Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
We come to a doxology in Romans 11 today, and to help us unpack these verses is an excerpt from John Piper’s sermon, “The Deep Riches and Wisdom and Knowledge of God”
The riches and wisdom and knowledge of God are described here as indescribably “deep.”Oh, the depth!” means, The depth is very deep. It is so deep that it simply elicits from the inspired apostle, as he peers into the ravine of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge, an undefined “Oh!” The deeps here are indescribably deep.
Three things come to mind with this expression of the depths of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge.
1. Unspeakable Hiddenness
First, hiddenness. Daniel 2:21-22 says, “[God] gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness.” Notice the connection between “deep” and “hidden.”Oh, the depth!” means, There are hidden dimensions to God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge. They are deep in the sense that they are out of our sight, unreachable. We can’t go down there. There will always be depths of God we do not know, because he is infinite and we are finite. We will always be seeing more forever.
2. Objective Reality
Second, after “hiddenness,”depth” implies reality. There is something down there. If there is nothing really down there, then the riches and wisdom and knowledge are not deep. They are a delusion. I mention this even though it is obvious because of how many public sophisticated denials of the obvious happen today. Friday night I heard on MPR an interview with a woman who with a sophisticated, authoritative air about her, say, “Theology is poetry.” And the awed interviewer said, “That’s a beautiful thought, say more about that.” Which she was happy to do, concluding with, “After all, religion is a human art form.” Frankly, I wanted to throw up. But when the moral nausea passed, I prayed that God would open their eyes so that they would no longer talk like three-year-olds who call their parents make-believe while they eat the supper daddy bought and mommy prepared. It was not a beautiful thought. It was a tragic and ugly thought. The riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God revealed in Scripture are not a human art form, and biblical theology is not a poetic product of human imagination. When Paul says, “Oh the depth!” he means there is something down there. He has revealed some of it. He knows there’s more. He is speaking of objective reality—that God knows and we know in part.
3. Ultimate Foundation
Third, the words “Oh the depth!” signify that this reality is foundational. He could have said, “Oh, the heights of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” That would be true too. It’s the difference between the deep roots and the high branches of an infinite tree. It’s the difference between deep causes and high effects. It’s the difference between beginnings and goals. Here Paul is saying: God is at the bottom of things. It is true that God is also at the top of things. All things are rooted in God, and all things are moving toward God. As verse 36 says, “From him and . . . to him are all things.” The infinite depths are his, and the infinite heights are his. He is the foundation, and he is the destination of all things. There is no explanation beneath God. No matter how deep you go, there is only God. He is the last explanation whether you go down to causes or go up to purposes.
So his initial words, “Oh, the depth!” signify at least: Unspeakable hiddenness, objective reality, and ultimate foundation.