"Because I, the LORD, do not change, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.
I. MAN'S HOPE IN THE CHANGEABLENESS OF GOD'S ADAPTATIONS. Changeableness is not altogether the appropriate term, but it is required for the sake of contrast. If God's ways with us were ordered by fast and unvariable rules, we should lose all sense of personal feeling, personal relations, and personal adaptations. Adjustment to individuals upon exact knowledge of individuals, and adjustment to circumstances upon exact knowledge of circumstances, are the very glory of God. It is because of this Divine characteristic that we would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men. If set rules had been worked without qualification or exception, then many a time Israel must have been abandoned or destroyed. Men make so much of being under the "reign of law;" but that is precisely what we had better not be. It is a truly awful regime. There is no considerateness, no pity, no adaptation, in it. Far better that we are in the personal rule of a Divine and infinitely loving Lawgiver.
II. MAN'S HOPE IN THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF GOD'S PRINCIPLES. The Divine adaptations are always within the limitations of the Divine principles. We can never be sure that our fellow man does not change through weakness, and risk principles in making change. We may have perfect confidence that God never does. "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" True to his word; but only speaking words that express eternal principles. The point of the text is, that God's unchangeableness guarantees Israel's security, and God's changeableness guarantees Israel's disciplining and refining. - R.T.
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
1. It is an excellent way to keep the grace of love growing in the Christian.
2. It is an immutable and irresistible way to keep life in the exercise of faith. O, for the faith to believe that God cannot nor will change His immutable purpose.
3. The attaining to much Divine patience and submission, under all sad dispensations.
4. We come to the distinct persuasion, that the "gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
5. The mortification of all things here below.
6. Much joy and satisfaction, for the heirs of God have strong consolation.
I. AN UNCHANGING GOD.
1. He changes not in His essence. We cannot tell you the substance of what we call God. Whatever it is, we call it His essence, and that essence never changes. The substance of mortal things is ever changing. All creatures change. But God is perpetually the same. He iS Spirit-pure, essential, ethereal spirit — and therefore He is immutable. His essence did not undergo any change when it was united with the manhood.
2. He changes not in His attributes. Apply to His power, wisdom, justice, truth, goodness, love. Take any one thing that you can say of God now, and it may be said not only in the dark past, but in the bright future it shall always remain the same.
3. He changes not in His plans. Has it ever been said that God began to build but was not able to finish? God altereth not His plans. Why should He? He is the All-Wise, and cannot have planned wrongly.
4. He changes not in His promises. I want immutable things; and I find that I have immutable promises when I turn to the Bible.
5. He changes not in His threatenings.
6. He changes not in the objects of His love — not only in His love, but in the objects of it.
II. THE PROOF THAT GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE. The very existence and being of a God seem to me to imply immutability. An argument may be found in the fact of God's perfection. Another in God's infinity. From the past we may gather proof. "Hath He spoken, and hath He not done it?"
III. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THIS UNCHANGEABLE GOD IS A BENEFIT. "Sons of Jacob."
1. The sons of God's election.
2. Persons who enjoy peculiar rights and titles.
3. Men of peculiar manifestations.
4. Men of peculiar trials.
5. Men of peculiar character.
IV. THE BENEFIT WHICH THE SONS OF JACOB RECEIVE FROM AN UNCHANGING GOD. "Not consumed." How can man be consumed? In two ways. We might have been consumed in hell. We might have been left to our own devices, and then where would you have been now? Remember, then, that God is the same, whatever may be removed. There is one place where change cannot put his finger; there is one Name on which mutability can never be written; there is one heart that can never alter. That heart is God's — that name is Love.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. What Jehovah is in Himself. "I change not." It is the Lord Jesus who is spoken of. He for whom John Baptist prepared the way. Our glorious Lord stands recorded in this chapter as Jehovah, self-existent, one with the Father and the Spirit. The immutability of Christ is a sweet truth. It is frequently mentioned or referred to in Scripture.
2. His covenant, like Himself, is eternal. God's mind is eternal. He who is so immutable in Himself, and in His own purposes, will do all His pleasure, and His counsel shall stand. He sweetly speaks for the comfort and peace of sinners, brought to the feet of Jesus. There is no possibility of failure; His infinite wisdom has provided for every emergency; His infinite foreknowledge foresees all the obstacles that ever did or ever will arise to counteract His own plans; His infinite power is sure to carry His plans into effect. God is as true in His threatenings as in His promises. This is illustrated in the case of the Jewish nation. Whilst, however, these witnesses stand before us, to teach us that God is faithful, let us remember that the God who is thus faithful in His promises and in His threatenings has been pleased also in His Word to give poor souls this blessed testimony — that the seed of Jacob shall never seek His face in vain.
(F. Silver.)I. THE NATURE OF THIS DIVINE ATTRIBUTE.
1. In respect of His essence, God is absolutely unchangeable, because His being is necessary, and His essence self-existent.
2. In respect of His perfections God is absolutely unchangeable. Concerning those perfections which flow necessarily from His essence, and depend not on His will, this is self-evident; because whatever necessarily flows from any cause or principle must likewise of necessity be as invariable as the cause or principle from which it necessarily proceeds. Of this kind are the power, the knowledge, the wisdom, and the other natural attributes of God. Concerning those perfections, the exercise whereof depends upon His will; such as justice, veracity, goodness, mercy, and all other moral perfections, the absolute immutability of these is not, indeed, so obvious and self-evident; because it depends on the unchangeableness, not only of His essence, but of His will also. But in a Being who always knows what is right to be done, and can never possibly be deceived, the general will or intention must be unchangeable.
3. In the particular decrees and purposes of His will — in His laws, promises, and threatenings. Having all power and all knowledge, He can never resolve upon anything which shall be either not possible or not reasonable to be accomplished. All finite beings are frequently forced to change their designs, because they find it impossible to finish what they began, or unreasonable to pursue their first intention. But in God these things have no place. He is unchangeable in His decrees and purposes, because, having all things in His power, and comprehending all things in His foreknowledge, He can by no force be overruled, by no surprise or unexpected accident be prevented. In His laws God is unchangeable, because they are always founded on the same immutable reason, the eternal differences of good and evil, the original nature of things, and universal equity; and they always tend to the same regular end, the order and happiness of the whole creation. In His covenants or promises God is unchangeable. Because they are founded upon such grounds as cannot be altered; even upon the original, fixed, and permanent designs and intentions of all-wise providence. In His threatenings God is unchangeable, that is to say, in such threatenings as are not merely personal. Because, as His love to virtue and goodness is unalterable, so His hatred to vice is irreconcilable. And also because these threatenings are often prophetic parts of the general scheme of providence. Against this unchangeableness of God it may be urged, that Scripture frequently represents Him as repenting and changing His purpose. Reply, that while the declarations of the designs and purposes of God, which are prophetic of the great events of providence, are in themselves absolutely fixed and unalterable; those promises and threatenings which are merely personal, either to any particular man or to any number of men, are always conditional, because the wisdom of God thought fit to make these depend on the behaviour of men; and the unchangeableness characterises the conditions.
II. USES OF THIS DISCOURSE.
1. The unchangeableness of God is to good men at all times the greatest possible security that they shall not finally fail to be happy.
2. The threatenings of Him whose nature and perfections are" unchangeable ought to be a perpetual terror to impenitent sinners.
3. The consideration of the mercy of Him who is unchangeable in His perfections ought to be a constant encouragement to such as are truly penitent, and sincerely desirous to amend.
4. As unchangeableness is an excellency and perfection in God, so in man, on the contrary, to change his opinion and manner of acting, when there is just cause to do so, is one of his greatest commendations. Right and truth are to be followed unchangeably, but when frail and fallible man finds he has erred from what is true and right he must immediately return to it.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
1. The immutability of God is not only revealed in the Bible, but is discoverable by reason. Mutability implies cause. Where can we imagine there exists a cause that can change the being or attributes of the Deity? He can Himself never possess a desire to change. All possible, as well as all past, present, and future, sources of pleasure are always open to Him. And He is independent for pleasure on all these. Does a power of producing change in God exist in His Creatures? God, who is infinite, must be placed beyond the reach of any external and finite cause. All are dependent on Him, but He is dependent on none.
2. God's purposes are immutable. God foresees from the eternity past all the transactions of the eternity to come. No sudden event, therefore, can take Him unawares, and so subvert His designs. The plans of men may be frustrated by a slight unforeseen accident, but there are no accidents with "Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Note the sense in which the term "repentance" is in Scripture applied to God. Divine repentance conveys no notion of regret or dissatisfaction with His past procedure, but it is expressive of God's determination to act in a different manner than before towards those who by their change of conduct have rendered necessary a different mode of procedure in the just administration of God's moral government. The immutability of God's purposes may be inferred from the nature of the end, to promote and, consummate which they are all but means — even the manifestation of Jehovah's all-sufficiency. Let the immutability of Jehovah's purpose in Christ Jesus encourage the Christian labourer to ceaseless exertions in the work of the Lord.
3. God's Word is unchangeable. His moral law, threatenings, and promises are alike unalterable. The Divine moral law, which is a transcript of the character of God, "holy, just, and good," is based upon eternal and unchangeable principles of rectitude, co-existent with God Himself, and must continue to exist as long as God exists. It is a great mistake to suppose that the moral law has been abrogated by the Gospel. The work of Him who "hath magnified the law and made it honourable" is the sole ground of our restoration to the favour of God and our title to heaven. The Gospel does not abolish the believer's obligation to obey the law. To demolish the law would be to drag away the pillar which supports the universal fabric of God's moral government. God's threatenings too are unalterable. History, sacred and profane, teems with fearful proofs of God's immutable hatred of sin, and determination not to let it go unpunished. And the promises of God are immutable. They cannot fail of fulfilment. But the fulfilment of the promises is conditional; and the condition is as unalterable as the promise. There is an immutable promise suitable for every circumstance of life. How well calculated is the contemplation of the Divine immutability to promote confidence in God. Our whole happiness depends upon the immutability of God. God is unchangeable, and is therefore a firm and stable refuge to the believer.
(J. James.)I. HE IS UNCHANGEABLE IN HIS BEING. Change is impossible. Created and dependent beings have the law of development and decay in them; imperfect beings may become more 'or less perfect, but God, being separate from all these contingencies of existence, cannot change.
2. He is unchangeable in His attributes. All the excellences that He possesses He has possessed, and will possess, for ever. His creatures may understand them more or less perfectly, but there is no change in them. There can be no increase or diminution of His power, wisdom, holiness, love, etc.
3. He is unchangeable in His purposes. All His designs are from eternity. His knowledge and power being perfect, and His will having no variableness in it, there is no reason to suppose that any of His purposes have altered, or that any of them can fail. Nothing can be a surprise to Him, nothing can thwart Him, and nothing can suggest an improvement in His plans. When He is said to repent or turn aside from His purpose, it is to show us that He is not an impassive spectator in human affairs, and that men may expect to be truly blessed as they co-operate with Him in working out His holy will in the earth. History testifies to God's unchangeableness. His purpose to bless all men in Christ, like a thread of gold, runs through the ages.
4. He is unchangeable in the principles of His government. He reigns over the whole universe with calm and equitable sway. Intellectual beings, myriads of ages before this race peopled the earth, found His reign the same as we do now. He has ever been just and merciful, and ever will be. There can be no fickleness, no uncertainty, with Him. Those who maintain their original righteousness, or having sinned, accept of His mercy, are blessed, while those who obstinately rebel perish.
5. His unchangeableness does not involve fatalism, impassiveness, or necessity. His designs are the outcome of His wisdom and love; He feels deeply the condition of His creatures, making them conscious of His favour according to their obedience to His laws, and all His actions are free.
II. THE DIVINE INFERENCE DRAWN FROM THIS DECLARATION. "Therefore," etc. At first sight this inference is a strange one. He was threatening judgment; and the legitimate inference that might have been drawn from His unchangeableness was that they should be consumed. But instead of this He draws the opposite, reminding them that it was because of His eternal purpose to keep the seed of Jacob alive upon the earth, as a witness for Him for the world's sake, and not because of their faithfulness, that they had been spared. They had often merited destruction, but in His unchanging mercy He had remembered His covenant with their fathers, and His purpose to bless the whole race through them, and so they were not consumed. This is true of the Church now. Its sure resting-place is the immutability of God. It will abide, however evils may abound, scepticism darken, or superstition deprave. Consider, then —
1. That the continued existence of the Church does not arise from its faithfulness, but from God's unchanging mercy and purpose.
2. That as the continued existence of the Church arises from God's immutability, there should be in the minds of the members deep humility, fervent adoration, and ardent gratitude.
3. That as the permanence of the Church rests upon the immutability of God, there should be, in the members, full confidence in its stability and ultimate triumph.
4. That this should lead any who have wandered from the Church to return to its privileges again.
5. That it should make the enemies of the Church consider the futility of their attacks upon it, and repent of their folly.
(W. Osborne Lilley.)The saints' final perseverance secured by the immutability of God: — This glorious doctrine stands —
1. On the perfections of Jehovah.
2. Upon the covenant work of the Lord Jesus.
3. Upon the faithfulness of the faithful and eternal Spirit.Of the perfections of God, His immutability is here placed before us. This is declared to be the security of the sons of Jacob.
I. "THE SONS OF JACOB," who are they? Some consider the passage as having regard to the literal Jacob, the literal restoration and conversion of the Jews. These "sons of Jacob" are God's own sons. These are they who, clad in the garment of their elder brother, do inherit all blessings. These are they that "wrestle," like their father Jacob; they "wrestle" in prayer with God. And they cannot live without Him. More than that, these are the "Israel," and they "prevail." But these "sons of Jacob" have all the elements of destruction in them. They have the indwelling corruption of their nature. It goes with them where they go — stays with them where they stay. It defiles all that they touch, and all that they think and all that they do. Besides the fountain of evil, there is the actual evil — what a man does. Both in sin as a principle and in sin as an act there is in a "son of Jacob" the very element of his own destruction.
II. THOUGH THIS IS SO, THEY ARE NOT CONSUMED. Though they are often placed in a hot fire; sometimes so hot that faith seems almost to be gone. They are tried; their grace's tried, their faith is tried, hope tried, love tried, every "fruit of the Spirit tried," and yet they are not consumed.
III. WHEREFORE ARE THEY NOT CONSUMED? "I am the Lord; I change not." The description can only be true of God Himself. He is unchangeable in His being, in His perfections, in His faithfulness, in His justice, in His holiness, in His love.
(J. Harington Evans, M. A.)I. A FACT STATED. "The sons of Jacob are not consumed." This is a remarkable fact concerning the literal descendants of the patriarch. It is true still.
II. THE REASON ASSIGNED. "I am the Lord; I change not." Had it depended upon the nations of the earth they would long ago have been consumed. God had entered into covenant with them, and given them great and precious promises. And though they have broken the covenant, the Lord on His part changes not. There is abundant encouragement in this subject for every child of God. Abide in Him, and no enemy shall be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus your Lord.
(M. S. Alexander.)
Christian Observer.It is of very serious consequence to man that he should make himself acquainted with the character of God. In order to improve ourselves in this knowledge, it is useful to fix our attention at times on particular qualities of the Divine character. By carefully observing the different parts we shall become better acquainted with the whole.
I. And first, let us consider THIS QUALITY ITSELF; THAT IS, THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF GOD. In this world every thing is changeable. It has pleased the Almighty that even the most beautiful parts of the visible creation should be full of change. Days and seasons follow and chase away each other. The leaf dies; the grass withers; the flower fades; the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place." Man himself, who marks and mourns those changes, is as changeable as the rest. The objects in which he takes delight, change: his honours fade; his pleasures wither; his riches make to themselves wings and flee away; his kinsfolk fail, and his familiar friends forget him. His body changes: the strength of his youth is dried up; his beauty consumes away. His mind changes: The desires of yesterday are not the desires of to-day; the purposes of youth are abandoned in age. But while man varies, God is the same. For what says the Psalmist? "My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass; but Thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and Thy remembrance unto all generations." "I am the Lord, and for that reason I change not." I am the Creator, and not the creature; God, and not man; therefore I change not. Beside Me there is none other; all else is vanity of vanities; the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but I am supreme, self-existent, and eternal, and My counsel, that shall stand. If, then, God is unchangeable, we must remember that all His Divine perfections are unchangeable: His power, His wisdom, His holiness, His goodness, change not. There is something so awful — so unlike ourselves — in the idea of a Being placed far above all chance and change and infirmity, that we should be terrified by the thought if we were not told that the mercy of this great Being was as constant and enduring as His wisdom, His righteousness, and His power. But there is something else to be observed if we would take a full view of this subject. The Christian dispensation teaches us to study and know, not merely the character of God, but the character of God in Christ. And it is in Him that the unchanging mercy of God shines forth with the greatest lustre.
II. Having now considered the unchangeableness of God in itself, let us consider WHAT EFFECTS OUGHT TO BE PRODUCED ON OUR MINDS BY THE CONTEMPLATION OF IT. And I begin with remarking that this doctrine of God's unchangeableness gives unspeakable value to the holy Scriptures. It is the whole end and aim of the Scriptures to reveal God to man. Now, if God were as changeable as man we could have no secure reliance on this revelation. In that case the book of Scripture might be true at one time and not at another. This is what actually happens among men. There are few if any persons whose habits, or manners, or principles do not vary more or less at different periods of life; nor is there any government which does not more or less alter its laws from time to time. And, in such cases, new descriptions of character, and new books of laws, become necessary. But God is always the same; and therefore the Scriptures are always sure. The New Testament has now been written nearly eighteen hundred years; and some parts of the Old Testament three thousand. Yet the Bible is as faithful an account of the Most High at this moment as at first; and it will remain so, if the world should last even millions of years longer. Let us, therefore, with this sacred book in our hands, consider more particularly what effect should be produced on our minds by reflecting on the great truth delivered in the text, "I am the Lord, I change not."
1. First, on the sinful and impenitent. By the sinful and impenitent, I mean not only those who live in gross sin or impiety, but those also whose hearts are chiefly set on the things of this life, and not on the things of the life to come. And in what words shall I describe the folly and danger of such persons! I say, their folly, for, if God be unchanging, and every thing else fickle and fleeting and delusive, how exquisite must be the folly of seeking our chief good anywhere but in Him! How exquisite must be the folly of casting ourselves, not on the favour of Him who can give steady and lasting happiness, but on the wretched friendship of things that perish in the using! These miserable trifles, — which will certainly fail us in a few years, — which may possibly fail us this very day, — these are our gods; and for the sake of these we desert Him who, if we did but choose to trust Him, would be "the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever." If we saw a man building his house on a quicksand we should be amazed at his stupidity; but how infinitely greater the infatuation of an immortal creature who builds iris happiness on the passing, perishing objects of time and sense! That folly rises to the most perfect madness when we consider that, if we have not God for our unchangeable friend, we must have Him for our unchangeable enemy. Once more I present you with the offer of mercy and reconciliation. And remember that, if God is unchanging, you must change, for there is no hope of a reconciliation with Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
2. In hopes that this solemn warning may not have been entirely lost I proceed, secondly, to apply our subject to those who are seriously alarmed about their everlasting safety; but who, when they consider the greatness of the sins they have committed, are apt to fear that for them there is no forgiveness. But I would ask you this question: were you at this moment, with your bodily eyes, to see your blessed Saviour extended on His Cross, offering Himself a sacrifice for the sins of His enemies, could you doubt that His most precious blood was able to wash away even your sins, however heavy and numerous? If you could not doubt this, then recollect that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
3. In the third place, let me very shortly address those who are really making devotional and practical religion the principal object of their lives, and who humbly trust that, through the Divine blessing, they ale gradually increasing in all godliness and Christian virtue. Such persons will find their advantage in frequent meditation on the unchangeableness of God. If they are in affliction or in distress of mind, this will be their hope and stay; they will reflect that, though outward things alter, He in whom they have laid up their chief hopes remains the same.
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