Paul expressed this proclamation in Romans 11:33, knowing that the nation of Israel was being undermined by pagans and how God hardened Israel’s hearts due to disobedience (Rom 9–11). Earlier he exclaimed, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:2–3).
Why could Paul praise God’s great wisdom, knowing the terrible fate that befell his nation?
Because he realized that only through Israel’s failure to acknowledge their Messiah would the gospel go to the ends of the earth. Clearly, Paul’s worldview was broader and deeper than his nationalism or his Jewish heritage.
Who could praise God for this unexpected wisdom at that time? Certainly, only those more committed to the kingdom of God than lesser priorities, like culture and tradition and personal welfare.
Imagine our age and our social-economic context today. Could we confess God’s great wisdom if all that we are accustomed to were reversed or even destroyed―for the sake of his kingdom? What if the gospel advanced through the suffering of our nation or the loss of its power and prosperity?
For example, biblical scholars teach that perhaps the greatest threat to the gospel and church today is consumerism. Can you imagine a civilization without consumerism? What would happen to us, our lifestyles, and our churches if consumerism ceased to exist as we know it?
What if natural disaster (solar flare, earthquake, disease) or manmade conflagration (terrorist attack or regional nuclear war) destroyed our economic or communications infrastructure? What if God permitted this to happen in order to promote the gospel and purify the church? Would we be able to declare, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”?
So, the question for the Christian is, where are our priorities?
Is it a certain lifestyle?
A particular economic or political system?
A specific nation or culture?
Is our biblical worldview deep and broad enough for whatever happens?
Could you and I acknowledge God’s wisdom, even if our world were changed radically?
According to the Bible, God has higher priorities and long-term goals that might be different than our comfort, political-economic preferences, advanced technology, or vaunted civilization.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”