His thoughts and ways

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Throughout Scripture, there are many verses that we can quickly bring to mind, but sometimes we can remember the words without remembering the meaning. When we read or hear that God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts, do we hear them as they are meant to be heard? Often these words have been read and understood in such a way where they keep God at a distance. The point behind Isaiah saying these words to the people of God was not because God was far away but because they were distant from God. Isaiah was not saying that God has thoughts and ways that we can’t know, though that is true, that’s not what he is saying. Rather, Isaiah is saying that God’s thoughts and ways are different from ours and that ours should be like His. God is present but His people are distant, and they are distant because their thoughts and ways are not like His thoughts and ways.

We know that we are never to put the Lord our God to the test but rather we are to trust Him, but this is easier to remember than it is to apply. For us, testing God is a means of receiving direction, confirmation, a feeling of being settled before we make a decision. We will often hear ourselves say that God is in control, but how strongly do we believe it. When we test God in the ways that we do, it demonstrates that just as Isaiah said, that God’s thoughts and ways are not the same as ours and it is not God who must change.

Always seek the Lord

Isaiah 55:6 explains what we are to do, we must seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon Him while He is near. It is not God who is far away, but the people of God in their ways and thoughts. There is a gap between the people of God and God through Isaiah is addressing this gap. Seeking the Lord while He may be found and turning from our ways and thoughts to His ways and thoughts that can be known is how this gap will be closed. God’s people have wondered in their thoughts and ways, away from God and turning to their own.

Instead of understanding these words of Isaiah as something that creates distance between us and God (a difference in knowledge and actions) they are here to create nearness and likemindedness. These differences and sense of distance which can happen between us and God can also happen between the closest of relationships. Isaiah is saying these words, meaning that his thoughts and ways at this moment are like God’s. As a prophet, he is responsible for addressing God’s people on God’s behalf with God’s words. So his relationship with God is essential for the people.

By what standard

This difference and distance can develop between friends, work colleagues, brothers, sisters and every other family and friendship combination that’s possible. We see this most strikingly in Scripture between a husband and a wife, notably between Job and his wife.  Job knew that blessings came from God and the God who gives is also the God who can take away.

Job has no idea why God has ordained what he has for him, he doesn’t at the beginning and he doesn’t at the end but he did have lots of questions. In this sense, God’s thoughts and ways are clearly above and beyond Job’s, he doesn’t know why and he never will.

But God saw something in Job that Satan did not and which his wife did not. However, Job sees something in God that his wife doesn’t see and it is this that causes his response to be different than hers. Job’s wife comes to her husband with her own questions, do you still hold fast to your integrity? He does, she knew he did, she then adds, “curse God and die”. His response shows how strongly he believes in the sovereignty of God, “shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”

The point is clear, God has ways and thoughts that we can know and ways and thoughts that we don’t know about. Job saw this truth about God and his wife didn’t. God is always present but it doesn’t follow from this that everything that happens has a reason that we know about. There is much we need to know about God’s ways and thoughts and much we can know and this is what keeps us faithful to Him. This is how we trust God rather than putting Him to the test when life gets difficult.

One of the problems with making decisions is that we are always making them for the future, for what comes next and we don’t know what is next. When God brought His people out of Egypt we have a very short but important verse to take notice of in Exodus 13:17 “ when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt”. God is able to discern the thoughts of His people and therefore is able to address our future for us. Therefore, when God makes a decision for His people that His people know nothing about; the decision He makes for them takes into consideration what He knew about them, what they could handle and what they could not handle. What would happen if his people saw the Philistines? At the time God’s people did not know what God had done for them and this is just another example of His ways and thoughts directing His decisions. The Lord gives and He takes away. He leads one way rather than another for reasons that are based on His complete knowledge of us and every situation.

Walking together

Two cannot walk together lest they are agreed and since God knows what we are thinking He also knows how we are like sheep…each turning to our own way. We pray to God that He would not lead us into temptation and to deliver us from evil and we pray this not always knowing what those things are. We believe that God is in control but how strongly we believe this is what counts. We think that such additions, as a promotion, moving house or a financial inheritance can only be a good thing, to name but a few, but that could be where we could face our greatest temptation, which is the very thing that we have prayed to be kept from. We pray because we know that God knows all things and knows what is better for us and so He delivers us from those circumstances. We have learnt from the text of scripture, that God does this sort of thing, even when we don’t know about it. God makes his presence known in His ways and we have the privilege of knowing His ways and thoughts so that we can be conscious of His presence.

Therefore, we live with the constant reminder that Jesus came to His own people and made Himself known and they did not receive Him. Their thoughts and ways were not the same as God’s as they should have been. They put Him to the test rather than trusting in Him as they should have done. The Lord knows the world we live in and the circumstances we live with and while these can change God’s care for us never will, therefore His thoughts and ways must become ours.

 

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By Daniel Ralph

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