Are Our Thoughts Like God’s Thoughts?

Loving God Alternative Text

If you’ve been attending church most of your life, that question probably triggers a quick response of “No!” reinforced by memories of hearing Isaiah quoted on numerous occasions.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says 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 55:89

This verse appears to answer that question unequivocally, but appearances aren’t always reliable. Before we take it at face value, we should ask a few questions.

  1. Who was He talking to?
  2. Why was He saying this to them?
  3. What is the context of this verse?
  4. How does this apply to us today?

In this passage, God was speaking to the nation of Israel at a time when they were straying away from Him. He was calling them to repent and return to Him. That would suggest that if they repented then their thoughts could have been like God’s and their ways could have been like His ways. Look at the verses leading up to this verse and we see that very clearly. The chapter begins not with the condemning tone of an angry God or an angry prophet speaking on behalf of God. It begins with an invitation to blessing.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
The sure mercies of David. — Isaiah 55:1–3

God was inviting them to quit chasing after things that are vain and unable to satisfy. Instead, He says, enjoy the best of the best—for free! He then goes on to describe David as a man who stands in contrast to them. David was a witness, an example, of what it looks like to think the way God thinks. Had they followed David’s example, they would have been enjoying a sweet fellowship with the Lord.

Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.” — Isaiah 55:4–5

This verse has been shared in churches so many times that many of us can quote it almost verbatim without ever having tried to memorize it. But do we really understand it if we don’t read it in context? The fact that it begins with the word “for” tells us that this isn’t really the beginning of this passage. This is God’s response to whatever he discusses just before this. The translators who chose the word “for” could just as easily have used the word “because.” Think about that for a moment. That means that this sentence is not the point God was trying to emphasize. What He was really trying to communicate is what came before this sentence. This sentence is an explanation for why He said whatever came before it.

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,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says 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

The point God was making wasn’t that He is smarter than we are. It wasn’t that He is more powerful than we are. He wasn’t mocking us as stupid or weak. His point was that the nation of Israel was not being faithful to the worldview God had given them. He gave them a new way to look at the world, to interpret circumstances, to distinguish between good and evil, to determine priorities, and to understand the purpose of life. But they were no longer paying attention to that worldview. They had begun to be influenced by other philosophies and cultures.

How did God contrast His thoughts and Israel’s thoughts? He described His thoughts and ways as higher, just as the heavens are higher than the earth. James alludes to Isaiah by using similar language to contrast the wisdom of God and the so-called wisdom of this world.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and [h]self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. — James 3:13–18

What is the nature of the distinguishing marks of godly wisdom? Is it intelligence? Is it creativity? Is it problem-solving? No. It is not centered on such pragmatic things, but rather on character. It’s about how you treat people! The wisdom from above leads us to treat people as better than ourselves, to avoid pigeon-holing people with stereotypes, to be humbly authentic about ourselves.

So can we think God’s thoughts. Absolutely! Every time we read the Bible, we are reading God’s thoughts. If we read mindfully, we are thinking God’s thoughts! That’s probably the biggest reason God called David a man after His own heart. David meditated on the Scriptures. He memorized and recited the Scriptures aloud to himself. And he did it not to show off, not to puff himself up with pride but “so that I might not sin against You.” How much more equipped are we to do that! We’ve been given the mind of Christ. And we have more Scriptures available to us than he did. We have the gospels, the epistles and the prophets who came after David. And we have the promise that the Holy Spirit “will remind you of all the things I have spoken.” But He can’t remind us of something we never knew. We have to be faithful to read the Word. Then His faithfulness will become apparent as He reminds us of it in timely moments. And we will think the thoughts of God.