VERSE OF THE DAY
Isaiah 55:8-9 (New Living Translation)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like yours. Your ways are not like mine. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. Nothing measures up to me who I am or how I think. I am amazing. The heights of my thinking have out measured everything.
What Does Isaiah 55:8 Mean? ►
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
Too often we try to second-guess God and venture to predict or anticipate what He is doing or what He we imagine He ought to be doing. Too frequently we create in our minds an unreal God, made in our own image and likeness, instead of realising that we are made in His image and likeness and that He is the eternal God and universal Creator, whose works and ways are beyond our limited comprehension – while we are temporal creatures, fallen men – a dying race who were at enmity with Him.
Man is indeed unique in God’s entire creation and although we are made in His image and likeness we sinned – and by right, our entire race should have been eternally separated from God. But in His amazing grace He sent His Son to become sin for us so that by believing in Him, we might be forgiven and made the righteousness of God in Him.
Oh, man have been blessed beyond compare because of the gracious pardon that we have received and the eternal Salvation that we have been given, by grace through faith in Him – and the benefits that we enjoy are beyond our wildest imaginings – for God ways are so different from our own.
How vitally important therefore, it is to remember Who God is and who we are. It is imperative to understand that God is omniscient and is perfect in all He plans – and yet too often we try to second-guess God and venture to predict or anticipate what He is doing or even try to dictate to Him what we think He ought to be doing, and so He reminds us that in every area of life, My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.
Let us in humility rest in the knowledge that He knows best, and that His plans and purposes are perfect. And although our hopes may be disappointed, our plans may fail and our expectation may be frustrated, God has a higher purpose to which He is working, and as His children, we are a part of His eternal plan. Let us never forget that His thoughts and plans and ways and works are all working together for good – to those that are the called according to His purpose.
Isaiah 55:8-9 Commentary
5 years ago
Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This verses are often used as a prooftext of God’s incomprehensibility. Wayne Grudem writes:
Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.
These verses allow us to take our understanding of the incomprehensibility of God one step further. It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully. Other verses also support this idea: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9).
God’s statement that “[His] ways are higher than [our] ways, and that his [thoughts] are higher than ours” seems to Grudem to be some sort of claim about incomprehensibility. But the context of this chapter does not support this reading.
This verse is not used in Isaiah in some sort of blanket distancing God from human kind. Instead, this verse specifically means that God shows mercy to the repentant rather than exact vengeance. This is not some sort of absolute distinction meaning no person could fully conceive God, but instead, it means that humans tend to be vengeful whereas God shows mercy even in extreme cases.
Examining the context:
Isa 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.
Isa 55:4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.
Isa 55:5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”
Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
The first set of verses in this chapter are dedicated to wooing Israel. God calls Israel to repentance. If they repent, God will make a covenant with them. They will be a strong nation whom can command other nations to action. God will be their God and they will be God’s people.
But as of now, there is a problem. The people are wicked, so wicked that they risk being punished in spite of any repentance. It is this that God tries to dispel:
Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
Isa 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God wants the wicked to repent. It is them to whom God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” It is that person whom God will pardon, because “God’s ways are not his ways.” Normal people, especially the wicked audience of this chapter, would not pardon as God does. But God promises blessings for the wicked if they repent.
God then proceeds to detail His promise of blessings:
Isa 55:10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
Isa 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
God is not lying when He promises blessings to the repentant. Just as the rain creates green grass rather than just returning to the sky, God will create prosperity without His work returning fruitless. This is the context of God’s word not returning to Him void.
God then paints a picture of the paradise He is promising:
Isa 55:12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isa 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Far from being a text in which God is telling humanity that they could never fully comprehend Him, this is a text about contrasting normal human responses with God. The text is written in language meant to explain to the listeners God’s own thought process, such that they understand how God acts. The text is expressly about God telling us how He operates. The text is one for clarity, not confusion.
What does God mean when He says, “my ways are higher than your ways” in Isaiah 55:9?
Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “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.” God’s infinite thoughts are far greater than our limited ability to comprehend them. The psalmist exclaimed, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17). God’s thoughts and His ways don’t always make sense to us, but we can rest in the knowledge that He is always good, and, therefore, everything He does is good (Psalm 13:6; 100:5).
The human heart is filled with questions for God: “Why?” “When?” “How?” We often wrestle with faith because of those questions. How can we fully trust a God we don’t understand? How can we have faith when God’s ways seem even cruel at times? When we try to comprehend God’s ways, we can become frustrated. His ways are higher than our ways, and His actions often do not make sense to our earth-bound minds. We question God’s ways when young people die, when tragedies strike righteous people, when the wicked prosper (see Psalm 73). So we beat on heaven’s door with our demand for answers, and no answer comes but this one: “My ways are higher than your ways.”
The key to finding peace with ways that we don’t understand is in Psalm 131: “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (verses 1–2). A just-weaned child does not understand everything his mother does. She may correct him, take him to the doctor for vaccinations, and tell him “no” when he wants something very much. But he trusts her and loves her because he knows she loves him. He rests on his mother in complete humility and trust in her superior wisdom and provision. That’s what we must do with God when His ways are beyond our comprehension.
If we try to understand God’s ways from earth looking up, we won’t find many answers. Instead, God left us a clue in the word higher. His ways are not merely different from ours, they are higher. Better. Superior. They exist on a grander scale. He parted the Red Sea because it fit His plan for Israel (Exodus 14:21; Psalm 66:6). He made the sun stand still so Joshua’s army could defeat their enemies (Joshua 10:12–13). He sent an angel to let Peter out of jail (Acts 12:6–10), but He allowed James to be executed (Acts 12:2). God has allowed some of His faithful servants to suffer terrible fates, even though He could have delivered them if He chose (Hebrews 11:32–40). When we try to make sense of these events with our natural minds, we won’t get anywhere. Instead, God invites us to come up higher and learn to see life from His perspective.
From earth looking up, we see only confusion. But from heaven looking down, we see a plan unfolding. In Isaiah 46:9–11, the Lord lays out His sovereign plan to use the Persian king Cyrus: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” We may not know why God needs a “bird from the east” or why He would want to use a man like Cyrus. The man “from a far-off land” may not himself understand why he is moving across the world. But those who trust the Lord can rest in the confidence that God is at work. The Bible gives little room for the idea of coincidence (Proverbs 16:33; Psalm 37:23). In God’s “higher ways,” everything happens for a reason and will be woven into the fabric of God’s good plan for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
God’s ways are higher than our ways because His ways are always part of a bigger plan. We see only our small piece of the puzzle; God sees the finished work. We see a portion of the jumbled back of the tapestry; God is the Weaver at the loom. When our desire is to live in step with His plan, we can have confidence that, even when bad things happen, God is still in control. He often takes what Satan meant for evil and turns it into good for the salvation of many (see Genesis 50:20). God’s priorities are the magnification of His glory and the expansion of His kingdom (Psalm 97:6; Luke 8:1). When God’s glory and God’s kingdom are our priorities, too, we learn to rejoice that His ways are higher than our ways (1 Corinthians 10:31).