"For I am the Lord (Jehovah), I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." Malachi 3:6
Convinced that the proper study for the Christian is the godhead, that the only thing we may boast in is that "we know and understand God, that He exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth," we continue in our study of the Godhead by setting forth the great doctrine of the immutability or unchangeableness of God. There are especially two names of God that reveal to us that He is unchangeable. The well-known name Jehovah implies, as we have seen, that God is independent and free, eternal, and sovereign; but revealed by this name is also the truth of divine immutability. There is no variableness or shadow caused by turning with this great Father of lights (see James 1:17). Always He is I AM. Another precious name that God has given to Himself is "the Rock." The creature is always changing, all of life is in flux, things change so fast in life that we can hardly keep up with them. But there is One that life and the circumstances of life cannot change, and that is God. "He is the rock, His work is perfect..." (Deut. 32:4)
If you will read Malachi 3:6 in its context, you will see that it stands closely related to the previous verses in two ways. With the first and second comings of Christ in mind, the prophet teaches that Christ will purify the church so that she will be restored to the true worship of God; but that two-fold coming of Christ will also bring swift judgment for the wicked 9vewrses 3-5). The reason for both works of Christ is: FOR I am Jehovah, I change not." God will not turn from His determination to destroy His enemies, nor will He fail to save His Church, here called the sons of Jacob.
That God is immutable does not only mean that God does not change, it most emphatically means that he cannot change. What an amazing thing for creatures to contemplate! We change physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Styles change. Governments and their leaders change. Nations come and go. Creation underwent significant changes at the time of the fall and of the flood, and continues to undergo certain changes. Over against all this stands God! How wonderful, how beautiful, how perfect is He! God does not increase or decrease. God is not subject to a process of development or aging. Let's ask the question, reverently, "Why should God change?" He cannot become more perfect, wiser, or better. If God changed, even in some small way, He would not be and could not be God. Such a change would mean that He is not what He said He was eternally, and that is God! Those who speak of a change in God end up with no God at all; and there can be no true religion with a God who changes.
Immutability or unchangeableness does not mean inactivity, immobility, or idleness on the part of God. God created the heaven and the earth and then stopped creating. He comes and He goes. He reveals Himself and hides Himself. He becomes angry and turns form the fierceness of His anger. He rejects the nation of Israel and receives to Himself the Gentiles. At one time God causes His people to experience the burden of sin, and at another time the sweet peace of gracious forgiveness. Yet, with all this activity in all these relationships, Scripture testifies that God remains forever the same. Immutability and activity are in perfect harmony in God!
God is immutable in His essence, so that there is no possibility of any change within the Godhead. Since God is His attributes, there is no possibility of change in respect to any of his adorable virtues. We must see one further point: God is unchangeable also in His counsel or will. There are many who speak of God's unchangeableness in respect to being and attributes, but who reject the immutability of His will. They deny that God wills eternally and unchangeably. The Arminians and the Pelagian, with their emphasis upon the free will of man, have a will of God that depends upon the actions and choices of men. God's will is a labyrinth of alternative possibilities; God will do this or that, depending upon what man does in a certain instance. But then God's will or decrees are not determined, fixed, or irrevocable; rather they are construed as pliable, changeable, alterable. This is not a minor error, but this is bad business of the first magnitude! To hold to a will of God that is changeable goes against the clear revelation of God concerning Himself to us, and it robs the child of God of a wonderful, and much needed, source of comfort. Scripture informs us that "the counsel of God standeth forever," that God's "counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure," that God wills to show to the heirs of promise "the immutability of His counsel, confirming it with an oath." (Psalm 33:11, Isaiah 46:10, Hebrews 6:17)
We read of God's repentance in five different Old Testament passages. We might wonder how the unchangeable, faithful God of the covenant can repent! We also read, of course, that God is not a man that He should repent. Let's notice the example of Genesis 6:6, "And it repented the Lord that He has made man on earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth." the question is, when God looked down from heaven at the time of Noah, and saw that the wickedness of man was great, did He then for the first time decide to destroy man from the face of the earth, or is He revealing that this was his pre-determined counsel all along? If this were a new idea in the divine mind, then God is changeable and His counsel is not fixed. We reject this notion altogether. We have to understand these several passages as figures of speech (anthropomorphisms) in which God reveals what He had eternally determined to do in human language and under human forms. It seems to us that He repents or changes His mind; but when God thus speaks at these great turning points in history, He is revealing that He knows the end from the beginning and He is doing what He was always of a mind to do!
The truth of God's immutability is a truth dear to the Christian's heart for it is full of covenant implications. The text quoted at the beginning says that because Jehovah changes not, the sons of Jacob are not consumed. In the light of the context of Malachi, we understand the sons of Jacob to be, not every child born to the patriarch Jacob and his descendants, but the spiritual sons of Jacob, those born in his generations by the power of the promise. These sons are the elect, believing children of God of every age, who belong to the great Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, namely, Jesus Christ! Of that spiritual seed it is said that they shall never be consumed. Now, they died of course; they died in battle, they died of illness, they died of old age, as we say. But the word "consumed" refers not to physical dying but to spiritual destruction. True Israel is not consumed in Egypt, nor in the wilderness journeying, not in Canaan, nor during the captivity, nor during the sad days of Malachi, nor to the end of the world! The heavens and the earth shall shake, the sun shall be darkened and the moon as blood, fire shall be everywhere, but destruction shall not touch a single child of God. Only with our eyes shall we behold and see the rewards of the wicked! And the only reason for this is that our God is Jehovah Who changes not, Who does not cast away His people, Whose gifts and calling are without repentance. That's the only thing that can explain the eternal security of the people of God!
Not unto us, O God of heaven, but unto Thee be glory given! Our safety is a divine wonder. A wonder, first, because it is unique. Everything around us perishes or comes to an end: the grass, the years, men and the kingdoms of men. The only thing that escapes the ravages of time, change, and death is the
Church of Jesus Christ! A wonder in the second place because so many things would seem to guarantee the destruction of the sons of Jacob. The spiritual enemy of the Church is superior in number, power, and riches; it is filled with unreasonable enmity and hatred. Never is there any armistice or truce. But the little remnant of the people of God endure to the end. A wonder, finally, when we look at those children of Jacob themselves, as they are in themselves. No better, by nature, than the children of Esau who are consumed. They possess no goodness, no righteousness, no strength in themselves. Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by Jehovah, and His Christ, and what they have done in strong love and unchanging mercy!
What comfort for the child of God! Do you see why we must boast in the knowledge and understanding of what God is, and in nothing else? Man cannot be trusted or relied upon. David discovered that even his old familiar friend, with whom he took counsel and went up to the house of God, even he turned against him. I am sure that we have all learned a similar lesson. We cannot put our trust in any man. But God is our Rock! His purpose is fixed, His Word is sure, His promises are yea and amen! Having begun His good work in us, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Finally, what encouragement for prayer is this truth of God's immutability. What if God changed from time to time, as to what pleased Him, as to what He required of us in a life of thankfulness, as to how we were to worship Him ... who would pray? Who would even dare to pray? Will He grant me an audience today, but not tomorrow? Will He be merciful in forgiving my sins one time, but not another? Such doubts and discouragements are forever banished when we understand that God is forever the same! He has promised to hear everyone who turns to Him in faith, praying in the name of Jesus and according to His will. And if someone should say, "Why pray at all, if God's will is so unalterably fixed?" then we must answer, we do not pray to change the will of God in some respect, but we pray in obedience to God's command, in the knowledge and confidence that "God gives His grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desire continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them."
Of, for the wicked it is a terrible thing that God does not change. It means that they have an appointment with God that they cannot escape; He will be a swift witness against those who do not fear Him. But for the righteous, the believing, true sons of Jacob? the fire of the Lord's judgment will not singe their clothes, neither shall the smell of smoke be in their garments. "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10)