God: Incredibly Unchanging
September 16, 2007 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: How Big is Your God?
Passage: Psalm 02:25–102:28
God: Incredibly Unchanging
September 16th, 2007
Way of Grace Church
Change. Consider what we hear around us everyday about change: "Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same. Nothing lasts forever. It's a change for the better. Change your look! We need regime change. Because of technology, the world is changing everyday. Change or be left behind. Don't be afraid of change. Something has to change. I don't understand, what changed? I don't know you...you've changed. That's when it all changed."
We live in a world where change is a given. Change is a part of the fabric of our everyday existence. And sometimes, change is a good thing. Change is drastically needed.
But often, change equals betrayal or failure or hopelessness or deception. My husband has changed. Her circumstances suddenly changed. He changed his story, again.
This morning, as we return to God's word, think about the idea of change in terms of this thing we call life.
Last week, we began to answer to answer the question, "How big is your God?" by looking to God's word and considering, reveling in the reality of God's divine distinctiveness, or what the Bible describes calls God's holiness.
This morning we want to think more about just one aspect of God's holiness, of God perfection. Turn with me this morning to Psalm 102. We're going to focus this morning on verses 25-28.
II. The Passage: You Are the Same (Psalm 102:25-28)
Now before we look at the verses, we need to know something about this psalm or this song. The psalms are the songbook of ancient Israel. The people of God learned about God through these songs.
Like Psalm 99 that we looked at last week, this Psalm is in the fourth division or fourth ‘book' of the Psalms. This ‘book', Psalms 90-106 are psalms connected with the exile of the Israel, when God banished them from their land for their stubbornness and corruption and idolatry. But these songs reflect a turning back to God.
If we had time to look at this psalm we would see read that the writer here is crying out to God because of his suffering. He is suffering, and his people are suffering. But when the writer gets to verse 12, there is a shift from his own earthly plight to God's exalted position:
But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.
So the psalmist is crying out to God, but he cries out to a big God. Listen to what he says about God's position and his own petition (verse 18):
18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD: 19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death."
Do you see the connection to what we talked about last week? God is holy, he is exalted, there is no one like him; He is, to use the writer's words here, He is "on high". And yet...he looks down, he hears our groans.
And so we see throughout this psalm contrasts between us and God, AND an emphasis on what the character, the nature of God means for our lives right here and now. And that sets us up for our main verses this morning.
Listen as I read, beginning in verse 25:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.
Again, what we see here is the writer emphasizing the greatness of God AND then emphasizing what that means, by implication, for those reading or singing this song.
III. A Solid Rock in a World of Shifting Sand
What we see here is the fact that, yes, God is divinely distinct, but, more specifically, he is distinct because He is a solid Rock in world of shifting sand. Let's look more closely at how these verses drive that truth home.
A. Solid by Human Standards
First, look again at how the psalmist, in verse 25, draws our attention to God's power in creating what to us, by human standards, is extremely solid. We read:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Now, when we read on to verse 26, we know why the writer is talking about God as creator here. He is pointing us to those things that most people would consider "unchanging". We go to sleep every night assuming that the universe will be there when we wake up. We build houses on the ground assuming that it will stand still. Men once navigated by the stars, assuming that their courses were fixed. Like many, the ancient Greeks, even some scientists before the Big Bang theory became popular, they believed that the universe was eternal, that is had always been here and always would be here.
Now we know that there are earthquakes and that even stars die, but we live everyday trusting in the unchanging nature of the world around us.
But look at the opening words of the next verse, "They will perish...". Did you hear that? They will perish! The earth and the heavens will perish. Those things that we consider so rock solid, no pun intended, these things will perish.
We build our houses, our very lives, on we think of the unchanging nature of the world, and yet the world will not last. So many things in life, things that we are pinning our hopes on, so many things that we are building our lives on, are simply shifting sand.
Throughout this psalm the author has been describing his conditions according to the language of what is temporary and transitory, what is shifting:
3 For my days vanish like smoke...11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.... (23) he cut short my days.
B. God's Immutability
But look at where the writer is going with his point in verses 26 and 27...
26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
What we consider to be solid, like rock, is merely a shadow of One who is always the same. God is not only eternal, that is, he always has been, He is, and He always will be, not only is that true, but He is eternally unchanging.
Traditionally, this is what is referred to as God's immutability. Obviously, that's not a word we use a lot. All it means is that God is without ‘mutation', that is, He never changes.
Remember how James expressed it: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Even the universe, what we consider solid and consistent, even that will change. In fact God will change it, like a man taking off an old robe, He will cause it to pass away. But God himself does not change. He is the same. His "years have no end".
In a world that is always changing, surrounded by circumstances that are always changing, as people who are always changing, the unchanging nature of God is hard for us to grasp. It's hard to appreciate the magnitude of those five words given by the psalmist: "but you are the same".
But God's immutability is more than just a conceptual curiosity..."Well, gee whiz, isn't that interesting!"
No listen to how the psalmist concludes this psalm; look at where he goes after emphasizing the unchanging nature of God.
C. Certainties in Light of His ‘Sameness'
Look again with me at verse 28:
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.
Now, at first glance, the writer has changed the subject. He switched from talking about God to talking about the next generation. But look at what he says about his children.
They "shall dwell secure". They "shall be established before you". How can the writer speak with such certainty? Because for God's people, there are certainties in light of his ‘sameness'.
The fact that God does not change means that he will be the same when the next generation calls out to him. He will be the same God to their children that He has been to them. He will be the same to their children, and their children's children, and the children of their children.
As the writer declared in verse 24: "your years go on through all generations."
But what does it mean that God will be the same God? What are these certainties we're talking about? Well, we could say that he will continue to be perfectly powerful, or perfectly just, or perfectly wise. Those are all things future generations should understand about this unchanging God.
But I believe the certainty this songwriter has in mind has to do with who God is, His unchanging nature, in light of what God has promised.
Listen to the words of Isaiah the prophet: "For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My loving-kindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken," says the LORD who has compassion on you. (54:10)
Look at that connection to our psalm. Creation may perish, but God remains the same...which means, God will remain perfectly faithful to His words of peace, to his lovingkindness, to his promises to His people.
Remember how God expressed through the prophet Malachi: I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (Malachi 3:6)
That's why the writer here can say with certainty, our children "shall dwell secure"; they "shall be established before you."
It doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter if now, this writer found himself far away from Israel, in exile. From one perspective, all hope was lost. Their fortunes had changed so drastically that their hope was all but extinguished.
At one point, they were on top! At one point they were living in peace and prosperity! But suddenly, that all...changed.
But God, the God of Israel cannot change. That's why this writer is emphasizing the truth. Though all hope seems lost, God remains true to his word. "My lovingkindness will not be removed from you." The immutability of God is what makes all the other attributes of God so incredible.
God is not simply perfect when he tries really hard, or when He's having a good day. No! He's always perfect! Perfectly good. Perfectly loving. Perfectly in charge.
It doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter how bad it gets. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
Wait a minute. Those words. Those words are not words given by a psalmist or some OT prophet. No, those are the words of Jesus.
IV. Yesterday and Today and Forever
I want to show you something amazing. Take your Bibles and turn with me almost to the end of your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 1. We need to start in verse 6 so that we can see the context of what this writer is saying. Look at what it says...
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." 8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." 10 He also says [that is, God also says about the Son], "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
Wait a minute. That's our passage from Psalm 102. Do you see what the author of Hebrews is saying? These verses speak of Jesus just as much as they talk about the God of Israel. They are the same. Jesus is God in human flesh, isn't he!
That's why the writer of Hebrews can go on to say at the opposite end of this book:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Jesus is the one who reconciles us to God. As our mediator, we don't have to worry that He will somehow fail us. No, He is the same. He is the same immutable, unchanging God...which means...He is the same! He is always the same!
Why is it so important that we see that Jesus is the same unchanging God that we've been talking about? Because, as Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:20: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.
I often hear people talking about their need for stability: "I need a stable relationship." "He just wants a stable work situation." "That kid needs a stable home environment." When things are not going well, all of us want change so that things can get better and not change. Stability!
But as important as stable relationships, stables work situations, and stable home environments are, they are worthless if we do not have the perfect and unending stability of God. All of those things we label stable, "they will perish". And when they do, what will we be standing on, what will we be holding onto, what will we be clinging to?
How big is your God? When you feel like things are going well, is God patting you on the back? When you are failing miserably, is God disgruntled and ready to squash you or take off? When you neglect God, has he gotten bored and forgotten about you? When circumstances in your life are spiraling out of control, is God freaking out as well, trying to figure something out.
The answer of course, to all of these questions, is "no"! Because of Jesus Christ, we can know the grace of a God who does not change. He is always there. He is always listening. He is always pouring out love on us. He always cares. He is always in control. His plan for our life is always on track. Always! Always! No matter how much chaos is in our lives or hearts, God does not change.
...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
God has said, "Never will I leave you never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:23, 24)
In a world where people change, where circumstances change, where we change, in a world of shifting sand, we need a solid Rock. Through Jesus Christ, we can know the unchanging mercy of a God who is perfectly faithful. His love will not be taken from us.
My prayer for you and for myself this morning is that we will, once again, because of what God has revealed, that we will catch a glimpse of the greatness of God, of the greatness of his unchanging nature.
Many today would have you believe in a small God, one who changes according to what is acceptable to us, one who goes with the flow, a God shaped by our by our ups and downs.
But God doesn't change. He is the same God who made the world; the same God who saved Noah; the same God who gave the Law through Moses, who appointed David, who spoke through the prophets; the same God who has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ.
God is so much bigger than we can imagine. And we need to be grateful for that, don't we.
This unchanging God, the God of the psalmist, is the same God who is inviting us this morning to fully trust him through Jesus Christ.
I pray that we will do that this morning. If you want to know what that means, take a look at that confession of trust printed on the back of your bulletin and talk to me afterwards.
Let's pray and ask this same God, this God who is always the same, let's ask Him to help us live this day, this week, in light of this incredible truth.
More in How Big is Your God?
September 30, 2007God: Incomparably Powerful
September 23, 2007God: Inexhaustibly Wise
September 9, 2007God: Inconceivably Distinct