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!
The apostle has been throwing a very clear providential light upon God's dealings with his ancient people. He has shown how their unbelief and fall were permitted in order to the gathering in of the Gentiles; and that the Gentiles thus brought in are to gird themselves for the ingathering of the Jews. But he does not profess to have sounded the depths of the Divine wisdom and knowledge by these suggestions. Before that mighty ocean he stands in unfeigned humility. He may have picked up one or two pebbles on the strand, but he has not explored the caves of ocean that lie before him. Yet amid the unsearchable character of God's judgments, he can see one supreme end in everything, and this is God himself; "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things."
I. WHILE GOD IS KNOWABLE, HE SURPASSES ALL OUR CONCEPTIONS IN HIS WISDOM AND HIS WAYS. (Ver. 33.) While believing in the radical error which underlies the agnostic philosophy, we must at the same time admit that God's wisdom and knowledge, his judgments and his ways, are past our comprehension. Just as a child may know, that is, be acquainted with, his parent, while at the same time he is utterly unable to follow him into the regions of pure mathematics, comprehend the differential or integral calculus, or the new department of quaternions; so a Christian may know God as he reveals himself in Christ, and yet stand in awe before his unsearchable judgments. It is God's glory to conceal a thing. If we saw through the whole administration of God, if there were no mystery or perplexity in his dealings, we should be living by reason and not by faith. It is more consonant with our finiteness in its relation to the infinite God that we should be asked to trust God, even when we see no reason for his action, when clouds and darkness may be round about his throne. What we have to consider, therefore, is the proper attitude of the Christian before the profundities of God. It surely should be one of humility, of reverence, and of thankful praise. Now, the partiality of Paul's revelation may be profitably contrasted with the fulness of revelation as claimed by Christ. For he claimed to have all that the Father doeth shown to him (John 5:20). Nothing was or is concealed from Jesus. God's ways were not unsearchable to him.
II. MEN SHOULD NOT IN CONSEQUENCE DICTATE TO GOD, OR TRY TO BE BEFOREHAND WITH HIM. (Vers. 34, 35.) Now, when the matter is put broadly in this way, it seems shocking presumption for men to set themselves up as superior persons, capable of dictating to the Eternal. Yet is this not the meaning of a large amount of the pessimistic literature of our time? If the pessimists had only been consulted, they could have planned a much better world than God has given us! His management has been, in their view, a mistake; and the only redeeming feature in the business is that he has somehow created the pessimists with judgments and powers superior to his own] It is time, surely, that these lamentations over a system of things so very imperfectly understood as yet should cease, and that creatures so finite should humble themselves before the Infinite, and acknowledge his superiority in all things.
III. AT THE SAME TIME, THE APOSTLE CONCLUDES THAT GOD IS HIS OWN LAST END IN EVERYTHING. (Ver. 36.) It seems a hard thing to take in, yet the more it is pondered the truer if appears. "The supreme Sun of the spiritual universe, the ultimate Reason of everything in the world and work of grace, is the glory of God. Whole systems of truth move in subordinate relation to this; this is subordinate to nothing." "There was nothing," wrote Robert Haldane to M. Cheneviere of Geneva, "brought under the consideration of the students which appeared to contribute so effectually to overthrow their false system of religion founded on philosophy and vain deceit, as the sublime view of the majesty of God, which is presented in these concluding verses of the first part of the Epistle, 'Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.' Here God is described as his own last End in everything that he does. Judging of God as such a one as themselves, they were at first startled at the idea that he must love himself supremely, infinitely more than the whole universe, and consequently must prefer his own glory to everything besides. But when they were reminded that God in reality is infinitely more amiable and more valuable than the whole creation, and that consequently, if he views things as they really are, he must regard himself as infinitely worthy of being most valued and loved, they saw that this truth was incontrovertible. Their attention was at the same time turned to numerous passages of Scripture, which assert that the manifestation of the glory of God is the great end of creation; that he has himself chiefly in view in all his works and dispensations; and that it is a purpose in which he requires that all his intelligent creatures should acquiesce, and seek to promote as their first and paramount duty. Passages to this effect, both in the Old and New Testaments, far exceed in number what any one who has not examined the subject is at all aware of." Now, if our idea of God is high enough, we shall conclude that he stands in such perfect relations to his creatures that in seeking his own glory he is at the same time seeking their highest good. Of course, we have the power of resisting this claim of God, and setting ourselves in opposition to his glory; yet this will not defeat his purpose, but be overruled for his praise. It is not selfishness in the most high God to seek his own glory; he is so perfect in his love as to be incapable of selfishness. His glory conflicts with the real good of none of his creatures.
IV. WE OUGHT IN CONSEQUENCE, LIKE THE APOSTLE, TO RAISE OUR DOXOLOGY. It is when from the heart we sing our doxology to this perfect Being that we are rising up into our spiritual birthright and joy. How different Paul's doxology from the agnostic deliverances before the unknown God! It is possible to adore and praise a God whose judgments are unsearchable, because the guiding principle of his perfect nature is love. May we all be led to praise him! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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!