Second Reading: Romans 11:33-36

In Ways Unknown

Have you ever day dreamed about controlling your environment, your future, or others in your world? Have you ever wondered why your world does not work the way you expect?

Popular Translation

33 Think how deep God’s richness, wisdom and knowledge are! We cannot understand the way he judges. We cannot trace how he does things.

34 “Who really knows how the Lord thinks? Who can give God advice?”

35 “Who can give God a gift so important that God would feel obliged to repay it?”

36 Everything in creation came from God. It came about with his power and because he wanted it that way. May God be praised forever! Amen.

Literal Translation

33 O, the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and untraceable his ways!

34 “For who knew the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor?”

35 Or, “who gave (anything) before him, so it would be repaid to him?”

36 Because all things are from him, through him, and in him. To him be the glory into (the) ages. Amen.

11:33 Like many other times, Paul used both Greek terms (riches, wisdom, knowledge) and Hebrew terms (unsearchable judgments and untraceable ways). Paul appealed to the philosophic bent of Greek culture and he recognized the Hebrew understanding of God as “unknowable” and “infinite.”

11:34 This verse was from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 40:13.

11:35 This verse was from the Septuagint translation of Job 41:3a; it differs from Job 41:11 (in the Hebrew texts). The verse implied God could not be trapped into a “quid pro quo” arrangement.

11:35a This sentence stated all creation came from God, came about through his agency (i.e., the Holy Spirit), and exists “in” his will.

Why don’t we understand the ways of God? Why can’t reason penetrate the mind of the Almighty?

Last week, Paul tried to answer the question: Why should one believe in Jesus when the Jews rejected him as the Messiah? He reasoned that the failure of the evangelical mission to the Jews led to the success among the Gentiles. In other words, to use a phrase: “God wrote straight with crooked lines.”

On the heels of his dissertation, Paul launched into a three-part doxology. First, he addressed Greek and Hebrew attributes for God. He followed with rhetorical questions about God found in the Septuagint. He finished with the commonly held belief that God was the origin, agent, and keeper of creation. Paul praised God that cannot be known completely. After all, how can anyone know the full extent of the Almighty.

As moderns (or post-moderns), we might be tempted to feign awe over the amount of the known truth in the world. This is a temptation to pure narcissism. If we were to fall to such, we would overlook the growing number of questions that naturally rise up from the known truths. In other words, the more we know, the more we questions we have, the more we realize we don’t know. If this is the case, how can we ever expect to know anything about God?

God does work in ways we don’t understand. We cannot penetrate the mind of the Almighty. Yet, we do know that his ways are wondrous and, because of his activity in the world, he deserves praise. He may not work in ways we comprehend, but, in the end, his will spreads his goodness.

Pray for the areas in your life that stand outside of your control. Ask God to intervene. Ask God so you can understand his will and his ways.