Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.The Secret and the Unrevealed Things
There are some things respecting which we ought to be agnostics. They are the secret things which belong to God. There are other things concerning which we ought not to be agnostics. They are the revealed things which belong to us and to our children.
I. The things which concern us, which touch our life, lie within the realm of our knowledge; the things which do not touch us, which do not concern our life, concerning which we may hold one theory or another theory, and our life still remain right, do not belong to us. We may discuss them, but they are not part of the vital truths of religion.
II. In a similar manner there is the known and the unknown in religion. And the difficulty about religious discussion has been that most of it has been fighting about the unknown. 'Nothing is more certain,' says Herbert Spencer, 'than that we are ever in the presence of an infinite and eternal Energy from which all things proceed.' Now what can we know about that infinite and eternal Energy? We say that He is omnipresent. But we do not know. All we know is that everywhere in the universe He is operative.
III. But whenever God comes in touch with us, we do know. We know that there is a natural order in the universe; we know that there is somewhere a rule; and we know that these rules are absolute, unchangeable, immutable. We do not know in what way God operates on the mind. But we do know Christ's relation to us; and that is enough for us to know. What God is in His essence we cannot know. What is His method of manifesting Himself to others we cannot know; but we can open our hearts to His sunshine and receive His life. What the Christ is in His relation to the eternal Father we cannot know; but to us He can be the model which we follow and the revelation of God whom we adore.
—Lyman Abbott, Homiletic Review, 1904, vol. XLVIII. p. 291.
Knowledge: Revealed and Secret
I will first of all take the two terms of my text and then the declaration of the purpose lying behind the truth of the terms—revealed things; secret things.
I. First, the revealed things. The Hebrew word very literally means things denuded, laid bare. I have said to you that a thing revealed cannot be perfect and complete; but it is a revealed thought. This hymn-book, for example, is a thing revealed to us by this imperfect manner of words. It is the same thing in the moral world. There are things revealed and things I know—a flower, a storm, light and heat, and the mystery of pain, the great affirmations of Christian truth.
II. Take the next term of the text: secret things. As the first word means things denuded, the second means things clothed, things hidden by a covering. The covering demonstrates the presence of the thing beneath. The covering is revealed, the thing is hidden. It is the intangible, impenetrable, illusive mystery that lurks at the back of everything revealed. I take up this book again. There is as much mystery in that hymn-book as there is in God. When you can fathom the mystery of this book, you can fathom the mystery of the universe.
III. It is the great declaration of revealed religion that everything that baffles the human intellect and bewilders the human heart because of its mystery is not a mystery with God. He knows it thoroughly. Carry this idea into the second half of the declaration. Everything revealed is revealed for us and is united to the secret and hidden forces and expresses so much of them as is for us to know. The truth is that everything of which I am certain is but the apparition of a heavenly thing and teaches a spiritual truth. Take away the secret things and you will lose God. It is the secret of Divine government that demonstrates the fact of Divine government.
—G. Campbell Morgan, Homiletic Review, 1904, vol. xlviii. p. 451.
References.—XXIX. 29.—J. O. Davies, Sermons by Welshmen, p. 59. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. i. p. 346. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 193.
And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.
Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:
And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.
Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,
Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:
That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;
And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.
And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;
And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
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.