SOAP Journal – 08 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 29:29)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

I have heard this verse quoted, but do not think I noticed it in my reading until  this morning.

There are things about which The Bible does not speak; areas in which The Bible seems to be mum. This is not to say that God has nothing to say on the matter, only that His thoughts on that subject are not revealed. There are secret things, or hidden things that God keeps to Himself. And He has every right to do so. Just as every person has every right to hold certain information close, so, too, does God have every right to withhold things from us. As with the lesser (us), so with the greater (God). This also means that God is not going to hold me to account for something which He did not reveal.

There are other things about which The Bible is quite specific. There are commands that are clear and prohibitions that leave no room for argument. There are blessings and curses and promises both pleasant and ominous. These things belong to me. God has revealed them so that I know them. If I know them, then I am now accountable for them. This is heavy when dealing with The Law, because it means that I know what the standard of perfection is and know that I have never, am not currently, and can never measure up to it. This is delightful when dealing with God’s promises, because it means that all of the promises that are properly directed to me (and not to, say, the Israelites specifically) belong to me. Just as the onus to obey is mine, so, too, the fulfillment of promises rests on the God Who made those promises.

As I struggle to obey, God sees and has made clear to me that He is mindful that I am but dust. He knows my weakness and my failures. He does not condone them, but nor is He surprised or shocked or put off by them. He is ready to restore me and move me forward.

The things revealed belong to us and to our children forever. While Moses said this to the Israelites, the principle is sound and what God reveals belongs to those to whom He has revealed it.

God, please make solid in me those things which You have revealed and which belong to me — both things to obey and promises in which to hope.

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Revealed (Luke 12:2)

But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Luke 12:2

As I read this promise this morning, I am struck by its dual application. It feels as though it is both a promise that should give me a moment’s pause and a promise that should cause me to breathe a sigh of relief.

It should give me pause because there is the implication that everything I do — no matter how secretive I think I am being — will be displayed in front of everyone one day. The promise of a future judgment is a promise that everything I do — good and bad — will be displayed publicly and rewarded or censured as appropriate. Nothing I think I have covered up will remain thus. Nothing that I think I have hidden is unknown to God and none of it will remain unknown to others.

I am able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this can also mean that all secrets will eventually stop being secret. There will come a day when I know as I also am known. There will be nothing about my God; no detail regardless how small that will not be open to examination. I will be able to ask and be answered; to seek and find. The secret things belong to the LORD (Deuteronomy 29:29) and the LORD offers us Himself. I will be able to know all the things that I seek to know in the day that I know as I am known. And that, for such as me, is a welcome relief.

Let me be mindful that all I do ostensibly in secret will be revealed and all things that are currently hidden will eventually be known. I will know as I am known and that is both a warning and a sweet promise.

Revealed (Amos 3:7)

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing
Unless He reveals His secret counsel
To His servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

There is a story that America, before dropping the atomic bombs in World War II, first dropped leaflets or pamphlets on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that warned of the bombing. I cannot vouchsafe the truth of the story, but it is quite the parallel to what God had to say through Amos.

The nothing in this verse is either a very poor choice of words or a limited version of itself. In English, we often say that someone does nothing without doing some other thing. We comment that a person does nothing before washing their hands which is patently absurd because something had to have happened before that hand washing. What we actually mean is that the individual performs none of a certain kind of action without first washing their hands — a fact about which we are all glad to hear in the case of folks who cook for us. Likewise, I think, this verse is not saying that God does absolutely nothing without revealing it to the prophets — there is plenty that He does that we probably would not understand if He took the rest of eternity to explain it to us — but rather that God does not do a certain set of things without revealing them to the prophets. In context, we could reasonably conclude that the subset of actions pertain to judgment and discipline. And scripture bears out that God did not discipline without first sending a notice to the Israelites through the prophets.

Which brings me back around to that World War II illustration. The danger in the United States dropping warnings on the cities to be bombed is that America shows her hand. The cards are dealt open and everyone who has a stake in what happens knows what is coming. So many things could have happened; so many things could have been done to interrupt the plan to bomb those cities. Likewise, God has a tendency to reveal His big plans. Throughout the OT (Old Testament), God drops steadily more detailed information about how He plans to redeem humanity. It begins with a promise to Eve that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. It becomes a promise to Abram, later renamed Abraham, that narrows the scope to a bloodline. On down through the ages, God reveals a little at a time of His grand design, as if daring His enemy to stop Him; as if warning that the end of the war is approaching. And that is precisely what is coming.

Sun Tzu once wrote that the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won. God, I suspect, did not utter the words “Let there be light.” until He had already planned His victory over sin and death; planned His redemption of humanity. And built into His plan was revealing that plan to both friend (Jesus says that He calls us friend if we do as He instructs — John 15:14-15) and foe. He reveals His plans for discipline and judgment and redemption. If it is a big deal, then God has said something about it. If God has stayed mum, then it is not as big a deal as I am making it out to be.

And that is the application for me this morning. If it is a big deal; if it is important, then God will have said something on the matter; will have revealed His heart through the prophets. If God has said nothing on the subject, not even obliquely hinting at it, then it is likely not the catastrophic thing I seem to think it is. In my experience, He is happy to provide me input on the small stuff, but that input is tailored to me, not necessarily generally applicable. God reveals the necessary and important; the big stuff.

Things Secret and Things Revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

After a long list of curses that would make a horror movie script writer salivate, this verse appears. The context is Moses telling Israel that the choice between faithfulness to God and His command or waywardness toward God and disobedience to His command is pretty straightforward. Obedience results in blessing while disobedience results in disciplinary action (cursing). Then Moses transitions from that thought to the next (repentance) with this statement.

It is interesting that this verse is not more commonly quoted. I mean, there are plenty of things in The Bible that I would call secret things and chalk up as belonging to the LORD. For example, how the whole trinity thing works. It’s a secret thing. It’s not that The Bible doesn’t teach it, but that The Bible doesn’t explain it. And this verse reminds me that there are some things that belong exclusively to God (the secret things) and there are some that belong to me (the things revealed). Why the distinction? Why not explain everything?

My thought: faith. If God explains everything; shows me everything; reveals everything, then there’s not much faith required in following Him. Contrariwise, if there are secrets and things I don’t understand — though the explanation for them might be the simplest thing one may ever imagine — then I take those on faith and, by extension, take my God on faith.

There’s another thought that presents itself, viz. that I wouldn’t understand even if God did explain. I get what the illustration of Schrodinger’s Cat is trying to explain — observing the state of a quantum particle changes the state — but I don’t understand how it works. I get what is happening, but the how eludes me. The same is likely true of the workings of the trinity and other secret things. I get the what — three unique individuals that are simultaneously a coherent single entity — but the how escapes me completely. I get that I and every other believer was chosen by God and that we also freely chose Him, the whole predestination versus free will argument. Somehow, some way both are true. I can accept that both are true and understand the workings of each individually, but the both-and of things that my human mind regards as mutually exclusive is nigh impossible to reconcile. These, I think, are a smattering of the secret things that Moses is talking about. How some of the things revealed work is a secret that God will reveal in His own time (or not at all). But there are other things about which The Bible is absolutely silent. Things which are completely secret, as God has said nothing at all about them.

Again, these are just my thoughts. Ultimately, the important part of the equation is not the secret things, because those belong to God. The important part, for me, is the things revealed as those belong to me. They are mine. And I need to act on what is my own, not fritter away my time pining after the secret things that are not mine. God has given me more than enough to do in just “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” and “Love you neighbor as yourself.” Those, alone, are sufficient to keep me busy until the Second Coming. Add in “Pray without ceasing.”, “In everything give thanks.”, and a host of others and I’ll be busy-busy-busy until well after the Second Coming. The things revealed belong to us. We… I need to be busy about them.