Studies in Isaiah 55: 5. Getting a God Perspective
Isa 55:8,9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The Flow: The word ‘For’ indicates a continuation or flow of thought from what has just been said. In the previous pair of verses we saw a challenge to “Seek the Lord”, and “call on him” with a specific following challenge: “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.” Note specifically the word ‘thoughts’ which is now picked up in verse 8 above. It is as if the Lord is saying, come to me, search for me and learn to listen to me, especially you unrighteous people. You need to listen to me because your way of thinking is so different from mine that unless you realize this and change you’ll be in trouble! (implied) i.e. you need to get a new perspective.
The Bigger Perspective: First there is this double comparison / challenge: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” It’s not only thinking but ways of living that need to be reassessed. The truth is that, ever since the Fall, mankind has done its own thing, each individual determining how they will live and so their thinking is instinctively at odds with God’s thoughts. In creating ‘Israel’ the Lord gave them ‘the Law’ as a guidance package of how to live as individuals and as a community. It recognized the fallenness of mankind in that, as well as laying down guidelines for good actions, it also showed ways of putting right wrong actions, how to deal with what we would call ‘crimes’, yet it did not stop those ‘crimes’ happening, people still continued to do wrong. Nevertheless, it was God’s way of revealing a right path through life. By the time of Jesus’ arriving, certain parts of the community (the Pharisees) had taken and formalized the Law in its outward appearance yet failed to keep its heart. Again and again, we as mankind, and specifically Israel as mankind under the microscope, failed to understand God’s heart, God’s thoughts, God’s ways.
The Modern Expression of this Failure: So Jesus came and died for us and the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The way of the new covenant was opened and yet we still very much remain fallen humanity, even if greatly improved through the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. Individually redemption is a learning and changing experience and even the great apostles revealed it – Peter struggled with being sent to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark (Acts 15) leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth over their parting. But in the modern church there are signs that we are so often more concerned with rules, ritual and liturgy than we are with the life, love and power of God pouring through us to transform the world, with the result that unquestionably the Church loses ground in terms of community or national impact. We are often more concerned on how we ‘run’ church than we are in seeking God and letting His Spirit empower and lead us so that we become a community-changing force in our world.
The Call again: The Lord had declared it: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” and we have just been observing the outworking of that. But, as if to emphasis it in case we hadn’t taken it in, he adds, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It’s like God says through the prophet, look up at the skies. See that ‘up there’, as compared to ‘down here’. That’s how much higher my thoughts and ideas and ways are higher than yours. My thoughts are divine and heavenly, yours are human and earthly. That is how different our ways of thinking are.
Outworking 1: Now there are several things that flow out of this that we should think about. First, the thing to recognize (and forgive me for stating the obvious) is that we don’t think like God. I keep find myself saying in respect of modern Western life, look at the fruits of modern thinking, the harmful things that are the outworkings of unfettered human behaviour seen in modern life.
Outworking 2: The second thing to note is that our thinking differently from God leads us to express our thoughts as deeds and those deeds are increasingly showing that these thoughts, ideas, attitudes, ways of living, don’t work. Observe characteristics of modern godless western society. In politics alienation, hostility, fake news, lie telling and demonising of the opposition have become norms on both sides of the Atlantic. In our economies we are still suffering from the financial collapse of 2008 that came about from unfettered greed. Many voices are being raised that we are ripe for a further collapse. In our communities crime continues to rise, drug taking continues to be a major problem that is mostly swept under the carpet. On our streets violence, theft and wanton destruction are not uncommon (I heard only yesterday that in a street not a quarter of a mile away, ‘someone’ went down the entire street at night and slashed the tyres on every single car). Family life suffers constant breakdown, divorces prevail where there are marriages, separation where there is cohabitation, and children suffer, become angry and slash tyres! And so we could go on and on and on. At long last there are voices being raised from the very top of the medical profession that say such things as, pornography is harmful for individuals, families and communities, divorces are harmful for individual, families and communities, and so on.
Outworking 3: We need to listen to God. That is what this is all about. It is God saying, ”Listen to me!” We will only do that when we come to our senses and realise that the descriptions of the barren woman and the thrashed city of chapter 54 are descriptions of us today, that we are left spiritually hungry and thirsty, and we’re putting a wrong focus on what is meaningful. So, when He reaches out a hand offering a fresh start as we seek Him afresh, we need to grab it.
Outworking 4: There is another aspect to be considered here. The danger that we have in this part of history is that we have greater technology, greater medical facilities, more food, more provision than any previous generation in history, and this leads us to self-deception. The knowledge and information on our mobile phones gives us a sense of being in charge in a way never known before – and there’s more to come. This breeds a false optimism that covers over all of those other failures I mentioned in Outworking 2 above. We can cope with them as the cost of this brave new world. No we can’t; they will undermine our societies they will breed contempt for truth that leads the way for abuse of all this technology. Distraction ad deception are things that say, “Oh, this is all scare mongering. We don’t need to listen to God, to seek Him out.” We do. This is a call to wake up. It started in chapter 54 and continues in chapter 55. Let’s heed it for today.