How can a sovereign God “regret”? We see God look down on the earth in Genesis 6:6-7 and say He’s “sorry” He made man on earth. Also, in 1 Samuel 15:11, God tells Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king.” How can God, who knows all things, regret, since that indicates that He’s just as incapable of honest mistakes as the next person and that would be inconsistent with what we know about Him?
Before we answer this question, we need to be aware of a few facts about God.
Keeping these truths in mind, let us analyse what happened in Genesis 6 and 1 Samuel 15. God knew the extent of man’s wickedness beforehand and the same went for Saul’s disobedience as well. He had already planned to destroy the world through a flood during Noah’s days and restart the presence of humankind through Noah’s family, thereby fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.
God, who is omniscient, is not surprised by man’s actions. He knows everything that will happen
He also planned to restart the kingship that He envisioned by giving Israel a king (David), a man after His own heart. In that way, He was fulfilling what He had prophesied about Judah through Jacob in Genesis 49:10. This would eventually culminate in the arrival of the Davidic King who would be the long-awaited Messiah.
So, the ‘regret’ on God’s part is not something that happened because He didn’t know how His choices would turn out. Rather, His reaction is more of genuine grief that man is not acting as God originally envisioned him to be. He is deeply disappointed by the constant wickedness of man and this is what we see when Saul doesn’t meet the standard of leadership that God expects of him.
What this tells us is that God, despite knowing everything from start to finish, does not withhold His reactions. He chooses to let man know His displeasure of sin. The reason for His grief and ‘regret’ being revealed is two-fold:
May God enable us to see how much grief our sins bring Him, even though He knows them from beginning to the end, and let us draw near with a repentant heart to please Him in all our ways.
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.