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.

Finding Hell Forever

“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.'” (Romans 2.4-5)

What kind of heart belongs to someone who doesn’t know God?  A hard, impenitent heart.

  • The word hardness is where we get the name of a disease called sclerosis.  Sclerosis is the hardening of the body’s soft tissue because of the overgrowth of fibrous tissue.  When the heart is hard and not soft, it cannot receive what God is able to give.
  • The word impenitent means that the person refuses to change their mind.  They are stubborn and refuse to turn to God.

Those who are not children of God will not see all the good in my heavenly Father because they are hard, insensitive, and stubborn.  People who are hardened toward God will find God’s judgment and condemnation.  They find such judgment because they’ve approached God on their own terms or haven’t approached Him at all.  Conduct itself may not be very different, but the disposition each unbeliever has toward God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his own soul is different.

  1. An unbeliever’s conduct toward God – he doesn’t really care about God and rarely thinks about Him.  He prefers all the empty activities in this world.  He wants life to be fun and not serious.  If this continues, such a person will finally say in his heart that he no longer wants God in his life.  He doesn’t want to know about Him.  He doesn’t care about God’s goodness and blessing.  He doesn’t care about if God is pleased or honored by his life.  He calls the unbeliever and invites him through others, but this person is not paying attention.  He won’t do what God wants him to do.  He will go his own way.  How will that end for this person?  God will deal with him in the way he dealt with God.  God renders to each one according to their deeds.  If he doesn’t want God around; the day is coming when God won’t want him around either.
  2. An unbeliever’s conduct toward the Lord Jesus – Jesus died to bring people together with God.  He has offered to cleanse sin away and give people His spotless righteousness.  If they accept His gifts, they will stand before the Father as His children.  They will be without spot or blemish.  But if they refuse the Lord Jesus due to pride or temporal desires, then they belittle His work for them.  If such a person says that he will stand or fall in his own righteousness, he will surely fall.  If you reject Jesus, you reject your only hope.
  3. An unbeliever’s conduct toward his soul – they haven’t found what is best for their souls.  His mind is distracted by the world’s pleasure.  He has no inward peace or satisfaction.  Instead of turning to God, he nurses his hurts and pain.  He becomes angry at God because of the terror of Hell, the pain of self-denial, and the shame of ridicule from supposed friends.  God will render to each one according to his deeds.  If he sows to his flesh, he will of the flesh reap corruption.  He didn’t want to avoid Hell, so he shall have it forever.

There is a better way.  Jesus said,

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

Jesus’ invitation is for those who labor and amass their own righteousness.  It is for those burdened with guilt, shame, and inner pain.  It is for those who cannot sleep, are restless and distress, and disillusioned about live.  Jesus is a compassionate Savior, so willing to extend rest and comfort.  It is His work, His live, and His gentle and lowly character in exchange for our hard, impenitent hearts.  There is no other way to find rest for your souls.

“It Doesn’t Work!”

We are so easily disillusioned about life.  We lack enthusiasm for anything because we are passive.  If you love a person who is passive about life, you often feel like you don’t know them anymore.  There is no drive to work or to love in them.  Is it because this person is unable to act?  Is it because they are unwilling to act?  Such a person would almost certainly maintain that they are unable.  Often, they are in a battle but refuse to engage.  When offered biblical advice they counter, “It doesn’t work!”

Life doesn’t need to be this way.  Do you want to change?  Perhaps you need to stop finding your identity in martyrdom.  I can almost hear the next three-word sentence you might have for me:  “You don’t understand!”  But I do understand.  I understand that we often use a hopeless passivity in life to avoid sin issues like financial irresponsibility, life-dominating sin, or poor parenting philosophies.

Don’t allow yourself to say, “It doesn’t work!”  Don’t give up on God like that.  Don’t allow your world to become so small that it’s only filled with you.  Christians are here to build God’s kingdom and not their own kingdom.  It really is time for you to engage and be a part of something that will fill you with peace, hope, and love.  How will you build a spiritually active lifestyle?  Here are some practical ways to do so:

  1. Read through some of the narrative stories of the Bible.  Write down five applications from each story.
  2. Find good things in people close to you, write them down, and then send a text each day thanking the person for the good they bring in your life.
  3. Write out your purpose for living.  Allow spiritual friends to read it and help you revise it.
  4. Find out what it means to suffer in such a way that you are better for it.
  5. Take notes when listening to the sermon on Sunday morning.  Write down personal application from those notes later.
  6. Speak or write something for the purpose of encouraging people each day.
  7. Meditate on God’s creative beauty and count it as a blessing.
  8. Listen to spiritual music.
  9. Listen to God’s Word in the car.
  10. Don’t allow yourself to complain about people or circumstances.
  11. Forgive! Forgive! Forgive!
  12. Get someone to help you make changes for the better.

Hypocrisy in the Church

Comforting Sympathy

We are not required to share.  If someone requires me to share what I have with others, that will not produce cooperation.  Instead, it will produce alienation.  This is why experiments with socialism and communism have yielded ugly, bitter fruit.  That said, there is a need for compassion and comforting sympathy among Christians.  The first century church didn’t look at material wealth as something to be possessed but as something to be held in common.  This example leads to great power and great grace in the church (Acts 4.33).

A man nicknamed Barnabas by the apostles exemplified sincere, compassionate giving in the first century church.  He was an encourager.  Literally, to encourage means to pour courage within someone.  When Barnabas sold his property and gave all the proceeds to the early, persecuted church in Jerusalem, he was pouring courage within the fledgling church.  You provide this comforting sympathy only when you truly love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Anyone who is genuinely moved with compassion to comfort others is responding to the great power and grace of God.

Corrosive Hypocrisy

What is hypocrisy?  It’s a word that is not explicitly used in the first 11 verses of Acts 5, but the concept cannot be missed.  The Greek word literally means to “put on the mask”.  Hypocrisy is the opposite of genuine.  There is no Barnabas-like comforting sympathy in hypocritical actions.  It is the act of communicating something you are not.  It is fueled by deceit and discovered by God.  It leads to the place all sin leads:  death.

  1. Hypocrisy is deceptive (Acts 5.1-2).  Ananias and Sapphira sought to deceive the early church by playing the part of Barnabas.  They were hypocritical encouragers.  They didn’t give all the money they gained from the sale of their own land.  Instead, they kept back part of the profit and pretended to give it all.  They allowed selfishness instead of selflessness to drive their actions.
  2. Hypocrisy is discovered (Acts 5.3-4).  Nobody hides from God (Hebrews 4.13).  The evil spirit filled the heart of Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit.  His wife followed his corrosive example.  Living as if God does not see your heart or as if God does not exist is the epitome of hypocrisy.  Nobody forced this couple to give comfort to a hurting church.  But they wanted the same attention Barnabas received for his genuine sacrifice.  However, they didn’t actually sacrifice to give comfort.
  3. Hypocrisy is deadly (Acts 5.5-11).  God judged Ananias and Sapphira in a severe way.  Great grace and great power came upon the church through genuine selflessness.  When this couple died for their hypocrisy, great fear leading to great purity came upon the early church.  God judged them severely to provide a dramatic pause in church growth.  The church did not fear Peter, but the Holy Spirit who indwelled them at Pentecost.  We don’t often see hypocrites die in our churches as a direct act of the Holy Spirit.  However, death occurs wherever this sin is promoted.

The solution to our hypocrisy is found in our repentance.  We must truly see this as a problem, turn away from it, and change our thinking about its destructive nature.  The answer to hypocrisy is not brutal honesty which turns away from everything religious; the answer is found in compassionate, Christlike honesty which turns away from selfishness and toward the needs of others.