Sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost August 26, 2018
Text: Romans 11:33-36 ILCW Series A 18:2081
Theme: What a God!
Back in the 1990s the National Geographic published a map of the heavens. The map showed over one million, five hundred thousand stars in our galaxy. What an astonishing number! I’m sure that number has grown over the years as “new” stars are discovered. My question is this: could you count and keep track of all the stars above us?
Try it tonight. If the skies are clear, go outside and start counting. Block out all other lights, then count all the stars, all of them. Don’t miss any. I’m not sure that I could even count to a million if I could see them all. And I know that I couldn’t keep track of which stars I had already counted. There’s no way that I could do it. But God can.
The Bible says, “Praise the Lord…. He counts the number of the stars. He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power. To His understanding there is no limit” (Ps.147:1,4).
He knows how many stars there are. He knows where each of them lies. And He’s named them all. Could you name and keep track of 1½ million stars? I had a hard-enough time naming and keeping track of my children, let alone naming and keeping up with millions of stars. Wow, what a God He is! That’s what Paul proclaims when he says, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
I. He’s so wise!
But it wasn’t about the stars and God’s ability to name them and place them that caused Paul to exclaim that God is so wise. The reason Paul marveled at God’s wisdom and knowledge was the fact that God found a way to save both Jew and Gentile when all the world was hopelessly steeped in sin. And He didn’t need our help or advice to do it. He is so wise all by Himself. Paul wrote: “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been His counselor?”
The almighty, all-knowing, all-wise God of heaven never needs to call anyone of us for our help and advice. He doesn’t need to ask us, “Now, when is exactly the best time that I should do this or that? When do you think that I should let the rain fall or the sun shine? What’s the biggest thing that I need to do?” Does the Creator who knows all the stars and knows each of their names really need to ask us for advice? Oh, but a lot of people, maybe even us at times, would love to give Him a piece of their mind and tell Him what He should do.
Most of all, the holy and faithful God of mercy and love doesn’t need anyone’s help or advice on how best to save us from sin, death, and hell. He knew what had to be done and the only way that it could happen.
Who would have thought that the God’s dearly loved Son was the only one to save us? Who would have thought that sin and death would be overcome by someone hanging on a cross? Who would have thought that eternal life would be won at the mouth of an empty tomb? Who would have thought of giving the Holy Spirit to work through God’s Word and the Sacraments to create faith in our hearts and to bring us into God’s family? We would have come up with a plan to save our own selves by whatever we would do. And it would have failed for none of us is wise enough, strong enough, or holy enough to accomplish it. But God could, and Christ did. God’s plan worked!
It boggled Paul’s mind. And it astonished him even more when he thought about himself and considered how rebellious towards God he had been. He had been a Christ-hater. As Saul he had tried to destroy the church; he killed the early Christians. Yet, in His wisdom God was merciful to him and found a way to change Saul and convert him to faith as Paul. Why would God do this? How did He do this?
Man’s wisdom would have said, “Get rid of Saul before he destroys the church.” But God’s wisdom knew how valuable Paul would be in spreading the Gospel. It astounded Paul. But no matter how hard Paul pried and poked and sought to figure it out, he couldn’t grasp how God, in His wisdom, managed it. Yet, God did it because He’s so wise.
Can you figure it out, dear friend? Can you explain how and why God saved you by bringing you to faith in the Savior? I can’t.
Sometimes I wonder, “Lord, why me? Why not that guy down the street? How is it that you have shown me such mercy and grace? You brought me into Your kingdom of grace through the waters of Holy Baptism when I was only a couple weeks old. I didn’t even know You or desire you. Even in my rebellious years, You drew me closer to yourself through the Word. You made me a servant of that Word when I wanted to go a different way. Yet, You did it and blessed me.” And He has blessed you too, dear friends. He did it all by Himself.
He found a way to make you His own. He didn’t need to ask you how to do it, as though God needed your advice on matters. How arrogant we can be at times thinking that God needs our advice on everything. Yet, we still try to tell Him the best way He could do things in our lives. We tell Him what we think we need the most. We may even try to explain that some of His ways just don’t seem to work anymore in today’s world. Then we become impatient with Him when He doesn’t do things our way. All too often we must seem to Him to be like little children who are so sure they know what is best and then are upset when Mom or Dad don’t see things their way.
But here’s the marvel of it all; for Christ’s sake He forgives us. And in the end, He makes it all work out for us because He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ep.3:20).
What a comfort that becomes for us when we remember that God never lacks the wisdom and power to cause “everything to work together for our good” (Ro.8:28).
“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 counselor?” What a God! He is so wise! And…
II. …He’s So Generous.
He’s surely more generous than we give Him credit for. And He’s certainly more generous to us than we are to Him. That’s why Paul writes, “Who has ever given to God that God should repay Him?”
Does God owe you anything? Does God really owe people? You know some people seem to think that way, as though God ought to pay them for who they are and what they have done.
For example, there are those who seem to approach eternity and heaven from the standpoint of God owing it to them. If you ask them what will happen to them at their deaths, they might say something like, “I’ll be alright. All my life I’ve tried to be good. I’ve done my best to help others when I could. I’ve gone to church many times. I’m good enough to get to heaven.”
It’s sad, but true; people think and talk that way, as though God owes them and should repay them for how good they are, even though they sin against Him daily. They see life and religion as an arrangement whereby they pay God now with their imperfect efforts, and God will pay them back later.
Anyone who goes through life thinking he has an “IOU” from God in his pocket is sadly mistaken. The only thing we can actually earn from God on our own is death. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s what God really owes us. As Paul says, “Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?” And the answer is “No one. Absolutely no one!”
But this is where God’s generosity shines brightest. When He owed us nothing, He gave us everything! Can you beat that? He gave us a Savior to die in our place. He gave us a Savior who could rise from the grave and give us eternal life. He gave us a Savior who would take us to heaven on His own perfect merits, not ours that so often fail. He gave us a Savior as Friend, a Savior who sends angels to guard and protect us, a Savior who makes everything turn out for our good, a Savior who gives one blessing after another. And then He gave us the Holy Spirit who gives us faith to believe it. Everything from Him; everything through Him! He’s been so generous to us. What a God!
Paul couldn’t hold back his praise and neither can we: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgment; His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from Him, through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever!”
God grant us the same wonderment in faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.