Come with me to a vista where we will view God's attributes. You should be prepared to be changed, because a view of God’s attributes exposes our sinfulness and compels us to offer ourselves completely to Him. Turn to Romans: 11:33-36—"Oh, the depth of the riches, the wisdom and the 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 him? 36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."
What do these verses do for you? They should prompt a number of responses on our part.
A view of God’s attributes creates praise in our hearts
"...to him be glory for ever! Amen." (verse 36b) Look at how this doxology describes God. Paul’s own description of God's grace and mercy in chapters 1-11 of Romans has carried him to the heights. As he pauses at this peak and contemplates God’s character and attributes, he is obviously stirred. I hope it inspires us, too.
What attributes of God does Paul see from this mountain of praise?
His wisdom and knowledge—verse 33a.
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" What can we compare to it?
"Wisdom and knowledge"..."refers to God’s comprehensive view of all things, His perception of details which enable Him to adapt His love to all the forces and conditions of the world, even to failure and unbelief and sin, and to work out His plans and purposes of grace."—Charles Eerdman, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. 142, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, MCMXXV.
Who can plumb the depths of it? Man’s reasoning and words are simply inadequate to comprehend God's wisdom and knowledge. Who can calculate how rich and valuable it is? Mankind discovers new vistas of God’s wisdom and knowledge each day and yet continues to grow in knowledge, because the depths of God’s wisdom have never and will never be exhausted. We think we are so smart. How that must amuse God.
His judgments and paths—verse 33b.
"How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"
This verse could refer to God’s punishment or His salvation. Whatever the case, they are unsearchable and cannot be fully traced or searched out. The path of God is beyond tracing out.
"They can’t be tracked out. The word could be used of a bloodhound who found it impossible to follow the scent of a criminal; or of a guide who could not trace out or follow a path in the woods"—M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in The N.T. Vol. II, MacDonald Pub., FL.
The believer, obviously, can know a measure of the knowledge of God.
In creation we have a general revelation—Rom. 1:18-20.
In the Scripture we have a revelation of God that was hidden in ages past—1 Cor. 2:6-10.
The believer can have a growing and intimate knowledge of God.
The believer can even be taught by God to understand and follow His ways—Ps. 25:9; 32:8. Here’s a great prayer: "Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors"—Psalm 27:11.
But having said the above, we must acknowledge the words of Paul’s doxology here in Romans 11. The believer in some cases must await God’s explanation in eternity—1 Cor. 13:8-12.
A view of God brings His transcendency to our awareness and sponsors a lot of questions—verses 34-35.
34] "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" [ Isaiah 40:13 ] 35] "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" [ Job 41:11 ]
What is His transcendency? We know that God is with us because of the incarnation; He lived among us, loved us, died and arose for us and ascended to the Father where He continually makes intercession for us. Our God is, however, high and lifted up beyond man. As we know, He is exalted far above the created universe, so far that human thought can’t imagine it. He is far above, not so much in the sense of distance, location, or attitude but of life. God stands apart in light unapproachable. He is far above the angels and all created beings, including Satan. Our God inhabits eternity, and His glory and majesty no man can measure—Job 25:1-6; 37.
His transcendency sponsors several questions; look at what Paul said in chapter 11. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? The answer is, No one! No one! No one should tell Him to proceed in His plans. Yet we try to. We even demand that God do things the way we think they should be done. How ignorant we are of His transcendency. How utterly asinine to counsel God. Many of theological fads are created, in fact, because men and women are unaware of God’s majesty.
As Paul reminds us, no one can ever give anything to God that would obligate Him to repay them. "For from him and through him are all things." He already owns everything—"To him are all things..." He’s so rich that He needs nothing from our hands. All God gives is an expression of His grace; therefore, no one can merit anything from Him. He is the source of everything.
In the sphere of salvation, all things have their source in Him. All things are upheld by Him, ruled and directed by Him. He is the final cause of all things, the exalted God of all things. All things serve His eternal purposes, and His gracious and loving ends.
What does this view of God’s grandeur and attributes do for us? What should be our response? I'll tell you what it does for me when I go to the top of the mountain and view God’s glory and attributes.
It creates praise in me—"To him be glory forever and ever."
When we see God’s grandeur, we should be lost in wonder, love and praise.
It makes His transcendency obvious—"From him and through him and to him are all things."
It produces deep fear and reverence—Isaiah 6:1-5.
A.W. Tozer described this response so much better than I ever could:
When the psalmist saw the transgression of the wicked his heart told him how it could be. "There is no fear of God before his eyes," he explained, and in so saying revealed to us the psychology of sin. When men no longer fear God, they transgress His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone.
In olden days men of faith were said to "walk in the fear of God" and to "serve the Lord with fear."
However intimate their communion with God, however bold their prayers, at the base of their religious life was the conception of God as awesome and dreadful. This idea of God transcendent runs through the whole Bible and gives color and tone to the character of the saints.
This fear of God was more than a natural apprehension of danger; it was a non-rational dread, an acute feeling of personal insufficiency in the presence of God the Almighty.
Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same—an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram stretched himself upon the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face in fear to look upon God. Isaiah’s vision of God wrung from him the cry, "Woe is me!" and the confession, "I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips."
Daniel’s encounter with God was probably the most dreadful and wonderful of them all. The prophet lifted up his eyes and saw One whose "body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude." "I Daniel alone saw the vision," he afterwards wrote, "for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face towards the ground."
These experiences show that a vision of the divine transcendence soon ends all controversy between the man and his God. The fight goes out of the man and he is ready with the conquered Saul to ask meekly, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
Conversely, the self-assurance of modern Christians, the basic levity present in so many of our religious gatherings, the shocking disrespect shown for the Person of God, are evidence enough of deep blindness of heart. Many call themselves by the name of Christ, talk much about God, and pray to Him sometimes, but evidently do not know who He is. "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life," but this healing fear is today hardly found among Christian men--A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of The Holy, Harper & Row Pub., 1986, pp. 77-78.
What more can we say?
It causes me to soar in strength—Isaiah 40.
Read the whole chapter. Notice what an understanding of God will do for a person.
It causes me to present my body and mind to God as a pleasing sacrifice to Him, which is my reasonable worship—Romans 12-1-2.
It causes me to want to serve Him—Romans 12:2-8; Isaiah 6:1-8.
Why do we have trouble finding people to serve God in the church? Why do people have a difficult time yielding their minds and bodies to God? They haven't seen God! When we see God, we are confident and filled with faith.
It causes us to say, "I accept your grace and mercy that has been revealed in your Son, Jesus."
From this moment on:
I’ll trust you when I cannot understand
I'll love you when I cannot explain
I won’t argue and fight when I cannot comprehend your counsel
I’ll acknowledge all I have is yours when the world teaches me all I have is mine to do as I please
I’ll serve you even when the whole world is serving themselves
I’ll renew my mind when the world is seeking to conform me to its ways
I’ll live in your Word even when other things are bidding for my attention
- I’ll do your will even when my will is different.
- What attributes of God cause praise to well up inside your heart today?
- Why can we see God's transcendency as a good thing?
- "Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same—an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt," Tozer wrote. Why do you think we have, for the most part, lost this sense of God?
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