“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…my ways [are] higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9 NIV)
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you may have heard these verses quoted in numerous circumstances.
Maybe you lost a loved one, had a serious illness, or things didn’t work out as planned, and as you were struggling to know why, someone has come along and quoted them.
After all, how can we know God’s thoughts and ways when they are so far above our own?
The trouble with this approach is that it lifts these verses out of their context, which is about the overwhelming love and mercy of God that flows to all people.
The chapter begins with the invitation:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (v.1). It then speaks of the
‘everlasting covenant’ of
‘faithful love’ that God will make with David
(v.3) and goes on to show how inclusive his love is as David is a
‘witness to the peoples’ (v.4) and
‘will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the LORD your God’. (v.5)
In these verses God is chastising His people for their myopic understanding of His mercy and his lovingkindness. They were convinced that Yahweh belonged only to them and that non-Israelites were excluded from the promises of God.
But God is challenging their thinking by declaring:
‘Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.’ (v.7)
It is then we are told
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.”
This is not a statement about how we can’t understand God’s mysterious thoughts because they are so high above our ability to grasp. Rather this is a statement about God’s outrageous love and mercy being beyond human thoughts and ways.
What the Israelites can’t fathom is how vast and inclusive God’s mercy is.
What they cannot comprehend is how freely God pardons!
Chapter 56 continues this theme:
Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” (v.3) God promises to give faithful foreigners an
‘everlasting name that will endure forever.’ (v.5) He will bring these foreigners to His holy mountain and give them joy in His house of prayer,
‘for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ (v.7).
This passage is talking about how inclusive God’s mercy is.
God’s wonderful love is so much higher than our ways; can we fathom it?
Father, thank you that you are love; help us to grasp just how inclusive and everlasting your love is.
Have a good week flowing in God’s love.