Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, October 05, 2005 at 11:34 PM

Rethinking memory verses: Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Today at prayer meeting, the person leading it brought out this as a devotional to set up the night, but this time we read through the context and he shared something that really blew his mind away, and it blew mine away as well. I want to share it with you, my readers.

The traditional (and I say traditional very loosely as "how I originally saw it") interpretation of this has been to say "well, God is ultimately in control. While we may plan all these things together, we can trust that God is sovereign, even when bad things happen."

Of course, this interpretation is completely consistent with Scripture. We have the story of Joseph in Genesis 50: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." with Joseph just trusting completely in God and looking back and saying that God's plans were good even though great evil befell him. We also see it in Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. " which basically makes it clear that though we may plan our way, it is ultimately God who establishes what we do and everything."

So nothing is inherently wrong with that interpretation. It won't lead us to a false theology, it won't lead us to denying justification by faith alone or anything like that, but the interpretation is not consistent with the actual intent of God by the verse, and for that reason it is necessary to dive a little deeper.

Examining the verses in context we see in Isaiah 55:1-13

1"Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

6"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7let 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.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12"For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Examining the passage we see a few things that are contrasted. We see someone coming to buy and eat without money contrasted with someone who is wasting their money on things that do not feed (v. 1,2). We see exhortations to listen and live (v. 3) remembering the promises of the Lord when we do turn and repent. (4,5). Finally we see another contrast in v. 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.

Comparing this to v. 8-9 we see something that really is mindblowing:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The contrast isn't between God and us as God being smart and us being lowly, so we should trust God, but rather it is between God and us as God being good, and we being wicked and deceitful so we should repent!

God's thoughts are not our thoughts. For He is all good and awesome. We are wicked and depraved. Our thoughts and ways can never approach God's in terms of goodness and purity (as the heavens are higher than the earth...). What a horrible story.

But it never ends there for those whom God has called, for v. 10-16 read:

10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12"For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

God's promise is that He will accomplish His will, through His Word. It doesn't return to Him empty but accomplishes exactly what He has set forth for it. If it is God's will, He can tear down all our wickedness and replace our hearts of stone with a heart of flesh so that we might seek Him once again! Additionally, we see that God's Word acting on our hearts brings us to bear fruit. What once was a source of thorns (our hearts), will be transformed into the cypress. What once was a brier will come up myrtle. These good works, these fruits, ultimately point to God, and ultimately point to God's promise for eternity!

Do you see the echo of Eph. 1?

13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We have the Word! So that we bear fruit (being sealed with the Holy Spirit), and this is a guarantee of our inheritance!

What beauty! What joy! We, who are wicked, horribly below God in our thoughts, can now be considered heirs for God's glory? How great Thou art!

Come! Let us buy and eat with no money. We are bankrupt, but if we recognize that, it is a sign that God has already begun His miraculous work in us. Let us seek Him while He is near. Let us dive into His Word, which will accomplish His will for us! Let us seek to bear the fruit of the Spirit, humbling ourselves in an acknowledgement that none of it comes from us, and all of it comes from God.

To God alone be the Glory!

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