Life sometimes gives us a moment to pause. In those spaces we may spend some time reconsidering a decision we made or will make, reconsidering a course of action, or reconsidering a position we’ve taken.
I find it interesting that in Scripture, there are occasions where God seems to reconsider a decision he has made.
In Genesis 18, God invites Abraham into a discussion over what he’s going to do – destroy the city of Sodom because of the perverse, rebellious, degenerate behavior of the people. Six times Abraham asks God to reconsider for the sake of the innocent in the city and the Lord is willing to reconsider his decision, if ten innocent people can be found. Unfortunately, only Lot’s small family is spared and the city is destroy. But God was willing to reconsider.
Hundreds of years later, God has brought his people, Abraham’s descendants, out of slavery and is taking them back to the land he promised Abraham. Moses meets with God on a mountain to receive instructions on how the people should live as God’s people. Meanwhile, the people throw a huge party at the base of the mountain and even worship a gold calf they created. God decides to do away with them and build his nation out of Moses. He tells Moses his plan and Moses pleads with God, asking him to reconsider. And God does. Although, the people continue to frustrate God to the point that he lets them wander in a desert for forty years before they actually get to the land he promised.
Again, hundreds of years pass. David is king over God’s people. And, although God calls him a man after his own heart, David makes mistakes. David, against God’s will, decides to count the strength of his forces. Since God’s people were trusting in their own strength and not him, he decides to take them down a couple of notches. He gives David a choice of how that will be accomplished and David chooses to be at God’s mercy. As God’s reckoning is carried out, Jerusalem is about to be destroyed. But at the last minute, God reconsiders his decision and declares “that’s enough.”
God doesn’t always reconsider, however. During David’s reign, David’s wandering eye landed on a beautiful married woman, Bathsheba. When he finds out Bathsheba is pregnant with his child, David arranges for the death of her husband and takes Bathsheba as his wife. Which, of course, does not make God happy. A prophet tells David that the child will die. David begs God to spare the child’s life. God does not and the child dies.
The story doesn’t quite end there. Because Bathsheba later gives birth to another son, Solomon, who later succeeds David as king and is known as the wisest king there’s ever been (he has a whole book of wisdom he received from God).
A couple of hundred years later, God sends the prophet, Jonah, to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, a cruel, pagan, enemy of Israel. God tells Jonah to go to the people and tell them he’s seen their evil and plans to do something about it. Jonah does not want to go and even runs the other direction. Why? Because he has a feeling that if the people stop doing evil and turn to God, God might reconsider destroying them. And they are Israel’s enemy. In the end, God of course convinces Jonah to go. Jonah goes. He tells the people God will destroy the city. The king and his officials, along with the people, stop their evil, mourn, and cry out to God, hoping he will change his mind. And God reconsiders. He does not destroy the people, which makes Jonah a little upset. Jonah pouts because God has shown compassion and mercy, just like he expected. God chastises Jonah, asking him why he shouldn’t show compassion.
And in God’s greatest act of compassion, he does not reconsider a plan he has set into motion long before time began.
A thousand years pass and God’s promised Savior, Jesus, arrives on the scene. He shows up in the most unexpected way, lives an unexpected life and calls the most unexpected disciples. His disciples believe Jesus to be the promised Messiah, and as such, they expect him to overthrow the cruel and oppressive Roman rule in their country (the land God promised them). But Jesus takes the most unexpected path. His message stirs up the religious leaders of his people to the point they fear he will draw the attention and anger of the Romans. The high priests declares, “…it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” Jesus knows God’s will and that he will indeed be the one who dies on behalf of all mankind. As the religious leaders plot to have him arrested and killed, Jesus finds refuge in a garden near the city. There he prays. And there he cries out to God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me…”
God, because of his compassion and mercy, does not reconsider.
Jesus continues to pray, “still, let not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus is crucified, dies and is buried.
But the story doesn’t quite end there. Jesus defeats death. His resurrection ushers in God’s intended plan. Just as death came to us through one man, Adam, resurrection and life come through another man, Jesus.
God, in his compassion and mercy, reconsidered our destruction and had a plan to free us from death. Jesus did not reconsider his position with God, but instead followed God’s plan to rescue us.
And that gives me reason to take a moment and pause.
(Caveat. I know some will argue that in each instance God, in his omniscience, was planning to do what he did all along. And some will offer the verse that says God does not change his mind. But I offer that scriptures indicate that God invites us into these conversations, invites us to wrestle with him, and invites us to consider.)