“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
This is one of those passages that we often misunderstand. It’s one of those passages that we take completely out of context and apply whenever it’s convenient.
It’s similar to the famous, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), which apparently can be used in any situation from little Johnny winning his basketball game, to a pastor getting up to preach without any study or preparation. The problem comes when little Johnny loses, or the pastor’s message goes horribly. Did Christ not give them strength? What happened? What happened was a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Scriptures.
The point is this: so often we read the Bible like it is a book filled with little pithy statements that we can kidnap, turn around, and then throw them at whatever situations that come our way. Here’s the problem: reading like that does murder to the meaning of the words of God. The Bible was written, by the author’s through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:20-21), to be read like any other book. Would we ever pick up a novel off the shelf and just read one sentence and hope to correctly understand that sentence? Of course not. So lets decide right now to stop doing that with the Holy Scriptures. We need to read bigger chunks to understand what each particular author is trying to communicate. Do you want to understand Philippians 4:13? Read Philippians 4, better yet, sit down and read the entire book of Philippians. It will probably take about 15 minutes, and I guarantee it will be 15 minutes well spent.
Like I said at the beginning, Isaiah 55:8-9 is one of these passages we like to take out of context. I always did. I have always heard it used to address questions like:
Q: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
A: “Well, we don’t know but, His thoughts are higher than ours…”
Q: “Why does God let natural disasters happen?”
A: “Well, we don’t really know but, His thoughts are higher than ours…”
Now don’t get me wrong, these things are true, but they are not the problem in Isaiah 55. Within the context of Isaiah 55, there is a very specific truth that is confusing and causes people to question God’s goodness. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not natural disasters, and its not the reality of suffering. Are you ready? Here it is: God forgives. That’s the truth that is so astounding and so confusing that it makes people question God. He forgives. Not only that, He forgives “abundantly.” Those who will return to the Lord will receive compassion, not wrath. In other words, the question that Isaiah is answering is this: If God is good, how can he just let sinful people off the hook like that? (Turn to Romans 3:21-26 for the answer). Let’s take a look at the passage in context to see this:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Is. 55:6-9
This is the God we serve. A God who has every right to condemn us because of our rebellion and sin, but instead forgives out of His abundant mercy and love. A God who not only pours forth this mercy and love on us, but gives us joy and peace (55:12).
So, Christian, when you are struggling with the thought, “How could God forgive me?” Know this, the Bible asks the same question, and the answer is that “His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways.” In other words, He does not think like we do, nor act like we do. I for one, am infinitely grateful to Him for that. Will you rest in that truth with me today?