God’s actions are always perfectly proportionate to his character. God’s character never changes. When it looks like God has changed in the Bible, we should explore those passages for changes in the situation: people’s attitudes, behaviors, and decisions—not changes with God’s character or being.
Have you ever seen someone so moved by emotion that you could tell their brain had kind of checked out? Maybe you’ve been there yourself. Sadly, I know I have. Whether it’s the result of anger, frustration, confusion, or despair, there’s a certain look in a person’s eyes when they’re operating on pure emotion. God never experiences this.
The doctrine of impassibility describes how God isn’t controlled by passions. While I hope you have control over your emotions, at least most of the time, you can certainly relate to experiencing emotions that don’t match reality.
Think of a surprise birthday party. You walk into a dark room, and all of a sudden, a lot of people jump out at you. Your immediate response might be shock or fear, but in your rational mind you’d be elated or happy. God never experiences anything like this. There’s never a time when God’s emotions dictate his attitude toward a situation. God is never out of control.
Now, to be clear, there are plenty of passages in the Bible that talk about God having feelings. Again, this is anthropomorphic language. Passions or emotions don’t affect God the way emotions affect us. We can’t read our experience into God.
So whatever it means in such descriptive passages about God, we must keep the prescriptive passages in mind. For example, Malachi 3:6 that tells us God never changes, and Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we see a change in God’s mood, we need to ask how this change fits with passages that say God doesn’t change. How can we make sense of the two realities — passages that say God doesn’t change and passages that describe God changing from anger to delight?