We live in a world of constant change. Knowledge is changing so much that we can’t keep up. Technology changes so quickly that the time a new product hits the store, it’s nearly outdated. And the world’s morals are supposedly changing, too. What used to be unlawful and unthinkable is commonplace. Nothing shocks us anymore.
What about God? Does He change? And if He doesn’t change, how do we explain the so-called “angry” God of the Old Testament and the “loving” God of the New Testament? Is this, in fact, the same God?
I have good news: God hasn’t changed (Mal. 3:6). He can’t change because He can’t improve on absolute perfection (Heb. 13:8). He can’t decline, increase or improve. Why is this? It’s because God Himself stands forever (Psalm 90:2). God doesn’t react; rather, He acts with unchangeable purpose.
The Bible makes four major points about God’s unchanging character:
1. Unchanging in His character (Ex. 3:14; Jam. 1:17)
God isn’t the “I will be who I will be” in a metamorphosis-type God or “I was who I once was.” No, He is the “I am who I am” – one altogether uninfluenced by the flight of time, with no wrinkle on the brow of eternity.
2. Unchanging in His purpose (1 Sam. 15:29)
We change our plans because we lack something that may pass. God perfectly knows the future. We change plans because we can’t select the best plan. We change our plans because we lack the power to execute. But not God. He’s omnipotent, and nothing is impossible. He carries out all the pleasures of His heart.
3. Unchangeable in His Word (Num. 23:19)
God can’t lie. Everything He has spoken and commanded, He stands behind it with all of His power and sovereignty.
In Luke 16:17, Jesus says that it would be easier for the sun to go away and for all the planets to no longer rotate and for the world to evaporate and to go away, then for the slightest part of God’s Word to come to pass.
4. Unchangeable in His salvation (Romans 8:28-29)
We’ve given God countless reasons not to love us, but none of them has been strong enough to change Him. What God has purposed in eternity past is unchangeable within time and eternity future. God’s saving enterprise by sovereign grace will never be changed or altered.
In short, the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. His character, ways and judgments haven’t changed. In fact, God’s love and mercy is seen throughout the Old Testament.
The story of Noah is an example of God’s grace. The beginning of Genesis 8 marks the center point, the hinge of the story. God remembered Noah. During a flood of unimaginable scale—like a cork on the ocean—we see the ark a symbol of God’s grace and mercy.
We see four aspects of God’s mercy in the Old and New Testaments in the midst of judgment:
1. Saving mercy. The ark floated safe on the surface of the waters. It was a picture of God’s grace. The ark was preserved by God’s own plan. The ark is a symbol of the church. We, the church, are the ark going through the judgment of God.
2. Distinguishing mercy. God had given Noah mercy to distinguish himself from others in the way he lived. He could look around and see that it was to Noah and his family to whom God was showing mercy to. God owes mercy to no one, yet, He bestows mercy to all. He gives distinguishing mercy to some.
3. Unilateral mercy. God’s covenant with Noah was unilateral. Here we see the covenant established by God, unilaterally. He gives instructions to Noah and his descendants – but the covenant is not conditional. The rainbow is a sign of His covenant, to remind us of it that we may not forget. Thank God that He unilaterally acts to save us. Wonder at the mercy of God, putting Christ in our place.
4. Contrary mercy. Consider Noah’s and his sons’ sins (9:18-29). This mercy was given despite sin that cried out for judgment. If there is any doubt that God’s saving of Noah was gracious – consider this account. Noah’s sin of drunkenness is shown in verse 21. No sooner does Noah receive the command to subdue the earth that he submits himself to the control of a product of the earth. Ham’s sin was dishonoring his father – exposing his father to ridicule rather than protecting his father’s honor.
Noah was a sinner. Any good he received was by God’s mercy. Think about what you deserve and what you have been given. You and I have been given far more than we deserve. God shows us His goodness by showing mercy to Noah and does the same for us today.
God shows His goodness to us in both His justice and in His mercy. His justice we admire. His mercy we require, if we are to be saved. Both are seen most clearly on the cross of Christ. We see His mercy and His judgment. The penalty justice demands was satisfied. God Himself satisfied that justice.
God’s grace to Noah, through Shem, points forward to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our world today—with this same unchanging, perfectly balanced God of justice, mercy and love—surely deserves the judgment Noah’s world got. Yet in His mercy and patience, He delays the judgment that we might partake of His mercy.
Do you know this God today?