walk in the word
10The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night. —1 Samuel 15:10-11
Read that passage carefully. Does the phrase, “I regret that I have made Saul king” raise any questions for you? Do you think, Can God have regrets? What was God telling Samuel?
There’s a movement today in evangelicalism in North America that teaches something called open-theism. A lot of college kids are buying into it. Here’s the idea behind open-theism: God doesn’t know the future but has to wait for it to unfold like the rest of us. Open-theists point to texts like 1 Samuel 15:10 and say, “See? God wishes He’d never made Saul king. If God had known how Saul would turn out, He would have chosen someone else.” Really?
The Bible teaches that God knows the end from the beginning. God’s decisions have been made, Ephesians 1:4 tells us, “before the foundation of the world.” Yet all that God knows doesn’t diminish all that God feels.
The Bible is the infinite God choosing to make Himself understood to finite people. But we can’t fully understand God. So God accommodates Himself to our understanding. He uses words like “regret.” Notice, 1 Samuel 15: 29 says, “The Glory of Israel (that’s God) will not lie or have regret; He is not a man that He should have regret.” The same chapter says God regretted and that He doesn’t regret. So which is it? It’s this: God doesn’t regret like we do. God doesn’t have the sense of, “Well, I wish I never did that.” What God does have is, having made the decisions that God righteously and perfectly has made, sometimes when the actual action takes place, God’s like, “Whoa, we’re paying a heavy price for this.”
God didn’t regret the fact that Saul was king, but as Saul began to disobey and shame the very opportunity that was given to him, God felt the cost deeply in His heart. The Bible talks about God hating and God having compassion and God feeling anger. God feels things.
Can you feel God’s heart? Do you care how God feels when we who know Him and love Him chose to disobey Him? Even the possibility that God would not be able to say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” ought to sharpen our resolve to be faithful to the One who saved us. —James MacDonald
Prayer: Father, I cringe to think I would ever cause You to use the word “regret” in reference to any thought You had toward me. I pray along with David, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13). Lord, You alone can make me into a good and faithful servant. You have my permission! In Jesus’ name, Amen
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