Rev. denHartog is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
You will recognize that the above theme is taken from a familiar passage of Scripture found in. The whole verse reads as follows: “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.” These words are a great statement of Moses, the man of God, spoken by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were a kind of general conclusion and summary application of all that Moses said in his last great farewell discourses to Israel. These words are at the same time a great statement concerning all of God’s revelation which has wonderful application and significance for us and our children.
Often the above quoted verse has been misused. There are those who do not like any talk about God’s sovereign and eternal counsel. They do not like to hear about God’s eternal predestination, His purpose of election and reprobation. On the basis of this verse, these people would claim that all these things belong to the secret things of God. These truths ought not to be preached or talked about. To do so is to pry wrongly into the secret things of God. This is however a false application of this passage of God’s Word. What these people claim belongs to the secret things of God are in fact part of the wonderful revelation of God to His people.
The book of Deuteronomy, from which the passage quoted above is taken, as well as the rest of Scripture, makes this abundantly clear. God revealed His eternal counsel to Israel. He told Israel that He had chosen her above all the nations of the earth to set His love upon her and to make her His own special and peculiar people. God revealed His eternal counsel and purpose concerning Israel. He revealed His covenant promise to Abraham and the other patriarchs to make a great nation of Israel. Hundreds of years beforehand God revealed His promise to Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to His people Israel as an inheritance. All through the history of Israel God declared what He was going to do with them. Again and again He reiterated His promise to give them the land of Canaan. He foretold that He would destroy Israel’s enemies before them and give them a blessed and glorious land to possess.
In connection with the revelation of His covenant promises to Israel God also gave to Israel all of His statutes and ordinances and judgments. At Sinai God revealed Himself as the fearful holy and righteous God. God commanded Israel to love Him with all their hearts and souls and strength and mind and to keep all His commandments. He promised Israel great power and blessing and glory as long as they continued in His commandments. He warned them of awful judgments that would come upon them if they forsook the Lord and walked in the abominations of the heathen nations around them.
All these things belonged to the revealed things of God of which Moses spoke. Moses told Israel that there was no nation like Israel in all the earth who had God dwelling in her midst and who saw His great glory and power in signs and wonders. Israel was highly privileged to have such a great revelation of God. This revelation was given to Israel according to the sovereign grace of God because they were His chosen people. It was given for their great good that they might hope in God and serve Him with fear and trembling. This revelation was given to Israel also that they might pass it down from generation to generation that God might keep His covenant with them and that children might learn from their parents of the great salvation of God.
What a great wonder the revelation of God really is. Without that revelation we could know nothing about God or about His great and wonderful purpose of salvation. God is in Himself the unknowable one. He is infinite in His being, transcendent in heavenly majesty. No man has seen God at any time, for God cannot be seen. He is absolutely invisible in His being and purely spiritual in His essence. God can be known only through the wonder of His own self-revelation. He first revealed His own eternal power and godhead in the whole of His creation so that all men might know Him. After the fall the curse of God came upon man. The mind and heart of man was absolutely darkened. He became utterly foolish and he walks about in darkness. But God, immediately after the fall, began to reveal Himself in a more wonderful way in the promise of the covenant. By the wonder of His grace and Holy Spirit He formed a people anew that could receive and understand this wonderful new revelation.
God has given the revealed things to His people. He has revealed Himself as the covenant God of His people. He has shown to them His sovereign and almighty power. He has shown to them His awful, perfect righteousness and holiness. He has shown them His faithfulness and loving kindness and tender mercy. God has shown to His people His eternal purpose to choose them as His own and to set His love upon them. He has shown to His people from the beginning of the world His great and glorious purpose to redeem His people and finally bring them to heavenly glory and blessing.
God has revealed the full glory of His revelation in His Son Jesus Christ who is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. He has revealed in Jesus Christ His great love for His people by causing Him to die on the cross, He has revealed His almighty power and righteousness to raise up Jesus Christ from the dead and exalt Him at His own right hand. God has made known the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ among all the nations of the earth. God has revealed His purpose to choose His people out of all the nations of the earth. He made known that purpose already to our Father Abraham. God has revealed His glorious purpose to bring all of history to a climax with the blessed return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. God has revealed the glorious future ofthe saints in heavenly glory in the book of Revelation. All these things speak of the eternal counsel and purpose of God. These are not things which God has kept secret but things which He has through the ages revealed to His people for their hope and comfort.
God has revealed to His people His great purpose to make of them a holy and peculiar people in Christ Jesus. Therefore He has also revealed His holy law and righteous judgments. He has shown us again and again the fearful judgments that He sent not only upon the ungodly but even more so upon those who were called His people and who forsook His law and covenant. He has revealed all of this to us to warn us and to make us fear Him as a holy and righteous God. God has revealed to us our own sinfulness and weakness and inability to save ourselves. God has shown us the great need of daily repentance and of fleeing to Christ as the only hope of our salvation.
What a mighty and wonderful revelation is given to us by God. How privileged we are as God’s church. We have a far more glorious and sure revelation than Israel of old had. Through this revelation we must learn to fear and to trust our God and to hope in His salvation. We must search His wonderful revelation as it is given to us in the Bible. It is inexhaustible in its greatness and glory. Never does the sincere child of God imagine that he has no more need of studying God’s wonderful revelation. Even after many, many years of listening to the preaching of the Word of God and of studying of the Scriptures, we cannot even begin to fathom the depths of God’s wonderful revelation to us. And God has given us this wonderful revelation of Himself according to the purpose of His covenant that we might also teach it to our children. From generation to generation our children must learn the wonderful works of God that they too might learn to walk in godly fear.
There are also things which are secret. They are for the Lord our God. Because God is infinite in His greatness and glory and because our minds are by comparison very, very small, there are many things about the Lord our God that are far beyond our comprehension. There are aspects of His mysterious and wonderful sovereignty that God Himself has kept secret from us. We ought not to seek to pry into these things. We ought not foolishly to reply against God and call Him unjust when He reprobates the ungodly in severe and perfect righteousness.
We know not why His purpose of reprobation sometimes includes our own children and relatives. God has kept secret from us also what is in store for our future. Sometimes the Lord leads us through deep ways of trouble and sorrow that we do not know. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. God has kept secret from us the day when we must depart from this world and go on to heavenly glory. God has kept secret from us exactly who each one of His elect children are. He is the Lord God who has a purpose in keeping all these things secret. God has kept secret also the day of our Lord’s return. No man knows the day or the hour of that return. We are exhorted only to watch and to wait.
God’s secrets will never disappoint us after we in His purpose come to know them. The secrets of God will never in any way contradict the glorious things He has revealed to us. God has revealed to us all that we need to know for our salvation.
Two things therefore we are to do. Continually we must search and know the wonderful things He has made known to us. And, as far as the secret things are concerned, with quiet trust we must leave them to the Lord our God.