The following is one of my favorite passages of scripture, Romans 11: 33-36. Many have stated that this is Paul’s doxology following the profound theology laid out in Romans 1:18 – 11:32. In the previous chapters, especially Romans 9-11, Paul has laid down some powerful truths concerning the climax of God’s redemptive plan in Christ. Here Paul is placing a capstone at the end of his logical argument in showing that God’s wisdom and ways are truly profound! Take a gander:
Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
This passage often causes me to reflect on how foolish we can be. In those middle verses where Paul is quoting Job he asks the most basic rhetorical questions: “Who can tell God what to do?” & “Who can cause God to repay him?”.
Because of our sinful nature, we often think we can tell God how he should act or how he should repay us. Paul exposes the foolishness of this though in the last verse of Romans 11. He shows us that all things are from God. There is nothing that we can offer to God that he does not already have complete sovereignty over.
It is much like Paul’s reasoning with the Athenians in Acts 17:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he Himself gives to all mankind life and breadth and everything. (vv. 24-25)
We can be very foolish sometimes when we attempt to manipulate God. It is like Saul after he had defeated the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. God told Saul to devote the entire city of Amalek to destruction and to destroy everything and everyone in it, including the sheep and the oxen. Saul summoned the Israelites and took the city. However, Saul kept the king alive and he also kept the sheep and oxen alive too. When Samuel confronted Saul about disobeying the Lord Saul responds that he kept the sheep and oxen for sacrifices to God. It is this kind of foolish reasoning that we often attempt to assuage ourselves of guilt. Instead of obeying God we do what we want and then we say that we did it for God. God did not want and/or need those sheep or oxen. If he wanted them for sacrifice he could have told Saul not to slaughter them. This is not what God commanded.
All too often we forget that God is sovereign over all things. All things come from Him. He does not need anything. We forget these truths and we think that we can get God in our debt by doing things that he did not even command.
A short modern day example of this is Mayor Bloomberg of New York City thinking that God is going to let Him into heaven because he passed legislation that kept people from ordering large sodas and carrying around pistols. Michael Bloomberg’s god is not the God of scriptures because the God of the Bible needs nothing. He didn’t need the sheep and oxen that Saul disobeyed to bring him, and he doesn’t need anything we can offer Him either.
That being said he does ask of us obedience in the form of faith in Christ. He does not need our obedience but in his kindness and mercy he calls us to it because we are the ones in need.
Food for thought.