Posted by: Michelle Knoll | June 19, 2012

Can God’s Mind Be Changed?

I’d read it before.  But this time, it really made me stop and think.

Numbers 14.  A conversation between God and Moses.

Well, let’s go back to Numbers 13 first, and set the stage.  God had Moses choose men from each tribe to go into the Promised Land as spies, to check things out.  Moses gave them detailed instructions: see what sort of cities they live in, see if the land was good or bad, and whether it had wood or not, and see if the people were strong or weak.

Well, the spies did just what they were told.  They spied!  And they came back with a huge bunch of grapes.  A bunch so big, two of the men had to carry it on a large pole between them.  These spies also brought back pomegranates and figs.  And they said the land was indeed a good land, flowing with milk and honey.  Sounds pretty awesome, right?

But 10 of the 12 spies said there was no way they could possess the land, because it was filled with giants.  And the children of Israel began to cry and wail, and even said they should hire someone to take them back to Egypt.  Back to slavery!  Can you imagine!  As if that would be better than fighting giants in a land God said He was going to help them conquer!

So what was God’s reaction to their fear and wailing?  He got really, really, really upset.

I don’t blame Him, you know?  After all, He had performed some pretty hefty miracles up to this point.  He had shown He could handle whatever came their way, from splitting the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land, to providing them water to drink from a rock.  He’d provided them food every day, and made sure their sandals didn’t wear out.  God could do it all.  And He couldn’t believe it when they wouldn’t believe Him.

“How long will this people provoke Me?  And how long will it be before they believe Me,  for all the signs which I have shown among them?  I will smite them with the pestilence and disinherit (destroy) them, and make of you (Moses) a greater nation and mightier than they.”

Yow.  Even though He had promised Abraham’s descendents would be more than the stars in the sky (and there were a lot of them by that time), He was ready to wipe them off the face of the earth, and start over with Moses.

Would you have wanted to be there, right there at that point in time, knowing God was that angry?  Me neither.  I think I would have crawled under a rock, or something.

But did Moses cower in fear?  No.  He confronted God.

And Moses said unto the LORD, “Then the Egyptians shall hear [it], (for thou brought up this people in thy might from among them;) And they will tell [it] to the inhabitants of this land: [for] they have heard that thou LORD [art] among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and [that] thy cloud stands over them, and [that] thou go before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now [if] thou shalt kill [all] this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.”

Basically, Moses said, “Okay, God, if You do this, then everyone’s gonna hear about it!  And they’re all going to say You did this because You weren’t strong enough to complete the mission.  Do you really want that?”

Boy, Moses had guts.  I mean, who would confront God when He’s upset?  Not me!  Nope.  No way.  I mean, would you?  And yet, Moses didn’t stop there.  Granted, he proceeded with caution, but still, he kept talking.

“And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The LORD [is] longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation]. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Basically, Moses told God, “Look, I’m asking You to consider the fact You’ve said You’re patient and forgiving.  You’ve said You will pardon people when they mess up, even if they have to face the consequences of their mistakes.  So… be who You said You are.”


You know what God said in return?

“I have pardoned according to thy word.”

Moses didn’t get up in God’s face about it.  (Would you?)  He wasn’t disrespectful; on the other hand, he was quite humble about it.  But he did confront God.  And God changed His mind.  According to Moses’ word.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?  It just boggles my mind.

Your thoughts?



  1. Very tough. Very tough, indeed. If God’s mind can be changed, then it would appear that God can be wrong. Hard to tease out.

    However — it is, I think, the clash between the God-outside-time and the human-inside-time. Perhaps, as we move through time, we change, and God “changes” in response.

    If my 12-year-old asks “Can I take the car?” my answer will be “No.” If the same child asks when he’s 20, my answer will be “Yes” (depending on his driving record!). Did my answer change? Yes. Did I change? No.

    Interesting stuff.

    • Good thoughts, Bruce. Great contribution here. Thanks for posting.
      I think the thing we miss sometimes, is beneath the words that God says, there is always love. Love underlies everything He does. So when He states He’s going to wipe out a nation, it’s not because of anger, but more because of a wounded heart.
      This is the thought that I’ve tried to hang on to, as I go back and read the Old Testament. It puts quite a different light on the story of the flood, and stories like this one, where His words make Him appear to be enraged and almost full of hatred toward humans.
      And I think Moses reminding God of Who He really is, a God of forgiveness and patience, played a key role in the outcome of this situation. Moses had enough boldness to say, “Now, hold on, God…” (which I can’t fathom. There’s no way I would stand up to God like that!) I mean, what was God going to do, after Moses declared all those truths about God’s nature? Was He going to suddenly say, “Well, I’ve changed, I’m not longer that way”?
      You’re right. Interesting stuff. I think God is a lot more interesting than we think.

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