By Dr. Harry Bultema

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding  out.” (Romans 11:33)

      In Romans Chapter 11 we have a wonderful argument and a marvelous adoration; When the Apostle has finished his argument, he worships. When we conclude a successful argument, we often feel self satisfied and puffed up. He is speaking here of the nation of Israel. God always speaks to this nation as a whole or to its representative. Here the Apostle has maintained that God has not cast off His people. In the face of this most emphatic declaration, millions of Christians say that God has cast off Israel.  God has clearly stated in His Word that He that scattered Israel will gather it, and that Israel will sit many days without a king and a prince, without a Ephod and Seraphim, without a priest and an image, and that afterward, after this long sitting, the children of Israel shall return to the Lord their God and to Jehovah their King. Yet, there are many who say they believe the Bible yet deny this restoration. Even in the darkest days of Israel’s history, God has had an elect remnant.

      In Ahab’s time there was Elijah and his seven thousand. In Nebuchadnezzar’s period there was Daniel and his companions. In Romans 11:15 we read, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” The Church seems ignorant of this great mystery and has become wise in its own conceits.

    According to verse 29 the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God has  often repented the words spoken and the works done but never with Israel. All His gifts, as the covenants, are without repentance; i.e., He will never take back the Word of His oaths and promises to Israel. He gave the land of Palestine to Israel, hence, Israel shall have it. He gave the world to Israel, hence, Israel shall have Him. No learned professor, no Classis, no conference, can even change this. “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (vs. 32). We must understand the word “concluded” well. It means to enclose/to shut in. It is used in Luke 5:6 in connection with the multitude of fish caught in the net. The fish were shut up so that they could not get out and the net broke. So it is here. He enclosed the unbelievers and the net broke that He might have mercy upon the Gentiles and the Jews.

      God hath concluded all, that is, the nation as a whole, in unbelief. What a staggering word! How it smashes to smithereens the doctrine of free will.  Once,  as I sat in a train on a cold day, a fly lit upon my nose and from me it went to a grease spot on the seat where someone had eaten his lunch. The fly seemingly had a great time flitting between my nose and the grease spot. It was perfectly free, but it did not know that it was all the time enclosed in the car of the train which was rushing along at 60 miles per hour.

      A canary in a cage sings freely and beautifully, even more beautifully than the Wheaton girls’ Chorus, and yet it is in a cage. The monkeys in a large confinement play lustily, yet are confined. A baby is secured in a play pen or to a rope in the yard, yet seemingly plays freely.

      So it is with man. If a man is free to choose the good, why does he always choose the wrong? All choose the wrong before the deluge. All chose it in Sodom. All chose the wrong at the tower of Babel. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that chose the right in the desert. All chose the wrong in the crucifixion of Christ and His own certainly did not do right when they forsook Him. All the betterment schemes have not approved the world but, rather, made it worse. It chooses wrong in a day as though it is going to smash civilization to bits and open wide the gates for the Asiatic Barbarians. Ah, that freewill of man is so often placed above the sovereign will of God.

     Man’s will is determined by his birth in a certain land. If you and I were born into a cliff-dwelling tribe, we would live in the holes of the rocks like lizards. If we had been born among the Eskimos, we would drink of the blubber as they do and live in a snow-block house. We would be bigoted Mohammedans had we been born in a Mohammedan country. If we had been born of a colored mammy, we would be treated meanly like the colored folks. Our birth and surroundings then determine our will and ideals.

        “He that committeth sin, is a servant of sin” (Jn. 8:34).  A Roman slave was not free but bound. Man’s responsibility as a free-moral creature under the sovereignty of God does not lose his responsibility but, rather, has it enhanced. He is as free as the storm to blow and destroy, as free as the earthquake to devastate, as free as the cloudburst to drown, as free as the Niagara to make noise and be sublime. But though Israel acted freely in their unbelief and without any constraint from without, He shut Israel up in national unbelief. The nation as a whole ha been shut up in unbelief for nearly 2,000 years. For many long and weary centuries, Israel has wept and wailed at the wailing wall and Heaven has remained as brass. How do you explain this enigma of the philosophy of history? Simply by this one fact that God has concluded them nationally in unbelief. They are hemmed in and as a nation, get this well, can’s snap out of it. Why did God do this terrible thing? Ah, His ends are ever merciful—that He might have mercy upon all. This “all” must not any more be individualized than the other.

        A mountain climber has reached the summit of the peak and now he looks down upon the yawning precipice and trembles while he rejoices in the far-flung vision; so it is with the Apostle. He is amazed at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The wisdom that knows how to use the best means for the best ends, that in this case could blind a nation, shut it up in unbelief in order that the Mystery of the Church might have its wonderful place between the rejection and the re-acceptance of Israel. A nation was shut up in unbelief in order that all nations might be visited with His mercy and a Body for the rejected Messiah be gathered from every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue.

        The Apostle has reason to adore, but he adores with a shudder for it is  really an unfathomable abyss. God can bring good out of ill.

        The ill was terrible in Joseph’s case but a nation was kept alive. The world was kept alive by Christ’s crucifixion which was terrible beyond words. When you come with Jacob to a place of stones in Bethel, you can kick or throw these stones and wear yourself out, or you can make a pillow of them as Jacob did. Or, better yet, you can anoint the stones and make a Bethel, a house of God. Do not kick against the stone of tumbling and the rock of offence.

        You can tease your brain and break your heart, but you only harm yourselves. O the Depth—yes, look into the abyss. Israel’s fall is great but glory in the wisdom and knowledge of God. His judgments are unsearchable. This word is found only here and the words “past finding out” are the same as the unsearchable of Ephesians 3:8. God’s being is unsearchable and so are His ways with Israel and the Church.

 The wise of the world cannot find it out. But we can adore

where we cannot understand. Unsearchable is our pardon,

our acceptance in the Beloved, and our completion in Him.

Oh, marvel of His wisdom and grace!