Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Deuteronomy 29:29 Revealed

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." [Deuteronomy 29:29]

Case closed.

This is the verse pastors use when they can't adequately explain a doctrine. The Trinity? Deuteronomy 29:29. Evil? Deuteronomy 29:29. God's Sovereignty...and man's free will? Deuteronomy 29:29.

Ultimately, we don't know all the dimensions and full transcendence of God, and we all have corrupted perspectives of our Lord to varying degrees. D.A. Carson explains how we all function with holes in our theology:
"[The Bible] is rather more like a jigsaw puzzle whose Maker has guaranteed that all the pieces he has provided belong to the same puzzle, even though for various good reasons he has not given us all of them. “The secret things belong to the Lord,” Moses tells us, “but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29). That means that we will always have gaps as we construct the puzzle; it means that clumsy players will try to force some pieces into slots where they do not belong and may be tempted to leave some pieces out because they cannot see where they fit in."
Carson, D. A. (1992). A Call to Spiritual Reformation (206). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

This is all true, and God is truly an infinite, awesome God. Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgment and how inscrutable his ways! [Rom 11:33]

Yet, practically everyone seems to use this verse in a negative sense. We cannot know everything, but we need not throw our hands up in theological despair. God has revealed himself through a variety of mediums. We can know him, and what Moses is fundamentally communicating in Deuteronomy is that God has revealed himself to us. There are facets of God's character and signposts of his plan that guide us. God has made his goodness to pass before us and has proclaimed to us his name, the LORD [Ex 33:19]. The following is not an exhaustive list, for if all of God's works were to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (though we try).

First, God has revealed himself through his creation:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [Rom 1:19-20]
Second, continuing with Paul's theme in Romans, we see that God has revealed himself through conscience:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [Rom 2:14-16]
Third, God has revealed himself through his Scriptures. Through his prophets and apostles, God has taught his people his Law, his will, his covenants and his redemptive narrative:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. [2 Tim 3:16]
Fourth, finally, and most importantly, God has revealed himself through his Son. Here is a thing revealed, a glorious treasure, worthy of white-glove treatment. For now, though, bask in the beam of radiant revelation:
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [Heb 1:2]
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. [John 14:8-11]
God can be known. We can know him not by our crafty devices or surpassing wisdom, but because God graciously gave us his Word. Deuteronomy shows us that God revealed to us eternal truth that we might follow him. It is not too hard for us, neither is it far off. "But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" [Deut 30:14, Acts 17:27]. It is a hard thing to know God; it takes sanctified effort. But it is not too hard, and God has given to us many, many pieces of the proverbial jigsaw puzzle. As we stand back and gaze at the panorama, we see Christ and him crucified, we see the image of the invisible God, and it leads to a life of doxology.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. [Deut 4:29] Seek, and you will find.

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