The Secret Things

Many times, people quote only part of Deuteronomy 29.29 and throw up their hands in resignation over some tough Bible difficulty.  They say, “The secret things belong to God.”  For them, this means, “I’m done thinking about this.”  But that is not what this verse is about.  Although, there are certain things only God knows and will ever know.  That’s what makes Him God.

The key thought governing this verse is the fact that God is faithful.  He provided for Israel in the wilderness.  He protected the people from their enemies.  He led them to victory over the Pharaoh of Egypt (v. 2).  The people witnessed great miracles and wonders (e.g., the plagues), but they also experienced great trials (e.g., lack of food and water; v.3).

It is true that the people didn’t fully understand the blessings which came along with God’s deliverance (v. 4).  The reason for this is quite simple.  They failed to obey God.  Yet God continues to deliver and protect His people throughout their history and development as a nation.  He even made sure their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out for the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness (v. 5).  Even the food the people ate and the water they drank set them apart (v. 6).  They ate manna which appeared fresh for each day and water which flowed from the rock.  They conquered strong enemies in the wilderness (v. 7).  They took some of the land promised to Abraham as a result of those victories (v. 8).

God simply required that the people obey Him in order to prosper (v. 9).  He made a covenant with Israel through a man named Moses.  A covenant is simply an agreement between two or more parties.  Here, Moses had given God’s laws and the expression of His will to Israel as a people.  So, we call this the Mosaic Covenant.  The two parties entering this agreement are the LORD and Israel.

The LORD wants Israel to obey so that they will receive blessings and bring Him glory.  However, He knows they will disobey.  He knows they will forsake Him and His covenant.  They already had.  They served and worship other gods at the same times Moses was receiving the Law (stipulations for the covenant).  They even made the golden calf idol with Aaron.  This made the LORD angry for obvious reasons.  He knew how disobedience destroys people.

Israel would continue to disobey the LORD throughout her history.  The LORD would use strong and powerful countries to defeat His people for their disobedience.  He had Israel taken captive by these nations.  They were uprooted from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and the LORD cast them into another Land (v.28).

This brings us to verse 29:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

What are the secret things in this verse?  What are the revealed things?  How could God speak of Israel’s deportation and destruction to foreign land before they even crossed over into that land to possess it (v. 28)?

The LORD revealed to Israel what would happen in the future.  That revelation should have inspired Israel to do all the words of the Law to avoid such judgment.  Sadly, it did not.  The LORD knew this.  Israel did not.

The secret things are the things God knows but has not revealed.  Or He has revealed them, and people just cannot wrap their minds around them.  What did God know about Israel?  He knew how Israel would respond to the covenant He made through Moses.  God knew that they would disobey Him even as He established His covenant with them.

The revealed things are what God has shown people so that they may be blessed.  God showed Israel the Law for their good.  God showed Israel the warning of verse 28 for their good.  God shows us the person and work of Jesus Christ for our good.  Jesus is the end of the Law.  He fulfilled covenants as a Man which were broken by men.  Jesus did what Adam and every person after Adam could not do.  That’s no longer a secret.  It’s now revealed.  But not all perceive it.

God has revealed His will to you in the Bible.  There are many things about your future which He hasn’t revealed.  Only God knows all things.  What is important for us is that we respond with obedience to what God has made clear to us.  You can’t know the future, but you can learn from the past.  Today, you can do what you know is right.  Then, tomorrow, God will give you more light.

It is never good to pretend to know the future.  However, there is much we are able to know but don’t know because we don’t read the Bible.  Even people who study the Bible tend to miss the the great themes of God’s glory and man’s redemption.  They look at all the minutiae (trees) and miss the overall picture (forest).   Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5.39).  Jesus is the great redeemer.  He alone makes it possible to obey and glorify God.  He alone makes it possible to have and to demonstrate an eternal quality of life.

Today, we need to know our place and take our place.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways.  Yet His Word is before us.  He will use the Scriptures to accomplish what He pleases.  He will use the Scriptures to bring joy and prosperity to those who read, understand, and obey them.  This is what we should train our children to do.  This is what we should exemplify before them.

Are You Ashamed of the Bible?

I believe what God has revealed in the Scripture.  I believe all of it.  I certainly believe Jesus will physically return to the earth one day.  I believe God created everything in six literal days.  And I believe Noah built an ark to protect himself, his family, and two of every kind of animal species upon the earth.  They needed this protection because God caused water from above and water from underneath the earth’s surface to flood the entire surface of the earth.  Water levels rose about 20 feet above the highest mountains. If you are a Christian and you don’t believe that, you don’t believe the Scriptures.  It really is that simple.  While it is certain that there will be unbelieving people who scoff at us for such beliefs (just look at Ken Ham’s Twitter feed), such treatment shouldn’t come from brothers and sisters in Christ.

The flood of Noah’s day was a supernatural event.  I cannot understand it, but I believe it.  God could have slowed the metabolism of the animals, for instance.  Fresh water could have been gathered from the torrential downpour and stored.  The biggest attack leveled by skeptics and unbelievers is that the flood of Noah’s day was not universal but localized.  John Whitcomb wrote an online article titled Universality of the Genesis Flood.  Here are some salient points from that article:

  1. The Bible teaches that it took 31 weeks for the flood waters to recede to the point that Noah and his family could leave the ark.  It doesn’t take 31 weeks for a localized flood to recede.
  2. If the flood is not universal, why the need for an ark?  God could have led Noah to a place on earth where there would be no flood waters.  The need for an ark indicates that the flood is universal.
  3. 60 times the Bible’s accounting of the flood uses universal terms like all and every.  While these terms may be limited at times, one must study carefully the context.  Here the terms overwhelming apply contextually to a global flood.
  4. The rainbow indicates that God uniquely and supernaturally destroyed the earth with water at a point in time during Noah’s day, but that He will never do so again.  Local flooding happens all the time.  So, we conclude that God promised that a universal flood would never happen again.

Some believers are ashamed of accounts such as this in the Scripture.  They fear the very ridicule that Noah faced.  Yet Noah continued to persevere in his obedience before God.  There’s a lesson in that for us.  As overwhelming and as difficult as things can be, we must continue to press on.  God comforts us with His promises just as He comforted Noah with His promise.  A preoccupation with Christ and His love and gentleness is all that we need to endure the ridicule and unkindness of others.

The flood’s upheaval reminds us of the unchanging nature of God.  He is the only One we are able to depend upon.  He is the only One who will never fail when it comes to His promises and His judgments.  The focus of the Genesis account of the flood is upon those who remain at the end of God’s universal judgment.  There is much death, decay, and destruction in our world today.  If we remain focused upon the world, we won’t understand what we need to understand.  Our focus and preoccupation must be upon Jesus Christ.

A Special Blessing

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3, NKJV)

This verse tells us something very special about the Revelation of Jesus Christ. There is a special blessing to those who read, hear, and keep the words of this prophecy. Early Christians read Scriptures out loud in their services even as we do at our church. Jews did this in their synagogues as well. The reason is that writing materials were quite rare and very expensive. Copies of the books that were parts of the Bible were scarce. So, a public reader served God’s people by allowing them to become familiar with the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Second, the words must be heard. Those who listen must listen actively to the reading of God’s Word. We must pay close attention. People in John’s era were well-trained for this. They had exceptional memories because they had to have exceptional memories.  We struggle to listen.  It’s a lost art.  My mind wanders when it shouldn’t.  So, I force myself to actively listen by taking detailed notes.  If the speaker is not especially gifted or structured, then I write down thoughts the Lord is teaching me through his sermon.

Third, they heard the words read with the intent of doing them. They desired to obey or keep the words of this prophecy. They were not mere hearers but doers of the prophecy.

While we are blessed whenever and wherever we read in the Holy Bible, there is a special blessing for us when we read, hear, and keep the words of this prophecy.  Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Expecting Obedience

  1. Noah’s obedience was tested by the world in which he lived. Noah preached righteousness to a thoroughly corrupt culture.  He proclaimed that the end of the world was coming …that God would wipe out the world with a flood.  He did this for 120 years and was mocked, ridiculed, and scorned for it.  Perhaps Noah had ‘converts’ early on in his ministry.  But they were not true converts.  They began to peel away from him as he kept proclaiming that the flood would come, and it did not.  Noah lived in very difficult times for a godly man.  If you determine walk with God and find grace from God, you’ll always be in the minority.  The way is narrow; few are on it.  The devil energizes the world to appeal to the flesh.  There are two types of people:  those determined to do right and those determined to do wrong.  There really is no in-between.  If you determine to do right, you will be alienated, mocked, and even belittled.  However, the trade-off is the grace of God!
  2. Noah’s obedience was tested by the stress of doing God’s will. His two primary tasks were building and preaching.  He did both so that God could secure a remnant and bring to pass the prophecy proclaimed in Genesis 3.15:  He shall bruise the serpent’s head, and the serpent shall bruise Messiah’s heel.  But the preaching and building took preparation.  There were burdens and deadlines.  There was all the expense and labor.  There was the rejection he faced year after year.  Noah lived under unimaginable pressure which came down upon him daily.  You can’t use the pressure of school, a part-time job, playing basketball, and homework as an excuse for failing to do God’s will.  Godly people are busy people.  They have a lot of responsibility.  They bear their own burdens and the burdens of others to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2, 5).  If you want the grace of God, you need to do God’s will in the pressure-cooker of a busy life.
  3. Noah’s obedience was tested by the exhaustion of his work. Noah would not be deterred from either preaching or building.  He finished both tasks, entered the ark with his family and all the animals, and then God shut the door on a whole generation of mankind.  Noah finished what God called him to do.  The windows of the heavens opened and the fountains of the deep broke through the earth’s surface.  God destroyed all flesh, but Noah found grace.  Exhaustion is no excuse for disobedience.  We cannot whine about being tired.  Many times, we are not tired; just lazy.  Don’t allow yourself too much recreation …too much downtime.  Work is the will of God for you.  When you fail to put a lot of effort in your studies or on a sports team or in a community project, you really reflect poorly on the work of Christ.  Imagine His exhaustion on the cross of Calvary.  Yet, He did not say, “Father, kill them!  They deserve it!”  He said, “Father, forgive them!  For they know not what they do.”

When we look at it in this light, we see that the hallmark of Noah’s character was his obedience.  He moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark, condemned the world with his preaching, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11.7).  Noah was an obedient man because Noah was a believing man.  He was truly a man of God.  The commands of God took preeminence over the whims of flesh.  But he didn’t obey God for a brief period.  He obeyed consistently over a period of 120 years.  Indeed, Noah found grace and favor before God.