Meditations in Malachi : 27. Unchanging God
Mal 3:6,7 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
The Bible is always full of hope. Some people, when they refer to the Old Testament say it is full of judgement. Well there are three things about that. First it is God’s discipline more often than not, seeking to bring Israel to their senses and back to Himself. Second it is a reminder of the sinfulness of mankind that is exhibited in Israel even though that had such amazing experiences of God. Third, there is always hope built in to whatever the Lord says.
Hope isn’t a guarantee that everything will be all right but, as we will see, shows there IS an opportunity for everything to be all right. Right, remember the context of what has been going on. Israel had been cynically saying, where is God? The Lord had replied with a promise that He would send His messenger who would bring repentance to the people in preparation for the Lord Himself coming to them. That was a great hope, but now the Lord puts it in the form of various principles.
The first principle is that Israelare not destroyed because God doesn’t change. That may need unpacking. Within the Old Testament, again and again, are declarations of God’s love. The classic passage was Ex 34:6,7 “the Lord, compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” There are also many other references to God’s love. Within the Old Testament text there are also a number of instances where the Lord declares His plans forIsrael and for the world. These plans, although not obvious at the time, take into account the Lord’s knowledge that Israel will fail Him again and again. He is not going to give up on Israel.
That fact is patently obvious throughout the Old Testament. Simply read Judges and see how He uses other countries to bring Israel back to Himself. Read the account of the Exile and even before it happens the Lord declares through Jeremiah that Israel will be back within seventy years. This message resounds throughout the Old Testament for those who have eyes to see it.
Thus when we come to these verses we find the Lord reiterating this. First, “I the LORD do not change.” It is the fact that is at the root of the hope we spoke about. God doesn’t change and so His plans will not change. The outcome of that fact:“So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” That’s why they are still in existence. He doesn’t change; He is love and He does forgive.
Now none of this is new. It has always been like this: “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” That has been seen in the life of Israel almost from the start. It’s like the Lord might say, “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to step in to draw you back to myself and then forgive you.”
The same principle prevails: “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.” It’s how it was, how it is and how it always will be with the Lord. The other side of this coin is one that many people forget, that God will not forgive without repentance, but as soon as there is repentance, as soon as there is a turning back, the Lord will be there for them and will forgive them.
We need to remember this. Yes, there is overall forgiveness for our sins when we come to Christ so our eternal destiny is settled, but there are individual sins which, if the Lord sees we are not repentant about, He allows to bring discipline on us. The sins themselves and their effects become a rod of correction in His hand. Until you repent, you have an unresolved issue with the Lord and He will use it to discipline you and bring you back to a place of repentance. This does not affect your eternal destiny, but it does affect your walk with Him. He loves you so much that He will not let us just carry on. He is working to bring us to repentance, to bring us back into a place where there is nothing that keeps us from the Lord, so that His blessings may flow again in our lives.