“Almighty God, in every way, You are above and beyond understanding” goes the song by Tim Hughes (‘Almighty God’), words that could be taken straight from Romans 11. Paul concludes this amazing section looking at the ways of God with these verses:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36). At the end of all this teaching about God’s ways and God’s plans, including what He is doing in and with both the Gentiles and the Jews, Paul is left in wondering praise, aware that there is so much more that he does not understand, cannot comprehend and will never fathom, but that God is worthy of all praise.

The preceding verses are not easy to fathom, either! Paul has continued talking about the mystery of what is happening now with the salvation of the Gentiles and how Israel seems to be ‘hardened’ (‘calloused’), not seeing the salvation of the Lord. Nonetheless, Paul is confident that God is working all things together for good and that that will ultimately result in Israel’s salvation (Rom 11:26). He is aware that God’s gifts and call are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). He is aware that disobedience does not negate mercy (Rom 11:30-32). The topics of God’s sovereignty and free will rumble on in these verses. It seems there is, known to God, a fixed number of those Gentiles who will be saved (Rom 11:25) and that ‘all Israel’ will be saved (Rom 11:26). When this will come about, how it will come about and who is meant by ‘all Israel’ (‘spiritual Israel’? ‘Genetic Israel’?) cannot be categorically understood by our finite minds, though the references to Isaiah and Jeremiah in Rom 11:26-27 and the reference to Jacob (the schemer, rather than Israel, the one who struggled with God) indicate that God is still indeed working with His ‘chosen people’, the Jews. We have to ultimately admit that there are still many parts of God’s word which we do not fully understand and that God is God and we are not! We don’t have the knowledge or wisdom to counsel or advise God. We have no right, as created beings, to tell the Creator what to do. We do, however, have an ongoing obligation to worship – a theme that will be taken up in Romans 12, as Paul begins the practical application of his theological teachings in the remainder of the letter.