Calvary Baptist Church Homer, Louisiana

Pastor's Pen

His Ways Are Higher than Our Ways
“A Word of Encouragement, Not Fatalism”

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

Who hasn’t heard this verse?  We, most of us anyway, have heard and even used these verses to declare that what is happening to and/or around us is beyond our understanding and that we should just “grin and bear it.”  However, when we consider and interpret these words in context, we find that these verses are actually words of great encouragement and comfort rather than words that promote a sense of fatalism.  As a matter of point, these verses do not speak of the “mysterious ways” of God.  They actually reveal something about God that He desires us to know.  In other words, there is no “mystery” in these verses.  The problem is that these verses have been interpreted out of context.

Before proceeding any further, I encourage you to stop here and read all of Isaiah 55.  It is only thirteen verses.  Do that now and then continue.

Let’s recap what you just read.  Isaiah 55 starts with the Lord inviting the wayward people of Israel to return to Him.  This is spoken through the prophet Isaiah and before the Jewish exile to Babylon.  The people of Israel are heading toward destruction, God’s discipline.  This is God’s call for His people to repent. 

(55:1-2): God promises to satisfy their hunger and thirst, even though they are poor and have nothing to offer God in payment.  If they return (repent), they will be renewed and amply provided for.

(55:3-5): God promises to renew Israel’s honored position among the nations in fulfillment of His covenant with David.  If they return (repent), they will be renewed and amply protected.

(55:6-7): God calls the wicked to forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts, and to do so before it is too late.  If they repent and return to the Lord, God will “have mercy on them” and “freely pardon.”

We’ve read and heard 55:8-9.  However, 55:10-11 gives great insight into how to interpret and apply 55:8-9.  55:10-11 speaks on the trustworthiness of God’s word, the faithfulness of God to do what He says He will do.  He likens His faithfulness and trustworthiness to snow and rain that falls from the sky and doesn’t go back up.  It continues to fall until it serves the purpose for which it fell.  The same is true of God’s word (promises).  His promises can be trusted just as one would trust that a falling raindrop will “water the earth.”

What does this have to do with 55:8-9?  In these verses, God is comparing His ways and His thoughts to that of Israel’s.  Israel had committed to follow God; however, they had failed to live out that commitment.  Unlike Israel, God had promised to provide for and protect Israel as long as they follow Him.  He was reminding them of that covenantal promise, and assuring them that they could trust His faithfulness.  He would not abandon or forsake them, but would receive and renew them if they would repent and return to Him as their Lord.

So, rather than being a passage of Scripture that tells us to give up on trying to figure out God and what He is doing, 55:8-9 reminds us that God is reliable.  He is encouraging us to trust His promises; that even though others have forsaken you, God will not.  Remembering this truth is far more comforting than giving in to “fatalism.”

I am not saying that there aren’t times when we should cast ourselves on God, acknowledging that we cannot fully grasp His infinite wisdom.  However, God has revealed much about Himself and His ways/thoughts to give us courage, strengthen our faith, and provide comfort.  Isaiah 55:8-9 is one passage that grants us such a revelation.