The Best News Ever!

I love it when I read a very familiar scripture and discover something new about it. Also, context is everything!!! Really. There are verses that are inspiring by themselves, but it’s amazing — and a little scary — how often a verse by itself gets misunderstood because the context around it is entirely ignored.

One of these verses, for me personally, has been Isaiah 55:8-9. It reads:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This verse is often used to respond to the hurt or confusion that can come from not understanding what God is doing in someone’s life. Something unpleasant or uncomfortable happens in a believer’s life and it’s said, “Well, God’s ways aren’t our ways, so we don’t always understand what He’s doing. His ways are higher than our ways, so what He’s doing must be better than what we wish would happen instead.” Sometimes it can come off as a kind of a shrug and “Oh well” in the face of someone’s pain.

It’s not that the above statement is false, because it isn’t. God’s wisdom and design IS beyond our capacity for understanding. But the above statement is not an accurate interpretation of Isaiah 55:8-9; it’s incomplete. There’s more to the story, and as is often the case, it’s the best part of the story!

Here is the whole chapter:

“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you without money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.
Since I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples,
so you will summon a nation you do not know,
and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the Lord your God,
even the Holy One of Israel,
has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call to Him while He is near.
Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up,
and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up;
it will make a name for Yahweh
as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.

Did you see what I saw? Just before He explains that His ways are above our ways, what does He say?

Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

He will freely forgive any ‘wicked one’ or ‘sinful one’ who abandons his way and returns to the Lord!

The reason He explains, in the very next paragraph, that His ways are higher than our ways is because we would not behave this way toward anyone who was wicked toward us! Would I? If someone murdered my son, would I ‘freely forgive’? Most definitely not. Even as followers of Christ, it takes a tremendous act of surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit before we can forgive something like that! And this is why God is telling us His ways are higher.

He’s not saying, “Now, now, I know better than you so just stop your complaining and deal with it.”

He’s not saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, so don’t even bother trying to figure them out.” *

He’s not saying, “Your pain is invalid because I know what I’m doing and if you knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t hurt.” **

This passage is not intended to be a slap in the face for questioning the works of God’s hand in our lives. This passage is comfort and reassurance. “You would not freely forgive the kind of atrocities that I forgive, but that is because My ways are higher than yours; my thoughts are kinder and more compassionate; long-suffering and peace-making.”

What I learn about God when I read this chapter, is that He is compassionate and tender toward our lack of understanding. Our pain is valid and it hurts Him too; His response to it is, “I know this hurts; I know this isn’t the way you would do things, but the way I’m doing it is even better — please trust Me because you will see…soon you will see…It is very good.” In short, we benefit from the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts!

God tells us that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things that God has prepared for those who love Him — they are more wonderful than the most wonderful thing I could imagine. (Eek! That makes me so giddy!!!)

And if you’re not one who loves Him yet, the whole of Isaiah 55 is for YOU. So read it again. The promises at the end are for anyone who puts their trust in God’s saving power and chooses to love Him. See, it really is good news. :) The best, actually.

 

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*There’s scripture that actually says the opposite! If we seek Him, we will find Him; He reveals great mysteries and hidden truths through His Spirit inside us! And more!

**People really think this! But don’t you know that Jesus knew FULL WELL what was happening on the cross, why it was necessary, and it STILL hurt like crazy??

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