We come across a very unusual statement in Genesis 6:6. We are told that God “repented” that He had made man. This brings us to ask the question: Does God change His mind? Why would a God Who is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning need to change His mind about anything? Are we really being told here that God regretted His decision to make mankind or is something else going on?
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
We have a dynamic that is repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament wherein God “repents” or “changes His mind” about something. Normally, this change of mind has to do with a judgment that God has pronounced and then withholds (e.g., Exodus 32:10, 14). Invariably, there is a change of mind or repenting on the part of man that is followed by a change of mind or repenting on God’s part. In the example from Exodus 32, God had declared to Moses that He intended to wipe out the entire nation of Israel for their plummet into idolatry and rebellion and begin again with the line of Moses (like He did here in Genesis with Noah). Moses interceded on behalf of the people, causing God to change His mind.
The key thing to see when God “repents” is that it is always the result of the actions of man. God, in His infinite wisdom, does not regret the decisions that He has made, but in His infinite holiness is compelled to change the way that He deals with man based on man’s actions. It was not God’s intention when He created man that it would one day become necessary for Him to blot out all but eight people, but the severity and totality of man’s sinfulness required that He do so. Mankind had become incorrigible to the uttermost, wholly beyond repentance himself. Man would not change his mind about sin, so God was compelled to change His mind about man.
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
Without a doubt, God knows the choices that man will make and how He will respond accordingly. God is not surprised by anything that man does, but He is obliged by His own holy nature to adjust how He deals with man based upon man’s obedience (or disobedience) to Him. God does not truly “change His mind”, but He does change His interactions with man in response to the changes in man’s behavior.
God repented and changed His dealings with mankind in the days of Noah because of the extreme depravity that had completely filled the entire world. It is simply not possible for a righteous and holy God to allow sin to remain unrequited indefinitely. God will judge sin. God strove with man that man would repent and change the way that he dealt with God (Genesis 6:3). Since man did not, God changed the way that He dealt with man.
We have today the indescribable privilege of choosing how our own sin shall be judged(and it certainly will be judged). If we repent of it and come to Christ that the sin within us is “judged” and ultimately destroyed, we will live. If we remain unrepentant, if we refuse to change our mind about our sin, God will still judge the sin within us – but we will perish with it.