For the Love of God, Volume 1/June 24
From Gospel Translations
Deuteronomy 29; Psalm 119:49-72; Isaiah 56; Matthew 4
“THE SECRET THINGS belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). The two principal points bear reflection.
First, the responsibility of the covenant community in this matter is to focus on the things that God has revealed. They not only belong “to us and to our children forever,” but were given to us in order “that we may follow all the words of this law.” That is the fundamental purpose of placing this text at the end of a long chapter on covenant renewal. True, we cannot know many hidden things. But what has been revealed to us—in this context, the terms of the Mosaic Covenant, with all their vast potential for blessing and judgment—is what must capture our interest and devoted obedience.
Second, we must frankly admit that some things are hidden from our eyes. We really do not understand, for instance, the relationships between time and eternity, nor do we have much of an idea how the God who inhabits eternity discloses himself to us in our finite, space/time history. It is revealed that he does; we have various words to describe certain elements of this disclosure (e.g., Incarnation, accommodation). But we do not know how. We do not know how God can be both personal and sovereign/transcendent; we do not know how the one God can be triune.
Yet in none of these cases is this a subtle appeal to ignorance, or an irresponsible hiding behind the irrational or the mystical. When we admit—indeed, insist—that there are mysteries about these matters, we do not admit they are nonsensical or self-contradictory. Rather, we are saying that we do not know enough, and we admit our ignorance. What God has not disclosed of himself we cannot know. The secret things belong to God.
Indeed, because of the contrast in the text, the implication is that it would be presumptuous to claim we do know, or even to spend too much time trying to find out—lest we should be presuming on God’s exclusive terrain. Some things may be temporarily hidden to induce us to search: Proverbs 25:2 tells us it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search a matter out, to get to the bottom of things. But that is not a universal rule: the very first sin involved trying to know some hidden things and thus be like God. In such cases, the path of wisdom is reverent worship of him who knows all things, and careful adherence to what he has graciously disclosed.