What’s going on in Isaiah 55? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Many times if you see Christians talking about ideas they have, they will often say that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Any mystery can be appealed to by going to this passage. Unfortunately, if we follow it to that conclusion, we can often get into some really contradictory messages.
Let’s look at the passage in question in Isaiah 55:8-9.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Okay. Seems straightforward enough. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. Yet how far does that go? I have a thought that Jesus is Lord. Is that not what God thinks? I have a thought that 2 + 2 = 4 and that red is a primary color and that English is the language I speak. Does God not think those things?
You see, if we go this route, we can end up with a bunch of nonsense. It’s the idea that if we think something, then automatically God is not thinking it. Now of course, how God thinks something is radically different from how I think it and there are great differences between us, but when it comes to truth, we can think God’s thoughts after Him. It’s what we’re to strive to do.
It’s been said before that if you misunderstand a verse, not only do you misunderstand it, but you also do not get the true understanding. If this is the case, then the true understanding of this could be something great that we’re missing. Indeed, it really is. This passage is a powerful message of forgiveness and we have missed it.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
The passage starts with God as it were wooing His people. he wants them to come to Him. He’s offering His blessings to them regardless of their income level or what they can bring to Him. Yet there is always some hesitancy, and isn’t that often the case? Many people today can be hesitant to come to God because of fear of being judged.
So the passage goes on.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
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.”
This immediately precedes the idea of my thoughts are not your thoughts or my ways your ways. The question to ask in exegesis is “What is the passage talking about?” It’s talking about God wanting the people to return to Him. Many of them will be thinking “God will judge us. God will destroy us. God will not have mercy on us.” Why would they think that? Because that’s the way life is for them. God is someone to be scared of. God is a judge. God will destroy them and punish them. In essence, God is a big man.
God then says His ways are not their ways and His thoughts are not theirs. Their thoughts are like that, but God’s ways are to forgive and show love and mercy. It’s not to judge.
Do you see what has happened? We’ve taken a passage about love and mercy and now it has been made that most people do not see the love and mercy in it and the way of forgiveness. If anything, we’ve made God virtually unknowable by using this passage. After all, if His thoughts are not mine, then anything I think about God by definition cannot be true nor can anything you think of Him. That would be absurd and self-contradictory. After all, “None of my thoughts about God are true” is itself a thought about God. If none of them can be true then that thought can’t be true and well, it gets confusing from there if you try to keep following it.
Please be watchful of Biblical texts and how they are used. Try to approach the text and see what is going on in the larger context. You might miss a blessing.