There are times in our lives when some of the simple but important truths of God become more than just academic to us. We are told that we should trust God. We all agree that’s a very good idea…until we have to trust Him for something so big, so important, and so overwhelming that trust suddenly seems like a small, weak little branch that can’t possibly hold up all the expectations and hopes we have riding on it. We’re sure it will snap, and we will be left to fend for ourselves. And then…God meets us there. We see that He has our situation under control, and knows what He is doing. And this meant so much to us that all we can do is thank God, but our words can never do justice to what we feel. Our heart is overflowing with thanks, and tears come to our eyes, and we just wish we had the right words to praise God with.
What we have in those moments are doxologies of the heart. A doxology (Greek: δοξολογία, from δόξα, doxa, "glory" and -λογία, -logia—a saying), is a short hymn of praise to God. In Romans 11:33-36, Paul has such a doxology of the heart, and thankfully, we can read it.
It wasn’t a planned stop for effect; it wasn’t just Paul trying to model something. This was something that welled up in Paul’s heart as he reflected on all God had done for Him—and the enormity of that truth overwhelms Him and he cries out to God in praise.
Do you have a doxology of the heart? I have noticed that our responses to God’s work in our life can often seem so sterile and religious and piously barren. It’s clear to anyone with a brain that though we speak beautiful words, our hearts aren’t really in them. When we sing choruses or praise songs they are someone else’s doxologies of the heart that we are joining in with. But no matter how much we enjoy and love these songs, they will never mean as much to us as they did to those who wrote them. Frankly, we need our own. Paul is going to urge us to go deeper in.
A heart doxology looks deeper into God
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Paul begins his doxology with a sigh, “a holy groan” one writer quips. Here we are going beyond truth and doctrine for Paul and entering deep emotion. When we start thinking deeply upon what God has done for us, our response shouldn’t be merely cerebral—but a response from our hearts and souls.
In its immediate context here, Paul is referring to the plan of God for the salvation of all people and how that demonstrates God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom. Paul is summing up his history of our salvation from chapters 9-11 where God’s mercy through Christ is being shown now to the Gentiles and in the future to the Jews—and how amazing it all is. Paul is touching the heart and wisdom and knowledge of God here and he’s finding it beyond powerful.
To many Christians their faith is cerebral, their faith consists of things they believe or don’t believe about God. This is why it’s often difficult to explain our faith to people who think Christianity consists simply of what we believe or don’t believe about God, or the Bible, or morality, or science, or politics. Yet, Christianity is first and foremost a relationship with the risen Jesus Christ, a returning to the Creator and lover of our souls.
When we pray we don’t pray to an idea, or a philosophy, or a set of ideas, but to a Person so marvelous, so great, so glorious, that to even be in His presence in prayer is a miracle. We know that listening to our feeble thoughts and prayers is an intellect that created out of nothing all we see, and all we know, and all we can’t yet see and don’t yet know.
The complexity of a single organism is far beyond our capacity to really understand. And in His mind was created not only every organism in the Universe, but a system for all organisms to co-exist among each other perfectly. What we blithely call “the balance of nature” is the evidence of His mind and its depths.
We will never ever have an exhaustive knowledge of God any more than an ant, however much we improve his diet, environment and senses, will ever be able to understand quantum mechanics, stealth technology or nuclear fission. God didn’t randomly create things and then place them all on the same planet to see what happened, like a child randomly dumping out his box of toys onto the floor. There was a plan beyond even our understanding of intelligence itself.
God made these things for us—because He loves us and knows how much they would mean to us—beyond just the physical needs of existence. Yes, we need water to drink to survive. Yes, we need the sun to warm us or we’d freeze. Yes, we need a moon--but what about the moonlight over the water at night? What about the sunset decorating the sky with a beauty that touches us in a place we don’t even understand?
These things touch our hearts and our souls and God designed them to do that—as well as to make our earth safe for our existence. In His knowledge God both creates what our bodies need for survival as well as what our souls need for joy and delight.
One of my regrets is that there are places I won’t ever be able to see in my life, things I won’t be able to do. Time and death are my enemy. I wonder how much time it would take to fully experience planet earth in all its broken but magnificent glory? A thousand years? 10,000 years? Or what of our galaxy, our universe? A million years? 10 million years? A billion? We still don’t even know how far it reaches! The kingdom of God will be designed for us to experience the fullness of the wisdom and knowledge of God forever. Class will never be over, wonders will never cease. Our curiosity will always have an object.
Are you beginning to see the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God? He made us to always want more of Him, more of His creation, more of His works, more of His nature. And He alone can satisfy our incessant longing for more. One of the regrets of this life is that as we get older we get we can no longer enjoy what we once did. We can no longer run as fast as we once could for fear of injury. We can no longer go places we once could. Certain favorite foods we can no longer eat. There are places that brought us so much pleasure that we’ll never get to visit again. We leave a lot on the table when we die, don’t we?
But one day it will be just the opposite. What bring us pleasure will never dim, our ability to enjoy it will never dim, the time necessary to fully experience it will never run out. The wonder that God put in our souls will be both satisfied and continually challenged. This leads to a doxology of our hearts when we understand it. But it doesn’t end there.
A heart doxology thinks harder about God
“How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” The moment life stops making sense, so does this passage—unless we think harder about God. Unless we truly understand the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, we will forever question and then mistrust God. In the immediate context here, what God is doing in the life of Israel, and among the Gentiles, is beyond our human ability to comprehend. Paul just can’t get over it. It’s like he’s shaking his head with a strange smile on his face—it just blows Him away. Since what God is doing in our lives is equally unsearchable, Paul’s advice seems to be…stop trying. Stop trying to figure everything out.
He isn’t advocating not asking questions, or not trying to learn more about God, he’s simply saying understand the limitations you face. God is not unknowable, He is unfathomable. It’s not that He’s not accessible—it’s that His decisions and actions are so deep, so intricate and complex that no matter how hard you tried to analyze them—you’d fail. No matter how much you would try to predict them—you’d fail.
There are times in life when we begin to see the hand of God at work. We see what He is doing. But if we allow ourselves to try and figure out all that He had to do, and undo, to get to this point, we would be hopelessly lost. Thousands of things needed to happen just perfectly for us to see this end result—yet God did just that. The process is so complicated, so deep, so intricate, so many things need to happen simultaneously, and behind it all sits one divine choreographer. And all that intimate involvement was necessary for that one thing we see in our lives to occur. And simultaneously there are over 7 billion people in our world and He is doing the same in their lives.
A heart doxology bows low before God
“For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” We have a saying that we use at times: “I know what you’re thinking!” We say it at times when it’s fairly easy to predict what someone might be thinking about. The fact is that we are frequently wrong when we say this—but occasionally we are spot on. We can never say, however, of God, “I know what you are thinking”
If we really knew what God was thinking, the gospel would never have been a surprise to us. The arrival of Jesus would never have been a surprise to us. The crucifixion of Christ would never have been a surprise to us. The resurrection of Jesus would never have been a surprise to us. The offer of grace and mercy to us would never have been a surprise.
God is unfathomable, but He is not unknowable. There is a huge difference. I could have a relationship with Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, even if I didn’t know what they were talking about half the time. Their thoughts may be unfathomable to me, but I can know them as a person. But though I could know Hawking or Einstein, I could not give them any instructions in physics or science. “Who has become His counselor” is from Isaiah 40:13. Who could really think they could fathom the mind of the eternal and perfect God, or tell Him something He didn’t already know?
We have certain sayings, “No one can know everything,” “No one is perfect,” and “no one can know what will happen” that apply to every single person—except God. Think of all the times you needed the advice of someone to help you. These are experiences God never has.
A heart doxology lifts higher the glory of God (v.36)
“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen”
The preposition “from” can also be translated “of.” Both call attention to profound truths about God. Everything is of God because He created it all. Everything is from God because He is its source, its origin. One of the great questions we ask is: what is the goal or the purpose of the universe? What is the purpose of all history? Why are we here? What is life about?
The answer is God.
He is the beginning and the end. Everything in this world, this Cosmos, exists to fulfill the purposes of God. If as Creator all things came from Him, and through Him…then they will all come back to Him.
God made you—you are from Him, and you were made through Him, and you were made to be to Him—to return to Him.
Scholar John Stott reminds us, “There is something fundamentally flawed about a purely academic interest in God. God is not an appropriate object for cool, detached, scientific observation and evaluation…the true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship, as it did Paul. Our place is on our face before Him in adoration.”
Isn’t it time you cultivated a true doxology of your heart? It doesn’t have to be written down, but it does have to express your hearts deepest gratitude for a gift of inestimable value. It needs to meditate on who God is and what He has done for you.