For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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.
One of the most insightful and motivational elements of studying scripture is when learn the meaning of a popular scripture, like the one above, in its context. Sometimes you realize that the way it is often repeated, or the way you always understood it, is either inaccurate or truncated. This is the difference between studying the meaning of scripture versus using it to come up with life applications.
I have never read this verse in light of the prior verses which provide the context. This chapter has God’s invitation for sinners to come and seek His mercy and enter into an everlasting covenant.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
When I read the word “for” in verses eight and nine it made me realize that this may be a reason for what God says in the beginning of the chapter. That is, the Lord calls sinners to forgiveness and repentance because it is His manner of doing things. And since His ways are not our ways (being higher) then that means that mercy and forgiveness are not our ways.
And when we look at scripture we see that whereas God is willing to forgive men are quick to do impose judgment. I think of the parable Jesus tells to explain to Peter how often we are supposed to forgive others.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Forgiveness is a very difficult thing for us to attain and we struggle with it our whole lives. It is where the enemy can be very effective in accusing us and creating divisions within the church. We can hold a grudge for decades over the smallest offense and end up spiritually impotent. Forgiveness is a manifestation of the power of God and when we forgive others we witness to that power and use it for their benefit.
The skeptic has been successful in creating this misperception of God as a harsh, angry tyrant who is looking for an excuse to condemn us. That is nothing more than a lie that we must refute. God is the one who is compassionate and it is men are the cruel, evil seekers of destruction. We would not know what real grace and mercy was if we did not have it revealed to us in the scriptures.
We are evil and our hearts are bent towards wickedness. Retaliation, anger, and judgment are our ways. But grace, mercy, and forgiveness are the Lord’s ways and His ways are certainly higher and more righteous than ours.