His Ways Are Not Our Ways

This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.

Day 13

“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.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:6–9

God calls us to seek him, to call on him, and invites even the wicked to return to the Lord. What will happen when we do this? God will “have compassion on” us. The parallelism of Hebrew poetry then gives us another way of saying that God will exercise compassion toward us: “He will abundantly pardon.” This is profound consolation for us as we find ourselves time and again wandering away from the Father, looking for soul calm anywhere but in his embrace and instruction.

Gentle and Lowly

Gentle and Lowly

Dane C. Ortlund

How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This book takes readers into the depths of Christ’s very heart—a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.

Returning to God in fresh contrition, however ashamed and disgusted with ourselves, he will not tepidly pardon. He will abundantly pardon. He does not merely accept us. He sweeps us up in his arms again.

But notice what the text then does. Verses 8 and 9 take us deeper into this compassion and abundant pardon. Verse 7 with its language of abundant pardon and compassion. That’s telling us what God does. But verses 8 and 9—when it speaks of God’s ways not being our ways, and his thoughts not being our thoughts—that’s not just telling us what God does, that’s actually drilling more deeply into who he is.

When Isaiah 55 follows up God’s promises of compassion and abundant pardon by saying that his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, that’s God telling us that we cannot view his expressions of mercy with our old eyes. Our very view of God must change.

What would we say to a seven-year-old who, upon being given a birthday gift by his loving father, immediately scrambled to reach for his piggy bank to try to pay his dad back? How painful to a father’s heart. That child needs to change his very view of who his father is and what his father delights to do.

God’s heart of compassion confounds our intuitive predilections about how he loves to respond to his people if they would but dump in his lap the ruin and wreckage of their lives.

His power runs so deep that he is able to redeem the very worst parts of our past into the most radiant parts of our future.

He isn’t like you. Even the most intense of human love is but the faintest echo of heaven’s cascading abundance. His heartful thoughts for you outstrip what you can conceive. He intends to restore you into the radiant resplendence for which you were created.

And that is dependent not on you keeping yourself clean but on you taking your mess to him. He doesn’t limit himself to working with the unspoiled parts of us that remain after a lifetime of sinning.

His power runs so deep that he is able to redeem the very worst parts of our past into the most radiant parts of our future. But we need to take those dark miseries to him.

When Jesus showed up seven hundred years after Isaiah prophesied and revealed his deepest heart as “gentle and lowly,” he was proving once and for all that gentle lowliness is indeed where God loves to dwell. It is what he does. It is who he is. His ways are not our ways.

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