The heat of the sun this week declared the arrival of Spring. The seasons remind us that change is a constant part of life. Yet we seem innately wary of change. Occasionally we like it, but often we fight it. The world around us changes, our minds and bodies change, and it is outside of our control. God set the earth on an orbit around the sun that dictates our seasons, while at the same time, He set the earth to rotate giving us day and night. The sun rises and sets, and each day is full of change as it runs its course through the sky. The sun, as it marks time, becomes a symbol of change.
It was A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, who first helped me understand that God is outside of time. In my mind, this is the key to understanding His immutability, because the changes that define human life are all connected with time. When Scripture tells us in Hebrews 13:8 that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” it is because He is God. God is not subject to our human time frames at all; He just IS. It is the name He gave to answer Moses from the burning bush: I AM. When James 1:17 states that with God, “there is no variation or shadow due to change,” it captures this same idea of God not being subject to the changes of time. Shadows change constantly, and before there were watches and clocks, there were sundials, using shadows to tell the time of day. But our God is fixed. It is easy to think that we understand this, but as much as we resist change, our brains seem trained to expect it. Isn’t this one of the reasons it is difficult to trust God? He is faithful, but we can’t help but wonder if something has changed since the last time He came through for us.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Even Moses, whom the LORD spoke to face-to-face, had times of doubt. The Israelites were constantly questioning Moses as to why he had brought them out of Egypt and into the wilderness to die. Moses, in turn, went to God and questioned Him about why He had given him that people to look after. The people cried and complained to Moses, and Moses took it to God. When I read Numbers 11, recently, I noticed something that I hadn’t caught on prior readings. When the people complained about not having meat, and Moses took that complaint to God, Moses actually questioned God’s ability to provide meat for so many people. He actually reminded God exactly how many people there were, and suggested that they could not possibly slaughter enough animals to have enough meat for everyone. God’s response to Moses was, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened?” The way this was asked makes me think that God’s real question was, “Have I changed?” It is the word shortened which infers a change from how it was before. Had His power changed since all the other mighty works were done? It was a rhetorical question that we can learn from along with Moses. Moses, who had not only seen, but participated in, God’s demonstration of power with the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, questioned whether God could provide enough meat for six hundred thousand people. Moses, who had boldly asked God to show Himself to him, and God did, spoke to God as though he was not sure of His power.
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
There are a lot of parallels between Moses in that situation and Jesus’ disciples, who on a couple of occasions had before them a mere hundredth the number of hungry people Moses did. Like Moses, the disciples questioned Jesus’ ability to provide, even though they had seen His miracles before. Too often, I am just like them. I don’t just put limits on God, but I forget who He is and what He has already done. If I could keep His past faithfulness in focus, and teach myself to comprehend that which is unchangeable, perhaps I wouldn’t question Him in this way.
I think that we resist change, when possible, because there is so much change around us that is out of our control. Trying to control what we can usually means that we keep our minds and hearts stubborn. But God wants to transform us, so we need to be open to the changes that He desires in us. He also uses changes in our circumstances to grow and mature us. We need to ask ourselves what He wants us to learn, rather than reflexively fighting change. We have a Rock to keep us steady. When everything around us changes, He is the same. We don’t need to fear change because we belong to the Unchangeable One.