Changeless and Unchanging
July 06, 2021
Loaded questions #349a&b.
Text: 1 Samuel 15:24-35
Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the LORD."Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel."As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind."Then Saul said, "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God."So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the LORD. Then Samuel said, "Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me." And Agag came to him haltingly.Agag said, "Surely this is the bitterness of death."But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so your mother shall be childless among women."
And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
The questions posed do not constitute the thrust of the text, but point to an underlying idea.
The answer actually depends upon how you define the terms and the vantage from which you view the eternal realities of time and space and eternity.
From one perspective, there is a direct contradiction. Samuel says to Saul that God does not change His mind and, therefore, will not relent about rejecting you as king. Then, the editor inserts that God was regretful about choosing Saul in the first place. That conflict is reflected humanly in the heart of Samuel who grieves for Saul.
That cognitive dissonance over eternal paradox is often expressed as grief.
And paradox it is. God, who does not change, has a change of heart ... or so it seems.
And yet, are not all things eternally simultaneous within the Divine Godhead where there is no fixed past, present, and future?
It boggles the mind since our assignment is to live presently in time, space, and sequence.
BUT ... it is not just eternity that renders this ambiguous; it is often what we are learning about physics itself as we wrestle with the conundra of relativity theory and quantum mechanics.
Those things which complicate the matter also simplify both the questions and the answers and reduce them to something other than "yes" or "no," rendering them "yes and no." (with the quotation marks intentionally placed where they are.
Does the scripture contradict itself?
"Yes" if your hermeneutical tools exclude context.
"No" if you consider both context and intent. The circumstances changed and the drama played out in such a way that to not change His mind, God would have to change His ultimate intention.
That creates a seeming contradiction if we are trying to interpret the narrative in a limited and literal manner.
But that would miss the point and the question. Again: Does God change His mind?
"Yes AND no."
Not to change His mind, in this circumstance would require (grant it, by our limited and literal logic) a change of ultimate mind, purpose, and intent.
That requires us inquiring into the mind, purpose, and intent of God.
it also raises the old question: Who moved? Was it Saul or God?
Again, it plunged us into the mystery and raises the questions upon which we loved to place inordinate weight such as the human and individualistic implications of election, predestination, and providence. To us, they matter much because we tend toward spiritual narcissism and rugged individualism with a bottom-line of the equivalent of "fire insurance."
God's answer to those questions for us who live here is grace. "It is sufficient for you."
Thye larger question is the simultaneousness of the eternal reality of a God who is both eternally and temporally present in eternity, in temporal reality, and, as an extension, in quantum reality.
All of that is beneath the surface is what is both a mundane and historically significant encounter between Saul and Samuel and in the reconciliation of two, apparently contradictory statements and truths.
And none of this is particularly significant to the masses unless they care about entering into this encounter between the Eternally Present God of Grace and Glory and history that is being unfolding moment by moment around us and in us.
It is a grand invitation to enter in to something grander than ourselves.
God is love and God is holy, wholly Other, Righteous, Just, True, and all knowing-powerful, and God is love.
And God is love and it includes all of the above for love drives all of this power, truth, and creativity and is reflected in the regret of God and the grief of Samuel, God's earthly messenger.
Because God is love, at the "end of the day" when you have wracked your brain around unfathomable truth, there is only one truth you must know: the Love of God.
"...to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19, NLT)
That is the reconciliation.
So, what eternally happened to Saul and Agag?
Those are not questions addressed in the text and are for another day's speculation. That is a fact that highlights the reality that not every text is scripture is about "fire insurance."
But you can know this: Whatever applications are true for us, were true for them as well.
Our present calling is always the invitation to enter into the present and eternal reality of the love of God.
That is enough.
Hymn excerpt:"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness ... "