Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
These words are the ending of the theological section of the letter to the Romans as Paul has set it out in the first 11 chapters of the epistle, and here is his response. It is affectionate, and emotional, and doxological. They remind me of the psalmist saying, ‘How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!’ (Psa. 139:17). We often sing of this theme; for example in ‘God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.’ Paul has been explaining to us the plan of God in saving Jews and Gentiles through Christ. The rejection of the Messiah by the Jews became the opportunity for Gentiles to be evangelized and won by the gospel. Then their salvation in turn made favoured Jews envious of the converted Gentiles so that they repented and believed on the Lord Jesus. This plan, embracing both Jews and Gentiles, was devised by God and accomplished and applied by him. As a result multitudes of Jews and Gentiles have been receiving the gospel of Christ. Every Jew may come to the Saviour, and every Gentile may come. The offer of grace is extended to them all and throughout history and everywhere today men and women are coming and trusting in the Lord Jesus. The plan of God is absolutely perfect so that blessings continue to be poured out upon the world.
Paul says that this reflects both God’s knowledge and his wisdom. What is the difference between those two similar words? Let us say that God’s knowledge is his omniscience; in other words, God is ignorant of nothing whatsoever. He knows everything. He knows each sub-atomic particle. He knows the vastness of outer space. He knows what lies beyond and outside of this universe. He knows the entire future for all of eternity. But more than all of that, God knows himself exhaustively; no part of him is a mystery to himself. God alone knows his own being, his triune glory, his love, his grace, his rectitude, his hatred of sin, what is the consequence of the revelation of his wrath, his mercy and pity. That is the knowledge of God. Then what of his wisdom? What is that? His wisdom is the application of his knowledge, using his knowledge for honourable ends in every decision he takes within the Trinity, to create, and to sustain, and to save through the incarnation of his Son and redeem by the work of his Holy Spirit. What wisdom!
O loving wisdom of our God,
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! That flesh and blood,
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe,
Should strive and should prevail.
His wisdom provided such a Saviour to rescue favoured sinners, and with that same wisdom to deal with us, day by day. In wisdom he brought us to know him, he chose certain means, there were desires he placed in our hearts, and the timing of the great change, and the people he employed, and the message, the very words, and how he answered our questions and objections – what wisdom! Then how he has dealt with us over the years, the trials he has brought into our lives, the temptations, the falls, the forgiveness, the recovery – such wisdom, never allowing us to be tried above our ability to bear it, always making a way of escape. O wisest love indeed! So there is the knowledge of God, and his wisdom.
The verses then are the apostle’s response to all of that. He doesn’t say, ‘How wise is God!’ or ‘How knowledgeable is God!’ Such phrases are a pathetic response, so inadequate to describe the glorification in heaven of an innumerable company of people, all saved from destruction, all enjoying fulness of joy and Christ-likeness in a new heavens and earth for evermore. To say, ‘What rich wisdom has God!’ is still weak after eleven chapters of mind-blowing truth expounding the whole plan of redemption. ‘What rich wisdom and knowledge has God,’ also fails. Even ‘What deep riches of wisdom and knowledge are God’s,’ is also a little inadequate. The element of pathos is missing. Paul has to sigh aloud to respond adequately, ‘Oh! . . . ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’ And Paul can’t stop there. He goes on, ‘How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!’
– Geoff Thomas