God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?
I. IT IS NATURAL TO MEN TO CHANGE THEIR MINI) AND BREAK THEIR WORD.
1. They repent, i.e., they change their mind, frequently, hastily, because of ignorance, or short-sightedness, or prejudice, or narrow-mindedness. Picture a man, fickle, irresolute, and therefore "unstable" (James 1:8). When he does not repent it may be a sign of obstinacy rather than of laudable firmness (Jeremiah 8:6).
2. They lie. Children of Satan (John 8:44), often trained from childhood in ways of falsehood (Psalm 58:3), they help to undermine the foundations of society (Isaiah 59:13-15), and to tempt truthful men to universal distrust (Psalm 116:11). Such men are apt to think that God is like themselves, changeable and unfaithful. They project an image of themselves, like idolaters, and call it God (Psalm 115:8). E.g., Balak (verses 13, 27), and Balaam himself at first (Numbers 22:8, 19).
II. IT IS "IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE." Some of God's threats and promises are conditional, though in form they may seem absolute. E.g., Numbers 14:11, 12; Ezekiel 33:12-20. But others are fixed and absolute. We see this in -
1. Threats. E.g., exclusion of Hebrews from Canaan (chapter 14:20-22); Saul's loss of the kingdom (1 Samuel 15:22-29); exclusion of the impure from heaven (Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 21:27). Hence learn the folly of those who hope that God may change his mind, while theirs is unchanged; that God may repent instead of themselves. (Illustrate from Simon Magus, who desired to escape God's wrath while he gave no hint of abandoning his sins - Acts 8:24.)
2. Promises. E.g.,
(1) To Abraham, hundreds of years before (Genesis 12:1-3). Therefore Balaam says, verses 19, 20. So we may trace the effects of the promise down to the latest of the Old Testament prophets (Malachi 3:6) and the greatest of the Christian apostles (Romans 11:28, 29).
(2) To believers in Christ. Because with God there is "no variableness," &c., therefore we have "strong consolation," &c. (Hebrews 6:18, 19; James 1:17), and hope of the fullness of "eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised," &c. (Matthew 24:35; Titus 1:2).
(3) To suppliants who claim God's promises. God can as soon cease to exist as refuse to "make good" any promise claimed with faith through Jesus Christ our Lord. - P.
I. SOME MEN THINK THAT GOD WILL LIE. God has told us, with strong and repeated asseverations, that "we must be born again" (John 3:7); but this is totally disbelieved by —
1. "God is not a man, that He should lie." Balaam knew how capable he himself was of deceit and falsehood, how liable to be changed by bribery from one course to another; and it is possible that he might have entertained such unworthy notions of the Almighty as to imagine Him also movable and uncertain. But God has no admixture of evil, no imperfection; nor can He "be tempted with evil." Men have their own corrupt interests to serve; their own gain to study, their own gratification to seek: and when these things cannot be so readily compassed by integrity, recourse is often had to deceitful dealing. It may not always be that a man's word is actually broken; but there is very commonly, in the children of this world, some kind of double dealing to suit a carnal purpose. From all this, and from all approach to this, the Lord is purely free: He can neither deceive nor be deceived.
God is not a man, that He should lie.I. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE. God cannot change; to suppose that He could change would be to suppose Him not Divine. A finite being may refuse to change, adhering rigidly to some purpose; but all the while that being is capable of change, there is n thing in his nature which makes it absolutely impossible that he should change. But it is so with God. We here speak of unchangeableness in regard of God's dealings with His creatures, though of course it is also in Himself, in His essence, in His own property, that God is unchangeable; and it is an amazing and overwhelming contemplation, that of our Creator as in no respect capable of change, immutable because infinitely perfect.
II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. This unchangeableness is indispensable to the Creator, but incommunicable to the creature. It is indispensable to the Creator, forasmuch as the Creator must he in every respect infinite. But all change ends in addition or diminution: if anything be added, He was not infinite before; if anything be diminished, He is not infinite after. But if indispensable in the Creator, it is incommunicable to the creature. We say nothing against the powers of God, when we say that God could not have made an unchangeable creature. Must not that which is unchangeable be self-existent, and therefore eternal? That which has already had beginning, has already undergone change — the change from nothing to something, so that a creature, because not eternal, cannot be unchangeable. God alone is unchangeable, because God alone is eternal. It is self-evident that He cannot make an eternal creature, and therefore certain that He cannot make an unchangeable creature. The creature, then, is changing, the sun as well as the atom, the archangel no less than the worm (Psalm 102:25-27). Was it only of the material fabric of the earth, with its many productions-of the firmament, with its majestic troop of stars, that the Psalmist asserted this? Nay, it is true of the intelligent creation as well as of the material. And spirits are immortal: sparks from the eternal fire, they shall never be quenched; but though immortal, they shall not be the same; indestructible, they shall be always on the march. Angel and man, they shall not, as we have already said, be ever at a stand. Stand! when there are new heights to be scaled, new depths to be fathomed? Nay, it were imperfection, it were wretchedness. It is the glory of the Creator that He never changes; it is the glory of the creature to be always changing. Eternity shall be one mighty progress to all except the Eternal. "I am Jehovah, I change not, the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
2. "Neither the son of man, that He should repent," or change His purpose. Man is ignorant and short-sighted; often knows not what will be for the best: and the plan, which he bad contrived with his utmost skill, is not seldom injurious; and thus he is compelled to alter and relinquish. But God is all-wise: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"
3. We may infer —(1) That all the Divine judgments against sin and sinners will be infallibly executed. And —(2) That every promise of God to His people will, in due season, be abundantly accomplished.
1. The imminent danger of sin, and the certain ruin from it, if persisted in, are by no means believed and perceived, as they ought to be. The Almighty has declared, throughout His word of truth, that He is a God of holiness; and that in unholiness, in disobedience, in unrepented guilt, no man can be accepted, no man can approach Him.
2. And, blessed be the holy name of God, the gracious promises of mercy to His faithful and obedient servants are not less frequent than the threatenings of wrath upon the impenitent and forgetful.
(J. Slade, M. A.)
1. The profane. They persuade themselves that such strictness in religion, as is implied in the new birth, is not necessary; and that they shall go to heaven in their own way.
2. The self-righteous. These consider regeneration as a dream of weak enthusiasts, and are satisfied with the "form of godliness, without" ever experiencing "the power" of it.
3. The hypocritical professors of religion. These, having changed their creed, together with their outward conduct, fancy themselves Christians, notwithstanding their faith n either "overcomes the world," nor "works by love," nor " purifies their hearts." That all these persons think God will lie, is evident beyond a doubt; for if they really believed that old things must pass away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17), before they can enter into the kingdom of heaven, they would feel concerned to know whether any such change had taken place in them; nor would they be satisfied till they had a Scriptural evidence that they were indeed "new creatures in Christ Jesus."
II. OTHERS FEAR HE MAY LIE. This is common with persons —
2. Under temptation or desertion. God has declared that He will not suffer His people to be tempted above what they are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). But when they come into temptation, they are apt to say, as David, "I shall one day perish," &c. (1 Samuel 27:1).
III. BUT GOD NEITHER WILL NOR CAN LIE.
1. He will not lie.(1) Let us hear the testimonies of those who have tried Him. Moses (Deuteronomy 32:4); Joshua (Joshua 23:14); Samuel (1 Samuel 15:29).(2) Let us attend to God's own assertions and appeals (Isaiah 5:4; Isaiah 49:19). Would He ever venture to speak thus strongly on His own behalf if His creatures could make good their accusations against Him?(3) Let us look to matter of fact. Are not His past actions so many types and pledges of what He will hereafter perform? (2 Peter 2:4-9; Jude 1:7).
2. He cannot lie. Truth is as essential to the Divine nature as goodness, wisdom, power, or any other attribute; so that He can as easily cease to be good, or wise, or powerful, as He can suffer one jot or tittle of His word to fail.
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
1. First, He is not like unto man, His ways are not like man's ways, nor His thoughts like unto man's thoughts; but as far as heaven is distant from the earth, so far are the works of God from ours. We know by experience the changeable nature of man. He is constant to-day, he changeth to-morrow. He loveth one day, and hateth another.
2. Secondly, His love and mercy to His people is not changeable as the moon, unconstant as the wind, floating as the sea, uncertain as the weather, but stable as the earth that cannot be moved out of his place, and steadfast as Mount Sion that remaineth for ever. This will plainly appear unto us if we consider the similitudes whereby it is expressed. His love is like to the covenant of waters, and as sure as the promise that He made to Noah, that the waters should no more overflow the whole earth, as the prophet Isaiah teacheth, Isaiah 54:7, 8, 9.
3. Again, His goodness is as the ordinance of God, that hath set an order for summer and winter, for day and night, for seed-time and harvest, for cold and heat, which shall not be changed, therefore the Lord saith (Jeremiah 31:35, and Jeremiah 33:20). Nay, His mercy is said to be more stable than the mountains (Isaiah 54:10).Now let us come to the uses of this doctrine.
1. First, hereby we learn that God is to be preferred before all creatures.
2. Secondly, we may from hence assure ourselves that God will make us unchangeable like Himself, and we may rejoice in the comfort of thin His favour. For seeing His nature is unchangeable, He will make us in our men, sure partakers of immortality. This is a great comfort unto us in these days of sorrow, to consider that the time will come, when our state shall be changed, and we continue for ever without change. Here we are subject to many turnings and returnings, but after this life shall be no more place for changing; our happiness shall be unchangeable, and firmly established with God. This the prophet sets down (Psalm 16:12).
3. Thirdly, it teacheth that it is time for us to repent and turn unto God. An unchangeable God, an unchangeable word. Let us be transformed into the obedience of it. It is not a leaden rule to bend every way to us. All our ways must be framed unto it. And when once we are turned to God, let us not return back again to our old ways, but persevere constant unto the end. The unchangeable God requireth an unchangeable servant.
4. Lastly, herein is great comfort offered to the servants of God, as on the other side horror to the wicked and disobedient. For seeing God is immutable, we may from hence take strong consolation by former examples of God's dealing toward His children, and in all temptations build ourselves upon that blessed experience, as upon a sure foundation that can never fail us.
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