The Repentance of God


The Repentance of God

In Genesis 6:5-7, it declares that God is sorry that He made man and thus decided to destroy both man and all land animals from the face of the earth. 

Gen 6:5-8, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them. 

This statement creates a difficulty for many Christians regarding how God could possibly repent. After all, we repent when we have made a wrong decision and are determined not to make the same mistake over again. This may be the result of carelessness, insufficient information, refusal to heed a warning, circumstances outside of our control, sinful intents, and the list could go on. Our need for repentance is due then to the limitations of our human existence and to our fallen condition as sinners. 

However, God is righteous (sinless), omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and perfect (without any flaw) so why would He ever find Himself in a position of needing to repent? He never sins nor does He ever make a mistake. God is never caught off guard or surprised for He knows the outcome of all actions before the actions even take place. He knew when He created Adam and Eve that 1500 years later he would have to wipe out all of humanity by 8 souls. Likewise, there are no circumstances that are outside of His control. Man did not sin because God could not stop him from doings so, man sinned because God in His sovereignty decided to allow man that option. How then can we reconcile all of this?

First, the Scriptures tell us that when it comes to repentance, the repentance of God is different from the repentance of man.

1 Sam 15:29, “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent. For He is not a man, that He should repent."

This can better explained when we understand the term “sorry” literally means “repent.” The root of the Hebrew word means to change one’s mind, course, or direction and does not usually address the reason for this change. One must draw from the context the reason whether it be sorrow, comfort, compassion, etc. 

Though the repentance of man is due to additional information or sorrowful consequences, for God these things do not enter into the equation. Thus repentance for God is a change in the direction or way He deals with man. He makes this change in order to preserve his holiness, promises, or purposes. For example, if I have to go to Evansville, IN for a doctor’s appointment and I come upon an accident that is blocking the road, I will change my route in order to arrive at the appointment on time. I change in order to accomplish my purpose and so does God.

In the case of Noah’s generation, in a world wide population of possibly billions, there were only 8 souls who still worshipped God. God had promised to Adam and Eve that he would bring a Savior into this world to save all of mankind. This would require a godly line but that godly line was about to go extinct. To keep His promise to man God had to take action to preserve that line. To do this He would have to change the way He was dealing with mankind. Rather than allowing them to go on living in their sins he would now end their lives. Likewise, with the radical changes He would bring about through a global flood, God would now deal differently with man in the future. He would change the climate of the earth, divide the continents by large oceans, create many languages to separate one race or nation from another. All radical changes from the way he dealt with man before the flood.

Some would interject at this point that Genesis says that God was “grieved in His heart.” Does this imply that the situation was out of His control? However, let us remember that God loves all men, regardless of how wicked they may become. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the whole world enough to come to earth and die on the cross. Likewise God declares that 2 Pet. 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 that God does not desire for any to perish but that all might come to salvation. God chose to give man the choice of obeying Him or disobeying Him and man chose to disobey. God foreknew which course they would choose, however this does not make it any less painful for him. God sorrows in His heart every time a sin is committed for He desires so much more from each individual. But God has in His sovereignty chosen to give man that option and to face the consequences that come from all of his choices. 

It is like parents letting their daughter leave home to go to college. They know full well that the child is no longer going to be under their care and thus may make some wrong and may be even disastrous decisions. However, they know it is for the best of the child to go out on her own and they pray that the child will not bring them grief but rather happiness. So it is with God.

It is a reminder to those who read this who do not know God as their Savior. God loves you so much that He died for your sins on the cross and arose the third day so that you might rise from the dead. However, though God would like to include you as one of His children with all the privileges that go with being a child, He has chosen that you must choose to put your faith in Him alone if you want to inherit eternal life. Every time an unbeliever says no to God, it pains his heart for He loves them and wants the best for them. However, His righteousness must demand that they be condemned eternally if they do not turn to Him alone as their Savior (John 3:18).

Likewise, all of us who are believers are to be reminded that though we are the children of God and have His Holy Spirit dwelling in our souls, yet we still have the potential to sin. Each time we choose to disobey we are causing our God pain in His Heart. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians,

Eph 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (NKJV)