thoughts-greaterThe prophet Isaiah records YHWH as saying:

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. (Is 55:8-9)

This verse is quoted to make a variety of points.  Some quote it to make the point that God is unknowable.  Others use it to argue that we can’t understand God’s will and way of thinking.  My favorite use of this verse, however, is in a debate when someone’s position is being challenged and they don’t know how to respond.  When all else fails, just claim that your point of view is too lofty to understand because it comes directly from God!

When we look at the context, it becomes clear that all of these interpretations miss the mark.

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. 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. (Is 55:6-9) 

The Lord’s thoughts and ways are contrasted to the thoughts and ways of the wicked, not the righteous.  God is not telling believers that they can’t understand his thoughts and ways, but rather he is telling unbelievers that His thoughts and ways are superior to their evil thoughts and evil ways.  He implores them to abandon their evil thoughts and ways.  And to what would they turn if they abandon their own thoughts and ways?  They would turn to YHWH’s thoughts and ways.  So this passage is not teaching divine incomprehensibility, but rather the superiority of the righteous thoughts/ways of God to the unrighteous thoughts/ways of sinners.

It’s obvious upon a moment’s reflection that this passage cannot be teaching that God is unknowable, because God has revealed Himself to us in both word and deed.  What about His will and way of thinking?  While it’s true that we cannot fully know God’s will, He has revealed portions of it to us and did so with the intention that we understand it.

Keep it in context….

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