Is it possible to change God's mind? Would God leave himself open for this kind of dialogue with humans? Keep Reading...
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
God was angry. His people had committed adultery. Over many months, God had proven to the Israelites that he was faithful, kind, patient, and powerful. He was worth following. The ten plagues, the miraculous escape from Egypt, the Red Sea parting, water out of a rock, and manna from the sky all pointed to the care of this promise-keeping God.
But, Israel did not keep its promises. When they grew tired of waiting for Moses, they gave themselves to the worship of false gods and sexual immorality. They literally prostituted themselves in spirit and body. There was every reason for God to be angry. For he takes adultery personally, just like anyone else would.
Moses' response to God's anger was not to run away and hide. Instead "he sought the favor of the Lord his God." Exodus 32:11 You see, God did not reveal his anger to Moses to scare him, but to let him into the inner workings of his grieving heart. Moses "reminded" God of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He pleaded with God to turn from his anger. And God "relented" or "changed his mind."
Our Authority is Real
How is it possible for the almighty God to change his mind? Although specific explanation is not given to us, we do know how God works. From the beginning, God shared authority with humans. He commanded them to "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28 God gave men and women real authority to make real choices that had real implications.
God has always chosen to work through his people on earth. Even in the garden of Eden, plants would not grow until man was there to work the ground. Genesis 2:5 God was capable of naming animals, yet he gave that job to Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:20 Later, he involved Abraham in the saving or destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:32 David, Elijah and Daniel are other biblical examples of people crying out to God for change... for God to do something different than what seemed destined. Psalm 13; James 5:16-18; Daniel 10:12-14
In the same way, God gives room for his people to exercise their spiritual authority today. Jesus shares his authority with the church to bind the enemy and loose the Holy Spirit over communities and nations. Matthew 16:19. He sends us out to fulfill the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 He won't do what he has told us to do.
God gives space for us to work. As he tells us his feelings over a people or nation, he leaves space for our response. He desires relationship and a real partnership. So Moses stepped into that space and spoke God's character back to God. It's not as if God had forgotten himself. He was waiting for Moses' response.
How Did Moses Change God's Mind?
Moses was an intercessor - one who stood in the gap between God and man. Because God is determined to work with man to accomplish his purposes on the earth, he leaves gaps for us to stand in. It is in these gaps that we speak the character of God back to God. We "remind" him of his faithfulness and all his promises. And then God responds to our intercession, as he did with Moses.
God verbally processed his anger with Moses in real time. And then he waited (also in real time) for Moses' response. God limits himself to our human timeline and language to reveal his desire for partnership. He really allows himself to be swayed by us.
Wasn't God always going to do what he was going to do? Wasn't it all a determined outcome? Trying to understand that question is like a drop of paint trying to determine what the painter was thinking about the day before he used that drop of paint. It is a frustrating proposition for a man to be both paint and painter. Only God can do that (the incarnation of Jesus). He is not conflicted about being the eternal, all-powerful God and the God who responds in real time to the intercessor's request.
The exact intersection between God's sovereignty and his partnership with mankind is a bit beyond our security clearance. We can only know what he has revealed. God is sovereign, AND he does work with people's choices to stand in the gap on behalf of others. Read Ezekiel 22:30-31 as another example.
This is what we know:
In a misguided attempt to protect the concept of God's sovereignty, the church has often abdicated her authority. Passionless prayers and absent evangelism describe a people who do not believe that standing in the gap will really make a difference. "God will do it anyway," some say.
And God waits... waits for his church to step into the empty space, to fill the gap, to cry out on behalf of a rebellious people without God.
He is waiting to be moved by your voice.
Missionary. Teacher. Worship Leader. Deeply desiring to make God's Word accessible and understandable to all. May you be transformed as God's Word fills your life.
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