While visiting family over Christmas, I drove past my old family home. We moved in when I was six months old; I was newly married when my parents sold it and moved away. Now someone else’s Christmas lights are in the windows, someone else’s cars are in the driveway. The outside looks the same, but it no longer feels like home – as though a total stranger had put on your dad’s favorite suit. It’s just a house…but it’s still a bit disorienting to have something be so familiar and yet so different at the same time. As they say, constant change is here to stay.
Have you ever had that experience, a moment of recognition that familiar things don’t remain familiar for long? Friends age. Hometowns become cities, or ghost towns. The founding pastor moves away, or passes away. Nothing ever stays the same. “Only death and taxes never change!” we say. Some of us thrive on change; others feel profoundly disoriented if the coffee shop changes their house blend. But all of us want something to stay the same in life. We need, even crave, an anchor for our inner world, what one poet called a “permanence amid all that’s passing.” Where is such an anchor to be found?
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed,” says the Lord in Malachi 3:6. There is one permanent reality in our shifting world: our faithful, covenant keeping God. Theologians use the term “immutability” to describe a precious truth about the Lord: he remains, eternally, the Unchangeable One.
God is who he is, eternally transcendent over space and time and far exalted above every creature. He rests within himself and is for that very reason the ultimate goal and resting place of all creatures, the Rock of their salvation, whose work is complete. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. II, p.158)
But wait. Passionless stoicism in our heavenly Father’s heart isn’t a comforting thought. If God is unchanging, does that mean that he isn’t affected by our changing circumstances? If nothing changes him, is he capable of feeling grief over our losses, compassion for our fears?
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
A parent, knowing full well that there is no monster under the bed, can still be moved by their child’s fears, entering in and comforting them with genuine compassion. So the Lord, unchangeable in himself and knowing fully how every wrong will be righted and every sorrow turned to joy, still binds himself to us in covenant love, sharing our fears, griefs, and burdens. What Isaiah said of Israel is, and will be, true of us in Jesus:
“And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9)
All created things change. Under the sun, there is no permanence amid all that’s passing. Until the unchanging One entered the shifting sands of human existence and became our Rock and our Redeemer. In him, and in him alone, our souls find rest.
Photo by Beverly Goodwin