Forgiveness - God Doesn't Think Like We Do
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts..." Isaiah 55:8
Isaiah 55 is a widely known and quoted Bible passage. Most often, it is remembered and repeated because it contains a strong affirmation that God never allows His Word to fail. Verse 5 reads "So shall my word be that goes out of 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."
What makes this a standout passage is not simply that it declares that God's Word will successfully effect whatever purpose that He intends. It is what God intends that makes it glorious. God purposes to extend forgiveness freely, and generously, beyond any of our wildest expectations.
It should be noted that Isaiah 55 is an invitation to wandering and rebellious sinners who are languishing in the emptiness, poverty, slavery, and misery of their sinful choices. It is a lavish call to return to God filled with hope that God will truly forgive, restore, and bless. The chapter begins "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat!"
What I would like you to consider are these words in verse 8: "my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways". It cannot be overstated that one of the greatest hindrances to enjoying communion with God is our thinking. It is our thinking that leads us away from God in the first place. We think that we know the path to true joy and self-fulfillment. We think that God is harsh and hard and unhappy. We think He demands too much and offers too little. We think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and so off we go.
Then, when we discover much to our dismay that we got it all wrong, our thinking can keep us from returning to God. We left God because we thought God was too hard and harsh and then we look back and fear that He might still be too hard and harsh. We can continue to fail precisely where our tragic journey began: We underestimate the immeasurable generosity and goodness of God toward all who will trust in Him.
Listen to the call of God in verses 5 and 6: "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." If you are struggling with guilt and shame, and like the prodigal son in Jesus' famous parable, you are trying to figure out how you might persuade your heavenly Father to show you a bit of mercy when you know you don't deserve it, stop. Stop thinking your own thoughts. Stop following them. Repentance is stopping that nonsense and taking God at His word.
God says "Come empty handed." You have no money to buy Him off. Listen to Him. Stop listening to that voice in your own head. Listen to God. If you will stop listening to your own thoughts and walking your own way and start listening to God and following what He says, you will see that He is whom He says He is. God is compassionate. God will abundantly pardon you. That is His Word to you. His thoughts are not your thoughts.
That brings me back to the famous passage of Scripture in which God declares that His Word cannot fail but "shall accomplish that which I purpose." This is no generic statement about the efficacy of God's Word. This is a declaration about forgiving repentant sinners. Your thinking might be "God can't forgive me, not if He truly knows what I have done." We think we know our guilt, sin, and shame. What we must realize is that our sin is far more vile and offensive than we comprehend. God's ways really are profoundly different than our ways. Yet, the holy God whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil has offered forgiveness. He has determined to extend forgiveness to those who seek Him. He has declared that He will cleanse, heal, and restore. That is why when He says His Word cannot fail to accomplish that for which He sent it, we must understand what His Word is. It is the decree of the King of heaven who says that He will extend forgiveness and amnesty to all and any who will turn from their sins and return to Him.
That word cannot fail. It was that decree which God made before the foundation of the world that began to move all things towards that moment in time and history when God would guarantee the full forgiveness of every sinner who would trust in Him. The success of the Word of God was realized when His Son cried "It is finished!" while hanging on a Roman cross. God had kept His Word. Jesus had won the victory! God resolved to do it. God accomplished it!
Friend, whatever guilt and shame keeps you from experiencing the joy and peace of returning to God must be addressed. Your thoughts are not God's thoughts. Abandon them. God will abundantly pardon. God determined to do this on your behalf and He followed through by placing all your guilt on the shoulders of His perfect sinless Son.
Here is something else which is God's thought and not yours. If you will abandon your thoughts and ways and return to God, not only will He forgive you, but God declares "... you shall go out with joy and be lead forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth in singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (vs.12). It is yours for the taking. Take God at His Word.