The Beauty of Humility Found in the Verse "My Ways Are Not Your Ways"
God literally says, “My ways are not your ways” in Isaiah 55:8. But what does that imply? Why does this matter? To answer this, we must understand how “my ways are not your ways” helps us trust God, keeps us humble, and applies to our everyday lives.
Before we reach that point, we must understand the context of Isaiah 55:8 (audience and meaning).
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Who Was the Audience When God Said “My Ways Are Not Your Ways”?
The prophet Isaiah wrote the book of Isaiah, where the “my ways are not your ways” passage is located.
This passage was written to the people of Judah (who were constantly rebelling against God) during the Babylonian exile period. Judah was the southern kingdom created when Israel split into two kingdoms during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.
Both kingdoms underwent a series of sinful leaders, with God warning them about judgment if they didn’t repent. Due to the sins of the people of Judah, God did allow Babylon to invade their capital city, Jerusalem, and exile them from their land. They were sent to other countries and didn’t return for several generations (which is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah and other places).
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What Does Isaiah Invite People to Do With “My Ways Are Not Your Ways”?
In Isaiah 55, Isaiah invites the Judeans to turn to God because he is merciful. Furthermore, he tells them to hold on to hope that God will soon save them. This is seen in verses 7, and 12-13.
Verse 7 states, “Evil people should stop living evil lives. They should stop thinking bad thoughts. They should come to the Lord again, and he will comfort them. They should come to our God because he will freely forgive them.” Here Isaiah is saying that it’s not too late. The Judeans can still come to God. He has not abandoned them. Isaiah tells the Judeans to stop living their evil lives, stop thinking bad thoughts, and come to God again. Isaiah says that God will comfort them despite their sin. Isaiah says that the Judeans should come to God because God will freely forgive their sins.
Verses 12-13 state:
“So you will go out from there with joy. You will be led out in peace. When you come to the mountains and hills, they will begin singing. All the trees in the fields will clap their hands. Large cypress trees will grow where there were thornbushes. Myrtle trees will grow where there were weeds. All this will happen to make the Lord known, to be a permanent reminder of his goodness and power.”
Here God is saying that the people of Judah will go out from exile with joy and peace. The land itself that they will go to will be happy. There will be growth and healing.
Knowing this, the message of Isaiah 55 is powerful. Despite their constant and consistent sins and rebellion against God in their past, God would still renew and save the Judeans. They were punished for their sins but not completely abandoned. God was gracious to forgive. His ways, unlike our natural ways, are love and mercy.
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How Does “My Ways Are Not Your Ways” Help Us Trust God?
We can trust God because his ways are not ours. God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). God is perfect, holy, and sinless (1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). In contrast, we are flawed and sinful (Romans 3:23, Mark 7:20-23, Isaiah 64:6, 1 John 1:8). We are unfair while God is fair (Ezekiel 18:25, 29). The Israelites and Judeans sinned against God again and again (much like us). We would likely give only give other people a second chance at best if they sinned against us. Instead, God gave them chances to repent again and again. God’s ways are better than ours.
“‘He never sinned, and he never told a lie.’ People insulted him, but he did not insult them back. He suffered, but he did not threaten anyone. No, he let God take care of him. God is the one who judges rightly. Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross. He did this so that we would stop living for sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you were healed.”
Jesus never sinned. He never lied. Although he suffered and was insulted, he never insulted anyone back or threatened them. Instead, Jesus trusted God. Jesus submitted to his Father (also seen in Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, and Matthew 26:39 and 42). Jesus gave his own life for us, so we would stop living for our ways and live instead for God’s ways. These are God’s ways.
Our ways are the exact opposite. We sin all the time. We lie. When we suffer and are insulted, we insult back and threaten. We follow our way, trusting only ourselves. We are prideful and selfish, unable to imagine willingly taking blame and punishment for someone else’s mistakes. We want to take matters into our own hands. We want to take revenge.
God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways are sinless, forgiving, merciful, gracious, loving, humble, and truthful. Because of this, God’s ways not being our ways helps us trust God.
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How Does “My Ways Are Not Your Ways” Keep Us Humble?
We are kept humble by the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. The heavens (the sky or the larger universe) are much greater than the earth itself, which is how God compares his ways to ours (Isaiah 55:9). Our ways are much lower than God’s, so we cannot boast about our ways. God is fair while we are unfair (Ezekiel 18:25-29). We may think we are fair, but we are unfair compared to God.
Humans are sinful (Romans 3:23, Mark 7:20-23, Isaiah 64:6, 1 John 1:8). Even our good works are called dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). Meanwhile, God is good. He has divine greatness (Romans 3:23). God always has been and always will be sinless (1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). In contrast, our sin means we are unacceptable to God (Mark 7:23). Our sinful selves are against God, and God is against our sinful selves (Galatians 5:17). His ways are not our ways.
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How Can We Apply “My Ways Are Not Your Ways” to Our Lives Every Day?
Knowing that God’s ways are better than ours, we should humble ourselves. God’s ways are good. Our ways are bad. His ways are better than our ways. Because of this, we must humble ourselves and submit to him.
We can worship God through our humility and submission to him. We can also worship him by stating the truths of his Word. We can say that his ways are higher than ours. We can say that he is fair. We can say that his ways are simply beyond what we can do (1 Peter 2:22-24). We can say that he has divine greatness (Romans 3:23) and always has been, and always will be, blameless (1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). Because God’s ways are fair, holy (and therefore trustworthy), we can trust God and turn our devotion to him into a form of worship.
We can also honestly contrast his holy ways with our sinful ways by confessing to him that our ways have been unfair and sinful (Ezekiel 18:25, Romans 3:23, Mark 7:20-23, Isaiah 64:6, 1 John 1:8). We can confess that we cannot even understand his ways (Hebrews 3:10). We can be honest and confess to God that our ways have been against him (Galatians 5:17).
We can thank God for his ways not being ours. We can thank God for his holiness, for his ways being higher than ours.
We also can follow Jesus’ example by asking God for his ways to be done, not ours: “But do what you want, not what I want,’” (Luke 22:42, Mark 14:36, Matthew 26:39-42). If even Jesus submitted to God by asking for God’s ways to be done, we should, too. We can pray, “Your will, your way. Let not my ways be done, but yours, God.” We can also ask God to further sanctify us by letting our ways align with his.
Lastly, we can rest in the fact that the one whose ways are higher than ours loves us and is fair, and we can trust him. We often get wrapped up in our worries. This is our natural, human way.
But this is not God’s way. God’s way is peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16), so we should rest in the peace he can give us. We can also rest in that even when our ways go against his, God will comfort and freely forgive us if we come to him (Isaiah 55:7).
Jared Salomon is a writer and editor, working on a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. He is a copyeditor for The Echo. He writes Christian fiction, realistic fiction, and fantasy. In his free time, Jared enjoys hanging out with his friends and playing sports (especially tennis).