Today’s verse is Romans 11:33.
33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
I wonder how many times verses like this are in the Bible. So many verses tell us it’s impossible for us to understand God, but we try anyway. And half the time we think we succeed.
Since this is such a common theme throughout Scripture, I thought I’d expand a little bit and see specifically what Paul was talking about in this particular verse. And it sort of surprised me. Not that I’m saying I know so much about Scripture, but I don’t remember reading this bit in Romans 11 before. I reviewed it in the King James Version, and then I remembered reading it but it really never made a whole lot of sense to me. I mean — it did. But it didn’t strike me as totally awesome until I read it this morning in actual modern English.
28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. 31 Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share[k] in God’s mercy. 32For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.
These verses just before the verse of the day go into a little bit of background behind the Church Age. God chose the Jews, the people of Israel, to be His people, but they turned away from Him enough that He finally left them to their own devices. He did this so that He could allow His Word to come to the rest of the world. The Gentiles. Everyone who isn’t Jewish. That means me and just about everyone I know.
The Old Testament was all about the nation of Israel. The New Testament, after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension, is about Gentiles. The Church Age. And we’ll be in the Church Age until Christ comes back for us.
It’s complicated. It’s like the plot of a good novel, plenty of twists and turns that don’t make sense until you read the whole story. Because I’m sure if you had talked to many of the people alive during this time, none of it would have made sense to them. I mean, now, we can look back and understand that God shifted His focus away from the people of Israel to pursue those of us who weren’t Jewish. If He hadn’t done that, the U.S. wouldn’t exist. (I know a lot of people don’t believe the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, and I’m not going to get into that debate now. But even you who don’t believe we were founded as a Christian nation can’t argue that Christians didn’t participate in the foundation of this country, that people didn’t come here for freedom to practice true Christianity.) In any case, if God hadn’t shifted His attention to allow Gentiles to come to Christ, I wouldn’t be here. And that’s a fact.
Of course, part of the covenant God made with Abraham was that the whole world would be blessed through him. So God turning His focus to Gentiles was partly to fulfill that promise. But think about the Jews at that time. Not all of them had turned away from God. Not all of them had wanted Christ crucified. Not all of them had been rebellious. But their whole nation was punished. Their whole nation was enslaved and broken apart.
I’m sure at the time it must have felt like the world was falling apart. But God had a plan. It was all part of the story He was creating. The people of Israel needed to be left on their own to realize what God had done for them. The Gentiles needed to be told about God period; they’d never heard about Him before. And when the Church Age is over, God will shift His focus again to the nation of Israel and bring them back to Him as He always has because no matter how much they screw up, they are still His chosen people. And God made a promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and God always keeps His promises.
Isn’t that incredible? Thousands and thousands of years after God made a promise to one man, He will keep His promise to rescue that man’s millions of descendants. How awesome is that?
I can’t really understand how God’s mind works. He knows all the knowledge in the universe. Shoot, He created all knowledge in the universe. But He isn’t just knowledgeable; He’s wise. And there really is a difference. And God is on a level that nobody can comprehend. He can see the whole picture. He can undertand every in and out of every situation. He can see every reprecussion, every consequence, every action, every choice we have ever and will ever make. So there’s no way I can understand why He does the things He does.
But what I can understand is what really matters. God keeps His promises.
It doesn’t matter that Abraham screwed up time after time. It doesn’t matter that his kids were screwed up. It doesn’t matter that his family became a nation of people who were disobediant and rebellious. It doesn’t matter that they all turned away from God more times than anyone can keep track of. God made a promise to Abraham, and God is going to keep that promise. (Note: Please don’t think I’m hounding on the Jews. I’m just trying to make a point. If we’re having a contest between the U.S. and Israel about which one has flipped God off more, I actually think the U.S. is in the lead . . . )
So when God makes a promise to me, I know I can trust Him. And that’s really all we need to know. Anything else would be too much for us. Anything more would terrify us.
God never makes mistakes. And He always keeps His promises, no matter what.
That’s good enough for me.