God’s Plan for Israel (n)
The Unsearchable God
Having given us a sweeping panoramic view of the purposes of God for the Jewish people throughout all history Paul produces a profound doxology. He magnifies God, the one who is greater than all and who controls all.
James Montgomery Boice in his excellent sermons on Romans relates the following story.
William Beebe (1877-1962), biologist, explorer and author, and Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th President of the USA, used to sit in the lawn of Roosevelt’s home after dark. On a clear night they would watch a faint spot of light beyond the lower left corner of the great square of Pegasus. Then one would say, “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as the Milky Way. It is one of 100 million galaxies. It consists of 100 billion suns, each larger than our sun.” The other would reply, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.”
This sense of our inferiority, our abject and total weakness and insignificance, ought to be intensified still further as we contemplate the vastness, the grandeur and the immensity of God. As Paul sketched the purpose of God throughout history he exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God…”. These two attributes of God explain everything that he does in the experience of Israel and indeed in our experience also. His knowledge is perfect, there is nothing that God does not know. He also has the wisdom to apply that knowledge in the world of men and angels.
AW Tozer wrote:
“Wisdom, among things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and
to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.”
Then Paul uses one word that is a confession of his inadequacy when contemplating God, “Unsearchable”. When we pray, when we read God’s word, and when we attend to the public exercises of worship we must be mindful of the one whom we serve. Theology is so vital because it teaches us who God is and whom we serve. The word unsearchable means that God is beyond all scrutiny and examination. He cannot be properly explored nor comprehended. Paul then continues to identify some aspects of God that we will never understand.
1: God is Unsearchable in His Actions v33
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
God’s judgements here are his decrees; “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose whereby for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Shorter Catechism No 7). Therefore God’s actions begin with his decrees. They progress to his ways, which are “past finding out”. This literally means that his ways are “past tracing out”. These ways are all of God’s various Providences as he deals with the world in general.
2: God is Unsearchable in His Contemplations v34
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
Paul now moves from God’s actions to his thoughts, his mind. God mind is the only true resource of wisdom. To understand God’s mind is to be truly wise. Therefore when we consider God’s will in a given matter we often speak of the mind of the Lord. He is the ultimate resource of wisdom because “who hath been his counsellor?”
AW Tozer said:
God has never learned from anyone,
On this account “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Yet Paul again confesses his inability and that of humanity by declaring that no-one really knows the mind of the Lord. Even the regenerate person who spends a lifetime pursuing the knowledge of God falls far short. We are constantly learning from our earthbound shallow and selfish mentality that God’s ways are not our ways, neither are his thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).
3: God is Unsearchable in His Provisions v35
Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
We often use the phrase “God is no man’s debtor”. While I am unsure as to the origin of the statement it is entirely possible that it is derived from Romans 11:35. God owes no man or woman anything. This is because no man has given God anything. He is the great provider; no-one can give to God what he does already possess. He is entirely self sufficient. All life, all harmony, all order, all sustenance flows from his person. This is especially true where salvation is concerned – all that we have and are is the grace of our God. Augustus Toplady grasped this powerfully:
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling,
Naked come to thee for dress,
Helpless look to thee for grace,
Foul I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour or I die
4: God is Unsearchable in His Intentions v36
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Paul concludes his doxology by identifying God’s mysterious yet so marvelous intentions. Why does God do anything? Why do events take place that to us are tragic and awful? Why does he allow the wicked to prosper while the righteous suffer? Paul simply answers these often asked questions by stating that God does all things for his glory. As we do not know the mind of God we cannot begin to understand his purposes. We must content ourselves with this – that his name and honour will be magnified in all things that take place throughout world history. The source of all things is God, “of him”. The channel through which all things occur is God, “through him”. The purpose of all things is God, “to him”. He is in control, let us praise his name – AMEN.