The Thoughts of God and Man

Man at Sunrise

When we discuss matters of religion or spirituality with others, we will find that many people base their views upon what they think. Even when we might present some clear passage of Scripture to show them a particular point, they will often respond by saying, “Well, I just think…” This is common among those in the world. Sadly, we often see this among brethren within the church as well.

The problem with basing our beliefs and practices on what we think is that we are not God. Even with the best of intentions, what we think does not justify us. This is the idea behind the following text:

‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares 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.

‘For as the rain and the snow comes down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Isaiah 55:8-11).

There is an important difference between God’s thoughts and our thoughts. We must learn to recognize and respect the difference.

God’s Thoughts and Ways Are Higher

As the heavens are higher than the earth” (Isaiah 55:9), God’s ways and thoughts are higher than man’s. This description is meant to show us that the thoughts of God are infinitely superior in every way. His thoughts and ways are not better much of the time or in most circumstances; rather, they are always far better than our thoughts and ways. Because of this, there are a few points that are true.

First, we cannot do whatever we desire and expect to please God. James warned that following our desires (lusts) leads to sin which leads to death (James 1:14-15). Satan uses “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes” to tempt us to commit sin (1 John 2:16). John went on to write, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). This means that if we follow after those things that we might desire but are contrary to the will of God, we will miss out on eternal life.

Second, we cannot presume to know what will please God. We might do many things “in His name,” but not be doing what pleases Him. Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23). In other words, Jesus indicated that there will be many who believed in Him and claimed to do things for Him who will be lost because they were practicing lawlessness – doing things for which they had no law (authority). The wise man warned that following the “way which seems right” to us will only lead to “death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Third, we cannot improve upon God’s word. His word is true (John 17:17); therefore, anything contrary to it is false. Paul wrote, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4). God’s word is complete (2 Peter 1:3); therefore, we must “not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Proverbs 30:6). His word is also unchanging (Psalm 119:89); therefore, we must not try to change it. Paul said that even if an apostle or an angel began proclaiming something different from the ancient gospel, they were “to be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). We must be content with God’s word as He has revealed it to man.

Fourth, we cannot discover God’s will apart from His revelation. The reality is that we cannot know anyone’s thoughts unless they tell us. Paul wrote, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). The same is true with God: “Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). We can only know what God thinks by what His word says. Moses told the Israelites, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has not revealed everything about which we might be curious; instead, He has revealed what we need to know to please Him. We cannot discover the will of God apart from that revelation.

God’s Word Will Accomplish What He Desires

In order to make this point, the Lord gave the example of His ongoing providence in “the rain and the snow [that] come down from heaven…furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater” (Isaiah 55:10). After the flood, the Lord promised that He would continue to provide for mankind as long as this world stands: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). In Lystra, Paul cited this ongoing providence as proof for the existence of God: “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). The rain does what it is supposed to do and this continues perpetually.

After citing the example of the rain, the Lord said, “So will My word be” (Isaiah 55:11). This will not be true of man’s words since his thoughts and ways are not in any way equal to God’s. Like the rain, the word of the Lord does what it is supposed to do. It is the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). As the rain continues perpetually, God’s word “endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Since this is true about the word of God, we can have confidence in what He has revealed to man. The wise man said, “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). This also means that we will always need and can always benefit from the word of God. Paul described God’s word to the Ephesian elders as being “able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Because this word is from God and endures forever, these facts will never change.


God’s thoughts are infinitely superior to ours. Therefore, we must look to what He has revealed – rather than to what we think – in order to learn what we ought to believe, teach, and practice.

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  1. Thanks, Andy, for another fine and well written article. I enjoy reading your mind and I like how it thinks. Keep up the good work!

  2. John Henson says

    Naaman: “Behold, I thought…”