Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
Psalm 25 is a Psalm of David. We do not know what occasioned the writing of this Psalm, except that David was being threatened by his enemies.
In this Psalm David prays for deliverance from these enemies. This is the theme of the Psalm—a prayer for deliverance from enemies.
In this Psalm David emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of the LORD. (In the KJV the name LORD is really Jehovah.) In His goodness Jehovah forgives the sins of His people. In His goodness Jehovah also guides His people to make right choices so that they walk in His ways. And in His goodness Jehovah blesses the upright walk of His people.
This is all in keeping with the fact that the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.
The secret of Jehovah!
The term “secret” is a word that originally referred to a couch on which a person reclines. From that it took on the meaning of friends sitting together in familiar conversation. Then it came to describe the conversation itself. And finally it came to mean something that one friend tells another in confidence as they sit together on a couch.
David speaks of the secret of Jehovah. This is the secret that Jehovah shares with His friends.
David connects that with the idea of the covenant. We have in this verse a classic instance of Hebrew parallelism, in which two phrases are placed side by side and must be understood in light of each other. In this verse the secret of Jehovah and His covenant are parallel.
There are many views as to what the covenant of Jehovah is. Some say that the covenant is a promise God makes. Others say that the covenant is an agreement God makes with promises, conditions, and threats. Still others view the covenant in terms of a military alliance that God forms with us over against the devil.
More than once, however, Scripture compares God’s covenant to a marriage that He forms and maintains with His elect people. We maintain that God’s covenant is an intimate bond of friendship and fellowship that God graciously establishes and maintains with His elect church in Jesus Christ. In keeping with this, David speaks of the covenant as Jehovah God sitting down with His friends to share with them the secrets of His heart.
What are these covenant secrets of Jehovah? They are the secrets of His eternal counsel as they concern our salvation.
God’s counsel is His eternal predetermination of all things that shall ever exist and take place in history.
The counsel of God is a counsel formed by friends. God is the triune God—three persons in one being. These three live eternally in most intimate friendship and fellowship. This means that Jehovah is the covenant God within Himself. It is Jehovah’s delight to have a people with whom He can live in covenant friendship, patterned after the friendship He has within Himself. And so the triune Jehovah has eternally counseled within Himself as to how this will be accomplished.
In this counsel God has eternally decreed all that shall ever exist and take place. The general lines are creation, the fall, and salvation of an elect people in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is really first in this counsel. All that God has counseled focuses on the work of Jesus Christ to save a people so that God can enjoy them in the friendship of His covenant. All else that God has decreed serves as the necessary means to accomplish this greatest of all purposes.
This counsel is called the secret of Jehovah because it all exists in the eternal mind of God. Our thoughts and counsels are secret, known only to us. And they remain secret until such a time as we share them with others. The same is true with Jehovah’s eternal thoughts and counsel. They are known only to God and are His secret. We come to know them only as Jehovah shares them with us.
The secret of Jehovah is with them that fear Him!
Those that fear Jehovah are those that stand in awe of Him and reverence Him.
That God is Jehovah means that He is the great I AM. This emphasizes that He is the sovereign God who created, sustains, and governs all things. It also emphasizes that He is the God who sovereignly saves a people to Himself in Jesus Christ for His own pleasure and delight.
To fear Jehovah is to stand in awe of Him for what He is and what He does. This fear is not the fear of dread terror. It is a fear that is rooted in a love for Jehovah and a delight in who He is and what He is doing. This fear results in an embracing of Jehovah as one’s God and embracing Jesus Christ for one’s salvation. It also results in walking in Jehovah’s ways. This latter is the emphasis of David in this Psalm. “What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose” (v. 12).
This fear is the work of God’s grace in those with whom He has His covenant. By nature we do not fear Jehovah. On account of the fall we despise Jehovah and His work. We refuse to walk in His ways. Consequently, we are full of dread of God rather than loving awe. But God graciously changes the hearts of those whom He has ordained for His covenant. By the power of His Word and Spirit He transforms them into new creatures. The result is that they fear Him with loving adoration.
To them Jehovah reveals His secrets.
In a certain sense God uses the revelation of His covenant secrets to create this proper fear in our lives.
God’s covenant secrets concerning salvation in Jesus Christ have been publicly revealed. They were revealed in the Old Testament by angels, the prophets, and various works of salvation in the history of God’s covenant people. These secrets were more clearly revealed by Jesus Christ during His short ministry on the earth. And after Jesus’ exaltation the full revelation of these secrets was made through the apostles. This revelation of Jehovah’s covenant secrets has been infallibly preserved for us in the Bible by the miracle of divine inspiration. And these covenant secrets have been proclaimed ever since, through the preaching of the Word.
Jehovah uses these revealed secrets of His Word to bring His people to faith and salvation in Jesus Christ, so that they fear Him with loving awe and respect.
The point of David in this Psalm is that Jehovah reveals His secrets to those who fear Him with personal application. It is one thing for Jehovah to proclaim His secrets publicly for all to hear. This is a general declaration of Jehovah’s covenant. It is another thing for Jehovah to share His secrets with personal application to His friends, so that He gives personal assurances to them of His love and purpose to save them. Since Jehovah’s friends are those who fear Him in loving adoration, Jehovah shares His secrets with them.
Let’s see how Jehovah does this.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah did this on occasion with personal appearances. To Noah He revealed His secret concerning the flood and Noah’s salvation in the ark. To Abraham He revealed His secret concerning Abraham’s place in the covenant. To David He revealed His secret about David’s son who would build the house of Jehovah and sit on David’s throne forever.
Also today Jehovah reveals His covenant secrets by personal application of the Word to the hearts of His God-fearing friends. The blessings of Jehovah’s covenant secrets are promised to them in the public preaching of the Word. These blessings include forgiveness of sins, eternal life with God, protection from all their enemies, and provision for all their needs. By the inner working of the Spirit, Jehovah applies this Word of His covenant personally to every God-fearing hearer, so that he is assured of these blessings personally. God as it were sits down with the God-fearing hearer and shares His secrets with him in a personal way.
Jehovah will show them His covenant!
The word “show,” as used here, means to cause one to know, and thus to show something to someone.
When you make a covenant with someone, you can show that covenant either by word or by deed. Certainly you can show your covenant by the words you speak. In that case you assure a person of your love and your loving intentions towards him. This is something that husbands and wives should be doing in the covenant of marriage. But one shows his covenant also by his deeds. In that case the words and promises of love are translated into deeds of love. Then you have effectively shown your covenant.
This is the emphasis of David.
Jehovah had already shared His covenant secrets with the God-fearing David. He had done this by His Word. But as David was faced with many enemies, he expresses his confidence that Jehovah will also show him His covenant by deeds. And those deeds will be to deliver him from his enemies according to the secrets of the covenant.
This is all consistent with the fact that God is Jehovah. Jehovah is God’s covenant name, which emphasizes especially God’s faithfulness to His covenant. He will keep His covenant word. Clinging to the truth that God is Jehovah, David was confident of deliverance and salvation in the face of his enemies.
Also today Jehovah shows His covenant to His God-fearing friends.
He shares His secrets with them through His Word. He personally assures them that in Jesus Christ He will preserve them from the devil and all their spiritual foes. He assures them of everlasting life in heavenly glory. And He promises to care for them in all things, either averting all evil or turning it to their profit. What beautiful words of love!
Jehovah then proceeds to show them His covenant with deeds of deliverance and salvation. Many are the times when the future looks gloomy for the God-fearing. Yes, the devil as a roaring lion walks about, seeking whom he may devour. But their God is Jehovah. He will show them His covenant in many mighty works of salvation so that they are safe and secure.
In that confidence they pray to Him for deliverance, looking always for His blessings.