Not mine, the Lord says, to think as you think, deal as you deal; by the full height of heaven above earth, my dealings are higher than your dealings, my thoughts than your thoughts. Once fallen from the sky, does rain or snow return to it? Nay, it refreshes earth soaking into it and making it fruitful, to provide the sower with fresh seed, the hungry mouths with bread. So it is with the word by these lips of mine once uttered; it will not come back, an empty echo, the way it went; all my will it carries out, speeds on its errand. Doubt not, then yours shall be a happy departure, a peaceful return; doubt not mountain and hill shall escort you with their praises, and the woods echo their applause. Tall pine-trees shall grow where valerian grew, and myrtles spring from yonder nettle-beds; great glory the Lord shall win, such a blazon as eternity cannot efface. Isaiah 55:11-13
What a splendid lesson Isaiah offers us. God is saying: "I'm not like you. I don't think the way you think. I don't relate the way you relate. My thoughts and dealings are beyond your imagining. My word is like the rain and snow which doesn't return to me until it has done its seed-making, fruit-making, bread-making work."
But what is that word? It's God's mercy-word: not condemnation, not another expulsion from the garden, but God's heart opened to us like a parent whose child is threatened or fearful; sick or weak. The mercy-word comes down like an enveloping cloud.
How tenderly this is expressed in the ritual of Confession in the Eastern Church. During the words of absolution the priest puts his stole over the penitent's head - a gesture of God's compassionate forgiveness coming down on us. And the priest is instructed to simultaneously place an arm around the penitent, echoing the Father of the prodigal boy returning home, just a speck at the end of the road. And the father sees his child from a great distance and, making himself look foolish running in robes, he throws his arms around the wastrel, and covering him with kisses calls for a new robe, new ring, new shoes.
Then in the final Isaiah-verse all of creation joins in celebrating the mercy-word: the pine trees, the myrtle, the mountains and hills, even the forest seems to applaud!