The Changing Years—the Unchanging God
by Arthur Pink
When we were young, the transition from December to January meant little more to us than the need for another calendar and registering the new date on our letters. There was no solemn realization that another milestone had been passed in the short journey of life, and that we were 365 days nearer a never-ending Eternity—to spend the same, either as a regenerated soul in the Courts of holiness and everlasting bliss; or to be righteously cast by God as an abhorred sinner into the region of unutterable woe, there to suffer the due reward of our iniquities forever and ever.
But since Divine mercy apprehended us and gave us the spirit of a sound mind, and as we grow older, the passing of each year impresses us more deeply with the mutability of all earthly things and of our own mortality. As each fleeting year witnesses the call hence of one and another, we are reminded that the same call may likely come to us before 1945 expires; and therefore, it behooves us to see to it—that our own house is set in order.
With the changing years, come also the vicissitudes of life. True, that has been the case all through human history—but it seems to have been more pronounced of late. What alterations have been witnessed in every sphere during the last few decades! Probably most of our readers would have discredited anyone who, a generation ago, was able to forecast the principal conditions now prevailing in the world. Even the few who had sufficient discernment to see the coming events, which were casting their dark shadows before them, were unable to foresee more than the general outline of what is now before them in detail. Whether we view the situation in the military, the political, the social, or the religious sphere—things have deteriorated and degenerated more than even the pessimistic conceived likely. Nor can the most experienced and sagacious, prognosticate with any degree of certainty, how much further the downward trend will go, how much lower moral and spiritual values will sink, nor how much that which is still prized by the godly, will be sucked into the maelstrom of destruction. Yes, the changing years are bringing with them great changes in living conditions—changes which are solemn to contemplate, and fearful to experience.
But if there was nothing more to be said, we would not have penned the above. Yet, what has been pointed out needs to be considered, if we are to really appreciate what follows. That which most impresses the writer by the changing years—is that we have an unchanging God. "Your years," said the Psalmist, "shall have no end" (Psalm 102:27). He is unaffected by the flight of time, uninfluenced by all the mutations of things and creatures here below. "Semper Idem" ("always the same") is inscribed upon his brow. "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God" (Psalm 90:2). This perfection of the Divine character does not occupy the place in our hearts and thoughts which it should. It is one of the choicest jewels in the diadem of God's attributes. The immutability of God is the guarantor of His fidelity: "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for He is not a man, that He should change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:29). Likewise, the immutability of God guarantees the security of His people: "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." (Malachi 3:6).
God's immutability is one of His incommunicable perfections. He imparts life to the lower creatures, wisdom to man, holiness to the angels—but immutability unto none. To speak of an immutable creature would be a contradiction in terms. If immutable, it would not be a "creature;" instead of being dependent, he would be independent, and therefore a God; instead of a subject, he would be Sovereign. God did not bestow immutability upon Adam at the beginning, when He pronounced him "very good" (Genesis 1:31), for he had been incapable of falling, had that been imparted. The arch-angel possesses it not; nor will the saints in Heaven. Immutability is entirely peculiar unto God Himself. There is no growth or development in Him.
He is ever the same: The self-existent, all-sufficient, eternal, unchanging God. "I AM THAT I AM!" (Exodus 3:14) is His glorious name, and that which expresses His nature. What a truly marvelous and awe-inspiring Being! Nothing can be taken from, nothing added to Him. With Him, there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
"But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?" (Job 23:13). None can sway Him or induce Him to alter His eternal purpose. The clearest, yet most solemn, demonstration of that was made in Gethsemane— when the incarnate Son on His face, in an agony, cried, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will—but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). God would not change His mind! The terms of the everlasting covenant must stand!
It is this perfection of God's, which supplies the most conclusive proof of the error of Universalism, which predicates that after certain "ages," the wicked will be released from Hell. Not so, and why? Because those whom the Lord abhors—He abhors forever!
That "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6) has a two-fold bearing: A blessed and a solemn one. Unto the saved, it is unspeakably blessed, "having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1). But those whom He hates—He will hate for all eternity! Before the wicked could be released from Hell—the very nature and character of God must change—to be reversed.
"You are the same" (Psalm 102:27). Not "You have been" nor "You will be," but "You are the same." The same in nature and character, the same in will and purpose—without fluctuation within, or alteration without. Though His works of creation decay, though the operations of His providence vary, and though even the activities of His grace differ from time to time—yet the Lord God Himself is ever "the same."
How blessed that He is so! What strength, calmness, and comfort does this bring to the heart which has a believing apprehension of the same. What a sure foundation does this provide for faith to rest upon! That He who never failed the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, our own fathers who trusted in Him—is just the same now unto those who turn to Him in the present upheaval. "When heaven and earth shall flee away from the dreadful presence of the great Judge, He will be unaltered by the terrible confusion, and the world in conflagration will effect no change in Him" (C. H. Spurgeon). The Christian may lose his dearest earthly friends—but not his heavenly Friend. The years of those clothed with mortality are but few at most—but those of Him who "only has immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16) are without beginning and without end.
Because the holy Scriptures are inspired by God, they too, are immutable. "Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). That was Luther's sheet-anchor amid the fierce gales that for so long burst upon him. Resting on that "impregnable Rock," his heart was kept in perfect peace; and thereby, he was enabled to wax strong and very courageous. We, too, are living in stormy times—but thank God the same sure Anchor is available for us. While everything is crumbling around us, the monuments of the centuries being reduced to rubble, the thrones of kings being overturned, the plans and policies of men cast into the melting pot—the Divine Oracles are unaffected, unimpaired, unchanged—for the Word of God, like its Author, "lives and abides forever!" (1 Peter 1:23). His own infallible promise is: "Heaven and earth shall pass away—but my words shall never pass away!" (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
Because the Redeemer is God the Son, He also is immutable: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8). He is the same merciful Savior—as pardoned the dying thief. He is the same long-suffering Master—as bore so patiently with the dullness of His disciples. He is the same all-sufficient One—as multiplied the loaves and fishes, and thereby provided for a great multitude. He is the same great Physician—as healed the leper and gave sight to the blind. He is the same faithful Intercessor—as prayed for poor Peter. He is the same compassionate One—as wept by the grave side of Lazarus.
When His forerunner was murdered, we are told that His disciples "went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:12). Why? Was it not because they would pour out their grief unto One whom they knew had a sympathetic ear, who could be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, and who would comfort and strengthen them? If then your heart be torn with anxiety or bowed down with sorrow, go and do likewise. Let our New Year's resolution be to make more use of Christ in 1945 than we ever have before.
This blessed truth of the Divine immutability is many-sided in its application. Because God changes not, His promises are unfailing and may be relied upon at all times: "Your testimonies are very sure" (Psalm 93:5). For the same reason, we know that His threatenings must be fulfilled. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak—and then not act? Does he promise—and not fulfill?" (Num 23:19).
Because He changes not—the mediatorial throne is forever one of grace. It was there that He received us when first we came to Him as empty-handed beggars; it is there He still welcomes us when we swallow our pride and humbly—but boldly, seek fresh supplies "to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Even in the eternal state, it will be "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1). Then make use of this Divine attribute—plead it in your prayers. Amid all the fluctuations and vexations of 1945, remember that God changes not! Remind yourself of that blessed fact each day.