Know Your Bible—Part 1

The High Thoughts of God

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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.”
—Isaiah 55:8,9

IN OUR TEXT THE LORD tells us that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts higher than our thoughts, and his ways than our ways. In this respect the situation is somewhat similar to that which exists between adults and children, except that the superiority of God’s thoughts over ours is vastly greater than that of grownups over children.

All who are familiar with the art of teaching know that in conveying thoughts to the mind of a child illustrations are very helpful, whether the illustrations be in story or picture form. An infant learns the meaning of the word round much more quickly when illustrated by a ball or a circle. The word orange takes on a definite meaning when the child sees its color, its shape, and enjoys its odor and taste.

These are simple illustrations, but they have to be simple in order that a child may grasp the thoughts which the adult endeavors to convey to its immature mind. We do not think that we would be straining the comparison to say that the most mature minds, and those possessing the greatest intelligence in the world of grownups, are but as infants before God. Surely this must be true if, as our text declares, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth.’

We can readily perceive the problem involved in our being able to understand the high thoughts of God. Indeed, we would not be able to understand them at all except as he has associated them with objects with which we are at least partially acquainted.

All language is largely pictorial. The word city, for example, would convey no meaning to our minds except as we associate it with a concentration of people living in a relatively small area, and with their homes, office buildings, factories, which help to make up what the word city means to us.


God created man in his own image; endowing him with the ability to think, to reason, to know right from wrong. But, with us, these qualities of the Creator are all limited to this earthly realm of existence. Man’s ability to reason is confined to what he can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell. He might increase the scope of his vision by a telescope, or enlarge it with a microscope; he might send the sound of his words around the world by the use of electronics, and by these scientific means enlarge the sphere in which he can reason, but still his reasoning is limited to a material cosmos.

This being true, it should at once become apparent that in order that the Creator may convey to us his thoughts relating to his human creation, he must speak to us in language within the limitations of our understanding. This is the reason, then, that the language of the Bible is human which has its roots of understanding relating to material, mundane things and objects with which we humans are acquainted.

Our plainest speech is in reality largely pictorial, for nearly every word uttered conjures up in the mind of the hearer an object which gives meaning to our speech. This is true even with the literal language of the Bible. But besides this literal language, which is itself pictorial, the Lord has purposely used objects and creatures of various sorts, possessing characteristics known to man as symbols, or illustrations, to help us grasp some of his high thoughts relative to his plan for human salvation.

In almost all languages, words which are not directly anchored to some particular object or thing frequently undergo changes in meaning. Thus the word peculiar originally meant something special, or extraordinary, and this still is one of its meanings; but more frequently today this word is used to convey the idea of being odd, or queer. But the material things of Creation, and the phenomena of nature which the Lord uses in his Word to illustrate his high thoughts, never change. From this standpoint, the Bible speaks the same language to the Lord’s people today that it did to his ancient people.

In the symbology of the Bible, we find that the Lord has used the sun, moon, stars, clouds, storms, rain, mountains, hills, valleys, rivers, oceans, trees, grass, rocks, wheat, tares, and the earth. In the animal kingdom he has used sheep, goats, lions, leopards, bears, foxes, serpents, dragons. These do not change their characteristics from century to century.

The sun, with its warming, healing rays, and its blistering heat on the desert sands, is exactly as it was when the Lord caused the writers of the Bible to use it for certain illustrative purposes. Sheep have not changed, nor have goats. Their characteristics today are just as they were when Jesus said in a parable that he would divide the people as a “shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:31,32) The same is true of all the illustrations employed in the Word of God.

In some instances the Lord has explained the meaning of the illustrations he uses. At other times the intent of the symbol is so obvious that no explanation is needed. Indeed, in many instances an explanation would destroy the beauty and force of the intended lesson. How apparent, for example, is the meaning of the language employed in the twenty-third Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”—vss. 1-3

There are also those beautiful illustrative expressions in the ninety-first Psalm, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (vss. 1,2) Again, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”—vs. 4

All are well-acquainted with the fact that water is used for cleansing purposes, so no explanation of the symbol is needed when the apostle speaks of our being sanctified and cleansed with the “washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:26) How clearly the idea is thus conveyed to us that God’s Word of Truth acts as a cleansing power in the lives of those who obediently yield to its sanctifying influence!

On the other hand, water is also necessary to life, so at times it is employed in the Bible to illustrate the life-giving power of the Word. In this use of the symbol, the Bible speaks of the “river of water of life.”—Rev. 22:1

The known characteristics of fire make it a suitable symbol of destruction. In this association, fire is employed in the Bible to picture the destruction of a social order; the destruction of the willfully wicked; and the destruction of the “wood, hay, [and] stubble” of Christian character. (I Cor. 3:12) But what grossly wrong ideas have been taken from the Bible through a failure to realize that fire is never a preservative in which conscious life is maintained, and the living ones tortured!

Reading the high thoughts of God correctly, as he has portrayed them in his Word by picture language, requires our considering carefully the natural and apparent characteristics of the things used to convey those thoughts. For example, there is Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) many have supposed that the “wheat” in this parable represents Christians, and that the “tares” are a symbol of sinners.

But this view fails to take into consideration that, in reality, tares bear a very close similarity to wheat, and that the two are used in the parable to represent, on the one hand, the true followers of the Master, and on the other, those who are merely his professed followers—wearing merely a veneer of Christianity. These lose their identity as Christians.

In explaining this parable, Jesus said that the ‘wheat’ were the “children of the kingdom,” and the ‘tares’ the “children of the wicked one,” that is, the Devil. The ‘children of the kingdom’ are such because they are begotten of and enthused by their hope of the kingdom, and their prospect of participating with Jesus in the work of the kingdom. The tares are ‘children of the wicked one,’ not because they are immoral and unregenerate, for they are often quite the opposite, but because they hold to the erroneous teachings of the “prince of this world” (John 12:31), and their lives are governed by these teachings.


In the natural realm a very close and significant relationship exists between the heavenly bodies which we refer to in a general way as the heavens, and the earth. All life on the earth is subject more or less to the influences of the heavens—our seasons, atmospheric conditions, and tides, being controlled thereby.

Thus the literal heavens and earth are a fitting illustration of the fact that human associations, or civilizations, are influenced by higher, or spiritual, powers. For this reason the Bible describes the social order, or cosmos, which existed before the Flood as consisting of a “heavens” and an “earth.” The Bible also speaks of a ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’ which has existed since the Deluge; and also of the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:6,7,13) This latter will, in reality, be the spiritual and human phases of the kingdom of Christ.

The sun and the moon, in their relationship to each other, are sometimes used in the Bible to illustrate the light of the Gospel, and the reflected light of the Law as given to Israel, together with the types and shadows of their Tabernacle services. Because of its warming and healing powers, the sun is also used in the Bible as a symbol of the healing power of Christ when enthroned in his kingdom for the purpose of restoring the human race to health and life. The Prophet Malachi wrote in this connection that “the Sun of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings.”—Mal. 4:2

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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