Friday, December 5, 2014

Why, not so much How

Isa 55:7  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. Isa 55:8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isa 55:9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isa 55:10  "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, Isa 55:11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Let me make a couple of observations concerning these verses.  I am not sure that I have ever heard vss. 7-9 used for anything other than to express the transcendence of God.  They are generally used to express how far God is above our ability to think and understand him.  But if we read these in context they aren’t really expressing this at all.  The transcendence in the statements isn't about how much smarter, mysterious and more powerful than us God is but instead his righteousness is infinitely beyond us.  This isn’t just a statement that God’s ways are inscrutable by man, in fact, in this sense we are being commanded to think and act like God.  It is a statement of God’s nature or morality compared to ours.

The ways and thoughts of vs. 8 are connected to our ways and thoughts in vs. 7.  The point is that as sinners we are unrighteous and think and do unrighteous things and God is calling on us to forsake our ways and thoughts for his ways and thoughts.  It is not saying that we cannot know his ways and thoughts but it is our duty to think and live after God.  Again, it is not a statement that God’s thoughts are too deep for us to understand but his thoughts and ways are to replace our sinful ones.

So these verses cannot be used to excuse ourselves from being unable to know God and do his will because we can’t understand him.  Quite the opposite they suggests that God has revealed himself in the Scriptures and we are to forsake our ways for his.

The second thing I came away with from these verses comes from vss. 10-11.  Here God says that the reason things happen on earth is because they have their origin in Heaven.  As rain comes down to earth and gives life, so God’s will or his word is the power behind all that happens on earth.  So life isn’t us doing whatever we want and God reacting to us but everything happening on earth is a result of the eternal decrees of God. 

I could go on and on with that subject but let me just point out one thing.  What this truth does is point us to the main question that mankind should be asking.  Unfortunately fallen man generally asks the wrong one.  It is seen often in the scientific fields of study such as String Theory which looks for that one piece of energy or matter that all things hold in common.  They think that finding out the how will explain everything else.  Man looks for the how when God hasn’t given us the answer to that.  What he has given us is the answer to the why. 

How this universe works is interesting and when we get little glimpses such knowledge can be useful.  But far more important is that we get the answer to why all things exist.  All things exist by God and for God and if we fail to understand that then nothing else adds any meaning to life but instead will only serve to distract us from what is truly important.  

The Lord is accomplishing his purpose and those that don’t acknowledge that and turn to Christ are just rebels living on his earth and one day will be condemned.  But for the grace of God you and I would be running Hell bent to perdition only asking how but not submitting to the why.  I praise the Lord that one day his Word came down and produced life in me so that I might quit looking around and start looking up; quit wondering how everything works and start to understand why everything works as it does.


  1. Wow Nathan! I think you are right. I've never seen it before, but I think me and everybody else has been misusing Isaiah 55:7-8. The context does NOT indicate transendence. I will never pluck out and misuse that verse again.

    But I do have a stand-by verse: Job 42:3b. Right in the crucial part of Job and difficult to understand because of the unstated conversation between Job and God right there. You have to actually put in who is saying what. But Job himself says 42:3b and a few verses later God says twice that Job is right. Job was thence right about not understanding God and things being above his head.

    Plus, overall, it just makes sense that we can understand God and all his ways. I think If we could understand God we would be on his level, and we're not.

    And great thoughts on the how vs. the why!

    Kenny B

  2. Thanks Kenny, without doubt God is transcendent and the great thing about Job is that I believe the entire point is to be able to accept in a godly fashion the providence of an all wise God even when we cannot understand all that he is doing. Job is never told why God did all that to him but he had to learn to bow to his sovereignty as his creature.