Doing a study on how God thinks might in some ways seem futile, since Romans 11:33-34 says His ways are past finding out” and implies that no human has or can know “the mind of the Lord.” But another verse that borrows this thought from Isaiah 40:13 and Jeremiah 23:18 gives a bit more hope for today’s topic.
For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)
The context of this verse is explaining how God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us access to His thoughts. Because we have been called and given His Spirit, “we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 1:12). That doesn’t mean we know, or can know, everything, but it does mean we can begin to understand the mind of God and have Christ’s mind formed in us (Phil. 2:5).
God’s Thoughts Are…
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says 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.” (Is. 55:6-9)
Before these verses tell us how much higher God’s thoughts are than ours, it instructs us to change the patterns of our own thinking. Our thoughts must be in the right place before we can begin to understand how God thinks. In order to “return to the Lord,” we have to forsake unrighteous thoughts and wicked ways.
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)
Though we are created in God’s image, we can’t assume that means His thoughts are similar to ours. They are far higher, and to have a relationship with Him we need to recognize that our pattern of thinking needs to change — to become more like the One we were originally patterned after.
He Knows Our Thoughts
In sci-fi, we describe the ability to read someone else’s thoughts as telepathy. We could say God has this superpower, which is an idea I find both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. He can understand us from the perspective of sensing our innermost thoughts and driving motivations. If we feel lonely or misunderstood, this is a comfort. But when we’ve done something wrong it is impossible to hide from Him.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. …
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:1-4, 7-10)
This is my favorite Psalm. I usually find the idea of being known so intimately by my Lord a huge comfort. Who else can literally know every aspect of who you are, understand you perfectly, and still love you?
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. …
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:17-18, 23-24)
Once we ask God for this kind of relationship, though, it’s not all about being accepted just as we are. God loves us now, exactly as He finds us, but one aspect of this Love is that He will not allow us to remain imperfect versions of ourselves. He has to be working in us and with us to change us, to make us more like Him.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)
His Thoughts Toward Us
Though He knows every one of our thoughts, and sees all our foibles and faults (even the ones we manage to keep hidden from other people), God’s own thoughts toward us are good things. Another scripture I take great comfort in is part of a letter Jeremiah the prophet wrote when the Jews were carried away captive as a result of their disobedience to God. Even in that context, God was still planning good things for them and thinking of them kindly.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jer. 29:11-14)
It’s interesting that here as well as in Isaiah 55:6 there is the idea of seeking the Lord. Both times when we’re talking about God’s thoughts in relation to us, we are instructed to seek Him because He wants to be found. He wants us to love Him, to try and understand Him, and to grow in His character — to learn to think the way He thinks.