That is, does God make decisions and then change his mind? Does he regret his decisions?
Reading this morning in 1 Samuel 15, I came to this verse: Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” (10–11)
God had commanded King Saul to carry out a certain task. Saul had not done so. At that point God expresses regret on his decision to make Saul king.
Later in the chapter Samuel states that God does not lie or change his mind (v. 29). Well that seems confusing. Which is it?
The key to understanding this is a little more digging. The Hebrew word in both verse 10 (regret)and verse 29 (change His mind) is the same. In Hebrew it is וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם (nacham), and at it’s root means “to be sorry.” It is translated variously in the OT but really has a sense of passion or feeling.
In Genesis 6:6 we see the same Hebrew word, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So the Lord was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Here again the sense of genuine sorrow.
God does not change. Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17 (among others) assure us of this. God is fully dependable. Thankfully we can trust him to be a 100% constant in our lives.
But God does have compassion and can be grieved. There is a sense in which we can actually cause grief for God.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:30
Our sin grieves God. Let us not be flippant about our sin. Let US grieve over it and be sorry and repent. God loves his people and forgives. Run to the One who has great compassion for his people. He will restore the joy of our salvation.