Unsearchable Judgments, Inscrutable Ways
The outline of Romans we have been working from is:
Romans 1-3:20 Sin
Romans 3:21-5 Salvation
Romans 6-8 Sanctification
Romans 9-11 Sovereignty
Romans 12-16 Service
With the end of Romans 11, we are coming to the close of the section on sovereignty. Since we are talking about the sovereignty of God, Romans 11 comes to an end with a hymn. Romans 11:33 starts this hymn of praise saying:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33 ESV)
When we contemplate God’s sovereignty, we are confronted with His greatness, His unsearchable judgments and His inscrutable ways.
The salvation that God provides displays His riches. As we are told in Ephesians 1:4,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
The spiritual blessings we have received are part of the riches of the salvation we enjoy. While we enjoy great riches now, the depth or fullness of these riches is not yet apparent. However, as Romans 8:18 says:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)
The depth of the riches will become much more apparent when the glory this verse speaks of is revealed to us.
In the same way, the greatness of God’s judgments and ways are beyond our ability to comprehend. This being said, when we talk about God’s sovereignty, we talk about His judgments and His ways. Therefore, we are talking about things that go beyond our ability to comprehend. Because of this, we must approach this subject with humility. God has revealed much to us, and He wants us to understand what He has revealed. In Deuteronomy 29:29, the Scriptures say:
The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT)
Today, we are going to try to understand what He has revealed to us about His judgments and His ways in Romans 11:13-36. In doing this, we will consider the following three things:
- the root (verses 13-24)
- the deliverer (verses 25-27)
- the gifts (verses 28-32)
First, then we will consider the root.
The term first shows up in Romans 11 at verse 16 where it says:
...and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Paul is talking in this passage about why he makes much of his ministry. He has stated that the rejection of the Jews has meant the reconciliation of the world and their acceptance will mean life from the dead. Now, we know that reconciliation and resurrection operate according to the sovereign will and plan of God. We also know that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and also we know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus is the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) and the root out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2) of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the Hebrew Scriptures, the promises of God to the Jewish people. The New Testament is the fulfillment of those promises. Near the end of the last chapter of the Bible, Jesus says:
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." (Revelation 22:16 ESV)
As the root and descendant of David, Jesus is the root that supports the olive tree of Romans 11. In Romans 11:17-24, we see several things about the olive tree. First, we see that branches were broken off that we might be grafted in. We are Gentiles, and so we see that the tree is Jewish by nature. A number of times this has been emphasized to us in the book of Romans. The law, prophets and forefathers are all Jewish. We might add that all the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ are Jewish.
In view of our grafting in and of their rejection, we are given two warnings. First, we should not become arrogant and second, we should not be proud.
We show arrogance when we think we are superior to others. In the case of the olive tree, we might think we are superior to the Jews because they were cut off and we were grafted in. This sort of arrogance towards the Jewish people has marked history at different points. This is not of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God moved Paul to say that His heart’s desire and prayer to God was that they might be saved.
We must be aware of developing arrogance in our hearts in regard to any person or group of people. Arrogance grows out of pride. Pride is an awareness of one’s own dignity and value. In one sense, there is a healthy pride that values one’s self as being created in the image of God and loved by Him. However, when we value ourselves above others, pride becomes sinful. Others are also created in God’s image and loved by Him.
In the case of the Church, the Jews were rejected and the Gentiles were grafted in. The root is still Jewish. He is still the root of Jesse. This rejection of the Jews and acceptance of Gentiles is the judgment of God, and it is unsearchable. This means it is impossible for humans to fully search out these judgments. However, we are called upon to note both the kindness and severity of God. God is very severe to those who reject His Son, Jesus Christ, and He is very kind to those who accept Him. Understanding that God’s judgments are unsearchable, and that it is of His mercies that we are not consumed should remove all arrogance and pride from our relations with other people. However, arrogance and pride are so natural to us that we must continually be reminded to meditate on God’s unsearchable judgments.
After considering the root that supports the olive tree, we come to the portion of chapter 11 that speaks of the Deliverer that is to come out of Zion. Romans 11:26 speaks of the “Deliverer” that will come from Zion.
This Deliverer, like the root, is referring to Jesus. Before we get to that though we must speak about Zion. Zion is the name of Jerusalem and of Israel. However, in the New Testament we are introduced to the idea of a heavenly Zion. Hebrews 12:22 says:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (Hebrews 12:22 ESV)
To shed further light on this concept of Zion, Philippians 3:20 says:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20 ESV)
It is from this heavenly Zion that we wait for a Savior. Israel also awaits their Deliverer to come from this heavenly Zion to the earthly Zion.
Daniel 9:24 says:
Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. (Daniel 9:24 ESV)
In this prophecy, you will notice that it says, “to finish the transgression and to put an end to sin.” This is the same sort of language used in Romans 11:26 when it says the Deliverer will banish ungodliness from Jacob. The coming of this Deliverer is described in Revelation 19 where it is telling about the end of the tribulation period, the seventieth week of Daniel. Revelation 19:19 says:
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. (Revelation 19:19 ESV)
In Revelation, we see Jesus coming on a white horse and slaying the beast and the kings of the earth. Then He will set up His kingdom on earth, and all Israel will be saved. Romans 11:26 states it as plain as that. “All Israel will be saved.” Romans 11:25 tells us what the delay in completing this plan is. It says, “...until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” In another place the Scriptures say:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
According to these two passages, the only thing holding back the coming of the Deliverer is the patience of God. This is one of the inscrutable ways of God. Even with all that God has revealed about what He is doing, we find it difficult to understand what is happening and how it fits into God’s plan. Understanding what is being explained in Romans 11 has been one of the major dividing points of the Church and it has been the source of many cults and deceptions as men try to understand the inscrutable ways of God. It is important for this reason that we do not become wise in our own eyes as Romans 11:25 warns us. We must do what verse 26 does and stick to what is written, or in other words, to what God has revealed about His ways.
The key to us understanding what God has revealed about His unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways is found in what I have titled the gifts. This is taken from Romans 11:29 where it says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
In another place in Scripture it says:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)
According to this, God does not change. Therefore, God’s gifts do not change. Romans 11:28 assumes this fact when it says that Israel is beloved for the sake of their forefathers. God’s unchangeable nature means that the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David will never change or go away. They are irrevocable.
The partial hardening is happening for our sakes, so that we can partake in the promises and gifts of God. This also was part of God’s promise to Abraham, when He said He would bless all the nations on earth through Abraham.
Paul warns us not to become wise in our own sight. Three things are warned against in Romans 11:13-36: arrogance, pride and being wise in our own sight. The hymn of praise at the end of this section teaches the proper humility and awe with which we need to approach such a subject as the sovereignty of God.
We are not His counselor or teacher. We are His creatures, and we are the humble recipients of His grace.