For our time in God's Word this morning please turn to Romans 11:33-36. This section is a doxology. The word "doxology" comes from two Greek words, doxa which means: "glory or praise" and legein, which means: "to speak." It means: "to speak of His glory." These verses are a hymn of praise to God.
This doxology, here in four verses, gives us a beautiful glimpse of Theology proper. Theology proper is the study of God. To me there is no more important or beneficial study. I really believe that the solution to all of our problems comes from an understanding of God. Now, God is incomprehensible, so anything we try to understand about God is done in a very limited fashion. We are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg.
The only way we can know what God is like is to find how He has revealed Himself in the Bible. This is the number one priority of Bible study - to come to know God. The 16th century Reformer, Martin Luther, said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too Human." I believe that the church today is guilty of this also. I know that I am. At times I find myself acting like King David in 1 Samuel 21 where, because of fear of Achish, he began to act like a mad man. Have you ever done that? Our spiritual strength is linked to our knowledge of God.
Let's look at this doxology and see what we can learn about our Great and Awesome God.
Romans 11:33 (NKJV) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
The Greek word for "depth" here is bathos, which means: "inconceivable profundity, unthinkable thoughts."
Psalms 92:5 (NKJV) O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep.
God's riches, wisdom, and knowledge are very deep; you don't go into them very far before you get the bends. We can never know them fully, they are inexhaustible.
The word "riches" is the Greek word ploutos, which means: "abundance, wealth." The word "wisdom" is the Greek word sophia, which has the idea of: "application of facts." And the word "knowledge" refers to God's all inclusive and exhaustive cognition and understanding. While wisdom refers to the arrangement and adaptation of all things to the fulfillment of His holy design.
God's wisdom and knowledge are deep, they are inexhaustible. God knows everything and applies it perfectly.
Knowledge - God knows everything; the number of grains of sand on the shore, the number of hairs on your head and your thoughts.
John 6:64 (NKJV) "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
The phrase "from the beginning" could mean: "from the time these people began to follow him, or it might mean from eternity." It most probably means that Jesus knew from all eternity. God's knowledge is eternal. If God's knowledge were not eternal, then He must have learned something at some time. And if He learned it, He must have previously been ignorant of it. But, God never learned anything!
Isaiah 46:10 (NKJV) Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'
Acts 15:18 (NKJV) "Known to God from eternity are all His works.
These verses indicate the eternity of divine knowledge. When as yet there was nothing, and only God existed, God knew all things. Obviously this knowledge came out of or resided in Himself. He could not have derived it from anything else, for there was nothing else.
God's knowledge is not empirical (relying or based on experiment and observation). He does not discover truth, He does not learn from any outside source. His knowledge depends of himself alone.
Luke 22:8-12 (NKJV) And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." 9 So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?" 10 And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 "Then you shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 12 "Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready."
Jesus' prediction in verse 10, like all the other prophecies, is based on a knowledge of all details so that there is no possibility that the man did not find a pitcher that day, or fail to fill it with water. God not only knew that the pitcher and water were available, he also knew that the man would choose to fill the pitcher and carry it at the given time and place.
Think about this: Could this man not have showed up? No! What God knows always happens. God's knowledge implies inevitability. Are you getting the bends? Me too; let's try to surface slowly.
By the way, what is incomprehensible here is not what has not been revealed but what HAS been revealed. For example: Nothing we ever do can frustrate God's sovereign plan.
Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV) There are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel; that will stand.
Isn't that astonishing! How can you explain that? No matter what we do, whether we choose this or that it ultimately all works out to accomplish what God has determined shall be done. That is the kind of God we serve.
Paul goes on to say, "How unsearchable are His judgments" - the word "unsearchable" is from the Greek word anexereunetos. It means: "that cannot be searched out." The word "judgments" is from the word krima, which means: "decisions, decrees, disposals." In the present context, the reference is especially to those judgments that are revealed in the divine plan of salvation. We cannot begin to understand His decisions, His decrees; they're way past being able to be searched out.
"His way past finding out" - the word "ways" is from the Greek word hodos. It means: "a course or conduct, His providence." His judgments are His counsels, plans, purposes and decrees. His "ways" are how those things are worked out.
"Past finding out" - is from the Greek anexichniastos. It means: "that which cannot be traced out", it is a hunting metaphor used of hunters who would track animals and lose the path. If you try to follow what God is doing you're going to lose the path.
God's judgments are unsearchable! We can look at what we call natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and forest fires. We can't predict them, nor do we know what God is accomplishing through them - at least we can't know all that God is doing. Or we can look at other kinds of judgments -accidents, fatal illnesses like AIDS, birth defects, the awful effects of war, joblessness, business failures, poverty, broken homes, etc. Why does God allow such things? We don't know.
On October 21, 1966, a waste tip from a South Wales coal mine slid into the quiet mining community of Aberfan. Of all the heartrending tragedies of that day, none was worse than the fate of the village Junior School. The black slime slithered down the man-made hillside and oozed its way into the classrooms. Unable to escape, five teachers and 109 children died.
A clergyman being interviewed by a B.B.C. reporter at the time of the tragedy, in response to the inevitable question about God said, "Well.... I suppose we have to admit that this is one of those occasions when the Almighty made a mistake."
Now, you may never have verbalized that view, but have you ever felt that way? Have you ever heard about or witnessed a tragedy and wondered how God could allow something like it to happen? Does God make mistakes? Absolutely not!
GOD'S WISDOM INCLUDES HIS ABILITY TO KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF HIS CREATURES.
From our limited human perspective, it's impossible to know with certainty how to interpret the experiences of life. What often seems "bad" to us may in fact be very good. What we do know is that we can trust God in all of life's circumstances. In His wisdom, He knows and does what is best for us.
Isaiah 55:8 (NKJV) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
The life of faith is trusting God in the midst of the mystery. Because God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than ours, we will find that we are unable to reason out what He is doing at any particular moment in time. We will only understand fully when we are with Him in heaven. We must live out our lives, trusting God and obeying Him, when His workings are a total mystery to us. Did the Israelites know how they would survive trapped between the sea and Pharaoh's army? They did not. But when all was done, the sea was the instrument of Israel's deliverance and Egypt's destruction. Did Abraham understand what God was doing when He commanded him to leave his homeland and go to an unspecified place? Did he know what God was doing when He commanded him to sacrifice his son? He did not. All Abraham knew was that God was faithful and that He promised him a land, a host of descendants, and blessings for the whole world.
Job diligently worshiped God, and he faithfully offered up sacrifices for his children lest they should sin and God should punish them. And yet, in spite of all his precautions, God took all of his children anyway. Job could not understand what God was doing. Throughout his entire life, he never knew why the hand of God had worked in his life as it did. But he did trust in God, and thus he could praise and worship Him when his personal world was in shambles (see Job 1). Job's sufferings and God's strategy were a mystery to him, but when he came to grips with God's infinite wisdom, knowing that God was in control was enough (see Job 38:142:6).
Asaph, the psalmist in Psalm 73, could not understand what was happening around him. God had promised to bless the pure in heart (73:1), and yet Asaph observed that the wicked seemed to be prospering while the righteous suffered. It was a mystery which brought him near the brink of doubt and disaster. Only when he began to view time in the light of eternity did he come to his senses. He did not fully understand all that God was doing, but he knew that God was drawing him nearer to Himself, both for time and for eternity. This was enough.
God's work in your life is a mystery at this very moment. You may be facing circumstances which seem to promise only defeat or disaster. But if you are a child of God, you know that He is in control of all things. He is working out your good and His glory by means of the very circumstances that puzzle you. You don't need to know the secrets which God has chosen to conceal. You only need to know what God has promised and to trust Him. This is what the life of faith is all about. God is in control. He has promised to bring about wonderful things for His people. And because He is infinitely wise and powerful, He will do it in ways that will bring us to our knees in wonder and praise.
When tragedy strikes, we should not try to figure out what God is doing. Too often we feel that we need to understand "why" God did something in order to trust Him. You may never know why. God's infinite wisdom cannot be comprehended by our finite minds.
We don't like this because we want an explanation for everything. If we can't understand something, we think it must not be right. Because God's ways are unsearchable, we are left to faith. We don't know God's plan, His wisdom is beyond us, we can't figure it out. So, we live by faith, trusting God to do what is the wisest thing for us.
When our daughter Julie was three years old she fell and split her head open. I took her to the emergency room where they put her on a papoose board to give her stitches. A papoose board is like a straight jacket that is attached to a board. Julie looked at me as if to say, "Daddy, why are you letting them do this to me?"
There is no way that I could explain to her why I was letting them do it. But what I was doing was the wisest thing I could do under the circumstances. And I was doing it because I loved her and had here best interest in mind.
We can't understand God's ways, but He is doing what is the best for us, because He loves us. Our circumstances may not always seem to be good, but they come from the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
So, we live by faith, we must because our God is so unfathomable. So, the key to a victorious Christian life is faith in the Lord, which comes from meditating on His Word. As I do this, I become very familiar with who He is and how He acts. The great weakness of the Church today is a lack of understanding about who God is and how he acts. The Church's instability is caused by its weak view of God. The solution to our instability is not a psychologist, counselor, or self-help book. Our solution is theology proper - a study of God. We must come to know the God of the Bible. A.W. Pink said, "the God of modern religious thought no more resembles the supreme sovereign of the Bible than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the noonday sun."
Paul gives us three rhetorical question to reinforce what he has just said.
Romans 11:34 (NKJV) "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?" - this deals with knowledge. Who has known God's mind or given Him counsel? Anybody? The Lord knows our minds, our every thought.
Revelation 2:23 (NKJV) "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Do you think that an ant could understand your thought process? Absurd! But not as absurd as to think that you can understand God's thoughts. Romans 11:34 is a quote from the LXX version of Isaiah 40:13. The answer to this question is what? Nobody! That's why it is so stupid to question God or to think we've got him in a box and must do this or that.
"Who has become His counselor?" - This deals with "wisdom". Who does God go to for advice? "Well, he should have come to me", some of us so arrogantly think at times. The expected answer to these rhetorical questions is, "No one!" God is too great in His wisdom and knowledge to need or accept any advice or counsel from men. Why then, do we so frequently feel compelled to tell God how to do His job and chide Him for making mistakes?
If you had the supernatural power to change some of the circumstance in your life, would you? Why? Has God messed up, made a mistake, do you know better than Him what's good for you?
The word "counselor" is from the Greek word sumboulos, meaning: "fellow advisor." Nobody stands at God's ear giving suggestions.
Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV) Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
This is true of men, we need counselors.
Proverbs 24:6 (NKJV) For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.
But God doesn't need any advice from anybody. He knows the end from the beginning.
Romans 11:35 (NKJV) "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?"
God's self-sufficiency is an attribute very closely related to His wisdom and knowledge. After all, anyone who has infinite wisdom and infinite knowledge and infinite power, such as we know God has, obviously does not need anyone's help. And that is exactly the case with God. He doesn't need us.
Psalm 50:10-12 has God chiding Israel for thinking that their animal sacrifices put God in their debt:
Psalms 50:10-12 (NKJV) For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
On Mars Hill in the City of Athens, Paul made the same point in his speech to the Greek philosophers,
Acts 17:24-25 (NKJV) "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
Who has God in debt to him? Who does God owe anything to? No one ever gave to God. Salvation and the whole plan of its administration are of grace. We are chosen and called to eternal life not on the ground of anything in us.
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
These three questions tell us that God is self-sufficient, sovereign, and independent.
Romans 11:36 (NKJV) For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The three prepositions used here; of, through, and to indicate that God is the Source of all things; the Sustainer of all things; and the Significance of all things.
First, He is the Source. "For of Him... are all things" that is, they originated from Him. Whatever else the theory of evolution may explain or may purport to explain, the one thing which it does not even attempt to explain is the absolute origin of matter, of energy, of life. It cannot hope to do so. God is the Source.
Secondly, He is the Sustainer. "through Him... are all things" Colossians 1:17 puts the same thought in different words:
Colossians 1:17 (NKJV) And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Acts 17:28 (NKJV) "for in Him we live and move and have our being...."
If God for one split second were to take His sovereign hand off this world of ours, it would self-destruct into utter chaos.
Thirdly, He is the Significance of all things. "To Him are all things," i.e. He is the end, the significance of all things. Every star, every planet, every mountain, every stream, every flower, every creature is ultimately designed to bring glory to God. And He is able to make even the wrath of men to praise Him. (Ps. 76:10)
Revelation 4:11 (NKJV) "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."
Then Paul closes this doxology with, "To whom be glory forever" - the word "glory" here is the Greek word doxa, which means: "opinion, glory praise." The Hebrew word in its literal sense means: "weight or heaviness, greatness." The Hebrew and Greek words speak of the internal excellence of whatever is said to have that glory. In addition to internal excellence, the word "glory" can mean: "the exhibition of this excellence."
This is the culmination of it all. This is the ultimate goal of everything; that His excellences may be exhibited. The glory of God is the purpose for everything.
The Westminster shorter catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man?" And then answers, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." When eventually we stand in God's presence, we may be given a tour of human history, and we may be shown in one event after another how God was at work in world events, in our national affairs, and in our own personal lives. What appears today as confusing and haphazard, both in theology and in personal experience, will then turn out to be a beautiful mosaic.
In the meantime, however, those of us who understand in some measure the wisdom and knowledge of God as displayed in the great plan of salvation, need to take every opportunity to express our praise to God, and, not only express it but also show it through the very lives we live.
J.L. Dagg wrote:
It should fill us with joy, that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world. Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that he has made. Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and dangers. How full of consolation is the doctrine, that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good.
Our God has all knowledge and is infinitely wise - trust Him!