Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
Isaiah 55:8 is situated in the context of Isiah 54:1-55:13, a section of Isaiah where he focuses on how the everlasting love of God will heal the people of God’s sorrow by His grace.
The infinite thoughts of the Lord are beyond humanity’s ability to comprehend them (Psalm 137:17). The Lord’s thoughts and ways do not make sense to man, but mankind can rest in the knowledge that He is good because everything He does is good (Psalm 13:6; 100:5).
The human heart is filled with questions about the Lord. When man wrestles with questions about the goodness of God or the justice of God, we are wrestling with these issues because the human heart was created for God, who placed eternity on man’s hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The key to wrestling with questions we may not know the answer to is found in Psalm 131:1-2.
For example, a toddler may not understand why his father or mother tells them not to do certain things while telling them to do others. The toddler loves his parents, and his parents love the toddler, so he trusts his father and mother. This is the attitude every Christian must-have, whether there are hard times or good times because His ways are beyond our comprehension.
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What Does Isaiah 55:8 Mean?
The Lord left humanity a clue about how to handle all of this in Isaiah 55:8 with the word “higher.” Got Questions explains that the Lord’s ways are not merely different from ours; they are higher, better, superior, and exist on a grander scale. After all, the Lord parted the Red Sea because this was His plan for Israel (Exodus 14:21; Psalm 66:6). The Lord made the sun stand still, so Joshua’s army could defeat their enemies (Joshua 10:12-13). The Lord sent an angel to get Peter out of jail (Acts 12:6-10) while allowing James to be executed (Acts 12:2).
The Lord has permitted faithful followers to endure difficulties, and could have delivered them if that was His sovereign plan (Hebrews 11:32-40). The key to making sense of these events is to understand that the Lord wants man to come to His Word, trusting that He is sovereign and learn from and about His revealed character.
From our earthly perspective, we see chaos and confusion seemingly reigning. Yet from heaven, the Lord reigns. In Isaiah 46:9-11, the Lord picks up on this focusing on His sovereign plan to use the Persian king Cyrus. We may not know why the Lord needs “a bird from the east” nor why he would use a man like Cyrus. But those who trust in the Lord can rest confidently that the Lord is at work. The Lord’s higher ways mean that everything happens in the providence of God and is woven into the fabric of His perfect plan for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
The Lord’s ways are higher than ours, so while we may see only a small portion of what He is doing at a given time, He sees the beginning from the end. Whenever bad or even good things happen in our lives, the Lord is in control (Genesis 50:20). The Lord's priorities are His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom (Psalm 97:6; Luke 8:1). When the glory of God and the kingdom of God are the priority of the people of God, they learn to rejoice that the ways of the Lord are higher than their ways (1 Corinthians 10:31).
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How Are God's Thoughts and Ways Different?
In Isaiah 55, the Lord cries out for Israel to return to Him and reminds them that He alone can supply what they need (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Lord, like a loving parent, loves, guides, protects, and provides for the people of God in ways the people of God can’t begin to understand. As an infinite being with infinite wisdom, the Lord knows all things. When the people of God bow to the knowledge of God revealed in Scripture, rather than demand that He do things their way, they recognize His greatness and their place before Him.
The Lord promises in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. The Lord sees the whole picture from the beginning to the end, but we only see a portion, so we must trust His revealed character in Scripture.
Admit the sorrow and pain of life; the Lord intends to use the difficulties of life to help the people of God grow in Christ (Romans 8:28). The Lord comforts the people of God in their troubles, so they can trust Him and comfort others as they go through difficult times (2 Corinthians 1:4). While we may not understand what’s happening in our lives during challenging times, the Lord does. As we trust Him during these times, He will direct our paths by guiding Christians to grow in Christ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
What Does Isaiah 55:8 Teach Us about God's Character?
The Lord is infinite, which means we are finite. Knowing our limitations is important, along with the fact that we don’t know everything. All of this means Christians should desire only the will of the Lord in every circumstance.
When rightly understood and embraced, divine sovereignty becomes very comforting. Understanding the frailties and finite nature of man should motivate the people of God to trust the purposes of the Lord. He is perfect in knowledge, love, and power in every situation of our lives. Christians should find rest in texts like Proverbs 19:21 and find confirmation that we may make many and varied plans, but these plans come to fruition in the sovereign timing of the Lord.
The Lord always acts and accomplishes all he intends for His people. Our thoughts are not His thoughts, and our ways are not His ways. The Lord will always accomplish His purposes, the ultimate goal of which is for His people to grow in Christ (Romans 8:28). When things appear to be at their darkest, every Christian can trust the Lord is working all things for their good and rest in the knowledge of His revealed character in Scripture.
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4 Things to Do When We Are in Danger of Thinking Ourselves Higher Than God
The Lord communicates through the Word of God. It is through Scripture that the people of God are sanctified (John 17:17). Scripture is a light for the path of the people of God (Psalm 119:105). The Lord also uses our circumstances to grow us (2 Corinthians 2:12) and godly mentors to provide biblical counsel to Christians (Proverbs 12:15). Additionally, the Lord uses the means of grace, such as prayer, the study of His Word, and the local church to help the people of God grow in His grace.
In James 1:5, Christians are taught to pray for wisdom. God has made known His revealed character of God, so praying Scripture means that we take the Word of God and pray it back to Him. Praying the Word helps the people of God to apply the Word of God to their lives.
2. Study Scripture
Justin Peters once said - if you want to hear God speak, open the Bible. But if you want to hear Him speak audibly, open the Bible and read it aloud.
Scripture is how people learn about the revealed character of God and how He has acted in history. While the people of God speak to God in prayer from the Word, the Lord speaks to His people through the Word. Every Christian must read the Scripture to know the way of the Lord and to grow in His grace. Every conviction, feeling, or thought must be tested with Scripture. If it is not in the Bible, it must be rejected.
3. Follow the Holy Spirit’s Leading
Got Questions explains that the Holy Spirit is God with emotions, a mind, and will. The Holy Spirit is always with the people of God (Psalm 139:7-8), and His purposes including interceding for them (Romans 8:26-27) and giving gifts to them to benefit the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
The Holy Spirit fills the people of God (Ephesians 5;18) and produces fruit in the lives of the people of God (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit will never lead the people of God to satisfy the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16) but always towards sanctification (1 Peter 1:2). Every Christian should be diligent in studying Scripture, for that is how the Lord has revealed Himself. The Holy Spirit will not lead the people of God beyond the Scripture but into the truth of Scripture.
4. Get Godly Guidance
Every Christian needs guidance from godly Christian family members, friends, or pastor(s) (Proverbs 15:22). Our pastors help to shepherd us (Hebrews 13:17) and will give an account for how well they do their job to the Lord.
While seeking guidance from others is good, we should open our Bible and study it. The more we study Scripture, the less we have to worry about falling prey to false teaching. Others may speak, but when we are saturated in Scripture and studying it, we can be confident the Lord will help us grow in grace. John 10:4 tells us that the Lord is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.
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How Should We Pursue Humility?
Every sinner must acknowledge their need of Christ and come in humility to Him. As we do, we recognize we come to Christ in need of Him as beggars in need of the salvation he alone can offer to us. Only then will we come understanding we lack merit and the ability to save ourselves. Then the Lord provides grace and mercy to sinners, and they accept it in humble gratitude and commit their lives to service to Him.
Next, we die to ourselves and live as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), never forgetting "He has exchanged our worthlessness for His infinite worth, our sin for His righteousness" (Today's Blessings). The life Paul describes in Galatians 2:20 is one of faith in the Son of God who loved them and gave Himself for them. This is true and biblical humility, and the perfect example of it is the sinless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Biblical humility is necessary for salvation and usefulness in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 20:26-27). The Lord Jesus came not to be served but to serve. The people of God should commit themselves to serving the Lord. Jesus humbled Himself as a servant (John 13:1-16) even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). In His humility, the Lord was always obedient to the Father. The humble Christian should always be willing to set aside selfishness and submit in obedience to the Lord. True humility produces contentment, godliness, and security.
Humble Us, Lord
The Lord has promised to give grace to the humble but opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). Every Christian must confess and put away pride, for if we exalt ourselves, we place ourselves in opposition to the Lord God. In His grace and for our good, the Lord humbles prideful Christians. When we humble ourselves, the Lord gives Christians more grace and exalts them (Luke 14:11).
Along with the Lord Jesus, Paul is an example of following Jesus in humility. Despite great gifts and biblical knowledge, Paul says of himself according to 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Corinthians 15:9 that he is the “least of the apostles” and the “chief of sinners.” The truly humble like Paul glory in the grace of God and not in self-righteousness (Philippians 3:3-9).
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Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon.