Since today is Father's Day, I thought I'd do a Father's day message; you know how much I love topical messages. So we're going to talk about our Father, Yahweh!
Last week we finished the doctrinal portion of Romans that runs from chapter 1:16-11:32. And the final section of chapter 11 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 Yahweh.
The truth of 11:32 compels Paul to burst forth in adoring wonder at the marvel of Yahweh's mercy:
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Romans 11:32 NASB
In verses 30 to 32, the word "mercy" is used four times. "Mercy" is the Greek word eleeo, which means: "to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched." Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. The verb signifies a feeling of sympathy with the misery of another, especially when manifested in action. This Greek word has within it the idea of "living from others." There is a Greek word eleemosynary, which means: "alms, or alms giving," built on the word for mercy, eleos. You may be familiar with the term eleemosynary institutions. These would be organizations like the Red Cross, the United Fund, or Berean Bible Church. These are all eleemosynary institutions. So eleemosynary institutions are institutions that live by contributions; that is, they live by the contributions of others.
So to receive mercy from God is to live from another. We have been given mercy that contains within it the payment for our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ, which is life. He took our death and gave us His life. Salvation is an act of mercy. Our salvation is not by merit, it is by mercy.
Paul tells us here that God's mercy extends to "all," to Gentile as well as Jew. This is how Paul began this Epistle:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 NASB
Paul begins the Epistle by talking about the power of the Gospel to Jew and Greek, and he concludes the doctrinal section with the same truth. God's mercy is to all, to Jew and Gentile. And in between he lays out God's sovereign plan of salvation in chapters 1-8. Then in 9-11, Paul tells how the Jews and Gentiles fit into this marvelous plan of salvation.
This doxology is no doubt due to the whole discussion of salvation in chapters 1-11. The remarkable way in which the Divine will is to be accomplished through mercy constrains him to this note of praise. The Divine intention is realized in spite of, and even by means of human disobedience:
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Romans 11:11 NASB
Jewish unbelief brought Gentile salvation. Gentile salvation creates Jewish jealousy. And out of their jealousy they are drawn back into the place of salvation. Mercy will be shown to Jews by the mercy shown to Gentiles.
This doxology here in four verses gives us a beautiful glimpse of Theology proper. Theology proper is the study of Yahweh. To me there is no more important study. I believe that the solution to all of our problems comes from an understanding of Yahweh. Now the Scriptures teach that Yahweh is incomprehensible, so anything we try to understand about Him is done in a very limited fashion. We are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg.
The only way we can know what Yahweh is like is to find how He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. This is why I harp so much on reading your Bible! Why is it important for us as Christians to read and study the Bible? It is important because the Bible is the only source of truth we have about God:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 2 Timothy 3:16 NASB
Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it the mind of Yahweh is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who Yahweh is and what He values. In the Bible, Yahweh reveals Himself.
If we are going to live a life of purpose, we must know who He is and what He expects from us. The only place that we can get that information is from the Word of God. We grow in our Christian walk as we read the Bible. The only place where we are going to hear God's voice is in His Word. This is the reason why it is so important to read our Bibles, that we may come to know and love Yahweh.
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 and drools on himself. Have you ever done that? J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God Is Too Small. So many of us struggle because our God is much smaller than the God of the Bible. Our spiritual strength is linked to our knowledge of God, which is linked to our time in the Word.
Let's look at this doxology and see what we can learn about our great and awesome God:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Romans 11:33 NASB
"Oh!"--why do we use this word? To Paul it expresses a sense of pause, wonder, and adulation over what follows. Does the truth of Yahweh ever cause you to ever break out in, "Oh"?
The Greek word for "depth" here is bathos, which means: "inconceivable profundity, unthinkable thoughts." The word "riches" is the Greek word ploutos, which means: "abundance, wealth." I think that "depth" and "riches" together describe what Paul saw in God's wisdom and knowledge.
The word "wisdom" is the Greek word sophia, which has the idea of: "application of facts." And the word "knowledge," gnosis, 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, and they are rich. 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:
"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 it was that would betray Him. John 6:64 NASB
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!
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Isaiah 46:10 NASB
`Known from the ages to God are all His works; Acts 15:18 YLT
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:
And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it." They said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare it?" And He said to them, "When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. "And you shall say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' "And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there." Luke 22:8-12 NASB
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. Nothing we ever do can frustrate God's sovereign plan:
Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand. Proverbs 19:21 NASB
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.
His wisdom answers the question of how? How will You deliver Your creation from the affects of the fall? How will You get glory out of such a sinful world? How will You rescue those You elected before the foundation of the world?
What Paul has particularly in mind are those wonderful truths concerning our salvation that He has set forth in these chapters of Romans. Here God displayed wisdom to turn the affects of the fall around, to glorify His name in a sinful world, to rescue His elect, to satisfy His eternal justice through Christ, to declare His kingdom and its King, and to save the elect from every people group.
Who is Paul talking about in this doxology? Yahweh! And to Paul who is Yahweh? It is Yeshua, Israel's God in the flesh. Notice what Paul says of Christ in:
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3 NASB
The Bible teaches that Yahweh is omniscient; He knows every event at the macro level--all that happens on earth and in the atmosphere and in all the farthest reaches of space in every galaxy and star and planet. And all events at the micro level--all that happens in molecules and atoms and electrons and protons and neutrons. He knows all their movements and every location and every condition of every particle of the universe at every nano-second of time. And he knows all events that happen in human minds and wills, all thoughts and choices and feelings.
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.
"Unfathomable His ways"--unfathomable 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. 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.
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 and knowledge include 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:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8 NASB
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 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 sacrifice his son? He did not. All Abraham knew was that God was faithful and that He promised him 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 38:1-42:6).
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 that 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, and He loves His children. 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 her 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.
Paul gives us three rhetorical question to reinforce what he has just said:
For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Romans 11:34 NASB
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?"--this deals with knowledge. Who has known God's mind or given Him counsel? Anybody? 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 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.
Second Question: "Who become His counselor?"--this deals with "wisdom." The word "counselor" is from the Greek word sumboulos, meaning: "fellow advisor." 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 circumstances in your life, would you? Why? Has God messed up, made a mistake, do you know better than He does what's good for you?
Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? Romans 11:35 NASB
This question comes from Job 41:11 where God asks Job:
"Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. Job 41:11 NASB
No one can ever say, "God, you owe me something." No one can say, "I've earned Your favor," because everything this side of wrath is mercy, and everything this side of heaven is grace.
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:
"For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. "I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. "If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. Psalms 50:10-12 NASB
On Mars Hill in the City of Athens, Paul made the same point in his speech to the Greek philosophers:
"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; Acts 17:24-25 NASB
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 His mercy. We are chosen and called to eternal life not on the ground of anything in us.
These three questions tell us that God is self-sufficient, sovereign, and independent.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 NASB
Three little prepositions; from, through, and to take us from the origin of all things in God, to the sustaining of all things by God, and finally to the purpose for all things existing for His glory.
Paul uses this same language of Christ in:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 NASB
Yeshua is the Messiah, He is the God of Israel through whom the Father has acted and does act in creation and redemption.
First, He is the origin of all things. "For from 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.
Christ is the Creator of all created reality:
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:3 NASB
Secondly, He is the Sustainer of all things. "Through Him... are all things" Colossians 1:17 puts the same thought in different words:
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 NASB
for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' Acts 17:28 NASB
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 Purpose 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, and 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)
"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." Revelation 4:11 NASB
Then Paul closes this doxology with, "To Him be the 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. Yahweh has arranged redemption history to bring the maximum glory to Himself. Your salvation is meant to put the glory of God's grace on display.
The "Westminster Shorter Catechism" asks, "What is the chief end of man?" And then answers, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."
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.
This truly is a doxology of theology, it displays the glory of our God. May we, His children, come to know Him in a very intimate way through His Word that we may bring Him glory by our lives. The greater our view of God, the more strength we will have to face the trials of life, thus giving Him glory. Similarly, the lower our view of God, the more likely we are to be blown away when tragedy strikes, and fail to give Him glory.
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