Today I’m going to talk about Deuteronomy 29:29 – the “secret things” of God.
ILLUSTRATION: Are you a fan of the old Twilight Zone show? It’s a lot different from the Twilight series we have today! Do you remember this episode?
THE DOWNSIDE OF DIVINATION
When Don and Pat Carter’s automobile breaks down in Ridgeview, Ohio, they decide to have lunch at the Busy Bee Cafe while they wait. The booth they sit in has a fortune telling machine on the table that answers yes or no questions for a penny each. Don asks the “mystic seer” if he is going to get a promotion at work. The card says that it has been decided in his favor. When Don calls the office, he discovers that the seer was right. Because of this initial success, Don asks the seer more and more questions.
Pat begins to recognize that Don is taking the seer too seriously. Based on the seer’s predictions, Don believes it is unsafe to leave the diner until after 3 p.m. Pat convinces him to leave a few minutes before 3, but the couple is almost struck by a car while crossing the street. A nearby clock shows it is 3 p.m. After they calm down, Don wants to go back to the cafe for more answers.
The breaking point comes when Don wants the seer to tell him where they’re going to live and asks the seer every conceivable yes/no question to arrive at that information. Pat tries to break the spell the seer has over Don. After a persuasive speech from Pat, Don apologizes and then announces directly to the mystic seer that they’re leaving to go do what they please.
INTRODUCTION: This is a great example of our desire to know “secret things,” those things that have not been revealed to us.
God seems to be so mysterious. There are a lot of things that we just don’t know about or understand about God; we have questions of which we don’t have answers that satisfy the human mind or heart.
- Why is there suffering in the world?
- What is God’s will for my life?
- When is Jesus coming back again?
THE MISUSE OF MYSTERY
Some things are just a mystery. We finished a January Bible Study a couple of weeks ago in the book of Colossians, and the concept of “mystery” was a big part of it.
I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. –Colossians 1:25-27
At the time, there was a philosophy called Gnosticism, which claimed that only certain people had some special knowledge of God, and it was a secret to most people. It was a heresy that was condemned by Paul as well as early church councils. In Colossians, Paul’s reference to the “mystery” was not some secret knowledge, but the mystery of how God is able to bring Jews and Gentiles together into one family, breaking down the dividing wall of separation.
THE CONTEXT IS COVENANT
Moses writes about some secret things of God, but we must seek to understand this verse in context. Let me read it again, in the NASB…
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
The first thing to understand about this passage is that it is in the context of the “covenant.” This chapter is describing the conditions of the covenant and the results of disobedience. The phrases in this verse pair together: “the secret things” with “the things revealed.” Since the Jews were the chosen people of God who possess these unconditional promises of God, there is a question that poses a problem, “How could Israel, the recipient of everlasting promises, be destroyed and deported?”
THE EXPECTATION OF EXILE
God’s word says it best in Deuteronomy 29:24-28…
24 And all the surrounding nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why was he so angry?’ 25 “And the answer will be, ‘This happened because the people of the land abandoned the covenant that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26 Instead, they turned away to serve and worship gods they had not known before, gods that were not from the Lord. 27 That is why the Lord’s anger has burned against this land, bringing down on it every curse recorded in this book. 28 In great anger and fury the Lord uprooted his people from their land and banished them to another land, where they still live today!’
This is the problem, the continuation of Israel and its apparent termination seem to be mutually exclusive. They saw no hope of recovery. But God’s people should know better, because God had revealed the end from the beginning.
THE REGATHERING OF THE REMNANT
In the very next chapter, we read – then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. -Deuteronomy 30:3
This is generally referred to as the remnant returning from exile. Not everyone came back, since after 70 years many families established new roots, building businesses and growing their families. But there were three returning stages under Zerubbabal (525 BC), Ezra (458 BC), and Nehemiah (444 BC), which is the fulfillment of what we read in Deuteronomy 30:5 – The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
Actually, the first ten verses of Deuteronomy 30 is a prediction of this regathering of Israel from all nations to which she was scattered. It did not look very likely, but perhaps you remember that Ezekiel had a vision where he saw the “dry bones” of Israel in exile coming back together, infused with divine breath that would resuscitate the nation to its proper role as 1) servant of the Lord and 2) mediator of God’s divine grace (Ezekiel 37:1-28).
THE CLOSENESS OF THE COMMANDMENT
In order to make clear the possibility of knowing and doing the will of God, Moses spoke of the accessibility of the Lord’s commands and requirements in Deuteronomy 30:11-14. As I read this, the word “commandment,” which occurs regularly in Deuteronomy, refers to the ENTIRE Law of God, not a single command they are to keep.
11 For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. –Deuteronomy 30:11-14
The point here is NOT the ease or even the possibility of keeping God’s Law, but the fact that we can even KNOW God’s Law at all. Contrary to the pagan nations around them, the Lord’s promises and purposes for Israel are crystal clear; they are NOT too difficult, or too wonderful, or beyond comprehension. Human beings CAN understand God and his Law despite their human limitations.
Notice what you DON’T need to do to find, hear, or listen to God’s Word: you don’t seek it in the highest heaven, or cross the deepest sea, because then we can blame it on someone else who has not gone to these places to retrieve the Commands of God. “Ignorance is bliss,” we say. Moses assures us that his Word is “very near you” in your mouth and in your heart. This tells me that Bible study is not all that difficult since we have the Holy Spirit guiding us, illuminating us, and inspiring us. This passage is very reminiscent of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:6-7),
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your HEART. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall TALK of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Everything God wants his people to know is revealed in his Word, which is unveiled to the human heart and mind, and is to be communicated by one’s mouth.
Perhaps you recognize that Paul picks up this theme in Romans 10:6-8…
6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
There is no need to go to heaven to get the message, or cross the sea to get it; the incarnation and the resurrection have already occurred and don’t need to be repeated. Instead, there is a life-changing message of the gospel, the word of faith that is to 1) be believed in the HEART and 2) confessed with the MOUTH. Just as the gospel message represents the very presence and purpose of Jesus Christ, Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 30, that the word of this covenant is close and authoritative, just as the Lord is close and authoritative.
So, back to Deuteronomy 29:29, it was this knowledge and hope that should have inspired obedience to “all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) Let’s read it again:
The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. -NLT
THE PASSAGES ABOUT OUR PURPOSE – WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?
Now it is time to get practical:
Is God keeping secrets from us? Well, since we don’t (and can’t) know everything, he obviously has kept some things from us. Even Jesus said that only the Father knows the timing of his second coming (Mark 13:32). Remember, anything that we know about God, is known ONLY because he has revealed it to us.
What is the one thing that most people seek to know from God? What does the future hold for me? Or what is God’s will for my life? Or why do bad things happen to good people or innocent people? Or why do the innocent suffer?
So, let’s talk about the future. What IS God’s will for my life? Well, we’ve talked about this before; but we usually ask the wrong question. We should be asking, “What is God’s will?” We should not search for that one, elusive, divine plan, and, at the risk of choosing poorly, forever being out of God’s will. We must discover God’s will, God’s purposes, and then align our lives to that revealed purpose. When we discover that which God is doing, we seek to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow him to join him in that work (Luke 9:23).
Here are some passages that tell us about God’s will:
- Mark 3:35 – For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. (Believing and serving the Lord is God’s will)
- Romans 8:27 – and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Intercession or prayer is God’s Will)
- Romans 12:2 – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (The renewal of our mind is his will).
- 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1 – Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, (Paul was called to be sent out, which was God’s will)
- 2 Corinthians 7:9 – I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (Godly sorrow for and repentance of sin is God’s will)
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 – and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (giving yourself to the Lord and to others is God’s will)
- Colossians 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (A holy life and assurance of salvation is God’s will)
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (your sanctification [becoming like Jesus] and personal purity, is God’s will)
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Being a thankful person is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 2:15 – For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (Living rightly as a testimony of the gospel is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:2 – so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (Avoiding the lusts of men is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:6 – For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (Living in the spirit is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (Suffering for the cause of Christ is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 5:2 – shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; (Eagerness in serving and shepherding others is God’s will)
But for human beings, even believers, we want to know the future, rather than seek God’s will. Have you noticed, in the One Year Bible reading, that divination is condemned; the Bible tells us to avoid soothsayers, seers, fortunetellers, astrologers, psychics, mediums. Why? Because God knows there is a problem in wanting to know the future.
THE CHOICES TO CONSIDER
I believe that THIS is the reason why. If we know the future, we no longer LIVE and WALK by faith. How often have we read about the admonition to walk by faith and not by sight? (2 Corinthians 5:7, Colossians 2:6). Eventually we will begin to place our trust in some other person or discipline rather than trusting in the living God. We are in essence telling God that all of the information you have revealed to us is NOT sufficient. Peter tells us…
He has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of him who calls us by his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).
When we look to the stars by reading our horoscope, or call Miss Cleo’s 800 number during late night TV, we slap God in the face and tell him that he is NOT sufficient. He is NOT all that we need. The sacrifice of Christ was NOT enough, I need more answers.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “Our responsibility as God’s people is NOT to pry open the doors to the future, but to obey God’s will here and now. It is not necessary that we know God’s secrets, but it is essential to obey that which he has revealed to us.”
Ask yourself these penetrating questions at the bottom of your outline.
As we finish here, what has God said to you this morning?
- Maybe you recognize that your have not been trusting God with your future. Today is the day to repent and make things right with God. Tell him today that he IS sufficient and repent of your seeking answers in some place other than in Christ. This morning is a time to pray, trust, repent, and start fresh in your relationship with Christ. Recommit yourself to God right now.
- Maybe you have been attending here for a long time, and it’s time to officially join this congregation. You’ve held out for months if not years. You’ve been waiting for some special revelation from God when his will has been very clear for so long. You continue to worship here for a reason, it’s time to be obedient and join the family. A Christian without a church family is an orphan. Every team has a roster, every class has a roll, it’s time to join the family.
- If you don’t know Christ as your Savior and Lord, don’t let this opportunity to get away from you. Today is the day of salvation. You’ve been seeking answers all this time and God has made it painfully clear that he is very near. You sense his presence. You long to understand and experience forgiveness and purpose he has for your life. Remember, you don’t need to know all the secret things of God; only believe the things he has already revealed.