The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever…
The "secret things" of this verse were the things which God had not revealed regarding Israel's future - especially the time and manner of the fulfillment of those promises and threatenings which were made contingent on their obedience or disobedience. The things which had been revealed whetted their appetite to know more (cf. Daniel 12:8; John 21:21). Moses in this verse discourages the prying of a too eager curiosity into things purposely kept secret, while directing the people to the things revealed as containing all that was necessary for the doing of their duty. The truth to be drawn from the passage is, that the Bible is primarily a Book for practical guidance, not for solution of speculative difficulties or gratification of a vain curiosity.
I. DUTY, NOT CURIOUS SPECULATION. The difficulties and mysteries inherent in the scheme of revelation are acknowledged. They may be usefully distributed into three classes.
1. Those which are not peculiar to the Bible, but inhere in all our thinking about the facts of existence. The Bible did not create, if it does not undertake to solve, the mysteries of the origin and existence of evil, of the suffering of the innocent with the guilty, of free-will and necessity, of the reconcilability of man's freedom with God's foreknowledge and foreordination. These are difficulties of all religion and philosophy, as well as of the Bible.
2. Those which are peculiar to the Bible - which emerge in connection with the scheme and process of revelation itself. Such are the doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation, of the atonement, of regeneration - doctrines all light and comfort to us on the practical side, and yet on the speculative side involving much that is baffling to the reason.
3. Those which arise from our imperfect apprehension of the facts revealed - from the overlaying of them with mistaken theories and false interpretations. This last class of difficulties does not concern us here. If we ask, Why should so much be left unrevealed in Scripture? the answer is:
1. There is much that cannot be revealed - would not be intelligible to us.
2. The purpose of Scripture does not require more to be revealed than suffices for our guidance.
3. The existence of unsolved difficulties acts as a moral test, and aids the development of faith - faith, viz. as a practical principle, believing and trusting in God on the strength of what is revealed, difficulties notwithstanding (John 20:29). This gives the key to our duty, in presence of these difficulties. We do not forget:
1. That things once kept secret are now revealed (Colossians 1:26).
2. That in the course of ages God is ever making his counsels clearer.
3. That it is the privilege and duty of the Church to be always making progress in the knowledge of God's will, as far as he has chosen to reveal it (Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ephesians 3:18, 19; Colossians 2:2). Nevertheless, it is the condition of earthly existence that "we know" only "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9). Our duty, therefore, plainly is, not to neglect the light we have in vain beating against the wires of the cage that confines us; but diligently to improve that light as the likeliest means of getting more. It is more important to get a fire put out than to know exactly how it originated; more important to escape from the burning building than to know exactly the course which the flames will take after we have left. We are not to forego prayer because it is mysterious to us how God can answer prayer; to forbear fleeing to Christ because we cannot frame a theory of the atonement; to renounce activity because we cannot reconcile free-will and Divine foreordination. Revelation resolves the central difficulty, how God can be just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly; it gives light in abundance on the character of God, the way of salvation, the requirements of holiness; it makes much certain that to the natural reason must ever have remained doubtful. What folly, then, to make duty wait on the solving of speculative difficulties, many of which will probably never be solved on earth!
II. DUTY, NOT ANXIOUS PRYING INTO THE FUTURE. The "secret things" in regard to that also belong unto the Lord. His Word teaches us in a general way the issues of particular lines of conduct, but it lies with God to determine the when, how, what, and where of the actual event. His providence is a mystery unfathomable by all but himself. This, however, need not disquiet the children of God. He is their Father, and they can confidently trust their future to his wisdom and his love (Matthew 6:26-34). Of little use is it to fret ourselves with fears and cares about what may possibly befall us. Do duty, and leave the issues to him who is above. Duty, not calculations of expediency. Those who steer by expediency rather than duty, in the hope to avoid evils, split on a worse rock than the one they shun. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.