God’s Thoughts

Doing a study on how God thinks might in some ways seem futile, since Romans 11:33-34 says His ways are past finding out” and implies that no human has or can know “the mind of the Lord.” But another verse that borrows this thought from Isaiah 40:13 and Jeremiah 23:18 gives a bit more hope for today’s topic.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)

The context of this verse is explaining how God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us access to His thoughts. Because we have been called and given His Spirit, “we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 1:12). That doesn’t mean we know, or can know, everything, but it does mean we can begin to understand the mind of God and have Christ’s mind formed in us (Phil. 2:5).

God’s Thoughts Are…

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.” (Is. 55:6-9)

Before these verses tell us how much higher God’s thoughts are than ours, it instructs us to change the patterns of our own thinking. Our thoughts must be in the right place before we can begin to understand how God thinks. In order to “return to the Lord,” we have to forsake unrighteous thoughts and wicked ways.

casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)

Though we are created in God’s image, we can’t assume that means His thoughts are similar to ours. They are far higher, and to have a relationship with Him we need to recognize that our pattern of thinking needs to change — to become more like the One we were originally patterned after.

He Knows Our Thoughts

In sci-fi, we describe the ability to read someone else’s thoughts as telepathy. We could say God has this superpower, which is an idea I find both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. He can understand us from the perspective of sensing our innermost thoughts and driving motivations. If we feel lonely or misunderstood, this is a comfort. But when we’ve done something wrong it is impossible to hide from Him.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. …

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:1-4, 7-10)

blog post "God's Thoughts" by marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is my favorite Psalm. I usually find the idea of being known so intimately by my Lord a huge comfort. Who else can literally know every aspect of who you are, understand you perfectly, and still love you?

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. …

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:17-18, 23-24)

Once we ask God for this kind of relationship, though, it’s not all about being accepted just as we are. God loves us now, exactly as He finds us, but one aspect of this Love is that He will not allow us to remain imperfect versions of ourselves. He has to be working in us and with us to change us, to make us more like Him.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)

His Thoughts Toward Us

Though He knows every one of our thoughts, and sees all our foibles and faults (even the ones we manage to keep hidden from other people), God’s own thoughts toward us are good things. Another scripture I take great comfort in is part of a letter Jeremiah the prophet wrote when the Jews were carried away captive as a result of their disobedience to God. Even in that context, God was still planning good things for them and thinking of them kindly.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jer. 29:11-14)

It’s interesting that here as well as in Isaiah 55:6 there is the idea of seeking the Lord. Both times when we’re talking about God’s thoughts in relation to us, we are instructed to seek Him because He wants to be found. He wants us to love Him, to try and understand Him, and to grow in His character — to learn to think the way He thinks.

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Anxious For Nothing

There is something that I find comforting about realizing how well God knows us.

O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. (Ps. 139:1-4)

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  Psa 139:9-10This is my favorite Psalm. Not only does it have one of the most fantastically poetic phrases in the Bible — “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” — it is also the prayer of a man who is in awe of his God and takes comfort in the close relationship they share. David put his complete trust in God, and shared all his worries, troubles, and fears with full confidence that God would hear and respond.

I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before Him; I shewed before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path. (Ps. 142:1-3)

Throughout the Psalms, we can see examples of David bringing his anxiety before God, much as Peter admonishes us to do when he writes, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). It is certainly not easy to let go of our worries, but that is what we are expected to do.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus spends a large portion of chapter 6 admonishing His followers against earthly anxiety. He says to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” instead of on earth and “take no thought for your life” (6:20, 25). Paul says much the same thing in Philippians:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Php. 4:6-7)

The word translated “careful” is G3309 merimnao (μεριμνάω). Zodhiates says it means, “To care, be anxious, troubled, to take thought.” When we pray to God and draw near to Him, we do not have to be anxious about anything. Now, I can write this just fine, but I’ll be the first person to admit I’m not very good at letting go of my anxiety. I worry about my family and friends, being in groups of people,  my 15-year-old cat, how people will respond to my writings, and my future (which encompasses a whole sub-group of worries we won’t get into right now). I spend an inordinate amount time worrying, and usually things aren’t nearly as bad as I feared. In short, I am anxious about things that turn out to be nothing to worry about.

Just think how much time and energy we could save if we really believed that God will make “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This doesn’t mean we’ll never worry at all. But it should mean that we can let go of our anxieties more quickly and “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15).

Heart of Worship

In my last post on worship, I talked about blowing kisses to God, from the Greek word proskuneō. This time, I want to write about a more sobering verse, contained in one of Christ’s discussions with the scribes and Pharisees.

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7)

This word for worship is sebomai (G4576 σέβομαι), which Zodhiates lists as a synonym of proskuneō. It means to fall before, worship, adore. The word translated “in vain” is matēn (G3155 μάτην). It can also mean, “In a casual sense, meaning groundless, invalid” (Zodhiates). Used together, it means worship that is a vain and idle show of adoration rather than the real thing.

Trying to understand what invalidates a person’s worship of God, I went to the verse Christ was quoting from Isaiah. It reads, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men ” (Is. 29:13).

The state of our hearts is extremely important when we consider what genuine worship involves. It is clear from statements throughout the Old and New Testaments that “the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7) and expects His people to be pure on the inside. The last thing we should do is remove our hearts from God.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)

And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (Jer. 24:7)

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8)

It is equally clear that we cannot fool Him with worship that is not genuine. Read Psalm 139. God knows us to the very center of our being. He is the one who searches the heart and discerns our thoughts and intents (Jer. 17:10; Heb. 4:12). An idle show of adoration certainly will not fool our God, nor will He accept such worshipers when He is seeking those who worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

I want to close with a lovely song, from which I have borrowed the title for this post.