The Ways of the Lord | Part 4: Our Thoughts or God’s Thoughts

Most of the time, the verse in Isaiah 55:8–9 are quoted out of context:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says 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.

This is often quoted to show that some circumstance that puzzles us is no puzzle to God. His ways are higher than our ways. That, of course, is wonderfully true. But it misses the point of this text.

Why does verse 8 talk about the thoughts and ways of God? Because verse 7 talked about the thoughts and ways of evil men. Unless we relate the thoughts and ways of God in verse 8 with the thoughts and ways of God in verse 7, we will miss the sense of the passage and what God wants us to hear.

Listen to the flow. Verse 7: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord for mercy …” Why? Verse 8: Because God’s thoughts and God’s ways are not wicked and not unrighteous. In fact, they are as far above our evil thoughts and our evil ways as the heaven is above the earth.

The point of verses 8 and 9 is to stress the tremendous need that we have of seeking God. Inasmuch as there is a vast span between the earth and space, so is there a vast span between our wicked ways and His good ways … our unrighteous thoughts and His perfect thoughts. Only when we seek the Lord can we begin to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and the mind of the Spirit (Romans 8:6). (Piper)

So the first reason we should want to seek the Lord is that until we do, we don’t think like God and we don’t act like God. In fact, our mind and his mind are as different and as far apart as heaven and earth.

You also should want to seek the Lord because when you do, what you find is not punishment but pardon (verse 7).

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God wants people with wicked ways to come to him. He wants people with unrighteous thoughts to come to him. Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. It is not the healthy who have need of a physician but the sick. The thought that you are too bad to come to God is a thought straight out of hell.

God’s thoughts are higher. And one of those thoughts is to have mercy on bad people who seek him.

And don’t miss the emphasis in that word “abundantly” in verse 7. God wants us to know that this is what he loves to do most. His heart overflows to pardon. He rejoices to pardon. He delights in it! He loves to show mercy. He rejoices to pardon. And therefore he does it abundantly, profusely, deeply.

Paul says that the love of Christ is so deep and high and long and wide that it surpasses knowledge. And this truth is also a “higher truth” and a “higher way” than our own. We simply can’t fathom this degree of compassion and pardon in God, and yet it is true.

 

NOTE: This sermon series coincides with our church-wide study of Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund.

 

Rob Tims

Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.