11 Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them. 13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. 14 The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. 15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; 16 terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone - until your people pass by, O Lord, until the people you bought pass by. 17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance - the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. 18 The Lord will reign for ever and ever.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! 34 Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor? 35 Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
In 1952 JB Phillips published a book called, “Your God Is Too Small.” The title of that book says it all. So many of us have reduced the might and power of God to simple human terms. As a result of this, our concept of God is much smaller than who He really is. We have Him neatly defined and kept in a box of our own making.
If your God is too small, maybe you need to take another look at the God of the Bible. Throughout history theologians have come up with words to try and describe His essence: Sovereign, Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Infinite, Eternal, and Immortal, to mention only a few.
But no human attempt, no matter how eloquent or impressive our words may sound, could possibly come near the real truth. He is so big that we don’t even have the proper words to describe Him adequately. He is bigger than our biggest words and grander than our grandest ideas. Because He is God, no words or thoughts of mere mortal men and women could ever truly describe His greatness. He is far bigger than we can imagine. His presence fills the universe, He is more powerful than we know, wiser than all the wisdom of the wisest men and women, His love is beyond human understanding, His grace has no limits, and His holiness is infinite. He is the one true God. He has no beginning and no end. He created all things and all things exist by His divine power. He has no equals. No one gives Him advice. No one can fully understand Him. He is perfect in all His perfections. Our best efforts fall so far short of His divine reality that we flatter ourselves to think that we can ever understand Him at all.
It is against that backdrop that we need to tread very carefully and even fearfully as we try to comprehend just a fraction of His awesome nature and power.
He says through the prophet Isaiah in 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Yet, despite this infinite chasm between us and God, He has chosen to reveal a mere fraction of just who He is and what He is like. And even that tiniest of glimpses is enough to take our breath away when we take time out of our own little bubbles and see the evidence of Him all around us.
There is a clear distinction between God and His creation. His thoughts are higher simply because He is God and we are not.
This is why it shouldn’t surprise us that He does many things we don’t understand. Or that most of our questions about life will go unanswered. Job discovered this when God engaged him in a long series of questions starting with “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
When we find ourselves in times of struggle, it may help to remember just who God really is. The greater our view of Him, the more strength we will have to face the trials of life. Similarly, the lower our view of God, the more likely we are to crumble under the pressure when the troubles come.
Paul’s doxology at the end of Romans 11 is only 4 verses, but in that short passage there is so much truth about the awesome greatness of God.
One commentator called it a “doxology of theology” and an “explosion of praise.” There is enough in these 4 short verses to keep us busy for eternity.
There are depths of truth here that we could never hope to fully explore, much less to understand.
And so it is with much fear and trembling that we will try to unpack just some of the immeasurable mysteries of Romans 11:33-36 today…
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (33a)
The Apostle Paul had as intimate a relationship with God as is humanly possible, yet he was at a loss to know the depth of God. How deep is God? So deep that Paul could only stand at the edge and peer into the deep. The setting of this doxology in Romans is important. Paul was writing to his fellow Christians in Rome, teaching them deep theological truths, and suddenly in the middle of his teaching, he basically says, “Let’s just stop all this reasoning and theory for a moment and simply praise our God for His incredible plan of redemption.” Head knowledge of God is good. He encourages us to learn more about Him, but every now and then we should step back from the pursuit of knowledge and just gaze in wonder at the awesome might of God. Theology needs to change to doxology at times. If it doesn’t, there is a danger that we might fool ourselves into thinking we truly understand God. When we restrict Him to a small manageable box of our own making, we have no reason to fall at His feet and worship Him.
In Samuel Francis’ best known hymn, he wrote, “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love, leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”
The wise people will eventually come to the same conclusion. The astronomer gazes at the stars that fill the sky. As the most powerful telescopes take us to the edge of the universe, the wise man will reach a point where he finally bows his head and says, “How great Thou art.”
Robert Jastrow was an interesting character. He was a scientist and astronomer who held a senior position at NASA during the Apollo missions to the moon in the 60’s and 70’s and was still there when the space shuttle program began.
He was a self-proclaimed non-believer, but just after he retired he was interviewed by Christianity Today.
During this interview he said, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
One of his more famous quotes is in his book ‘God and the Astronomers.’
“This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth, but for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Jastrow finally learned something that King David learned thousands of years before:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
God is deeper than our minds can fathom. Not only is His wisdom and knowledge deeper than we know, it’s deeper than we can even imagine. We have no mental category for the depth of God’s character. We simply know that it is, and that we know nothing about it except what God has chosen to reveal. Trying to understand God is like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket. Dip your bucket in a thousand times and you haven’t made a dent in the vast expanse of water. Your bucket is too small, your arms are too weak, and the ocean is too large, too wide, too deep.
And so it is with God.
The chorus of an old Southern gospel song asks the question, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?”
Things occur to us all the time, but not God. He never wakes up and says, “Hey, I’ve just had a great idea!”
Firstly, He never sleeps, so He never wakes up. Secondly, all His ideas are great, and thirdly, nothing ever occurs to God. He knows all the great ideas all the time from the beginning of time.
He knows everything that could ever be known. Not only is His knowledge deep, but it is also wide. He knows everything that has been, everything that is, and everything that will be. He even knows everything that could have been, or could be, or could ever be. Not only does He know it, but He has known it all from the beginning of time.
If you have done the Walk to Emmaus weekend, you’ll be familiar with the term, ‘prevenient grace of God.’ It basically means the grace that goes before us. In every situation of life, God is already at work before we get there. He is working creatively, strategically and redemptively for our good and His glory.
You see, we need to look outside of this little box we’ve made for Him. So often we limit our thinking to the fact that God’s presence goes with us as we move through life. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story. He’s not only with us now, He’s already far up the road ahead of us. While we are struggling with the problems of today, God is at work providing solutions for the things we are going to face tomorrow. He’s already there, working creatively in situations we have yet to face, preparing them for us and us for them. He knows the future, because He is the future.
God is already at work providing solutions for problems we don’t even know we have yet. Are you worried about next week? Then take comfort from the reality that God is already there.
It would be enough for us if He simply walked with us through the events of life as they happen, in the here and now. But He does much more than that. He goes ahead of you, clearing the way, arranging the details of life so that when you get there, you can have confidence that God has already been there before you. That’s the prevenient grace of God. He goes before His people. He’s at work in the future while we live in the present. He can do that because He knows everything there is to know.
In the second part of verse 33, Paul writes, “How unsearchable His judgments.” This refers to God being so far above our understanding. The Message paraphrase says, “It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.”
Not only does God make plans we don’t know about, but even if we did know about them, we couldn’t understand them. That explains why some things remain unexplainable forever. It’s not that God is unwilling to explain, it’s that our little minds can’t begin to comprehend the infinite purposes of God. John Wesley said it this way: “Show me a worm that fully comprehends a man, and I’ll show you a man that can comprehend God.” It can’t be done. If you find yourself frustrated because you can’t see God’s purposes or plans, just remember that there are many things about Him that are just beyond your understanding. It is way over your head…
There are some things that we just do not have the answers to, but we can take encouragement from this truth. The things we do need to know, He has made very clear to us. The most important thing we could ever learn in this life is how a sinner can be reconciled to a holy God. Jesus has given us the answer in John 14:6. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When you draw your final breath in this life, that is the only thing that will really matter. The rest will all be details.
In this life there are many things that happen that we simply do not understand. Sickness, accidents, crime, poverty, divorce, broken dreams, terminal diseases, natural disasters, evil triumphing over good, lost jobs, ruined lives, children dying, others promoted while we are not, our ideas stolen and used by others, and good things we do that others take credit for. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. The list is endless, and it is heart-breaking.
Only God knows why things happen. Most of the time we can only wonder.
Paul writes in verse 34, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?”
Many people think they know what God is like, but the only things we know about Him are things He has chosen to reveal to us.
Who among us can claim to fully understand the infinite and Almighty God of the universe? No one knows enough to fully explain God.
Paul continues, “Who has been His counsellor?” The Message translation asks, is there “anyone smart enough to tell Him what to do?”
God needs no counsellor or advice because He is infinitely wise.
When we consider the infinite wisdom of God, all we can do is hold up our hands and surrender to His greater power and knowledge.
But undoubtedly, the biggest reason we have to worship and honour the God of creation is for His infinite mercy and grace.
The next time you feel that God has been unfair to you, or that He owes you some sort of explanation, just stop for a moment and think about where He has taken you from, and where He is taking you to.
Just think about what God has done for you.
He restores His rebellious people (that’s you and me) by granting us the righteousness of Jesus.
We need to be very clear on this. God is under no obligation to save us. He could have destroyed the human race and obliterated us from existence. But He didn’t. What He did instead was quite literally unthinkable.
The Infinite became finite. The Almighty became one of us and went to the cross to pay the price of our rebellion.
Martin Luther put this way: “He whom the worlds could not enwrap, yonder lies in Mary’s lap.” No one but God Himself would ever have dared to think of that. And then in the Father’s wisdom, Jesus died a miserable, humiliating, excruciating death on a cross. The just dying for the unjust, the sinless one bearing the sins of the world.
Through Jesus, God has done everything necessary for you to go to heaven for eternity.
How dare we accuse God of unfairness, when His offer of salvation is made to the entire world? No one who believes in Jesus will ever be turned away.
No one will end up in hell except those who choose to reject Jesus Christ, and no one will end up in heaven except those who have been saved by God’s grace in Christ.
In verse 35 Paul writes, “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” How do we even begin to try and understand just these mysteries, let alone the others? St Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” All things are made by God, and through God, and for God. He is the source, the means, and the goal of all of creation.
And as Paul concludes his doxology, we can only echo his words, “To Him be the glory forever!”
The awesome, unmeasurable mysteries of God leaves each of us having to make a choice. Either you give up your faith altogether and become a skeptic or you bow the knee before the God who is too great, too vast, too awesome for you to fully comprehend.
God always leaves us with a choice. You can believe and be saved, or you can doubt and be damned.
But either way many of your questions will never be fully answered. If you choose to believe, you are able to proclaim with Paul, and countless other believers who have seen the glory of God, “To Him be the glory forever!”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Romans 11:33-36
The Bible scholar Stuart Briscoe writes, “You can’t put the sea in a thimble, but you can get enough sea in a thimble to understand some of the characteristics of the sea.”
How, as finite beings with limited understanding and wisdom, do we even begin to understand the true nature of God?
Read Romans 1:20 and Philippians 3:10-11
We would all agree that we will never completely know God, yet the Bible teaches and encourages us to know Him better.
How have you grown in the knowledge and understanding of God?
What are the most important lessons you have learned about Him?
“Where is God in all of this?” is a question we hear often, and we have all asked it ourselves at times.
How do we keep our faith in Jesus alive during times of struggle?
How would you answer this often-asked question” Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Close by using Romans 11:22-36 as a prayer of praise.