Tuesday, March 19 — God Beyond Our Understanding
There is this over simplification we sometimes make in which we speak of the God of the Old Testament as a distinctly different God from the one revealed in the New Testament. One is wrathful, the other loving. There are certainly parts of the Old Testament that can conjure up an image of God that seems altogether different from the one we have in Jesus. But it is important to remember that as a faithful Jew Jesus was nurtured on the Hebrew Scriptures. Certain passages clearly stood out for him, including the words of the prophet Isaiah.
In this passage, the prophet is writing during a particularly difficult time. The people have strayed from God, and calamity has resulted. Israel has been overrun by the Assyrians.
In the light, of this despair and what must have been a profound sense of scarcity, Isaiah channels a merciful God’s gracious invitation to the people to return. The covenant first made with Abraham has not been abandoned. Abundance awaits the people humbled by their wanderings from God.
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, 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.
One of the things we might want to consider in our prayer life are the ramifications of the last two lines: “’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.”
Often we go to God with our clearly set agenda: “God, heal my friend of her illness.” “God, let my brother’s job interview go well.” In our faith we trust that God loves us and wants good for us. But what exactly is the nature of that “good”? And as we look to the future what is the path that is required to attain the good God wants for us? We cannot know the answers to either of these questions for sure. Sometimes illness or other struggles – things we would never invite – become the occasion for a deeper kind of blessing than we could have imagined at the outset.
When we go to God in prayer perhaps we should remember that God’s ways are not our ways. This might mean that we place our concerns in God’s hands, without trying to dictate the outcome, seeking instead to simply trust that in time God will lead us to a place of abundance and blessing.