“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah was arguably one of the greatest prophets ever – the book of Isaiah is certainly massive and the most oft-quoted-from prophet in the New Testament. While most commonly known as a Messianic Prophet for the numerous prophecies made regarding the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Isaiah also foretold the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem and urged them to repent from their sins. From Isaiah 54-66 the future glory for God‘s people is revealed, and in Isaiah 55 lies a call for all to ‘come’ to God, offering reasons why we should ‘come’ to God – namely God’s strength, might and omnipotence described in analogies. In Isaiah 55:8 we look at how God draws a clear line between our thoughts and his thoughts, our ways and his ways.
my thoughts are not your thoughts – We are created in the likeness of God [Gen 1:27], and there are some similarity between us in nature – just like how God thinks, we think too. But that’s just about the end of the likeness. The depth and quality of the content of our thoughts differ greatly. The thoughts of God are always holy, the thoughts of men often sinful. The thoughts of God are pure, the thoughts of men crooked. The thoughts of God stay faithful, but the thoughts of men are fickle and succumbs to temptations. God doesn’t think as we do.
neither are your ways my ways – Since God thinks differently from us, his intentions are different, and therefore, the execution of his intentions – his ways and methods, are certainly different from ours as well. God works in ways we sometimes cannot expect. We may pray, God relieve us of our misery for example, but God may choose a better way to go about doing it. We may expect Him to remove the source of our misery, but He may instead strengthen us up to overcome our misery; or He may change our hearts so that what was once miserable to us becomes our joy. These are but just very crude examples. I like to think of it this way – God has his own godly, unexpected ways, often far better than what we expect of Him.
Imagine if God‘s thoughts are our thoughts. Life would have been a lot easier if God thinks like we do. Because the world would be rather screwed up, and we wouldn’t ever earn salvation – not to say be given salvation. Because if God thinks as men thinks, then there wouldn’t be a salvation by grace. What about the converse? Imagine if our thoughts are God‘s thoughts. Life would have been a lot easier if we think like God does. Because the world would be perfect, and there wouldn’t be any point, would there? God‘s power won’t be made perfect through our weaknesses. Then again, while we humans are often so proud that we assume God to think like we do, it’s pretty much foolishness on our part, isn’t it?
Is Isaiah 55:8 referring to anything in particular? Some have pointed to the theme of the chapter and claimed that verse 8 was referring to God’s strength and why we should come to him. Others have pointed to the preceding verse – Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon [Isaiah 55:7] – and suggested that verse 8 is talking about pardon and forgiveness. I don’t know, but perhaps they both are true. Reading the verse in a general way, it wouldn’t matter then. In general, God‘s plans and purposes are far greater than ours, be it his thoughts on forgiveness or the ways in which his strength is shown. How can we see the picture that God sees, with our limited lifespan, our limited mentality, our limited experiences? What can we hope to understand from our 70 or 80 odd years of life, or perhaps a little more, if God willing? We don’t even understand the peace of God – just one of God‘s many qualities, and yet it’s said to transcend all understanding [Phil 4:7|Article].
Isaiah 55:8 is often referenced along with the next verse – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts [Isaiah 55:9] – which tells us clearly that God‘s ways and thoughts are above ours. We should form our plans in obedience to God‘s greater purposes and trust in his ways. Isaiah 55 is a call to the people to come to God – the God whose thoughts and ways are far greater than ours. Let us take heart, because our Lord, who thinks way better than we do and executes his plans far more expertly than we ever would – is with us.