(8) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
Many times when engaged in conversation with other believers regarding God's plan to save all of humanity a frequent "proof text" brought in defense of ECT in Isaiah 55:8. This is especially so when speaking philosophically about love, family, friends, and acquaintances. The counterpoint to a God that is so great and so loving (God IS love), how could God send people in various questionable circumstances to hell eternally is, 'just accept it, God's ways are not our ways'. How easy it is to take this verse out of Old Testament context and apply it so completely over any possibility of thought beyond the traditional teachings of men!
God offers redemption to the poor and needy, to the wicked in deed and thought, and declares to Israel that the nations (gentiles) will run to Israel so they may experience God's mercy. It is probably easy to imagine that most of Israel did not see things as God was putting it. They have spent many years in slavery and yearn for not only salvation, but retribution, vengeance. The wrath of men tends to be a dangerous thing. The wrath of god is far different.
Israels entire purpose was to be set apart from the world as a manifestation of God so that the nations would be drawn to God through them. We know that Israel did not see it that way!
Isaiah 55:5,7 NRSV
(5) See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
(7) let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
"for he will abundantly pardon"
God will abundantly pardon all who "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;" (verse 6).
Psalms 136:1 NRSV
(1) "O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."
Many translations state "His mercy endures forever". Forty-nine times in the Old Testament God states that God is slow to anger. This is in sharp contrast to most of humanity; that is God's point! As God passed before Moses (Exodus 34) we read that God is "slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness".
Exodus 34:6 NRSV
(6) The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Isaiah 55:8, and the verses which follow, are not a proclamation that God will do whatever God wants and men simply will never understand! Doesn't God desire a relationship with humanity? God draws a line of contrast; men are fickle, men are easily angered, men regularly demand full justice with no possible mercy, men do not readily show love for their own neighbors let alone their enemies. No, God's ways are NOT our ways. God's thoughts are NOT our thoughts! God's ways are the complete opposite of our ways, thankfully, or we would all be doomed! It is odd how so many take a verse which is given in the context of forgiveness, love, and mercy, and turn it into a declaration of wrath and anger. To those I would say, "God's ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts, they are amazingly better!