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(1 posts)

God Is Not Moody

[O]ften when the subject is God’s mercy, the Bible stresses His faithfulness and immutability. Indeed, God—as Savior of His people—is the one true constant in all the universe. This is why He redeems His people rather than summarily destroying them when they sin: “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). His wrath against sin is real, but it does not provoke Him to alter His Word, revise His will, revoke His promises, or change His mind: “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). The necessary implication of God’s immutability is that He is not subject to shifting moods, flashes of temper, fluctuating dispositions, or seasons of despondency. In theological terms, God is impassible. That means He cannot be moved by involuntary emotions, suffering, pain, or injury. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is “infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions” (2.1). . . . Divine impassibility is not an easy concept to grasp. . . . Nowadays, even some Christian theologians shun the idea of divine impassibility because they think it makes God seem cold and aloof. But that’s a false notion. To say that God is not vulnerable, that He Himself cannot be hurt, and that He isn’t given to moodiness is not to say He is utterly unfeeling or devoid of affections. Remember, Scripture says God is love, and His compassion, His lovingkindness, and His tender mercies endure forever. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). The main problem in our thinking about these things is that we tend to reduce God’s attributes to human terms, and we shouldn’t. We’re not to imagine that God is like us (Ps. 50:21). His affections, unlike human emotions, are not involuntary reflexes, spasms of temper, paroxysms of good and bad humor, or conflicted states of mind. He is as deliberate and as faithful in His lovingkindness as He is perfect and incorruptible in His holiness. The unchangeableness of God’s affections is—or should be—a steady comfort to true believers. His love for us is infinite and unshakable. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:11). His constant mercy is a secure and dependable anchor—both when we sin and when we suffer unjustly. “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” (v. 13). Far from portraying God as unsympathetic and untouched by our suffering, Scripture emphasizes His deep and devoted compassion virtually every time it mentions the unchangeableness of God. Notice that I have quoted almost entirely from Old Testament texts to establish the connection between God’s compassion and His immutability. The commonly held notion that the Hebrew Scriptures portray God as a stern judge whose verdicts are always unrelentingly severe is an unwarranted caricature. In fact, God’s lovingkindness is often given particular emphasis in the very places where His fiery wrath against sin is mentioned (e.g., Neh. 9:17; Ps. 77:7–10; Isa. 54:8; 60:10; Hab. 3:2). Even the prophets’ most severe threats and harshest words of condemnation are tempered with reminders of God’s inexhaustible kindness and sympathetic mercy (Jer. 33:5–11; Hos. 14:4–9). —John MacArthur, None Other (Reformation Trust, 2017), 114–116.


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