Psalm 102:25-27

Sermon preached on November 11, 2001 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Have you ever heard a truism that's not true? You all know what a truism is? It's a statement whose truth is so obvious that it needs no proof. One of the truisms that's not true is the statement, "
The only two things about life that are certain are death and taxes." I always smile when I hear that because although taxes may always be a part of life, not everyone will die. Jesus is coming again and those Christians who are alive when He comes will not die. They will escape death. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:51f,

I tell you a mystery:
We will not all sleep,
but we will all be changed
— in a flash,
in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed."

Another truism that isn't true is one about change. It goes something like this, "The only constant is change itself." The idea is that everything is changing. But that's not true either. Our text gives us the one exception to that rule. God doesn't change. The psalmist says about God,

"In the beginning
you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish,
but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end."

The great truth that we are taught here is that

God is unchangeable.

This means that He is ever reliable. He is the Rock, the One on whom we can always depend.

One of the problems with human beings is that sometimes we can change for the worse. Sometimes even the most reliable people can let you down—they can fail to fulfill what they've promised. There can be many reasons for this, but basically it's because they've changed. As we get older our memories begin to fail and sometimes people forget about their promises. Sometimes we get sick and are unable to fulfill our word. Sometimes they die and thus they're totally unable to fulfill what they promised. Sometimes a person's attitude toward you will change and they fail to carry out their word. Change affects every one of us.

But we should understand that our God is not like that. He is unchangeable. It is very important that we properly understand this attribute of God because

this knowledge can be a great source of strength to us in times of trouble.

Indeed, in the psalm before us, the writer is experiencing much difficulty. The subtitle of the psalm reads,

"A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord."

Verse 1 shows us that He is crying out to God for help. Verse 2 tells us that he's in distress. In verse 3 he tells us that his bones burn like glowing embers. In verse 4 he says that his heart is blighted and withered like grass. Verse 5 tells us that he has been reduced to skin and bones. Verses 6 and 7 tell us that he is all alone, seemingly without a friend or comforter. In verse 8 he reveals that his enemies taunt him. Verse 9 tells us that he eats ashes for his food and that his drink is mingled with his tears.

Yet in the midst of His trouble, there are three things about God which comfort Him. They are
God's eternity, God's unchangeableness and God's rule.

This morning I want to look at God's unchangeableness and what confidence and hope it should give us.

In verse 25 and 26 the psalmist compares God to the heavens and the earth. He tells us that God existed before the universe, that He created them. He then goes on to tell us that the universe is changing, that it is wearing down. God Himself rules over this process. Then verse 26 declares,

" They will perish,
but you remain;"

The idea is that God does not ever change. The universe changes, but God remains the same. This thought is repeated and emphasized in verse 27. He declares.

"Thou art He."

That's literally what it says. The NIV translates it, "But you will remain the sameÖ" and that's a good translation because it stresses the unchangeableness of God. The phrase, "Thou art He" would have been confusing to us. It's a Hebrew expression that emphatically declares the sameness of God. In other places where it is used in the Old Testament it is often used in connection with God's superiority over time and change and stresses the unchangeableness of His character. (Isaiah 41:4, 43:10, 48;12) Delitzsch gives us the force of it when he says that it declares that God is 'unalterably the same One'. Now the point is that the psalmist is greatly emphasizing God's unchangeableness.

When I was preparing this sermon I did some work on
James 1:17, another verse that stresses the unchangeableness of God. It reads,

"Every good thing bestowed
and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation,
or shifting shadow."

I found it interesting that there too, the changelessness of God is given a double emphasis. (Heibert). With God there is no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. It's just like Psalm 102. It got a double emphasis.

In those passages, when the Holy Spirit taught us about God's unchangeableness, He
greatly emphasized it. He doesn't want us to miss it or misunderstand it. God is unchangeable. It is one of His perfections.

Question 4 of the
Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it well. It asks,

What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

God is unchangeable in His being, in His attributes. He does not change. Indeed, He cannot change. It is impossible. Malachi 3:6 sums it up well. God said,

" I the LORD do not change."

Louis Berkhof defines God's immutability of God as,

"that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises. In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming…”

But having said all this, we need to qualify it.

God does change in some ways, but we must understand that these changes are not in His being or in His attributes.

For example, Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He changed from a state of non-creative activity to a state of creative activity. Sometimes the Bible speaks of God becoming angry, of changing from a state of non-anger to a state of anger. We read about this in Numbers 11:1f.

"Now the people complained
about their hardships
in the hearing of the LORD,
and when he heard them
his anger was aroused.
Then fire from the LORD burned among them
and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp."

Sometimes God is represented as changing His mind.

We first read about this in Genesis 6:6 which tells us how God responded when he saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become. We read, (KJV)

"And it repented the LORD
that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him at his heart."

We see much the same thing in 1 Samuel 15:10-11 when God responded to King Saul's disobedience this way.

"The word of the Lord came to Samuel:
'I repent of having made Saul king,
for he has turned away from me
and has not obeyed my instructions." '

In 1 Chronicles 21:15 we read how God repented of punishing Israel for their sin and for David numbering the people. We read,

"And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.
But as the angel was doing so,
the LORD saw it and was grieved
because of the calamity
and said to the angel who was destroying the people,
'Enough! Withdraw your hand." '

Those verses portray God as changing His mind.

But the question is: Does God really change?

It's interesting that when we look at the biblical data that it seems to contradict itself.

One of the best examples of this is the passage I've referred to in 1 Samuel 15:11 where God said that he repented of making Saul King. Yet, just a little farther on in the chapter verses 28-29, Samuel says to Saul,

"The LORD has torn
the kingdom of Israel from you today,
and has given it to your neighbor
who is better than you.
And also the Glory of Israel
will not lie or change His mind;
for He is not a man
that He should change His mind."

In the very same context we have God described as repenting that He made Saul king, and we have it declared that God does not change His mind.

Another example where it seems that God changes His mind is in
Exodus 32:9f. God told Moses to move out of the way, that He was going to destroy the people of Israel and make a great nation out of Moses. Moses then interceded for the people and we read in verse 14.

"So the Lord thought better
of the evil with which
he had threatened his people."

It seems very clear that God changed His mind. Yet if we look at other passages of Scripture, they are emphatic that God doesn't ever change His mind or His plans. For example in Psalm 33:11 we read,

"But the plans of the LORD
stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart
through all generations."

We see this as well in Numbers 23:19 where we read,

"God is not a man,
that he should lie,
nor a son of man,
that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?"

Another passage is Isaiah 14:24. It reads,

"The LORD Almighty has sworn,
'Surely, as I have planned,
so it will be,
and as I have purposed,
so it will stand.'"

So how do we reconcile these passages? Does God change His plans or not?

The answer is, "No." God doesn't change His plans.

God knows the beginning from the end. His plans are perfect—from the very beginning. He has no need to change His mind or His plans. James Montgomery Boice writes, (the last part is a quote from Charles Hodge)

"We often change plans. Usually we lack foresight to anticipate everything that might happen, or we have lacked power to execute what we purposed. God is not like us in that respect. 'Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in [his plans'] conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment.'"

But from our perspective, it seems like God does change His mind and His plans. That's because we tend to look at only part of the picture. We are looking at them from 'within time'. I believe that's why the Bible sometimes describes God's actions as if He changed His mind.

But if we lift our hearts and minds up on high and get of glimpse of the eternity, the wisdom, and the decrees of God, we'll understand that God's plans do not change. We'll rather understand that things that happen are part of God's eternal plan. He has a plan and He brings it to pass.
Joseph knew that and he declared it to his brothers. He said, (Genesis 45: 5,7)

"God sent me ahead of you."

God carries out His plans. It was God's intention from before the beginning of the world to make David king over Israel and for Jesus to come from David's royal line. Saul's sin didn't take God by surprise. It didn't make it so that God had to come up with another plan. God didn't say, "O well, what am I going to do now?" No, no. That's the way it may have looked to the ancient people. But it only looked that way because they didn't see the bigger picture. God's plan was that Saul should be king first, followed by David. It was always that way. Louis Berkhof writes, (Systematic Theology p. 59)

"if Scripture speaks of his repenting, changing His intention, and altering His relation to sinners when they repent, we should remember that this is only an anthropopathic way of speaking. In reality the change is not in God, but in man and in man's relations to God."

When God told Moses to stand out of the way so He could destroy the people of Israel, His real intention wasn't to destroy the people. No. He wasn't taken by surprise by their sin. Moses never really changed God's mind. No. No. Rather God gave Moses grace so that He would intercede for the people. Moses fulfilled his duty and thereby showed us somewhat of what Christ's intercession is like. Moses was a type of Christ. God used the situation to show us what the One who was to come would be like. That was God's plan. He didn't change. God used that whole situation to give His ancient people of glimpse of Christ.

God doesn't change. His plans don't change.
Boice writes, (p. 142)

"For a moral being to change, it would be necessary to change in one of two directions. Either the change is from something worse to something better, or else it is from something better to something worse. It should be evident that God can move in neither of these directions. God cannot change for the better, for that would mean that he had been imperfect beforehand."

But God's plans are perfect from the beginning. As Psalm 33:11 says,

"the plans of the LORD
stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart
through all generations."

Now what does all this mean for us?

The first application is one that the Bible itself draws for us His people. It is this:

You Christians can be absolutely confident that God will not for sake you.

God is reliable. That will never change. He has set His love on us in Christ. That will never change. He has promised us that it will not. In Malachi 3:6 God said,

"I the LORD do not change.
So you, O descendants of Jacob,
are not destroyed."

We are God's people. We fail Him every day. We sin every day. Yet He does not give up on us. Lamentations 3:22 says,

" Because of the LORD's great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."

God is faithful. If you're a Christian, God has given you certain promises and He will surely fulfill what He has promised. It cannot be otherwise. As Hebrews 13:5 says,

"God has said,
'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'"

God's love for you will never change. He who has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6). Hebrews 13:8,

"Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever."

When Peter sinned, when he denied Jesus, when he called down curses upon himself (Mark 14:71) —did Jesus stop loving him? No. Not at all. Luke 22:61 tells us that at just that moment, Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. It was then that Peter came to himself. Now, what was Jesus' look like? Was it a look of disappointment? It could very well have been. Was it a look of anger at Peter? Perhaps. But whatever it was, at its root it was a look of love. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, reached out and stopped him from going further astray. It was with that look that the Good Shepherd began to bring Peter back.

Now in saying this, I'm not encouraging anyone to sin. Anyone who takes the attitude, "I'm a Christian, I'm safe in Christ, therefore I can do whatever I want."—is not really a Christian. So I'm not at all meaning to encourage anyone that thinks he's a Christian to indulge in sin and to think it will be okay. No. We can't have such an attitude. (Romans 6:1f)

my intention is to give hope to Christians who have fallen into sin. At a point like that, Satan will go to such Christians and tell them that they're worthless, that God doesn't love them anymore, that they've let God down one too many times. He'll try to tell them that they never were Christians. We see this in verse 8 here where the psalmist said that his enemies taunted him. At times like that it's Satan's strategy to totally break a Christian, to try to get him to despair—to try to get him to take His eyes off the unchanging love of Christ.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation—don't listen to Satan. Rather look to Christ and how He still loves you. Think of how He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Think of how His love is unchanging. Jesus didn't love Peter less after Peter denied Him. No. He loved Peter with an 'everlasting love'. His love for His people doesn't change. It cannot. He has given you promises. These promises are not just for the best Christians, for those who will never fall into great sin. No. These promises are for all of God's people, for each and every one of them. They are for even the least Christian, even for one like Peter who denied Jesus and called down curses upon himself. Don't listen to Satan's lies. Listen to God's promises.

Lastly, if there is anyone here who isn't a Christian, the doctrine of God's unchangeableness means that

God alone can meet your needs.

Only in God is there true satisfaction, true joy, true contentment. He is the only One who can give these things. Herman Bavinck writes, (The Doctrine of God, p. 149)

"The doctrine of God's immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in him alone, for only he is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often call the Rock…”

You want joy. You want satisfaction. You want contentment. These things are found only in Christ. Go to Jesus today.