Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
“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.
This verse is referenced and quoted quite often … and with good reason. Isaiah helps us have a healthy and appropriate perspective about God. In short, He is God and we are not. He created us … and not the other way around. He is the potter and we are the clay … as Isaiah used this metaphor to bring this truth to light:
Isaiah 29:15-16 (ESV)
15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of Him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Isaiah 64:7-9 (NIV)
7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. 8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.
So with this perspective in mind, we usually come to the realization that God is ultimately beyond our comprehension. He is the mystery that each human soul wrestles to attain. As King Solomon wrote: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) So we do not know all the hidden things of God … the mysteries of His wisdom and counsel … nor should we be able to comprehend all His knowledge. It is too great for human minds. As Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29) So God determines what He will reveal to us, but note that the glimpse He gives us “belongs to us and to our children forever.” That is profound for us to contemplate. And consider that God HAS revealed many things to us … mysteries as Paul described them … and He appoints the times and circumstances of His revelations. But all of this is for one purpose: “that we may be obedient to His Word … His laws and decrees.” God has revealed “enough” of Himself to us in order for us to know Him, to fear Him, and to keep His commandments. Consider this example:
Ephesians 3:1-14 (ESV)
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. 7 Of this Gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
What we find here is that the mystery of Christ – though written in the Old Testament Scriptures – had not been revealed (unveiled) until Jesus actually appeared on the earth to fulfill all that had been written and prophesied about Him. Even then, Jesus came to His own (the people of Israel), and yet, they rejected Him. As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own people, and His own people did not receive Him.But as many as did received Him, to them He gave the right (authority) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:10-12) To me, this is an illustration of how people can fail to connect with the thoughts and ways of God. The Messiah did not come as the Jewish authorities had expected nor did they entertain what God had declared through the Prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) Yes, that means God had always purposed from the foundation of the world for everyone who believes in Him (Jews and Gentiles alike) to receive salvation and eternal life.
God declared, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are your ways my ways.” And yet, I see through the Scriptures that God HAS intentionally revealed Himself through His Word and through His Son. What the religious leaders could not comprehend … or perhaps refused to entertain because their own thoughts and their own ways were seen as superior … was not the absence of revelation or light that God had made available to them. It could have been the hardness of their hearts. As Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 3:14-16 (NIV)
14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
So my point is that when we come to the place that we just do not understand what God is doing or how He is doing it or why He is doing it, we need to just trust what we do know … what He has already revealed to us. When we do not understand the affliction of a chronic disease in our bodies … we do know that God loves us with an everlasting love. I know that seems incompatible – suffering and love – but God has revealed both human experiences in His Son. We know that suffering has a role in teaching us obedience (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) … which God in His love for us orchestrates for our good. O, His thoughts and His ways are higher! God knows the ultimate end … the ultimate goal … and He is determined to get us there for His own glory. As Paul wrote, and I often quote, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I am convinced that God provides us what we need … when we need it … to uphold us and sustain us even when we do not understand what He is doing in the moment. As King David affirmed: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:11-12) Yes, God knows how to provide us with the knowledge and wisdom that we need for life. For we have been advised: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) And God knows how to bless us with every spiritual blessing. (Cf. Ephesians 1:3) Yes, He knows what is best for each of us and He does not withhold it. Even spiritual discipline through physical distress can refine our faith in ways we could not imagine for our good. I think that is why Jesus taught us to ask, seek, and knock when approaching Father God in prayer:
Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)
1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” 5 And He said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Oh, I think there is a lesson here. When we do not understand the thoughts and ways of God, we need to ask for wisdom and discernment and it shall be given. We need to seek what has been revealed to us and we shall find it. We need to knock on the door of mystery and it will be opened to us. But as Jesus points out in His parable above, we need to be persistent in our prayers! We have been created by a God who deeply cares for us and loves us with an everlasting love! As Paul wrote: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) What does ALL things mean? Does it not include wisdom, discernment, grace, knowledge, prophecies, healings, miracles, forgiveness, and so forth? Does it not mean the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit? Are these not meant for our good?
So what can we conclude? Well, there is a vast depth of knowledge of God that will always be far too great for us. It will most likely always be incomprehensible unless God ever decides to reveal the depths of those mysteries and hidden knowledge. The thoughts and ways of God manifested in creation through His eternal power are just higher! I encourage you to read Job Chapters 38-42, and you will receive a great “education” on why God is God and why human beings are not. It brings appropriate rationale to our limited, finite minds and provides the context for why it is reasonable for us to embrace and worship such a Being as God.
But on the other hand, there is the work of God within our individual hearts and lives that draws us to Him … that brings us to faith … that tests our faith … that brings us into an abiding relationship with Him. I believe the work of God within us can be known and understood. I believe God is willing to reveal those aspects of His thoughts and ways to us if we are diligent to ask, seek, and knock. I believe such inner revelation would be consistent with His love for us. Yet we need to be willing to accept that even His silence in response to a question might actually be for own good. We need to embrace that His decision to withhold disclosure of His thoughts or ways is better than our perceived need to know them. That situation could be a “test” God uses to build our faith and trust in Him….
Well those are some reflections on this verse today. I hope it has been useful and somehow draws you closer to God in your prayer time when you are looking for answers to things about God you do not understand. When you are frustrated with God and prayers appear to go unanswered; rather than looking for answers that do not come to you … go back and look at all the truth that God has already revealed to you through His Word and His Son. Take hold of His promises to never leave you nor forsake you. Let your heart embrace His love and grace and peace that you know He has for you. It could be that those might just be the answers you were looking for all along….