It’s a familiar passage and I know a song about the verses that follow on from it. We have a tendency to isolate verses from their context. Thoughts about what? What particular thoughts here are not mine? What ways are higher? Pretty much every thought is what you might be thinking – but there is a specific thought in this case.
There was a programme on BBC on Sunday night. It wasn’t on that late, but late enough for me to decide to record it and watch it the next day. “The Selfless Sikh: Faith on the Frontline” is one of those programmes that RE teachers feel obliged to watch. So I watched it yesterday. Spoiler Alert! It was about a Sikh putting his faith on the front line! The front line he was putting it on was in war torn Iraq. He didn’t tell his mother where he was headed because he didn’t want her to worry. He provided aid to Yazidi refugees fleeing ISIS.
Ravi Singh talked to women and young boys about life under ISIS rule and it was uncomfortable stuff to listen to. Families were broken apart, husbands killed, wives and daughters sold as slaves and young sons drafted into the army and given guns to shoot and lessons in how to behead the enemy. The women telling their stories wore headscarves and covered their faces – but their eyes, uncovered, showed how much they had suffered. They wiped away tears – and so did I.
As Ravi listened, he dropped his head. As he listened he admitted to being angry about what men has done to other men, to women and to children. It was all too easy to focus on the bad actions and harden his heart to the culprits, but he didn’t want to be like that. He wanted to stay soft hearted and compassionate and reach out to their victims instead.
Let’s head back to Isaiah and to God’s higher thoughts.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7
God will have mercy on the wicked and the unrighteous. He will freely pardon them – if they seek him. If they turn to him.
I am not sure I want to have any mercy for those who raped the women in the programme. I didn’t want them to be pardoned. They didn’t deserve mercy or pardon. I know…I know…I didn’t deserve mercy or pardon either but in comparison to the crimes they have committed, mine is just little forgivable stuff.
That’s how God thinks differently and acts differently to me. I think in terms of justice, of revenge perhaps and of people getting exactly what they deserve. God thinks in terms of mercy and pardon. My ways are the ways of the world – they have got to pay for their actions. God thinks – “I have already paid.” God challenges me to think and act the way He does.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.” Isaiah 55:12-13
God has created me for joy and for peace. He wants me to inhabit an environment where hills and mountains sing and trees clap their hands. That doesn’t happen when I choose revenge. I have the choice to grow the juniper and the myrtle and walk away from the thorn bushes and the briers.
I had a picture in my head. I was standing with a machine gun in my hand. The gun summed up my heart reaction to all the stories I had heard in the TV programme. These men of violence understood only violence. The way to defeat them was by using greater violence. Then a man came along and took the machine gun off me. He pushed into my hand a pile of bandages and a first aid kit. Nothing was said.
This is His way and it has to be my way too.