Sometimes we see truth told to us with absolute clarity. Sometimes we hear it and understand it. And sometimes, even when we say that we do, we do not believe it.
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We see, as Isaiah speaks to the people, that God is inviting people to turn from their sin and turn to him for mercy. This is a beautiful reminder from the Lord that he forgives sin and pardons those who come to him at his invitation. And I would suggest that, in general, people tend to believe it. They may have varying definitions in their minds as to what sin is or what is the way to find God’s mercy, but many agree that God will pardon us for our wrong if we will come.
The problem comes in the next verses. In verses 8-9, God makes a claim that, again, I would suggest that most people would say they agree with. The problem is, we say we believe it and we actually do not. God claims that his thoughts, his ways, his mind is infinitely beyond ours, as far above us as is the sky.
Why do I say that we do not believe that verse? The reason is that so many people, inside and outside of local churches, put themselves in a position to judge the actions, standards, and ways of the Lord. People will look at what God says about marriage, about sexuality, about justice, about worship, or about something else, and they will suggest that what the word says is not good enough. They will see what God says about how he saves, and they will make it clear that they are not fond of God’s ways. Perhaps they will buck against the idea of one way to God, by grace through faith in Christ. Perhaps they will battle against the idea of God’s sovereign election. Perhaps they will simply oppose the concept of eternal hell. But people look at the ways of God and assume that we can propose a better idea.
Or look at our own lives under divine providence. How often do we think that God has not treated us as we deserve? How often do we see the injustices done to us and believe that God should have done things differently? I’ve been hurt in my life. I’m sure you have been hurt in yours. Do we not, if we are not careful, act as though we should be able to understand God’s ways in why he has allowed certain things? But, just as God answered Job, we too must see that we are too finite to grasp all that is behind the mysterious ways of the Holy god. And, just as Job answered God, we should be humble before the Holy One.
We should, of course, be grateful to God for what he has revealed to us about himself. God has made himself known throughout the Scriptures. God sent his Son to live a human life so that we might see a more tangible display of his character. God has given us his Holy Spirit that we might better understand his word and his heart. But the truth is, while we live in our sin-scarred forms, while we live seeing through a glass dimly, we are not going to grasp the vast wisdom of the Lord. Yes, we continue to study the word. Often, if we will study faithfully, we will learn that the Lord has great and solid reasons behind every law, every standard, every plan, every action. But there will also be times when we must grasp that God is good, God is perfect, God knows all, and God’s ways are not ours.
Christians, do not give up on knowing the Lord or his ways. Do not even give up on understanding the why behind the commands of the Lord. But let your understanding of the Lord be from his revelation of himself in his word and not from your own mind. God’s word is perfect and profitable to teach you. Your mind and thoughts, left to your best wisdom, is far beneath that of the Lord. Your best philosophy, even your best science, will not match the perfect mind of the Lord. Come to him humbly. Accept his word and ways with the knowledge that his mind is greater than the greatest human minds. Believe his word. And come to him for mercy just like a little child coming to a loving parent for care.