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Every so often we come across a text that is understood one way but when we examine it in its original context find it means something different. When preachers speak on the text, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) most draw a parallel to one of two things. One is evangelism. The preacher uses the verse to point out to non-Christians that their thinking and lives are wrong. So they need to change and go God’s way.

Another way this text is interpreted is to say that in the midst of suffering you cannot understand God, so you must resign yourself to suffer; resign yourself to the fact that God knows what he’s doing. This last way is how the text is most often used: to express that when life has turned sour it makes no sense to question God, for his thoughts and ways are so far above yours that even he wanted to tell you why you’re suffering you wouldn’t get it.

But this last interpretation is the opposite of what the text was originally meant to convey. Israel HAD resigned herself to captivity in Babylon. They thought to themselves, “There’s no way out of this mess. There’s no way we’re ever going to return home. The best thing we can do is to build a future for ourselves in this hole.”

Against this melancholy, God says, “Those may be your thoughts, but I have something else in mind. I’m thinking of your liberation and returning to you your land. You may not think this way. You may not be able to find the way back. But my thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. So do not resign yourself to hopelessness and despair. Do not live in spiritual paralysis, but understand that I am at work in your life to bring release.”

Are your though and ways God’s?


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