Summary: Many people think God’s ways are so mysterious, they are beyond our understanding. Perhaps the phrase “God moves in mysterious ways” was coined because in the Bible, God often did the UNEXPECTED. God seldom acts or moves the way we think He should.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been studying popular sayings people think are in the Bible–but they aren’t. We’ve already discussed several pseudo-scriptures including, “God helps those who help themselves” and “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.” Today, we are focusing on the saying, “God moves in mysterious ways”–No, that’s NOT in the Bible.
These words come from a hymn written by William Cowper in 1774. The first stanza says: “God moves in mysterious ways/ His wonders to perform. / He plants his footsteps in the sea / And rides upon the storm.” We’ll learn more about Mr. Cowper later.
This statement may be uttered as an expression of praise after God has done something so miraculous it cannot be explained in human terms. Or it may be shared as a hollow explanation when troubling circumstances come into our lives–and God is blamed. Someone may use this statement as an excuse for not seeking to know or understand God–after all, He’s so mysterious, He can’t be known. Is that the truth? For the answer, let’s look at Isaiah 55:6-9:
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “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.”
With this passage as our launching pad, let’s explore the lofty heights of three important facets of who God is and how He relates to us:
1. GOD IS MYSTERIOUS, BUT YOU CAN KNOW HIM!
In the movie “Rudy,” the undersized Notre Dame football player endures some tough times because his dream to play for Notre Dame is not being fulfilled. He goes to see a wise Catholic priest named Father Cavanaugh. In one of the best lines ever to come out of Hollywood, Father Cavanaugh says, “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God and I’m not Him.” I would add to that a third incontrovertible fact: There is a God, you’re not Him, but you can know Him personally!
Isaiah 55 teaches us about the majesty and mystery of God. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. But the very fact we that we can even talk about God is amazing. In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis compares our human talk about God to shellfish talking to each other about humans. If a mystical shellfish catches a glimpse of what a human is like, he will attempt to share his vision with his fellow clams. He begins by telling them how unlike themselves humans are. Humans have no shells, like clams; they aren’t attached to rocks; and they do not live surrounded by water. Those three dynamics, shells, rocks, and water are important to clams, so the clam begins to have a negative image of a human. Lewis writes, “Uncorrected by any positive insight, they build up a picture of Man as a sort of amorphous jelly (no shell) existing nowhere in particular (no rocks); and never eating (because there’s no water to bring nutrients to him). So the shellfish would conclude that man is a ‘famished jelly existing in a dimension less void.’”