The book of Isaiah contains many memorable and powerful passages. From the imagery of sin being like scarlet, yet God making them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) to the prophecy of the “suffering Servant” (chapter 53), the book is filled with treasures.
One of those that is often quoted is found in Isaiah 55:8-9, where Isaiah declared,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I can’t even count how many times I have heard that passage used to speak about how God sees the big picture and how it describes the perfect knowledge of the Lord.
Oh, and I’ve used it that way many, many times myself.
And, most certainly, those things are true. God’s knowledge is perfect, and God is not time-bound, so He does see all things at the same time.
But, is that what Isaiah was saying in this context? Maybe not.
Why do I say that? Because of the previous two verses, where we read these words:
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; 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. (emphasis added)
Did you notice the reference in that quotation to the “thoughts” of “the unrighteous man?” And, then, verse 8 begins with the word “for.” In other words, this is all one context.
So, what Isaiah is speaking about when he says that the thoughts of God are not our thoughts is not necessarily the all-knowing nature of God, but, rather, the holiness of God. He does not think unrighteous, impure, unholy thoughts.
If I am correct about that, then it fits with the rest of Isaiah’s book beautifully. Often in this lengthy book, God is referred to beautifully as “the Holy One of Israel” (1:4; 5:19; 10:20; 30:11-12; et.al.). It is in Isaiah that we have the angels calling out to the Lord, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (6:3). And Isaiah constantly was calling the people of God to repent of sin and live holy lives again before Jehovah.
Yes, we should stand in awe of God for His infinite knowledge. He knows more than we do and He does see all time constantly. But Isaiah 55:8-9 is a call to us for something other than that. It is a reminder to us that God never thinks an unrighteous thought. He is holy, and it should be our constant prayer to be holy in all our thinking, as well.
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn