"Power of Perspective"
Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD."
This morning, people have become very wise in their own eyes. Whether one wants to attribute this cultural mindset to the rise in technology, the lowering of moral standards, or any other societal symptom, the point remains clear. People think very highly of themselves and their opinions. One of the possible catalysts for this is the availability of information. Just a few clicks, points, or finger swipes, and people can pull up a plethora of information about any number of subjects. Preachers have access to theological writings more than ever before, professionals have electronic access to journals and peer-reviewed writings, and we can recreationally research many things very comfortably. However, this rise in information availability has also occurred with the plummet of something else. People today do not think critically. It is becoming more and more common for people to take what they hear and see without critically analyzing it.
Lack of critical analysis joined with truckloads of information leads to heightened pride and a false sense of expertise. This is the power of perspective in a negative vein. One of the universal failings of mankind is to assume that life is "generally" the way it is where I see it. Therefore, if life is generally good, then it is generally good for everybody and vice versa. We carry this mindset into our perspective about the church, family, work, and all avenues of life. Perspective can also keep us from receiving new information about something, because we already have that situation/person/thing figured out. For example, if someone has already fashioned a reasonable mold in our minds, we can refuse to receive anything new about that person as it might alter what is already molded in our minds. This is the power of perspective based on preconceived notions. So, what does all this have to do with our text?
A few days ago, I got to engage in one of my favorite natural pastimes in one of my favorite places to do it. I love "people watching" since we are such funny creatures, and one of the best places to do this is at an airport. All these people from different stripes thrown together in one place because they have one thing in common: catching a plane to take them somewhere else. Airports are a microcosm of what humanity looks like in general, and one of the things that I come away with at an airport is a small glimpse of what humanity must look like to the Almighty. He sees all and knows all, and we see and know so little. Our perspective is so limited, yet we put so much stock in it. His perspective is right, just, and complete, yet we fail to seek it so often.
Consider the words before us. The Lord directs us to His thoughts and ways contrasted against our thoughts and ways. The next verse describes the chasm between His and ours. The great divide of heavens above the earth compares to the Lord's thoughts and ways to ours. His thoughts pertain to seeing and perceiving. His ways pertain to His actions whether proactively or in reaction to His sense and perception. In other words, actions and ways come about based on thoughts and meditations. The Lord acts on what He thinks and perceives. His ways are always perfect and right. This is a consequence of never thinking or perceiving something that is not right. The Lord's perspective is perfect, because He sees all: outwardly and inwardly.
We see and know so very little. Our perception is limited, and though information seems so available now, we are still handicapped. Consider what we know of the past. I would imagine that my knowledge of past events would not even be 10% of what has already happened. What about the present? My knowledge of what is going on now is probably less than 1%. What about the future? Even less. Yet, God knows 100% of all past events, sees what is happening right now perfectly clearly in all places and all points, and yet knows the future like it was already yesterday. Because of such perfect thinking, perfect action grows from it. Where do our actions go astray? Improper thinking. Because we are thus limited, our actions sadly reflect it.
Let us take this line of thinking to a high theological plane for a moment and then bring it back down to the practical living realm. People today bristle at the idea of election, predestination, particular redemption, etc. because it is "not fair." A recent conversation with a lady at work hit upon this notion, as she was trying to figure out why I wouldn't subscribe to the "Left Behind" notion though I freely confessed to not knowing much about the book of Revelation. I told her that I did not have to be fully aware of Revelation's teachings to know something that it could not be saying. I explained that if that notion was what Revelation was describing it would flatly contradict a lot of plain teaching elsewhere in Scripture. She then declared, "But this must be what it is saying, because God wants more people to go to heaven, and this helps that." Ah, now the full idea behind the reasoning comes to the surface.
Why do people not think it fair that God would choose one and not another? Limited perspective leads to it. We talk about the attributes of God, but do we really "get Him?" To say that "God is love" (and He is), do we really get that? Not in its fullness. To say that we are sinners (and we are), do we really get that? Not in its fullness. We do not know the depths of our depravity, nor the heights of His love. The half of those subjects has not been told us, because our sight is too limited to receive it. God, however, has perfect understanding of both, and He acted perfectly in relation to both. His Son came as the epitome of love to redeem us from the horrible depths of wretched depravity. Oh to know the fullness of these things! Oh to see the great qualities of this One! That is what Paul desired for himself (Philippians 3:10-12), and it should be our desire while travelling through the sands of time.
We cannot see into the beautiful climes of heaven any more than we can explore the fiery torments of a devil's hell. We see those things through glimpses and flashes, but we do not fully understand them. God inhabits one, rules over both, and understands fully what they entail. His actions to legally remove us from the hold of one and into the beauty of the other is a "way" that is based on a "thought." We, in His thoughts, were placed with Him through His ways. Though we believe this and rejoice in it, none of us fully understand it. Yet, we should bow in humble submission to the One whose perspective is perfect in all things.
Have you ever heard the old cliché, "You are what you eat?" Consider that the prophet leads up to this by describing how we should be eating and drinking of the things that our wonderful Lord has provided for us. When we daily take in those things that He has provided, we will draw closer to Him and align our thinking and actions closer to His. While I do not consider myself an expert on life or God, I hope that I have learned so that I know more now than I did previously. In another 5 years, I hope to know more about God's thinking and action than I do now. I hope that this knowledge will infuse my thoughts so that my actions will be higher than they are right now.
What if we think we already have God and His ways figured out? We will cease to learn any more about Him/them. What if we think we already have life figured out? We will not grow and develop any more in our roles as church members, parents, professionals, etc. Friends, there is one Expert in this universe, and His expertise is so far above ours that we will never attain to His level while we live here. Therefore, let us put our limited perspective on the back burner and look to His mindset. He has graciously given us insight into His mind by giving us His word. He has shown us His ways through the life of His Son as recorded in His word. This is not some idyllic plane with no day-to-day value. This is - as we have previously heard from the same prophet - the sound that comes to our ears and says, "this is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21a)