Sermon 1387. God's Thoughts and Ways Far Above Ours
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, DECEMBER 2, 1877,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the hea vens are higher thanthe earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8,9.
VERY often must the great Truth of God expressed by this Scripture have forced itself upon every thoughtful mind. Though wethink and are so far like God because, being intelligent beings, we have thoughts of our own, yet our thoughts must foreverbe weak and fragmentary as compared with His thoughts. And though, as free agents, we have ways of our own choice-in someof which we move with great show of wisdom-yet our ways are upon the earth and cannot attain to the ways of the Lord whichare far above us. This is true as to His proceedings in Providence. God's designs are vast and far-reaching and His methodsare frequently strange and inscrutable, though always wise.
We have little plans to suit our little foresight and power, but His ways are unsearchable! Oftentimes He brings light ofexcessive brightness out of darkness more dense than usual and produces superior joys out of extraordinary sorrows. In infinitewisdom He causes the most furious storms to cast up upon the shore the pearl of peace. He is wonderful both in counsel andin working and always chooses that way in which His Glory is most abundantly displayed. Our way, which for a time we thinkto be the best, when scanned by the enlightened eye soon turns out to be as much beneath God's way of accomplishing the desiredpurpose as the earth is beneath the heavens. Compared with Him our wisdom is folly and our prudence madness.
Indeed, we may not compare ourselves with the Lord, for there is no comparison! Call it a contrast and you have the word.So sublime is Providence that we do not comprehend it! So good is it that we are filled with wonder as we see its designsunfolded. We see its bright side at times and sun ourselves in its warm light and then we adore and magnify the Lord. Yet,we never knew the half of the hidden benefits which He is working out for us, nor do we suspect the Lord of a tenth of thegoodness which He stores up for us. At other times we have felt the night side of Providence and have sorrowed in its chillshade. Yes, and perhaps we have even rebelled against it. And yet at that very time the Lord's purposes have been divinelyrich toward us and the night has been the choicest season of benediction.
We have not the wings of eagles on which to soar to the exceeding height of the dealings of the Lord. We walk below and lookup wonderingly, as men gaze on the stars-we are sure that we are safe beneath the sublime all-covering power, but we are equallyclear that the longest experience and the most profound thought will never measure the height of the thoughts and ways ofthe Eternal! The words, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways," are equally truein reference to the things of Divine Grace, for there the Lord of Love has altogether left our thoughts behind.
Could man have dreamed that he was the object of eternal love and that God would assume his nature? Could we have imaginedthat the Almighty would give His only-begotten Son to die for guilty man? The Atonement was a thought which never would havecrossed man's mind if it had not, first of all, been revealed to him by the great Father. The Divine way of lifting up thepoor from the dust and the needy from the dunghill, by His rich, free, Omnipotent Grace, is not of man nor by man! The Lord'sthought of choosing the base things of this world, and things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are-His thoughtsof sovereignty and thoughts of Grace-all consistent with His thoughts of justice, are far above human invention and out ofman's range of thought.
Even when the Lord explains His thoughts and ways to us, and brings them down to our comprehension as far as they can be,yet we cannot fail to wonder at their elevation and grandeur-
"Great God of wonders! All Your ways
Are matchless, Godlike, and Divine."
Have you not often stood in mute astonishment as you have discovered some fresh blessing of the Covenant unknown to you before?Like a miner who turns over another nugget in the mine and stands in amazed delight, so have you mingled faith with astonishment!Have you not known what it is to do as David did when Nathan brought him tidings of the Lord's Covenant with him-"Then wentking David in and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me upto now? And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?"
Have not such fits of astonishment been upon you, also? Have you not cried with the Apostle, "O the depth of the riches bothof the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"? Hundreds of timesbetween now and Heaven will the same glad astonishment seize us-and perhaps in Heaven, itself, wondering will be a leadingpart of our enjoyment! We shall-
"Sing with wonder and surprise At His loving kindness in the skies." Do not the victorious hosts which stand upon the seaof glass, having the harps of God, sing the song of Moses, the servant of the Lord and of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelousare Your works, Lord God Almighty"? The thoughts of God will even, in Heaven, be above our most sublime thoughts and His ways,even then, above our most heavenly ways. How exalted is the Lord! His glory is above the earth and heavens!
How tenderly does He overpower us with the splendor of His goodness, soothing where He might confound! In Grace and love,who is like You, O Lord? Among the gods who is like You? Understanding faints in attempting to ascend to You! Imagination,to which You have given a half-creative faculty, cannot beget a thought of equal height to Your thoughts, nor conceive a waywhich may bear comparison with Your ways! What better can we do, great God, than bow our heads and reverently adore?
This morning, in trying to discuss our text, we will endeavor to illustrate it by its own connection. There are many waysof handling Scripture, but to my mind the freshest and most instructive is to expound it by its surroundings. To pick outa plum here and there is the children's method, but hardly satisfies students of the Word of God. "Let us not tear it," isexceedingly good advice with regard to Scripture, which is, in some sense, the garment of God. I will take hold of the centralpart of the rich piece of silken Truth contained in this chapter and I will lift up the whole fabric before you and bid youobserve its texture and note how wonderfully it is worked throughout.
Exposition is ever nourishing to the Lord's people and this it is which we shall aim at. I think there are three things whichare very clear in the text if viewed in its connection. First, in the text there is rebuke administered. Secondly, there isrepentance encouraged. And, thirdly, there is expectation excited.
I. First in the text there is REBUKE ADMINISTERED, for thus it runs-"Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteousman his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantlypardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways." Do you not observe a sort of ringing of thechanges upon the words, "thoughts," and, "ways"? This proves to my mind that the connection mainly lies in this first point.
The Lord says, "Forsake your ways, for they are not My ways. Leave your thoughts, for they are not My thoughts. Your waysought to be My ways. Your thoughts ought to be My thoughts, so far as the weakness of creatureship will allow. But it is notso. You have wandered away from Me. You think not such thoughts as I would have you think. You walk not in such a way as Iwould have you choose-therefore forsake your ways and your thoughts and turn unto your God." It is a remonstrance tenderlyadministered, mixed up with such sweet exhortation that no degree of bitterness is perceptible in it. The rebuke is envelopedin love and made into a sugar-coated pill. The sweet promise of abundant pardon conceals the reproof.
Now let us take the rebuke and notice, first, the fault of man's thoughts-"My thoughts are not your thoughts." As betweeneach other, God's thoughts are not man's, though they ought to be. God's thoughts are love, pity, tenderness. Ours are forgetfulness,ingratitude and hard-heartedness. He thinks of us as lost sheep are thought of by the shepherd, as a prodigal child is thoughtof by his father. But our thoughts are not of the same kind. In its wandering state, the sheep has no thought of returningto the shepherd and the prodigal son, until converting Grace meets with him, has no
reciprocal affection towards his father. It is sad that the God of Love should have to say, "My thoughts are not your thoughts."
God's thoughts to us are thoughts of love, but not so ours to Him. He is tender of our comfort, but we are not tender of Hishonor. He considers our interests, but we think not of His Glory. He watches over our safety, but we are not watchful to keepHis statutes. He loads us with benefits, but we only load Him with our sins. He has given us all that we have, but we bringHim cold thanks in return. You love, O ungodly men, to live without remembering God! He is not in all your thoughts. You haveno consideration for your Maker, no deference for your Preserver, no care for your best Friend. He feels your ungenerous conduct,for He says, "If then, I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My fear?"
Alas, man returns not according to the benefit received, but often renders evil for good! When the Lord deigned to visit earthas the Incarnate God, the acts of man proved that His thoughts are not God's thoughts. God's thoughts were all goodness tomen, but men found Him here in human form and their thoughts and ways were full of enmity and murder towards Him! They cried,"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" How terribly has man departed from His God! Your thoughts as to your conduct are not God's thoughts.He considers that the creatures He has made should obey Him, but you judge that it matters not what a man does towards HisMaker so long as he is just towards his fellow men.
God declares that no conduct can justify a man unless it is absolutely perfect and wholly conformed to His Law. But man imaginesthat if he does his best it will suffice and that even if he does not do his best, a little profession of repentance willwipe off old scores and he may stand self-justified before God. Man thinks that he has done wondrously if he gives, now andthen, a little attention to outward religion, even though his heart may be far from God. But the Lord looks at the heart andsearches the secret places of the mind. He values nothing but what is done out of love to Him. Man slights the inward andonly regards the outward, for God's thoughts are not his thoughts. Oh you that are satisfied with your own conduct and perfectlycontent that things are well enough with you, I beseech you to remember that your self-congratulatory thoughts are not thethoughts of God! He looks into the soul's secrets and He is not deceived by the words and professions of those who draw nearto Him with their lips, but in secret continue in their iniquity!
God's thoughts, again, as to the life which a man needs in order to salvation are very different from man's thoughts. Didyou notice how in this chapter He says, "Hear, and your soul shall live"? He reckons, then, that man is dead till he has heardthe Word of God in his soul. Man reckons that he is alive enough-he is perfectly satisfied with the mental life which he possessesand does not desire spiritual life-for as yet he cannot apprehend it. Here is a wide difference! God thinks of you, O Sinner,as dead and beginning to corrupt! He thinks of you as we think of a corpse when we cry, "Bury my dead out of my sight."
But you think of yourself as of a creature fair to look upon, filled with beauty, abounding with ability and able to performall spiritual acts at pleasure. Your boast is that you have freedom of will and force of heart to set all things right wheneverit pleases you-and courage and resolution to right every wrong which may assail you. You are as strong as Goliath and as braveas David in your own esteem! But God doesn't think so. His eternal Spirit knows that you are dead-and He has come to bringyou life-take heed that you do not reject it! Do not say in your heart, "I have life enough and need nothing from the MostHigh," for this would be your sure destruction!
God's thoughts are not our thoughts, again, in reference to the Truth of God. God's thoughts of His Truth are evidently notman's, for nothing but Divine Grace can bring man to believe the doctrines of the Gospel, or keep him faithful to them. Eachgeneration seems to bring forth its own set of men who set themselves to oppose God's Truth from some fresh point. These scribesand counters of the towers are wonderfully busy just now. We have among us a great company of men who have attained reputethrough daring to assail established Truths of God-wise men if we take their own judgment of themselves-for they are nevermore at home than when sounding the praises of their own culture and breadth of mind.
These Philistines have intruded into the temple under the pretense of trimming our lamps but their aim is to put them out.Evangelistic light is too clear for them and they seek to obscure it-therefore they give new readings to texts which are translatedby better scholars than they will ever be and put new interpretations upon the doctrines which their fathers held-interpretationswhich their sires would indignantly repudiate! Roughly speaking, these men deny everything which faith holds dear and yetexpect to be considered to be Christians! They tear the vitals from every Truth
of God and yet pretend to believe it! Their advanced thought, like a vampire, sucks the blood out of the veins of Truth andhe who would drive away the foul thing is called a bigot and a fool!
These reverend infidels are to be tolerated as our ministers, or if we decline to reckon those to be Christian ministers whospend all their energies in undermining Christianity, we are in danger of being ridiculed by the sage party which now clamorsin the public ear. Well, it was always so! Man thinks himself so wise and good that he does not like God's thoughts concerninghimself-his fall, his guilt and his danger. He tries to think Revelation over again. He places it upside down and then hecalls his maundering, "culture," and, "thought." To get away from the plain teaching of Scripture he babbles about advancement-anadvancement which consists in going away from the Light-an advancement which will bring us back to stark naked infidelityunless God, in infinite mercy, shall stop it. Man likes not the thoughts of God!
If God thinks of man as depraved, he will not have it-he feels that it is a shameful thing to speak thus of such a noble beingas himself! If God declares that man is so fallen that he must be born again, he will not have it-he will sprinkle a few dropsof water on a baby's face-say some mumbo jumbo and presto!-The thing is done! If God thinks that the sinner shall be castinto Hell where their worm dies not-men's fears are quieted by being assured by some great Divine that there is no Hell-thathe cannot find mention of it in the Bible and that at the worst, he will only cease to be. Thus do they think, in oppositionto the Divine thinking, for it is always true, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says theLord."
In the matter of salvation, God's thoughts are not man's thoughts, for God thinks that man has so sinned that he must be condemnedunless a Substitute is found. Man doesn't think so. God sets before him pardon, freely presented through the precious bloodof Jesus Christ-man thinks to buy it by his devotions, or to win it by his merits! Therefore the language preceding our text-"Whydo you spend money for that which is not bread? And why do you labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently untoMe, and eat that which is good and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto Me: hear, and yoursoul shall live" and so on. Those verses hold in solution the thought of our text-"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neitherare your ways My ways, says the Lord."
See then, dear Friends, that this is a call to repentance! Man, if you think rightly, you will submit to think as God thinks!If your thoughts are what they should be, they will not contradict God's thoughts, for He knows more than you and knows betterthan you. The Infinite, the Eternal-is He to be judged by man's judgment? Is He to be analyzed in the chemist's laboratory?Are His thoughts to be ridiculed because they are contrary to the reigning philosophy which is probably no more true thanthe many other forms of human ignorance which have come and gone in the centuries of the past? Will not the present dreamsof mortal wisdom melt like a mist before the sun of Gospel Truth? Is God's great system of Salvation and Providence to becalled to the bar of the scientists, who can do no more than dote after the manner of their predecessors?
Shall Divine Revelation be judged and condemned as men try a thief? No, worse than this-these sages so despise the teachingof the Lord that one would think they were a committee of doctors examining a maniac! Let us abhor the presumption of skepticismand let us be wise enough to know our folly! We must be rational enough to feel that God is to be obeyed and not questioned-andthat His Revelation is to be believed and not criticized. Though we think crookedly, God's thoughts are upright. Though wethink grovellingly, God thinks sublimely. Though we think upon a finite and erroneous scale, God thinks infinitely and Infallibly!It is our lot to continually correct our thoughts by the Infallible Word of God so that our minds are kept in harmony withthe sure utterances of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the text advances to say that man's ways are not like God's-"My ways are not your ways." Our ways are the outward actionswhich spring out of our thoughts. God's ways are ways of holiness and purity. God has never done anything unjust to His creatureor unrighteous to Himself. But our ways are not so-they are full of error, marred with evil, polluted with impurity. By naturewe love that which we ought to hate! We often put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Oh, Brothers and Sisters, when youthink of the Character of God and then think of the best man that ever lived-truly "as high as the heavens are above the earth"are His ways above our ways!
God's ways are ways of love and tenderness. He is very loving and full of compassion. But our ways are not so-we are oftenvery harsh to one another and we do not return a filial love to God. I mean not unless His Grace meets with us. And even thenwe fall far short of walking in the love of God as He walks in love toward us. God's ways are ways of
truth-He never lies, He has never been unfaithful to us or untrue to His promises. But we, on the other hand, have provedfalse to Him many times. "You have dealt very treacherously," said the Prophet of old, and the charge lies against us to thisday. We have been traitors to God, but He has been fidelity, itself, to us!
Our good resolves have dissolved in air. Our promises have been broken. Our vows have all been forgotten. God is all truthand faithfulness to us and we are all mistrust and doubt and treachery towards Him! Were it not for His Divine Grace we wouldhave even fallen into apostasy-and been like the son of perdition who betrayed his Lord! God's ways are ways of forgivenessand peace. He does not desire the death of the sinner. He is very patient, He suffers long, He bears continually with ourprovocations. He is desirous that men should acquaint themselves with Him and be at peace. His ways are ways of reconciliation,ways of forgiveness, ways of love and kindness!
But you can see, can't you, that the ways of the natural man are perverse? By nature we do not desire to be at amity withGod. On the contrary, we seize upon anything that can aggravate our transgression and widen the breach between ourselves andour offended Lord! We have no patience-we cannot even bear with a little suffering or trial from Him without complaint andmurmur. There are men around us who will turn round and curse Him to His face when His hand is smiting and correcting themfor their own good-yes, and they will do it wantonly without a shadow of reason. Our ways are not God's ways. This is trueof every sinner under Heaven and, in some measure, true of the best of men- "My ways are not your ways, says the Lord."
Well, now, Beloved, two cannot walk together in Heaven except they are of one mind! Therefore our ways and God's ways mustbe made to be alike in character. Now, it is not possible for us to conceive of God's making His thoughts to be like our thoughts.Who would wish such a thing? Who would desire that the wise and good should stoop to think our folly and act our madness?Who could wish that the Glorious and the Perfect should come down to think and act after the manner of unjust, unrighteousman? His thoughts cannot be reduced to ours-what then? Why, we must rise to Him! Not, of course, to His majesty and sublimity,but we must rise to His holiness, truth and love. Therefore the command which comes before our text, "Seek you the Lord whileHe may be found, call you upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts:and let him return unto the Lord."
If infinite purity cannot be expected to become impure, let us ask that our impurity may be taken away and that we may bemade clean in the Lord's sight so as to hold fellowship with Him! And now I ask you to consider the difficulty of this. "Asthe heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways." Turn your eyes here, O Self-Sufficiency! Canyou vault into Heaven? Standing here upon this lower earth can you, with a spring, leap above yon stars, ascend into the holinessof God and become a partaker of the Divine Nature?
Surely you have a task set before you which will make you confess your inability! Yet such a rising up must be accomplishedif we are to dwell with God and have fellowship with Him! These miry, filthy ways of earth must become like the pure and perfectpath of the thrice Holy One or we cannot walk with Him! How, then, are we to be lifted up from earth to Heaven? The word thatanswers the question is that matchless syllable, "Grace." God in Christ Jesus, by His almighty Grace, must raise us up togetherwith Christ! He who brought, again, from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ, must stoop down to lift us up from the grave ofsin and quicken us into eternal life -or we shall never think His thoughts or follow His ways!
Into the Light wherein He dwells, we can never go except by the operations of His Divine Spirit. Jesus says, "No man comesunto the Father but by Me," and, "No man can come unto Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him." The Holy Spirit mustquicken us out of our trespasses and sins! He must deliver us from the ways in which we walk according to the course of thisworld! He must redeem us from the dominion of the carnal mind which is enmity against God! By sanctification He must deliverus from our indwelling corruption and continue the process till He conforms us perfectly to the image of the peerless Sonof God! And likeness to Jesus He will work in all Believers! And it shall be said of us-"They are without fault before theThrone of God!" And Christ, Himself, shall say, "They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy." It is clear, then,that our text is a gentle but earnest rebuke, veiled in abounding love!
II. Now, secondly, we shall view the text under another aspect. Here we have REPENTANCE ENCOURAGED. Kindly look at the 7thverse-"Let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For Mythoughts are not your thoughts." It is clear that there is a connecting link between the
abundance of pardon and the lofty Character of God-and that men are encouraged to forsake their ways and thoughts by the hopeof pardon derived from the greatness of the Divine thoughts and ways.
First, O Sinner, turn from your ways at once, and seek the Lord! Do not stand back because you cannot understand God. It isnot necessary that you should comprehend His ways and thoughts-you are not asked to do so! In fact, you are told in the textthat you cannot do anything of the kind! You are bid to forsake your ways and receive mercy by hearing His Word and believingit, for as the heavens are high above the earth, so high are His ways above your ways. You cannot understand it-you wastetime while raising this question and that, prying into God's eternal purposes, gazing into the dazzling light of sovereignty-questioningelecting love, diving into mysteries of the Trinity and the like! You are to "hear, and your soul shall live."
Return unto your God and He will abundantly pardon you. Though you cannot grapple with His sublimity, submit to His mercy!You may conclude that it is not intended that you should understand the Infinite, for you are told that His thoughts and waysare far above you. But you are required to seek Him while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near! Come and closewith His free invitation to give you wine and milk without money and without price! Forsaking your sin, come and be at peacewith Him at once! Do not stand back because you cannot find a parallel to the Grace which God declares that He will displaytowards you. What if you have looked over all the history of man and you can find nothing among men that can equal the abundanceof Divine pardon? Do not, therefore, hesitate to believe, for God's thoughts are above all human thoughts.
Man finds it hard to forgive at all. One of the sternest lessons which some men have to learn is to forgive their brothersunto 70 times seven. Man can, with difficulty, forgive repeated offenses-but he usually draws an argument for anger from therepetition of the provocation. Nor can he forgive a large number of offenders-he might pardon one- but to forgive many ismore than most men will even attempt to do! They are filled with indignation and resist those who annoy them. When offensesare aggravated willfully, when they provoke by being committed against love and against kindness, men will not forgive. Eventhe most forgiving become, at last, incensed-but God passes by myriads of transgressions! Do not wait until you find a manwho will forgive you-God can do what man never dreams of doing. His thoughts are above your thoughts and His ways above yourways.
Perhaps conscience has been busy as to your shortcomings and you feel yourself to be self-condemned. In the honesty of yourjudgment you have felt compelled to cry, "I could not do otherwise than pass sentence of condemnation upon myself if I weremade my own judge." 'Tis a right verdict, but do not forget that Jesus died for sinners and now, far above all thoughts ofours, Mercy's wing can mount! Yes, for time everlasting, mountains of Jehovah's forgiving love are above the heavens-DivineGrace is above all things! Think of this, O repenting Sinner, and be encouraged! Man's forgiveness is seldom free, like thatof God's, who delights to pardon sin! No sooner do we transgress than God is ready to forgive!
Man's forgiveness is never so full as God's, for the Lord harbors no resentment. He preserves no memory of our transgressions-Hecasts them into the depths of the sea and remembers them no more! Man's forgiveness is seldom so real as God's, for thoughman says he has forgiven, he does not, afterwards, delight in the offender as he may have done before. There is a chill inhis heart towards the person who injured him and by his cautious dealing he shows that he remembers the wrong. But the LordGod so effectually and wholly forgets transgression that He presses the offender to His heart, adopts him into His familyand lifts him up to dwell forever with Him above!
Now, Beloved, according to our text, whatever your ways towards God shall be in the future, He will exceed them! Are yourways now right towards your Father? Do you begin with trembling footsteps to seek His house? Lo, He runs to meet you! Theprodigal's Father meets him far more than half way, for His ways are above our ways! Do you stand before Him weeping? It iswell-these ways of repentance are good, but better are the ways of God-for Jesus stands before you, bleeding for your sake.He gives blood instead of tears! Do you love the Redeemer because of His dying for you? Alas, you do not love so greatly asHe loves you-His love is a sea and yours a tiny brook. Will you, from now on, give Him all your life? Yet not such a lifeas He gives to you-a life perfect and eternal-and all for you!
He lives for you and says, "Because I live, you shall live, also." Come back, O Penitent, for when you do come back, if DivineGrace has put some goodness into your ways, yet there shall still be infinitely more goodness in the ways of God! And as toyour thoughts-can you think of how He will receive you? Oh, you cannot dream how gladly He will meet you and how kindly Hewill receive you! You are about to cry, "I am not worthy to be called Your son," but He will
say to His servants, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet!" You hopethat there will be gladness when you are restored, but you have no idea of the music and the dancing which will flood Heaven,itself, with rejoicing!
You faintly hope that God will love you, but you have no idea how much, nor what great things His love will do for you! Thehalf has never been told you by the most faithful witness for God. Those who have experienced most of the Divine Love havenever been able to communicate to you any idea of what that love is! God's thoughts are above your thoughts as much as theheavens are above the earth! Come, then, to Him! Infinite Grace awaits you. A tender reception, a perfect cleansing, a Divineadorning-eternal security and endless bliss shall all be yours! Why do you linger? The life of God shall be in you and thejoy of Christ shall fill you to the full! If this does not encourage men to repent, what can?
III. And now let us touch upon the third point, which is this-EXPECTATION EXCITED. I said I was going to keep to the connectionof the text and so I will. But this time the link is forward instead of backward. "As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For"-you see there is the link word, "for," to joinour text to that which follows-"For as the rain comes down and the snow from Heaven and returns not there, but waters theearth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be."
Now, if you listen to the Lord and take His thoughts to be your thoughts-and earnestly pray Him to make His ways to be yourways from this time forth and forever-you may justly indulge the highest expectations and they shall be exceeded! This chaptertells you what to expect. First, you are to expect that the Lord's Word will be unfailing to you. What is this "Word"? Yousee we have had "thoughts" and "ways" and now we come to "Word." God's Word is His thoughts spoken, and God's Word is, also,His ways, for, "He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast." His "Word" is "thoughts" and "ways" put together!
Now that "Word" of His shall never be broken to you, poor Sinner. Forsake your ways, forsake your thoughts- and come and trustin God and His Word shall be like Himself-Immutable, Eternal, Infallible and full of boundless blessing to you! It shall bepowerful to bless you, mighty to grow you-it shall be like rain and snow which go not back to Heaven, but sink into the earthto make it bring forth and bud. From that day forward, when you are reconciled to God, you may take any promise you find inthe Word of God and say, "Lord, fulfill this Word unto Your servant which You have caused me to hope," and it shall be so.Come and trust Him-and promises which now appear before you as far too rich for such a poor worm as you are, shall be fulfilled!They shall come down upon your soul like gentle showers and make you full of gladness. Such is the fullness of its power thatyou shall be able to respond to God's Word by a holy and gracious life-and your soul, barren as it now is-shall be made tobring forth and bud. That is one blessed thing which you may confidently expect, for you are coming to a God of great waysand thoughts!
The next is that you are returning to a God whose ways are so much above your ways and His thoughts so much above your thoughtsthat your heart shall be filled with joy-"you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace." God will not merely breakoff your chains and say in cold accents, "You are free," but He will release you amid the music of the spheres! And angelsshall lead you forth in peace and your tongue shall sing, "I am forgiven! I am forgiven! I am accepted! I am redeemed! Behold,now do I go forth out of my captivity with joy and God's angels lead me forth with peace." Who would not be a penitent ifsuch things may be expected from the sublime grandeur of the goodness of God?
Next to this, all your surroundings shall minister to your gladness. "The mountains and the hills shall break forth beforeyou into singing. And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." In your journey through life, mountains have, upto now, been hard to climb and forests tangled and dark have been your dread. But now so greatly good is God to those whoseways become His ways, that the mountain which you feared shall break forth into song and the forest at which you trembledshall become an orchestra in which every tree shall clap its hands for joy! You do not know what awaits coming sinners!
You that are willing to hear that your soul may live-you that are willing to accept the Covenant which God made with greatDavid's greater Son-you shall see the whole world robed in the garments of praise and your heart shall be so filled with gladnessthat it shall overflow and flood all Nature with joy! And then there shall happen to you wonderful transformations. BecauseGod's ways are above your ways, He will do what you never thought could be done! The thorns shall be transmuted into fir treesand the briers into myrtles! There shall be a change in you, such a wonderful change,
that all things shall become new! There shall be a change in all that concerns you-the Bible shall become a treasure and theSabbath a delight! The Mercy Seat a loved resort and the path of obedience a way of pleasantness!
Sin shall be uprooted and virtue shall be implanted! Evil habits shall be withered and holy principles shall be nourished!You do not know and you cannot guess what honor, pleasure, dignity and glory it is to be in Christ! You who have never cometo God cannot conceive the bliss of life with God by Jesus Christ! As a deaf man can have no notion of music. As a man bornblind can have no conception of the splendor of the rainbow, so you deaf and blind, you do not know what the Christian lifeis for excellence and happiness-but you may guess that it is surpassingly delightful when you hear that as high as the heavensare above the earth, so high are the Lord's ways above our ways!
Last of all, this mercy is to endure forever. Man's thoughts are temporary and his ways but for a season. God is eternal-whenHe thinks, His thoughts abide forever-and when He acts, His ways are everlasting. The gifts and calling of God are withoutrepentance-He never changes His mind! Perhaps you think that salvation is a thing to be found and lost, to be gained and forfeited,to be enjoyed today and deplored tomorrow-and truly, there are some who tell us so. But so speaks not the Word of the Lord,for it is written, "It shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
Once come and walk in the ways of God and His Grace will keep you in them and you shall find a growing delight in them! Oncecome and learn the thoughts of God and surrender your intellect and heart entirely to His supremacy-and if it is a sinceresurrender-His Holy Spirit will, from now on, guide your thoughts and direct your beliefs so that you shall continue steadfastin His fear and your path shall be that of the just which shines more and more unto the perfect day. Oh, who would not yieldto such a God as our God, whose goodness excels our largest desires? If I were engaged upon the wretched errand of chargingyou to submit to a remorseless tyrant who would never forgive, my message would be hard to deliver! But because Jesus, theSon of God, has died and by His death has expiated sin, we are authorized and empowered to cry in the name of God, "Let thewicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts! And let him return unto the Lord and He will have mercy uponhim, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
If all this should seem to be too good to be true, as often it has done-if the sinner should feel unable to believe that hecan obtain immediate forgiveness for a long life of transgression-we are then commanded to tell you that you must not measureGod by yourself. You must not calculate what He can do by what your fellow man can perform. The Lord can forgive what otherwisecould never be forgiven. He can pour out mercies so multiplied as to baffle human arithmetic! He can bless you beyond yourdesires. He can delight you beyond a dream and He can finally give you a Heaven which "eye has not seen nor ear heard, neitherhas entered into the heart of man."
Close in with Him, Soul, at once, while yet in the Person of the Lord Jesus He commands your faith! Go not about by good worksand prayers and tears to obtain forgiveness! Spend not your money on that which is not bread, but come, penniless and pooras you are, and buy the wine and milk of Covenant blessings without money and without price!! Lend the willing ear and yieldthe believing heart. "Hear, and your soul shall live!" Believe, and you shall be saved! Through Jesus Christ we proclaim theGood News and, for His sake, we implore a blessing upon it. Amen.