“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” (1 Samuel 15:29)
There are a number of Scriptures that speak of God repenting. For example, in the days before the great Flood, “it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6). In the same chapter containing our text, God said: “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11). Yet, the Scriptures plainly teach that God changes not. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (Numbers 23:19). Bible critics have made much of this apparent “contradiction” in the Bible.
There is no contradiction, of course. The words translated “repent” in both Old and New Testaments are used of actions that indicate outwardly that a “change of mind” has occurred inwardly. It is precisely because God does not repent concerning evil that His actions will change toward man when man truly repents (this human “repentance” can go either way, changing from good to evil, or vice versa), and God will respond accordingly, since He cannot change His own mind toward evil.
Thus, He said concerning national repentance: “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jeremiah 18:8). That is, if the nation truly repents, then God will change His own projected course of action. He seems outwardly to “repent” specifically because He cannot repent in His inward attitude toward good and evil.
God has greatly blessed America in the past, but America’s people have drastically changed in recent years. Can the time be long coming when God must say: “It repenteth me that I have so favored this apostate nation?” HMM
When God Repents
Genetics, Human History, and Christian Faith