God Cannot, Will Not Lie
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, July 7, 2012

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 23:19–20: “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.”

Though verses like these can prompt theological questions about the omniscience of God, the main point, in context, is the God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel.  No matter what Israel’s enemies may do, no matter how Israel may stumble, the Eternal One is determined to remain faithful to His covenant promises. What assurance that should give to everyone who has put his or trust in Him! V’eemru? (And let us say?)

In the Tree of Life Bible Study in our home (2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, check your bulletin), Bennett Eisenberg loves to ask the most wonderful questions. Some are admittedly thorny. For example, though if God cannot change his mind here, what about passages that imply he does? Such as Genesis 6:6, “the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” Or “Exodus 32:14, “So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” If God has regrets, what does say about his omniscience? Does He know the future or doesn’t He? What do you say? (Welcome to a taste of our Bible Study.)

These passages all use the same Hebrew verb,  nachem, which can mean “be sorry, suffer grief, regret, repent of one’s own doings.” They tell us that God, like his creatures, can have regrets—yet not so much about His own actions, but about how people behave. God created people with some range of free will and alas, people use their freedom to make bad choices, since they are inclined toward evil and struggle to trust God.

Though you and I are not omniscient, we can still anticipate what might happen, and then later regret how things turn out. Though God can foresee how things will turn out as a consequence of our choices, that doesn’t mean that He has to like it. Bennett wondered, does the Bible actually says that God is omniscience and knows the future? Thoughts? The answer is yes. Isa. 46:9–10 says, “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”

Moreover, there are many predictive prophecies that have been fulfilled, such as prophecies about the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, the southern kingdom of Judah, and all the surrounding nations, prophecies about the coming of Messiah, fulfilled in Yeshua (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22), etc. What God knows is unlike what people can know: He knows the consequences of all our actions, including actions we could have taken instead, that would please him instead of cause Him regret.

Yet in this context, it’s not so much about God’s omniscience as about his covenant faithfulness. The context is that the pagan king Balak wants to pay the wizard Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam keeps insisting that “Whatever HaShem says, that I must do.” But Balak convinces Balaam (with the promise of treasure) to at least take a look.

What Balaam says in these verses reaffirms the covenant promises that God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I trust some of you know the promise God made to Abram in Genesis 12:2–3, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

In another Tree of Life Bible Study, Bennett asked if this promise was only to Abram, rather than to all Israel? (Apparently some who espouse replacement theology make this argument.) What do you think? In my honest opinion, this argument that the blessing promise is only to Abraham is pretty lame.

First of all, this covenant promise includes that nation descended from Abram,  “I will make you a great nation,” through whom the blessing will flow to the peoples on earth, or a curse. Moreover this promise is reaffirmed to Isaac: Genesis 26:24, “And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”

In Genesis 27:29, Jacob inherited the blessing from Isaac. “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” And at the command of HaShem, Balaam repeatedly blesses all of Israel, the heirs of the covenant promise.  So in Numbers 24:5, the seer exclaims, “Ma tovu! How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! ... Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” How many of you hear out of Balaam’s mouth the same blessing that God gave to Father Abraham?

“God is not a man, that he should lie,” So, the Seer reaffirms that covenant promise that God made unilaterally and unconditionally to Abraham, and reaffirmed to Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel, and he ain’t changing His mind. AmeHe has amply demonstrated His faithfulness to this promise by delivering Israel again and again from her enemies. Though Israel fell into grievous sin and brought upon herself the disciplinary measures of the invasion of her land, the destruction of her cities and the Temple, and exile from the land, God Himself remained faithful, and promised to restore their descendants to the land. And so he did, not just once, starting during the reign of Cyrus of Persia, but again, in modern times.  Amen?

As Paul writes in Romans 3:3–4, “Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? May it never be! God is true even if every man is a liar!” The contrast between man’s faithlessness and man’s faithfulness has been in the news lately.

The New York Times reported on Thursday, “A deeply divided Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Thursday became the latest American church to shy away from divesting in companies that supply equipment to Israel…. By a vote of 333 to 331, with two abstentions, the church’s General Assembly voted at its biennial meeting in Pittsburgh to toss out the divestment measure and replace it with a resolution to encourage “positive investment” in the occupied territories. The results were so close that, when posted electronically in front of the convention, they evoked a collective gasp.”

 “The United Methodist Church voted against divestment at its meeting in Tampa, Fla., in May. The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, rejected divestment measures in 2007 and 2011. Lobbying from major Messianic Jewish groups may well have made the difference. Joel Chernoff recently alerted the IAMCS Rabbis to how we are taking a stand on this issue. I quote:

Leaders of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) have issued the following open letter to the Presbyterian Church (USA).” (At the Messiah conference, the national conference of the MJAA,

MJAA President Paul Lieberman talked about this letter earlier this week.) “The Presbyterian Church (USA), despite its historic concern for justice, is considering a move that violates basic principles of justice… Divestment presumes that Israel is unfairly occupying an Arab homeland. Scripture reveals that God loves the Arab and Jewish people and promised both of them land as an inheritance

God expresses his love for Ishmael and promises to make of him a “great nation” (Gen. 21:18),

later described as twelve tribes, alongside the nation of Israel (Gen. 25:12ff.). God indeed kept his promise to Ishmael, and the Arab nation today has multiplied to 22 Arab states with a combined population of 350 million, and extensive territories dwarfing the Land of Israel and its population of seven million. From a Biblical perspective, it is simply unjust for the Arabs, the sons of Ishmael, to claim not only what God promised them but also the one land God promised to Israel. From this perspective, Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are actually “occupying” land God gave to Israel “for all time” (Deut.4:40). Is it just to support sovereignty in this region only for Arab states? … As Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we appreciate the attempts of Christian denominations since the Holocaust to promote understanding and good will toward the Jewish people. Divestment from Israel, however, only damages the relationship between the Christian and the Jewish communities, diminishes the possibility of genuine negotiations for peace, and encourages violence and extremism. Most of all, the divestment initiative ignores the very words of Scripture, shared by Jews and Christians, which foretell a Jewish return to the land of Israel after centuries of exile: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24, etc.)….”

Amen? I for one am glad that the MJAA and other national Messianic Jewish organizations have taken a stand on this issue and that together, we’re making a difference and our voice is being heard! Amen? As Paul Lieberman pointed out, together we have become a voice for what God says in the Scriptures. What do you think of this stand of the MJAA and other national Messianic Jewish organizations? How can we as individuals support the collective voice of these national organizations? We can all lend our support to this prophetic voice by supporting the MJAA, as well as by talking about this issue with our neighbors, both Christian and Jewish.

Though Balaam’s words were addressed to the nation of Israel, the principle should also encourage each of us, personally.  How so?  Because God is not a man that he should lie, nor change His mind, and because He has amply demonstrated His faithfulness to His promises to Israel, you and I can also be confident that He will keep His promises with us. Amen?

For example, I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua.” Amen. How many of you know that God began a good work in you? Yes, if you know that God has called you to trust in Him, and you have trusted in the promise of atonement for all your sins by the blood of the Lamb, Messiah Yeshua, then you can be confident that He will complete His work of salvation of your soul and your body, both in this world and in the world to come. Amen?

We know He will, because God is faithful to His promises. Amen? When God says He loves you and will never let anything separate you from in Messiah Yeshua (Romans 8:39), He ain’t lying! And He will never change his mind about you. Amen?

Would anyone like to share a testimony about how God has demonstrated His faithfulness to you? 

Yeshua, we thank you for your covenant faithfulness. Truly you not a liar and never change your mind about your faithful love for us. Help us to be rock solid in our confidence in Your faithfulness. Help us also to imitate Your faithfulness to our covenant promises to one another, with Your help. Amen.