The Limits of Understanding

Opening Prayer

O God, how great are Your riches and wisdom and knowledge! (Rom. 11:33).

Read Romans 11:25–36

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Doxology
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Reflect

Reflect on some surprising acts of generosity and mercy that you have experienced from God.

Paul refuses to give up on his people, the Jews. The stark reality is that they have become “enemies” of the Gospel (28). And yet, his own experience tells him that God is able to make friends out of enemies (5:10). Moreover, the Jewish people have always had a special place in God’s heart, and “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (28,29).

Does this mean that all Jewish people will find themselves saved regardless of their response to the Gospel? This would undermine Paul’s argument through the entire letter: salvation comes through faith (5:1; cf. Eph. 2:8). He has made it clear that all who are Israel (ethnically) are not “Israel,” the redeemed people of God (9:6–9), who are both Jews and Gentiles. Acceptance of the Good News is essential (10:16,17).

Paul has reached the limit of his understanding. He is trusting that God is at work through circumstances that he would not have chosen. He trusts that the rejection of the Good News by his fellow Jews, which has opened the way for the Gentiles, will only be temporary (31,32). But in the end, he can only trust in the wisdom and mercy of God (33–36).

Apply

Understanding should lead to worship, but at times only worship can help us understand God’s ways. Take time to worship.

Closing prayer

What attributes of God make You want to worship him? Tell God what he means to you.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider