Mal_3:6. I, the Lord, change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
THERE is not any thing in the whole creation that is in itself immutable. The angels indeed are, by God’s gracious favour, established, so that they are no longer in any danger of sinning: but the fall of the apostate angels sufficiently shews, that the highest creatures are changeable in themselves; and that their stability, whatever it be, is derived from, and dependent on, the power that formed them. As for man, he is in a state of continual change: some of us are yet in a state of childhood: some are grown up to maturity: some have arrived at the period when nature hastens to decay, and when their great last change is near at hand: but all are changing every day, every hour, every moment: like the earth which we inhabit, we have our revolutions of day and night, summer and winter; and in a short period shall undergo an infinitely greater change than any we ever yet experienced. But there is one who changeth not; even Jehovah, from whom all other beings derive their existence. This immutability he claims as his prerogative, and mentions it as a source of unspeakable blessings to his people. In considering his words, we shall notice,
The immutability of God—
The gods of the heathen were frail and perishable, being wood and stone: but Jehovah is immutably the same,
In his essence—
[There is nothing from without that can effect a change upon him; because all things were formed by him, and depend upon him for their agency and existence. Nor is there any principle within him that can operate to produce a change; because a contrariety of principle would argue imperfection, and consequently be a denial of his Godhead. Besides, if he were to change, it must be either for the better or the worse: if for the better, he was not perfect before; and if for the worse, he would not be perfect now: in either case he cannot be God. His very name, Jehovah, implies and supposes immutability.]
In his perfections—
[He ever was, and ever will be, the same holy, and just, and good, and merciful Being, that he now is. He was not more just, when he condemned the fallen angels; nor more merciful, when he sent his only-begotten Son into the world. In the one case he displayed his justice, and, in the other, his mercy, more than he had done before; but his perfections in either case remained the same. “He is a rock: his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he [Note: Deu_32:4.].”]
In his purpose—
[Every thing is done agreeably to “his eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord [Note: Eph_1:11; Eph_3:11.].” God is said indeed to have “repented that he had made man [Note: Gen_6:6.],” and that he had raised Saul to be King [Note: 2Sa_15:35.]: he also revoked the sentence denounced against Nineveh [Note: Jon_3:4; Jon_3:10.], and Hezekiah [Note: Isa_38:1; Isa_38:5.]: on these accounts he may be thought to have altered his original purpose: but he speaks only after the manner of men, who change their conduct in consequence of a change their conduct in consequence of a change of mind: God knew from the beginning what he would do [Note: Act_15:18.]: and the change was, not in his purposes, but in his dispensations according to his purpose [Note: Isa_14:24; Isa_14:27; Isa_46:10.].
In his promises—
[“All the promises of God in Christ are yea, and amen [Note: 2Co_1:20.].” If we ever imagine that they fail of their accomplishment, it is wholly owing to our own infirmity [Note: Psa_77:8; Psa_77:10.]. There is no foundation whatever for any such apprehension: for “his gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Rom_11:29.].” We must distinguish indeed between the promises that are conditional, and those which are unconditional: those which are conditional, are of no force, if the condition whereon they are suspended be not performed: and, in reference to those, God said to his people, “Ye shall know my breach of promise [Note: Num_14:30; Num_14:34.].” But the unconditional promises (such as that which says “the gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church [Note: Mat_16:18.]”) are as firm as Omnipotence can make them: “heaven and earth shall pass away; but not a jot or tittle of God’s word shall ever pass away [Note: Luk_21:33.].” In the day of judgment every believer will be constrained to confess, that, “of all the good things which God had spoken concerning him, not one has failed [Note: Jos_23:14.].”]
Nor is this a merely speculative truth, but one in which our welfare is deeply involved. This will appear, if we consider,
The benefit we derive from it—
To this alone can we ascribe it, that “we have not long since been consumed”—
[The Israelites in this respect were types of us. They were a stiff-necked people, that deserved, on ten thousand occasions, to be destroyed utterly. Moreover, if left to themselves or to their enemies, they would again and again have been consumed. But God spared and preserved them for his word’s sake. He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that in their seed should all nations be blessed; and on that account, though he visited the Israelites with many judgments, he did not wholly destroy them. “He changed not; therefore they were not consumed.”
And what other reason can be assigned for our continuance on mercy’s ground? Have we never merited excision? Search, and judge — — — Have we no enemies, who would gladly execute upon us the Divine judgments, if they could gain permission? What else do Satan and his hosts so earnestly desire? — — — Have we no inward fire, which, if suffered to burst forth, would effect our ruin? We should soon follow Judas and Ahithophel, if God should withdraw from us his restraining grace — — — Have we not at some time or other been, as it were, within a hair’s breath of ruin, either from sickness, or accident, or from some foul transgression which would have issued in final obduracy? — — — Let us then “give God the glory.” Our preservation has not been the effect of our own wisdom, or strength, or goodness, but of God’s unchangeable love and mercy. It is to his immutability we owe it, that, notwithstanding all our provocations, he has not been stirred up to destroy us: had he been mutable, like us, his wrath would long since have broken forth against us, and consumed us utterly.]
In this view the Holy Scriptures uniformly represent our obligations to the Deity—
[Moses traced to this source, even to the immutability of Jehovah, the continued mercies which Israel experienced in his day [Note: Deu_7:6-9.]. In the Psalms, God himself has been pleased to shew explicitly in what manner he will deal with his offending people, so as to reconcile their welfare with his own veracity [Note: Psa_89:28-35.]. By the Prophet Isaiah he expresses a holy jealousy, lest his dispensations should be misconstrued as violations of his word: and declares, that whatever come to pass in the course of his providence, he will never break his covenant with his people, nor suffer his kindness to depart from them [Note: Isa_54:8-10.]. In short, the whole volume of inspiration attests the same blessed truth, that “we are not consumed, because the Divine compassions fail not [Note: Lam_3:22.];” and that “the Lord does not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people [Note: 1Sa_12:22.].”]
What evidence have we of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus?
[Immutability is the unalienable prerogative of the Deity. Creatures may be fixed by God in the condition in which they are: but, as they have only a derived existence, there must have been a period when they began to be what they were not before. But Jesus is, and ever has been, the same with respect to the nature which he possessed before his incarnation [Note: Heb_1:10-12; Heb_13:8.]; and therefore, with respect to that nature, he is truly and properly God [Note: 1Ti_3:16.]. Let us then hold fast this blessed truth, and rejoice in Christ as an unchangeable Saviour.]
What consolation does this subject administer to believers?
[The frames and feelings of believers are extremely variable: but He who hath chosen them has “no variableness, neither shadow of turning [Note: Jam_1:17.];” and “whom he loveth, he loveth to the end [Note: Joh_13:1.].” Now this consideration God has endeavoured strongly to impress upon our minds, (he has even confirmed his promises with an oath,) on purpose that we may derive strong consolation from it [Note: Heb_6:17-18.]. Let every one therefore take comfort from it: and be encouraged, not to indulge sloth and security, (for that were a horrible abuse of this doctrine,) but to apply to God for fresh mercies, and to regard past communications as an earnest and pledge of future blessings.]
What a ground of terror is here afforded to the impenitent?
[God has said, that “except we repent, we shall all perish;” and, that “except we be born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven [Note: Joh_3:3.].” If therefore any impenitent or unregenerate man be saved, God must falsify his word. O that those amongst you who are unconverted would consider, for one moment, on what ground they stand! Beloved brethren, consider this; Either God must change, or you. But will God change? “Is he a man, that he should lie; or the son of man, that he should repent [Note: Num_23:19. 1Sa_15:29.]?” Will he alter his very nature, and sacrifice all his perfections, in order to save you? All that he can do consistently with his own honour, he is ready and willing to do: but you cannot suppose that he will, or can, divest himself of all the properties of the Godhead, to save you in your sins. Know, then, that there must be a change in you: and, if you become not new creatures in Christ Jesus, you must perish. As long as God is true, your doom is fixed. O “turn ye then! for why will ye die?”]