Many times in the Bible we will read a story about people trusting God even though it did not make sense. This is an example of God’s ways being different than man’s ways. The beauty of following God even when they didn’t understand what God was doing is that each time they obeyed and trusted, then God gave a tremendous victory.
There are also examples in the Bible where a principle or teaching goes against human nature. Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings are full of these types of principles. We also see them often in the book of wisdom, Proverbs.
Here are ten examples of God’s ways being different from man’s ways.
1. Coals of Fire
Proverbs 25:21, 22 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.
Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
These two passages have a similar theme: helping your enemy. It is not our place to try to destroy those who have done wrong toward us. We should leave the job of revenge to the Lord. He promises He will take care of His own children. Allow Him to do so.
And what about those coals of fire? This is a figure of speech. In Bible times (and in many places still today) people carried things balanced on their heads. If the fire in your house went out you would not be able to cook or keep the house warm. You would have to get some hot coals from a friend and carry them back to your house in a pail on your head. To heap coals of fire on someone’s head meant to give them the life sustaining fire they needed to survive.
2. Abraham and Isaac
Genesis 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
God told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. This was the son that God had given to Abraham and Sarah after they were well beyond child-bearing years.
But Abraham trusted God. He knew that God would be victorious in the end.
Hebrews 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Abraham had full confidence that God would raise his son from the grave. This was before Abraham understood the coming resurrection of Christ. Abraham was not thinking about the rapture as he had not been taught anything of the sort from God. But he trusted that God would do a miracle and raise his son.
Even though he did not understand God’s ways, he trusted God.
3. Rejoice and Weep Appropriately
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Romans 12 is a great passage full of examples of God’s teachings being different from human nature. In verse 15 Paul tells us that we should rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are hurting. Our nature does not always want us to do that.
Maybe it is a bit easier to empathize when someone is hurting than it is to rejoice when our friend rejoices. I have a dear friend who’s mother died 18 years ago last Sunday. In my calendar I get a reminder each year on the anniversary of her death. I reach out to my friend in some way each year to let him know I am thinking about him and his loss that day. Though my parents are still alive and I have no first-hand knowledge of what my friend faces each year, I grieve with him.
But what about rejoicing with a friend when something good happens to them? Or, even more difficult: how do we respond when an enemy has reason to rejoice? It is much more difficult. This verse is tucked in between several other verses talking about how to treat those who are not your close friends.
Children are often good examples of human nature and how contradictory it is to God’s desires. When one child wins a prize and the others do not, their reaction is sometimes comical. Or, at least it would be if it didn’t so closely resemble our own reactions.
Watch children when their friend or enemy has something good or bad happen to them. See if you can notice the way that human nature differs from God’s ways.
4. Battle of Jericho
Joshua 6:3-5 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
Joshua stood looking at the city of Jericho when the captain of the Lord’s host stood before him with his sword drawn against Joshua. Joshua asked if this angel was on the side of the children of Israel or worked for the enemy. The angel replied that he was on neither side but that he was a messenger from God.
After bowing down before the messenger, Joshua heard a battle plan that probably did not make much sense to him at the time. They were to walk around the city of Jericho once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day they were supposed to walk around Jericho seven times. The walls would fall.
As crazy as the plan sounded, Joshua went back and reported to the Hebrew soldiers that was the way they would take the city.
They obeyed God and saw a victory over the city of Jericho.
5. Turn the Other Cheek
Matthew 5:38-42 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the people many things that went contrary to man’s natural ways. Jesus told them that they should present themselves to their enemies in a docile manner. Though traditional wisdom said that they should repay an eye for an eye, Jesus now says that they should go out of their way to be kind to those who were persecuting them.
Even God’s Old Testament law taught “an eye for an eye.” But the thing to remember was that it was the law, and those responsible for upholding the law, to dole out the punishment. This was not the role of the one who had been wronged. Yet, people had taken the law into their own hands and chose to meet out punishment in their own way.
Allow the legal system and God to give punishment as necessary. Do not take the law into your own hands. While our nature teaches us that we should, God’s way says that we should trust those with authority.
6. Love Your Enemy
Matthew 5:43-47 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Again Jesus is teaching something contrary to traditional wisdom. He says that we should love our enemy. It is natural to love those who are your friends. Or at least who are not out to harm you. But Jesus turns this traditional wisdom upside down and tells us that we should love those who mistreat us. God can send punishment as necessary.
7. Gideon’s Army
Judges 7:7 And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
God asked Gideon to go against an army of 135,000 with a band of only 300 men. Gideon started with 32,000 men which was still a small number against the enemy. Yet God asked Gideon to pare the army down to just 300 so that when the victory came it was obvious that it was the hand of God.
Jonah 1:1-3 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah is an example of someone who did not agree with God’s plan and tried to run away from God’s leading. Of course, he did not get very far on his own. Though he jumped on a ship to flee from God’s presence, God brought him back by way of a great fish to the land where God called him.
9. Salvation is a Gift, Not a Reward
Romans 4:2-5 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Abraham’s salvation came through faith in God and His promised Redeemer. He was not saved by works and neither are we.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Religion wants to work for salvation, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Salvation is a gift of grace from God. It is not something we earn or purchase. The purchase was done by Christ on the cross and is now offered to us freely. Some people, because of the pride of human nature, never accept this gift. They want to earn something that God says is impossible to earn.
Job 13:15, 16 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.
Job learned to trust God in his time of horrible personal loss. He lost his children and all his possessions. He was even plagued by illness and companions who accused him of wrongdoing which he had not committed. Even through all of this, he trusted God.
The book of Job is an amazing story of someone accepting God’s ways even though he did not understand what God was doing.
More Scriptures to Consider
Isaiah 55:9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.
Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Take a look at this article which also talks about Godly responses to our neighbors:
Resource – The Holy Bible, King James Version