Romans 11: 33 - 36
J. B. Phillips - Your God Is Too Small - title says it all. So many of us struggle because our God is much smaller than the God of the Bible. We have him neatly defined and kept in a box of our own making. If your God is too small, perhaps you need to take another look at the God of the Bible. No list of adjectives could ever adequately picture the immenseness of God. He is bigger than our biggest words and grander than our grandest conceptions. He is the one true God. It shouldn’t surprise that God does many things we don’t understand or that most of our questions about life will go unanswered.
In dealing with our deepest struggles it helps to remind ourselves of who God really is. The greater our view of God, 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 be blown away when tragedy strikes. Romans 11: 33 – 36 - “doxology of theology” - “explosion of praise.” It contains depths of truth no one can hope to fully explore, much less to understand. We will arrange the major thoughts of these 4 verses around simple statements.
1. Three Facts About God
A. He Knows Everything There Is To Know v. 33a
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Paul knew God as well as any man, yet he confessed himself 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 in. When you wade into the sea - feel safe as long as you can feel the sand beneath your feet. But go further out, and you will feel the sand disappearing. Eventually a wave comes and hurls you into the surf where you are tossed this way and that - "Oh, the depth." This is what Paul felt as he came to the end of his thoughts of God's sovereignty, man's sin and God's eternal plan. "Let us stop reasoning and simply praise our God for his incredible plan of redemption." Theology must eventually become doxology or else we will be guilty of thinking that we truly understand God. Oh, the depth of God's wisdom, God's justice, God's grace, God's forgiveness.
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 best and brightest men and woman must eventually come to the same conclusion. The astronomer gazes at the stars that fill the night sky. As the most powerful telescopes take us to the edge of the universe, the wise man bows his head and exclaims, "How great Thou art!" Psalm 19: 1 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." (ESV) Those who know most must confess how little they actually know. Trying to understand God is like trying to empty the ocean with a tiny 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 too weak, and the ocean is too large, too wide, too deep. So it is with God.
He knows everything that could ever be known. Not only his knowledge deep, 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. Wow! So many times I limit my thinking to the fact that God’s presence goes with me as I move through life. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story. He’s not only with me now, he’s already way up the road ahead of me. Think about this way. While I am struggling with the problems of today, God is at work providing solutions for the things I am going to face tomorrow. God is already at work providing solutions for problems I don’t even know I have yet!
B. He Makes Plans We Can’t Understand v. 33b
“How unsearchable his judgments!”The Message- "Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out." "It’s way over our heads." Not only does God make plans we don’t know about, 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.
C. He Alone Knows Why Everything Happens v. 33c
“And his paths beyond tracing out!” “God leaves no footprints behind him.” That means that in life many things will happen that we simply do not understand. Sickness, accidents, violent crimes, sudden financial collapse, divorce, crumbled dreams, cancer, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, famines, war, broken promises, evil triumphing over good, lost jobs, ruined lives, children dying, others promoted while we are passed, our ideas stolen and used by others, and good works we do that others take credit for. The list is endless and heartbreaking. Only God knows why things happen. Most of the time we can only wonder.
2. Three Things No One Can Do
v. 34, 35 contain 3 rhetorical questions, each one expecting a negative answer. They all begin with the same two words . . . “Who has . . . Who has . . . Who has?” The answer is always the same: “No one . . . No one . . . No one.”
A. No One Can Explain God v. 34a
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Lots of people think they know what God is like, but the only thing we know about God are things he has chosen to reveal to us. 6 blind men who are trying to describe an elephant. The first man felt the tusk and said, “An elephant is sharp, like a spear.” The second man touched his massive side and exclaimed, “No! An elephant is like a wall.” The third man stroked his trunk and concluded that an elephant was most like a snake. The fourth man tried to wrap his arms around one of the elephant’s legs. When he couldn’t, he said, “He is like a tree.” The fifth felt the expanse of his huge ears and said, “It’s easy to see that an elephant is much like a fan.” The last man felt the tiny tail and said, “You’re all wrong. An elephant is shaped like a rope.” Who was right? They all were. Who was wrong? All of them. We are all like those blind men when it comes to knowing God. Who among us can claim to fully understand the infinite and Almighty God of the universe? No one knows enough to fully explain God.
B. No One Can Counsel God v. 34b
“Or who has been his counselor?” Message - Is there “anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?” He needs no counselor for he is infinitely wise. Counselors are indispensable because life is filled with so many possibilities. But God needs no counselor. Indeed, he is the ultimate Counselor. He guides every being in the universe, but no one guides him. He counsels all creation, but no one is his counselor. For a mere man to counsel God would be like a candle trying to give light to the sun.
A student was struggling through his final exam. In desperation he scrawled across the bottom of the paper, “Only God knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas!” When he got the paper back, the teacher marked it: “God gets 100. You get 0. Happy New Year!” No one knows as much as God does, no one can explain God, and no one can be his counselor.
C. No One Can Accuse God of Unfairness v. 35
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” No one can ever say, “God, you owe me something.” “You cheated me.” “I’ve earned your favour.” Everything this side of heaven is grace. God saves those he is in under no obligation to save. He could have destroyed the human race and started over again with better raw material. But he didn't. What he did was quite literally unthinkable. The Infinite became finite. The Almighty became a tiny baby. Then in the Father's wisdom, the Son died a miserable, humiliating, excruciating death on a Roman cross--the just dying for the unjust, the Sinless One bearing the sins of the world. God has done everything necessary for you to go to heaven. No one can accuse God of unfairness because his offer of salvation goes out 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 truly deserve to be there. No one will end up in heaven except those who have been saved by God's grace.
3. Three Reasons to Praise God
It is as if Paul can contain himself no longer. He means to show that God is all in all. Everything comes from him, everything exists by his power, and everything will ultimately answer to him.
A. He is the Source of All Things.
“For from him.” All things flow from Him.
B. He is the Sustainer of All Things
“And through him.” Not only do all things flow from Him, but he is the reason for the continued existence of the universe. He alone understands the purpose for everything that he created. All things come “through him.” All knowledge, all wisdom, everything we have comes “through him.”
C. He is the Supreme Purpose of All Things
“And to him are all things.” Nothing is left out, no part of creation excluded. God is the beginning, the middle, and the end of “all things.” Everything comes from him, everything continues by him, everything finds it ultimate purpose in him. Life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and we are like children trying to put the puzzle together with only a handful of pieces and someone took the box that has the picture on the cover. No wonder we struggle to figure out what life is all about. As the years pass we pick up more pieces to the puzzle and things that once troubled us now seem to fit into place. We have a new appreciation for the wisdom of God because nothing is ever wasted.
We are like ants crawling across a painting by Rembrandt. When we come to the darker colors, it seems as if the entire painting is dark, somber, forbidding. Everything around us is dark brown or dark blue or midnight black. But if we could only stand back from the painting, we would see that the darker hues are offset by lighter colors—red, green, yellow, blue and orange. It is the darkness of the darker hues that makes the brighter colours stand out so vividly. So it is with life itself. We may spend days or weeks or years in the dark tones of life. Sickness, heartache, tragedy, mistreatment and betrayal may cause us to think that there are no lighter tones. But God is painting a masterpiece in your life and before he is finished, he will use every colour on his palette. If you do not see the final product on earth, you will see it clearly in heaven.
To Him Be the Glory Forever!
The mysteries of God lead us in 1 of 2 directions. 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, doesn’t he? 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, then we are left with these final words: “To him be the glory forever!”
In life and in death--To him be the glory forever! In joy and in sorrow--To him be the glory forever! In good days and dark nights--To him be the glory forever! In sickness and in health--To him be the glory forever! In your career and in your home--To him be the glory forever! In your marriage and in your children--To him be the glory forever! In your prosperity and in your poverty--To him be the glory forever! In days of peace and in times of war--To him be the glory forever! In gentle breeze and in gathering storm--To him be the glory forever! In the classroom and in the boardroom--To him be the glory forever! In moments of victory and in darkest defeat--To him be the glory forever! In prayers answered and in prayers unanswered--To him be the glory forever!
In yesterday’s tears, today’s rejoicing, and tomorrow’s adventures--To him be the glory forever! In heaven and on earth--To him be the glory forever!
Whatever comes, whether tragedy or triumph, in the midst of the years, with the changing of the seasons, when we know enough or nothing at all, when hope is gone and all we have left is God, To him alone be the glory forever! Amen.