“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Not the secret things!
But the revealed things!
These belong unto us and our children forever!
This is the principle which the Lord through Moses sets before His covenant people to keep them in the way of obedience as they were governed by the law of the blessing and the curse.
Do not misappropriate and misapply these words! This is often done in our day. This text is easily quoted in the attempt to silence the ardent preacher who in hisutterances defends the doctrine of sovereign predestination and who believes in delivering to his congregation the full counsel of God. Or, it is used against anyone who is old-fashioned enough to insist that the doctrines of election and reprobation are cardinal concepts of the Christian faith. These supercilious objectors love to remind you that on the basis of a few texts of Scripture God loves the whole world (John 3:16), that He will have all men to be saved (I Timothy 2:4), and that anyone can accept freely the water of life (Revelation 22:17). And they do not hesitate to tell you that we have nothing to do with the matters of election and reprobation; and that, on the apparent ground of our text, these matters belong to the secrets of God. They confuse the revealed with secret things. They call that which is openly manifest a hidden counsel.
But what then are these secret things which belong to the Lord our God?
That is secret which He has not revealed! There are such things either concerning Himself or His plan which are hidden in Himself and for reasons He only knows. They are the things which are not necessary for us to know and concerning which we are not to curiously try to discover. They belong to God Himself Who is an infinite Deep. They are the things which spring up out of His unfathomable Being. They may or may not be sometime revealed. Some of them we may never know. Some things must yet be revealed, either in this life or that to come. But since they belong to ourGod, we may rest assured that nothing secret will work for our disadvantage. He is Jehovah, our covenant God. Infinitely great in wisdom and glory and power is He, but unchangeably the same in respect to Himself and His people. As our God, He will work even His secrets for our advantage. If you or I held secrets, they might be for the advantage or, as is often the case, for the disadvantage of those in respect to whom we hold them. But this can never be the case with our covenant, unchangeable God.
That God holds secrets, it should be very evident. He has secrets in respect to His own Being and manifestations. Take, for instance, the mode of His subsistence—there are three Persons in the one Godhead. This is indeed a profound mystery. Or, to mention another, think of the union of the two natures, divine and human, in the Person of the Son of God. We can stammer a few words about it on the basis of revelation; but to comprehend it, we cannot.
Then, too, there are many secrets of God in nature which men by searching cannot find out. It is a secret of God how a child is formed in the womb of its mother. Scientifically we may be able to say much about it, but the wise man expressed the profundity of it when he said, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” (Eccles. 11:5). Or, why a child is born blind or ignorant; or why a beautiful flower should grow in the uninhabited desert waste. We say in respect to the former, this is one of the results of sin; and in respect to the latter, God sees the flower and is glorified; but in the final analysis these things belong to the secrets of God.
God also has secrets in respect to his rational-moral creatures. He knows, for example, the number and the particular persons whom He has chosen to eternal life or reprobated to eternal damnation. We judge them on the basis of their outward walk, but we can be terribly mistaken in our judgment. God only knows with finality who they are. Or again, think of the salvation or condemnation of infants who die in their infancy. Much speculation is done in respect to this question, even to the point that it is maintained that all children of believers who die in infancy are saved, for which theory no ground can be found in Scripture. We do well to leave it to God Himself as belonging to His secrets, while we try to find our comfort in the death of our little ones in the truth of His covenant connected with which is His promise to raise up His children out of the children of the believers. Moreover, there is also the day of our death, which we cannot know. It is God’s secret.
So, God also had secrets in respect to the people of Israel. In the context God had declared that the people would be scattered by captivity after they had forsaken His law. But when and how this should take place was His secret. It was none of Israel’s business to curiously inquire about this. Rather, Moses instructs them that the secrets belong to God.
Israel’s calling is to be concerned about the things which are revealed!
What is revelation? And what is the content of the things revealed?
Revelation presupposes that something has been hidden, under cover, and therefore a secret and unknown. However, when it is revealed the cover is lifted, or the veil is parted, leaving the concealed object in view in such a way that the unknown is clearly seen and understood. Moreover, it should also be explained that the revelation here spoken of is not merely an external disclosure of mere perception, something to be observed only with the sense of sight. Rather, it is an internal disclosure. It implies that the thing revealed is thoroughly understood.
Revelation takes place as a divine act either in the realm of nature and in the acts of divine providence, or more particularly through the Word of God, oral or written, spoken directly by God or indirectly through the prophets or apostles, and in the written law of God. Undoubtedly the revealed things of our text have immediate reference to the latter.
In general, as far as the contents of revelation is concerned, we may say that the revealed things are all that God has spoken concerning Himself and His counsel. Repeatedly God speaks concerning Himself, declaring to us Who He is and how He is, explaining and unfolding His glorious attributes. That He is God and there is no other is the gist of all divine revelation. A God of truth is He, just and good, full of wisdom, justice and mercy. Nor is He silent concerning His purposes as they are revealed and realized in the creation and government of all things, and particularly in relation to the rational-moral creatures whom He has distinguished for the fulfillment of His own purpose. Hence, the counsel of sovereign predestination, distinguished in the election of some and in the reprobation of others. It is no secret, but rather the very heart of the revelation that Christ Jesus is God’s Elect in Whom and through Whom God is pleased to redeem a certain people whom He has also chosen. And just as eternally and sovereignly God has determined upon reprobation of others who must for a time serve as scaffolding in the building of the house of His covenant. In one word, God purposed to reveal Himself in His Son become incarnate as the God of salvation to His people whom He has chosen. This is the heart of revelation, and the very essence of the gospel!
In particular, however, the revealed things refer to the law of God with its commands, threats, and promises. This revelation declares to us our covenant obligations. God has not, only declared that He will raise up a covenant people to Himself, but He has also revealed how that covenant people must act toward Him in that covenant. These obligations are found in the revelation of His law. They are the rule of life. They who live by them are blessed. They who do not heed them are cursed.
This revelation comes to a people who is conceived and born in sin, and therefore wholly incapable of fulfilling their obligations. Consequently this law becomes a schoolmaster driving them to the Christ Who through His perfect sacrifice on the cross pays the penalty of our guilt, while He perfectly fulfills the obligations of that law for us. So perfectly did He accomplish this for His people that they are accounted righteous before God. So perfectly righteous are they that they appear before God as if they had never committed one sin and had fulfilled all righteousness.
Now that law is revealed to them no longer as the rod that beats them down into the dust, but the staff whereby they walk in the midst of the world of sin and death. It is not abrogated, as some contend, but it is still in the category of “the revealed things.” It is still for us and our children. It is the lamp for our feet and the light upon our pathway.
It is in this light that we must understand the last part of our text. God revealed things to Israel which He never declared to any other nation. And that revelation develops with the organic development of His covenant. To the line of succeeding generations, to us and our children, God reveals the things of His covenant.
Not only must the fathers of Israel know them and keep them themselves, but they must see to it that their children also receive them!
This instruction in the revealed things though quite naturally beginning in the home and in the church, does not stop there. It must also come to them in the school. That school must not be simply a school with the Bible, but it must be prepared to give instruction that is thoroughly permeated with the Word of God.
The revealed things are for us and our children forever!
They may never let them slip, but must keep them as frontlets before their eyes!
That we may do all the words of this law!
Covenant instruction is not intended to make of our children better citizens, though that they will become; nor is it intended to give them a certain polish and finesse that will equip them to become professionals in this world, though like Daniel they may rise to high places. Rather, it must serve to prepare them as citizens of the kingdom of heaven to walk in this world as obedient children who love and serve their God out of gratitude for the great redemption He has wrought and out of sovereign grace committed unto them.
Thus with the apostle we can boast: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”