Compassion Beyond Comprehension

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

I have heard these words from Isaiah 55:8 my entire life and I have always loved this verse. The other day I read this chapter very slowly, pondering over every word. It was then that I discovered the context of the passage, and I was quite blown away by it.

More on that in a second.

God is Higher

If you grew up in church like me, you probably have heard this verse many times. Perhaps it’s one you think about often. For example, when you go through a difficult time and wonder why God is allowing this to happen, you remember that you cannot understand all of His reasons.

Or when you pray for God to do something, and He doesn’t answer it in the way that you would like, you remember that God’s ways are not your own.

I think that these are fair applications of this text. However, if we are not careful, we can overemphasize God’s transcendence at the expense of His care for us. God’s ways are so high above our own, but this doesn’t mean that God is distant and doesn’t care about us at all.

That’s why the context of this verse is so important.

God is Compassionate

Isaiah 55 begins with God offering an open invitation:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!”

As the chapter goes on, God urges us to seek Him because He alone is able to satisfy us. Then verses 6-7 provide us with the immediate context of our verse:

“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.”

Did you catch that?

God will have compassion on those who seek Him, forsake their evil ways and return to Him. God will abundantly pardon them!

But how can a perfect God possibly forgive wicked sinners like us? Here is God’s answer:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

In other words, God’s compassion and forgiveness are so great that it’s hard for us to get our minds around them.

Many unbelievers think that they are too far gone for God to save them. What is God’s response to them?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Many believers also struggle to accept God’s forgiveness. When they fall into the same sin that they have struggled with for a long time, they wonder how God could possibly forgive them again. What is God’s response to them?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

And this is God’s response to you as well.

God promises that when you confess your sin and turn to Him, He will have compassion on you. He will abundantly pardon you even when it doesn’t make sense to your finite mind.

So when you are doubting God’s forgiveness, remember His gracious reply:

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

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