People regret many things in life — but God? His ways are perfect.
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
He knows — even plans all things in advance.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
He’s eternally self-sufficient, self-existent, self-contained.
Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
His creation can’t add or subtract anything from who He is or what He decrees. So how can the eternally blessed or “happy” God create anything and later regret it — even grieve over it? Does this imply some limitation in God’s knowledge, as some theologians think — or worse, some imperfection? Hardly.
First, God’s regretting is a planned regret. If God knows in advance and controls all things in creation, then certainly He knows in advance and controls all things in Himself — including being regretful. The same applies to His other affections of anger, joy, mercy, kindness, etcetera. He doesn’t “stumble” into His own affections nor is He caught off guard by the events that provoke them. His own affections are planned in His omniscience and wisdom.
To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Secondly, God’s regretting is a judicial regret.
God’s lament expresses His dismay as a judicial witness and the resultant prosecution of His own judgment as Gen. 6:7 implies. God’s judgments take place in space/time reality — judgments based on a legal procedure of cumulative verdicts of sin and righteousness in His creatures. While God knows something as true in His omniscience, it’s another thing to prove it as true in a righteousness manner — the latter needing cultivation before a verdict is rendered.
Thirdly, God’s regretting is a displaced regret.
While it may be ordained in scope and judicial in nature, it nevertheless goes against His desired outcome as a creator and judge — hence, his stated chagrin. God’s not in the regretting “business.” It’s more “natural” for Him to be kind, merciful, and full of grace — which is why He’s slow to anger, even sorrowful. For God not to regret would be a denial of His personhood.
God is immutable, unchanging in who He is — yet can change in how He addresses His creation.
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
I Samuel 15:29
And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
13 “Therefore thus says the LORD:
Ask among the nations,
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel
has done a very horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave
the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
the cold flowing streams?
15 But my people have forgotten me;
they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
not the highway,
16 making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it is horrified
and shakes his head.
17 Like the east wind I will scatter them
before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
in the day of their calamity.”
18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”
19 Hear me, O LORD,
and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
give them over to the power of the sword;
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22 May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to take me
and laid snares for my feet.
23 Yet you, O LORD, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Forgive not their iniquity,
nor blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.
In His sovereignty He’s like a thermostat, controlling all things. But in His righteousness He’s like a thermometer, weighing the evidence brought to Him and rendering a decision. Never mistake one for the other.