by John on November 15, 2006
“Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give to him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
I have loved these verses for a long time – ever since I did a detailed study of the book of Romans as a young man. When you come upon this statement of praise in context, you realize Paul wrote this after three chapters of trying to explain God’s plan for the salvation of all people – how God picked the Jews to be his chosen people, how the Jews rebelled and God turned to the Gentiles, and how the Jews will once again share in God’s mercy. Salted and peppered throughout are statements of God’s predestination and man’s responsibility that have baffled us ever since and eluded the theologians’ attempts to explain. In fact, our attempts to grasp contradictory concepts like free will and predestination have driven Christians into warring camps and divided the church for centuries. It is precisely why Paul blasts off into worship here, to show us that when our minds can’t go any further, we need to stop acting like we know everything – admit we don’t know anything – and worship God.
“Oh, what a wonderful God we have!” exclaims Paul, and in essence goes on to say, He’s way past my being able to explain everything. This is as far as my little mind can take me. Don’t ask any more from it, because I’ve already taxed the poor thing too much already!
Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands and revel in the wisdom and glory of God. Sometimes you just have to humble yourself and admit what you don’t know – might never know. I’m not suggesting this is an excuse for being dumb. Nor does it condone poor scholarship. We need to study, and think, and research, and do the background work necessary to build our confidence in the Word of God and what it says to us. God gave us a mind to use and not waste, but that mind can only go so far. Worship is what happens when the mind runs out of reasons.
Is there something you don’t understand, whether an intellectual question or a question about your life – what God is thinking? Go back to the verses at the top of this devotional and read them in light of your questions, and worship. Sometimes that’s all you can do.