Sunday, October 14, 2012

Does God have emotions?

As you read scripture, does it seem to you that God is static, motionless, unchanging, and unemotional? Many have used Malachi 3:6 to claim that among His many other attributes, God is immutable (unchanging) and impassible (unemotional). Let us consider a few instances I can recall from the Scriptures.

If you believe that prayer changes things, then you can’t really believe that God is unchangeable. Do you remember King Hezekiah? (2 Kings 20)  God sent Isaiah to him and told him to set his house in order because he was going to die.  Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed with tears, and God heard his prayer. Before Isaiah could get out of the palace, God told him to go back and tell Hezekiah that God had heard his prayer and would give him another 15 years of life. There are many times in scripture where God relented and changed His plans in response to the prayers and intercession of His people.  His plans to destroy Nineveh were changed when the people repented at Jonah’s preaching.

The idea that God is unemotional is also at odds with how the bible writers describe Him. He is grieved by the wickedness of men before the flood, and He burns with anger at the idolatry of the Israelites when they make the golden calf. Most of all, love is an emotion.  How can you view God as unemotional when “God is love?” (1 John 4:8; 16)

I believe that God does change and that He does experience emotions in response to those creatures He cares about. God experiences the future with us as we make decisions that affect our future and the future of those around us.  Our decisions can bring Him joy or pain in the moment of time in which they are made.

What then does this Malachi 3:6 mean?

It does not mean that the contents of his knowledge does not change or His feelings do not change. It means that His character does not change.  His love does not change.  He is not a good God today and an evil God tomorrow. The verse actually says how He does not change:  He does not consume them for their disobedience.  The next verse says:  In spite of their unfaithfulness and disobedience, God continues to be faithful, merciful, gracious, and willing to forgive if they will only return to Him.

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