Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29 is part of the final instructions that Moses gave to Israel before their entering into the land of Canaan.
This chapter begins with Moses reminding Israel of the loving care God had shown to them during their forty years of wilderness wanderings. God had provided them bread and water. God had provided them with clothes that did not wear out. God had also protected them from their enemies.
Moses then called the people to faithfulness. With their entering into Canaan, Israel was entering into a new phase of the covenant that the Lord God had with them. Israel must be faithful to the Lord and His covenant. They must especially guard against idolatry. Should they be unfaithful, the Lord would judge them, and the land would be consumed before them.
Our focus is on the last verse of this chapter. It makes a contrast between secret things and those things that are revealed. The secret things belong to the Lord our God; whereas the revealed things belong to us and our children. The revealed things have been given that we and our children may do all the words of the law.
How important it is that we come to know the revealed things and then teach them to our children!
A contrast is made between the secret things and the revealed things.
The secret things are the secrets of God. Everything about God is secret, unless He reveals it to us. This is because God is infinitely exalted above the entire creation. He is so exalted above us that without revelation He is completely unknowable. This is true of His existence. This is true of His purpose to save a people in Jesus Christ. This is true of His purpose to destroy the rest of humanity in the way of their sin.
And God does reveal Himself.
He reveals Himself in the creation.
But He reveals Himself more clearly in Jesus Christ as Jehovah, the God of the covenant. The term “Lord our God” found in this passage places us in the context of the covenant. The term “Lord,” in the original, is “Jehovah.” This is God’s covenant name. In the covenant, Jehovah becomes our God. As our God, Jehovah has eternally determined our salvation in Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate purpose of all that He has predetermined in His counsel. This glorious purpose of salvation Jehovah has revealed throughout history. This revelation began with Adam and was completed with the visions given to the apostle John on the island of Patmos. This revelation has also been infallibly preserved in Scripture by divine inspiration.
But even though God has revealed Himself to us, He has not revealed all there is to know about Him. There are many things about God and His work that remain secret. There are good reasons for this. First, our finite minds cannot grasp all there is to know of God. Only God can fully know Himself. Besides, there are things that are coming, as determined by God’s counsel, that are better for us not to know. This includes the day of the Lord’s return, the day of our own death, as well as all the evils that await us in life.
Yet God has revealed Himself sufficiently for us to know Him as the God of the covenant, find His salvation in Jesus Christ, and live within His covenant.
When Moses in this final address to Israel spoke of the revealed and secret things, he had some very definite things in mind.
The things revealed refers to the revelation that Jehovah had given up to this point in history. This includes all the covenant promises given to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Included also were all the saving works that Jehovah had accomplished up until this point to preserve His covenant people. We think of such great works as the destruction of the world in the flood, Israel’s deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and Israel’s preservation in the wilderness. The revelation of God, however, was dominated by the Mosaic law given at Mt. Sinai to regulate Israel’s life in the covenant. This law consisted of the moral law that guided Israel’s behavior generally. It also consisted of civil and ceremonial laws that proclaimed the salvation of God and pointed Israel ahead to the coming Savior. The Mosaic law also spoke of the blessings that would come upon Israel in the way of covenant faithfulness and the chastening of the Lord in the way of covenant unfaithfulness.
Moses had recorded these revealed things by the inspiration of God in the Pentateuch.
In contrast to these revealed things were the secret things of Jehovah. These most likely were the exact execution of the blessing and judgment of which Moses had spoken in his final discourse with Israel.Deuteronomy 27-30 records Moses’ discourse with Israel in which he emphasized both the blessing that would come to Israel in the way of covenant faithfulness and the judgment that would come to her in the way of unfaithfulness. Jehovah in His wisdom did not reveal to Israel exactly when and how these blessing and judgments would come upon her. These details became plain to Israel only as history unfolded.
God’s revelation through Moses was incomplete. We now have the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Over the course of the Old Testament the Lord added to the revelation that Moses and Israel had. This revelation was still dominated by the law and continued to promise greater things to come in the Savior. Then God completed His revelation by sending the promised Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament. He came as the Son of God into our flesh. He gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. He has been exalted into heavenly glory to bless the church with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and to make all things ready for His final return and the full salvation of the church. All these great works of salvation are recorded in the New Testament Scriptures.
This revelation includes promises for God’s covenant blessings to those who are faithful to God’s covenant. It also contains warnings of judgment to those who are unfaithful.
But, again, the details of these blessings and judgments remain a secret.
and works of God. But for the present these things are not for us to know.
As to what the Lord our God has kept from us, we must live by faith. We are not to pry into the secret things of God with all sorts of curiosity and speculation. Rather, by faith we must trust that there is a good explanation for things we cannot as yet understand
of God and may never understand.
By faith we must trust that the Lord is fair and just in all His ways, even though we are not able to see it. And we must trust the Lord to bless us abundantly in the way of faithfulness.
That we may do all the words of this law.
The law to which Moses referred was the entire law given at Mt. Sinai. This law was given to regulate Israel’s life in the covenant.
Faithfulness to the covenant meant doing all the words of this law.
Only as Israel did all the words of this law would she receive the great blessings of the covenant.
This is not to be understood in the context of works righteousness. The law (especially the ceremonial laws) pointed Israel to Christ, so that doing the words of the law focused on clinging to and living out of the promised Christ.
The great blessings of the covenant are still found today in faithfulness to this law.
Much of that Mosaic law has fallen away with the coming of Christ. This is true of maintaining the tabernacle and the Aaronitic priesthood, offering up bloody sacrifices, and celebrating the Old Testament feast days. Yet the law’s essence remains. The essence of the Old Testament tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices, and feast days remain, in that we are to cling to Jesus Christ by faith and live out of Him. The moral law of the ten commandments still remains as a guide for the life we are to live in Jesus Christ.
Only as we do the words of the law will we find the blessings of the covenant.
The things revealed are given to us so that we will do all the words of the law and find the blessings of the covenant.
Let us then with an eager heart of faith turn our attention to the revealed things of God. Let us with our children attend the church of God where this revelation is faithfully preached. Let us study this revelation in our homes with our children. And let us embrace it with a believing heart.
That we may do all the words of this law and receive the covenant blessing of Jehovah God.