In a world that is so filled with change, it is comforting to know that there is Someone Who never changes or fails: God.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:16-17).
Life can change quickly. In the first four years after graduating high school, I moved four times, held three jobs at three different colleges, got married, and had a child! In a world that is so filled with change, it is comforting to know that there is something in our life that never changes or fails. God told wayward Judah, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Unlike with men, we do not need to worry or wonder how God will react in a given situation, for He is always consistent in His dealings with man.
In God, there is neither “variation” nor “shadow of turning.” The expression “shadow of turning” offers us a vivid picture of God’s consistency. The Greek word rendered “turning” (trope) refers to the turning of heavenly bodies (from it we derive the word “tropical”). As the celestial spheres (Sun, Moon, planets, stars, and earth) turn and move in their respective orbits, their positions relative to one another change as well––a phenomenon described by the word “parallax,” the word translated “variation” in this text. As the celestial bodies move, we essentially look at a different (although predictable) arrangement of stars every night. While the planets abide in constant motion through space, there is no variableness with “the Father of lights.” The picture that James offers us is that, even when everything in the Universe is in a state of constant flux, one thing alone remains unchanged: God! Some suggest that this text speaks of the fact that, as the heavenly bodies move, they offer varying degrees of light to the earth (cf. Genesis 1:16), leaving us sometimes in near complete darkness. Although we might be removed at times from the direct rays of the Sun’s light, we are never out of contact with “the Father of lights.”
While God has made various requirements of man, He has never changed His expectations of His human creation. Some of God’s laws only apply to a select person or group (Romans 3:2). God has chosen different means of communicating His will to man (Hebrews 1:1-2). God’s laws are also subject to change at His bidding (Hebrews 7:12-14), although He always confirms that change in a most convincing fashion, as He did at Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19) and Pentecost (Acts 2). God’s laws have at times been different for different individuals living at different times, but God has always demanded the same thing from all people of all time—faithfulness (Romans 3:29-30; Habakkuk 2:4).
Although we live in a world that is constantly changing, it is good to know that there is at least one constant on which we can always rely: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God has always been consistent with man, but have you been consistent in your relationship with Him and your observance of His timeless precepts? You have always been able to depend on God, but can He depend on you?