“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” – Isaiah 55:8-9
David thought he’d really had it this time. He was running for his life from his own son, Absalom, who was leading a coup to overthrow David. So what did he do? He turned to God–but not, at first, in the way we might expect.
In the first two verses of Psalm 3, David writes, “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’” David sounds overwhelmed and scared. He feels surrounded by his enemies, he hears his critics saying, “God will not deliver him”—and David seems to be thinking that maybe they’re right. Maybe God won’t save him this time.
Sounds like a strange prayer from a man after God’s own heart, doesn’t it? So tell me: Is David sinning in these first two verses? Is it a sin for him to be afraid, to wonder if the pessimists around him are right? I don’t think so. But his perspective needs to turn. His faith in God needs to be strengthened. You could even say David needs to repent.
That may seem like an odd choice of words. But you see, most of us have a very narrow understanding of repentance. We may tend to toss up a prayer that sounds something like this: “Lord, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Forgive me! Forgive me! Forgive me! In Jesus’ name, amen!” Well, nice try … but that’s not repentance.
The word “repent” means to change your mind, and it always leads to a change in your behavior. So, whenever you think of the word “repent,” immediately think, “change.” True repentance involves a change in your thinking. A change in your priorities. A change in your decision-making. And that adds up to a change in your behavior. To say it another way, repentance is a turning. When we repent, our thoughts turn from something old to something new. As a result, our behavior turns from one course of action to another. That’s why I like to describe repentance as a spiritual U-turn. Repentance is a 180 – a spiritual U-turn that always includes a turning FROM and a turning TO.
Now, let’s get back to David. As he prays in Psalm 3, notice the change that happens in verses 3 and 4: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”
Do you see how prayer changes David? He goes to God with his finite thoughts and his finite ways, then takes hold of God’s higher thoughts and God’s higher ways, and it’s absolutely transformational. In the words given to us through the prophet Isaiah: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
You see, true repentance arises from a deep-seated conviction that God’s thoughts are always higher than our thoughts, and His ways are always higher than our ways. So, from a broader perspective, repentance is not just for the times when we sin and turn to God for forgiveness. As we go to God in prayer, whether or not there is unconfessed sin in our lives, repentance is a re-aligning of our priorities with God’s priorities, a re-aligning of our ways with God’s ways. And isn’t this, in a very real sense, the heart of prayer?
There are certain things God will not do unless we pray for Him to do them. So our prayers do move God, and prayers do change God’s actions. But even more so, prayer changes US. We go into prayer thinking one way, and we should leave prayer thinking another. Effective prayer changes our thoughts. We go into prayer behaving a certain way, and we should leave prayer behaving differently. Effective prayer changes our behavior.
Prayer changed David. And it will change you, too, if you are absolutely convinced the God’s thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and His ways are higher than yours. So, go to Him humbly in prayer. Confess your sins to him. Grieve over your sin, and turn. If you are ready for God to change you, He will change you … for the better. That’s a promise.
Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.