The Immutability of God

Psalm 102.

Psalm 102 is unique in that its superscription attributed it for a particular instance in a person’s life: “A Prayer of the Afflicted When He is Faint and Pours Out His Complaint Before the Lord.” No names nor guild for liturgical instruments were mentioned. In the Christian tradition, this Psalm is numbered as one of the penitential psalms. When cornered in distress, the temporal nature of human existence viewed in terms of the ongoing eternity of time can impact our consciousness negatively, changing our outlook perhaps towards survival depression as with this psalmist: my days consumed in smoke; my heart smitten like grass withering away; I forget to eat my bread; the loudness of my groaning; my bones cling to my flesh; I lie awake; my enemies deride me and use my name as a curse; and mingled my drink with weeping (Ps 102:1-11). The metaphors indicate grief and hopelessness, a sense of isolation and certain insomnia, with disorientation permeating his condition resulting in anger towards God. Suddenly, his mortality caught up with him as he struggled with his existential predicament (Ps 102: 3; Ps 102:9-11; Ps 102:23-24; Ps 103:15-16). Our transient journey through this world counts for nothing when compared to the interminability of time, and if our anchors are not secured in the Creator of time, life here may be quite meaningless in the long-term (c.f., Matt 24: 35).

However, the afflicted person’s focus shifted from his own circumstances to Yahweh, distinctly changing his outlook towards a more confident positive attitude. Our finitude and mortality are juxtaposed against God’s eternally unvarying character and omniscience. The implications are immense! Whatever that is happening in our world and in all of creation, they are not new to Him, neither is He surprised by them, since His foreknowledge enables Him to know everything that will occur (Ps 102:12; Ps 102:24-27; Rev 22:13). He knew all about our feelings and our thoughts in His choice for us to follow Him; inclusive of our past, our present and our future. When He said He loves us, He loves all of our being; that is, He loves us irrefutably throughout our life; well beyond the normal human capacity to comprehend. Hence, God knows us much more than we will be able to know ourselves! God’s immutability further implies that what the Scriptures had pronounced about Him in the ancient past, is still profoundly significant, and in that sense, He is changeless. We can trust Him, as He has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5-6). Finally, the psalmist acknowledges His Lord as “my God,” the Controller over life and death, as he pleads for a full lifespan (Ps 102:23-24).

While living in a world where institutions and structures are temporal and vulnerable, is it any wonder that we keep looking for stability and permanence. But such seeking and expectations are never conclusive, and even if discovered are most likely apathetically unfulfilling within the human milieu. The psalmist reflected on this dilemma and concluded that the bottom line in his security was in his relationship with his Maker, in His unconditional and committed love towards His people (Ps 102:25-28), where the immutable holiness of God required that sin be punished despite His agape for His created order. And in line with the Old Testament typology for a sin offering (viz., a perfect animal), a sinless human in the person of the immutable-mutable Christ offered Himself on the cross that we might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21; c.f., Heb 1:1-11). The Psalm concludes with a prophetic utterance: “The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You” (Ps 102:28).  This discriminating once-for-all sacrifice sealed the relationship we have with the Almighty and His faithfulness to you and me through His salvation of us in the sacrifice of Jesus. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2Tim 2:13). God alone is eternal; the Infinite and the Immortal.