we have two examples of spiritual sacrifices found acceptable to God, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Again, to drive the point home to you, dear reader, that Our Lord never changes.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” – Psalm 51:17 (KJV)
For greater understanding, we really ought to compare this verse with Psalm 34:18 and Isaiah 57:15, but it will likely be the subject of a future post.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” – Romans 12:1 (KJV)
The word for ‘service’ here in this verse is also sometimes translated at worship. Again, we see the overlap in the areas of spiritual worship and sacrifice presented in God’s Word, the standards of which have been commanded by The Unchanging God remaining unchanged themselves.
It is easiest for us to observe fixed aspects of God’s physical appearance in the study of theophanies. Because this is such an important subject, I will in this section defer to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible to expound.
An appearance or manifestation of God; a compound word derived from the Greek noun for God and the Greek verb “to appear.”
In its broadest meaning the term has been applied to many forms of divine revelation in both Testaments, whether occurring in a vision or dream or in normally perceptible realities such as unusual natural phenomena, appearances of the Deity in human form in the OT, or the incarnation of Christ in the NT. The use of the term theophany is restricted here to manifestations of God in temporary forms perceptible to the external senses, and thereby excludes divine manifestations in dreams or visions and the incarnation of Christ.
Theophany is regarded as one of the means by which God’s special revelation comes to man. God’s special revelation may be divided into two basic forms, that of word and deed. God’s revelatory deeds may be further divided into the categories of theophany and miracle. A theophany is then a form of divine revelation in which God’s presence is made visible and recognizable to man. God therefore reveals himself not only by word and miracle, by prophecies and signs, but also by making his presence perceptible to men.
The Angel of the Lord. The most important form of divine manifestation in the OT is the “Angel of the Lord” or the “Angel of God.” This remarkable angel, who is clearly distinguished from angels in general and who both represents himself as deity as well as distinguishing himself from God, appears to Hagar (Gn 16:7), to Abraham and Lot (18; 19; 22:11, 12), to Jacob (32:29–31; cf. Hos 12:4, 5), to Moses (Ex 3:2–6), to Balaam (Nm 22:22), to Joshua (Jos 5:14, 15), to Gideon (Jgs 6:11–14), to Manoah and his wife (Jgs 13), and to David (1 Chr 21:15, 18, 27). He goes before the Israelites to lead them out of the land of Egypt (Ex 13:21; 14:19), and he remonstrates with the Israelites when they disobey God after settling in the land of Canaan (Jgs 2:1–4).
A study of these passages reveals that the Angel of the Lord appeared in human form (cf. Gn 18:2, 22; Heb 13:2) and performed normal human functions (Gn 32:24; Nm 22:23, 31), yet he was an awe-inspiring figure (Gn 32:30; Jgs 6:22; 13:22) exhibiting divine attributes and prerogatives including predicting the future (Gn 16:10–12), forgiving sin (Ex 23:21), and receiving worship (Ex 3:5; Jg 13:9–20). The title Angel of the Lord is particularly striking because it is used in many of these passages interchangeably with the terms Yahweh (Jehovah) and God in such a way as to leave little doubt that the angel is a manifestation of God himself. Nevertheless, at the same time the angel and God clearly are not equated because the angel often refers to God in the third person.
Divine Manifestations in the OT Where the Precise Form Is Not Specified
There are a number of passages in the OT where God speaks or acts in the presence of human witnesses, but where no clear indication is given of the precise form of the divine manifestation. Possibly in some of these passages anthropomorphic language is utilized, or God speaks directly to the consciousness of the individual rather than by externally audible language. Nevertheless in most of the following passages some form of theophany probably took place.
Genesis 2:15, 16 states that “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it. And the Lord God commanded the man.…” Genesis 3:8 states that “the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God” (NIV). The implication of the latter verse is that Adam and Eve heard the footsteps of God, that God appeared in the garden in some sense-perceptible form. Exactly what form is not described, but presumably it was a human form. (Other passages which suggest some form of theophany are Genesis 3:9–19, 21; 4:9–15; 6:12–21; 7:1–4; 8:15–17; 9:1–17.)
In Genesis 12:1–3, 7 God calls Abraham to leave his own country and his father’s house and to go to a land the Lord would show him. In verse 7 the Lord “appeared to Abram.” This is the first time in the Bible that this expression is used, and it clearly implies that the Lord came to Abraham in some sense-perceptible form (cf. Acts 7:2, 3). The OT records similar occurrences of manifestations of God in some unspecified form to Isaac (Gn 26:2, 24), to Jacob (Gn 35:1, 9, 13), to Moses (Ex 4:24–26), and to Samuel (1 Sm 3:10).
The Pillar of Cloud and Fire
When Israel departed from Egypt the Lord himself went before them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way during the day, and a pillar of fire to give them light and direction at night (Ex 13:21, 22; 14:19, 24; Nm 14:14; Neh 9:12, 19; Ps 99:7). On certain occasions the pillar of cloud descended to the tent of meeting where God entered into verbal communication with Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and Miriam (Ex 33:7–11; Nm 12:5; Dt 31:15). From the cloud God spoke to Moses on Mt Sinai (Ex 24:15–18; 34:5). In God’s initial appearance at Sinai, his presence was indicated by thunderings, lightnings, fire, smoke, and the sound of a trumpet as well as a thick cloud (Ex 19:16, 18). The pillar of cloud and fire, along with the other heightened forms of natural phenomena at Sinai, are clearly to be understood as sense-perceptible representations of God’s presence with his people.
A visible manifestation of the majesty of God, apparently in the form of a radiant light, is often referred to as the Shekinah glory, that is the glory of God which dwells (Shekinah) among his people. Israel was told that when the tabernacle was set up God would come to “dwell among the Israelites and be their God” (Ex 29:44, 45). The Lord had brought his people out of Egypt so that he might dwell in their midst. This great event occurred when “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40:34, 35). Previously when Moses had received the Law on the mountain at Sinai we are told that “the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai … to the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain” (24:16–18). After God’s displeasure with his people because of their worship of the golden calf, Moses requested the Lord to show him his glory. The Lord agreed, but told him that “when my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen” (33:22). Later when Solomon completed the temple, “the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (1 Kgs 8:11; 2 Chr 5:13, 14). At the time of the Babylonian captivity Ezekiel saw in a vision that the glory of the Lord went up from Jerusalem (Ez 11:22, 23), only to return at some future time when God himself establishes his kingdom and comes to dwell in the midst of his people forever (Ez 43:1–9).
Theophanies served to forcibly impress upon God’s people the existence and sovereignty of God as well as to assure them of God’s presence with and concern for his people. Those forms of theophany which utilized some heightened form of natural phenomena conveyed a sense of the awesome majesty and power of God who is to be approached only with reverence and humility according to divinely prescribed procedures.
Theophany is frequently associated with divine revelation in verbalized form. Here the human-form theophanies are of particular significance, where the theophany is the means to the divine communication. The “Angel of the Lord” theophanies are linked with major advances in redemptive history including the establishment of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, the entrance into the Promised Land, and the selection of the site for the Solomonic temple.
The human-form theophanies in the OT are often referred to as Christophanies on the basis that these appearances of God are best explained as pre-incarnate manifestations of the Second Person of the Trinity. These appearances thus anticipate the incarnation of Christ and provide an OT glimpse into the triune nature of the Godhead.
Source: Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, pp. 2050-2052
His Care For The Elect
“27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” – John 10:27-28 (KJV)
Notice the wonderful persistence of the Son of God’s behavior and specifically His care for His creatures throughout the Christophanies of the Old Testament as well as the earthly ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. This unchanging nature extends even to what we can discern about the Lord’s appearance, personality, mannerisms, and indeed, every attribute of His Person.
His care for the elect is, to my mind, most clearly seen in the specific details of His personality and mannerisms as displayed in both Old Testament Christophanies and throughout the earthly ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
“And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.” – Ezekiel 2:1 (KJV)
Can you see how He cares for us? Although He is deserving of worship and reverence and awe, observe how He encourages the elect to whom He appears to stand up, and to be not afraid.
“10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. 11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. 12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.” – Daniel 10:10-12 (KJV)
Let us now turn to the New Testament and see if we can find any similarities:
“But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” – Matthew 14:27 (KJV)
“9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” – Matthew 28:9-10 (KJV)
Now for perhaps the most startling parallel in the New Testament, we should pay close attention to the jots and tittles in the passage below.
“6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” – Matthew 17:6-9 (KJV)
Do you see the similarities between the Old Testament Christophanies and Our Lord Jesus Christ? His great care toward the elect as He encourages them to not be afraid, to rise or stand and to speak with Him? Whether it be during Our Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, or a pre-incarnate Christophany, Our God ‘changeth not’.
I pray that this post would a blessing to you in your walk, whether you are a seeker or fellow sojourner. May you find every blessing in Our Lord Jesus Christ.