When God was sorry … (18 Aug 2013)

You may have watched a Youtube video that has recently gone viral. It featured a prominent pastor talking about how God said sorry to him for having gotten him into a difficult circumstance and his “suffering”. The man was passionate about his“conversation” with God as he cried out “Abba” and felt the love of God embracing him and reassuring him that everything would turn out all right.

While we won’t know whether his situation was caused by God (only the man himself will know), we do know that there are instances in the Bible when God felt “sorry”or was “grieved” (NIV) for what He has done; as in Gen 6.5 when He saw the wickedness of man and grieved and in 1 Sam 15.11 when He was grieved that He made Saul king.

Does the Bible teach that God laments (or repents, or was sorry about) some of His decisions because He did not see what was coming?

The term “sorry” does not necessarily mean admitting to an error. For instance, I can be “sorry” that a good friend has been stricken with a terminal illness. But this doesn’t mean I’m taking responsibility for the illness, or that I’ve committed an error of some kind. Similarly, God was “sorry” and “grieved” by man’s wickedness. But God was not directly responsible for this wickedness rather, man was responsible. God created man in His image and endowed him with true freedom. Thus, man not only had the freedom to do good, he also had the freedom to do evil. Unfortunately, man exercised his will to do what was evil in God’s sight. Hence God was“sorry” at the decision man had made. The evil was not done by God, but by man whom God had created with genuine freedom, and in His image.

In Saul’s case, for God to say, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king,” is not the same as saying, “Oops! I made a boo-boo.” Here God explains Himself to man in human terms, so man can have some understanding of God’s heart. Saul’s disobedience hurt God, and since we were unable to understand what was really happening in God’s heart, the closest explanation we can arrive at in human terms is to imagine Him saying, “I am grieved”.

Hence we have in Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind (repent); Does he speak and then not act?Does he promise and not fulfil? Here, God’s commitment to His promises hangs on Him not repenting as man does. In other words, God’s promises are not in jeopardy, because God can foresee all circumstances, He knows that nothing will occur that will cause Him to take them back.

God is no man’s debtor, He owes us no apology. Neither did He apologise to Jesus when He abandoned Him at the cross.

We rest in the confidence of God’s all-knowing promises.


Deacon Henry Leong