On a “Need to Know” Basis

Sometimes we hear that we will understand it all once we get to heaven.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29, NKJV) 

My wife is an inquisitive person. I’ve often told her that she missed her calling as an investigative reporter. Like a surgeon who cuts away at a tumor until she finds tissue free of cancer, my wife will question until she is satisfied that there is no more to be discovered. 

For example, I will tell her that I heard people we know are moving. She’ll explore the where, the when and the why, sometimes from a variety of directions. Only in assuring herself that my words, “I don’t know,” are legitimate will she be satisfied. I love her for her interest in people and zest for life. 

We can do the same in our walk with God. When events happen in our own lives, we want to understand. We want to make sense of things. From personal matters like the loss of a job or the death of a child to philosophical complaints like the existence of evil or the unfairness of life, we want to ask God, “Why?” If we knew the why we could rest. 

But could we? Why do we ask why? It could be to satisfy curiosity or a compulsion to connect the dots. But it could also be something more problematic, where we the creature want to call God to account, to bring Him under our judgment. Our children do that. They ask why often with the intent of finding a foothold to make their case. 

Job wanted to question God. He wanted to summon God to explain Himself. When God did present Himself, it was not to answer Job’s questions. It was to remind Job who was who. Job’s response in the face of the glory of God was to cover his mouth. He gained a renewed appreciation of God as Creator, himself as creature, and himself in relation with God (Job 42:1-6). 

Sometimes we hear that we will understand it all once we get to heaven. But God never promises that. When Paul says that we now know in part but then we will know fully (1 Cor. 13:12), he is not promising us omniscience. Rather, he is establishing us on the foundation where God wants us to find firm footing in the variables and confusing complexities of life. That ground is God’s revealed Word. 

Through His servant Moses, God sorts out two helpful categories for us to find that footing. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). 

Moses identifies “secret” and “revealed” things of God. The secret is secret to us, not to God. The revealed God has caused to be known and written down so that the generations to come might have perspective, be given precepts, and find promise bound up in redemption. In the Bible God has given us all we need to know for life and godliness, all He wants us to know in order to honor Him. 

There are times when we would so like to know the reason for something, especially when it seems to contradict what we know of God and what we consider good. Yet God doesn’t tell us the reason, but He does tell us He has a reason. All that happens carries His purpose and serves that purpose. And there he leaves us, in a position of trust, of dependence, and of expectation that our God does all things well. 

Peter speaks to the practicalities of living in the knowledge of the secret and the revealed things of God. In the face of trials and tragedy, we are to entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and to enlist our wills to live according to His precepts. 

Will we get all our questions answered one day? I suspect we will. Not by any sort of filling in the blank but by filling our eyes in the wonder and enjoyment of the glory of our triune God. 

Digging Deeper

  1. What are examples of the secret things of God? Of the revealed things? How can you parse a situation in your life right now according to these categories?
  2. In respect to the revealed things, what does it mean to “do” them, or as another translation puts it, to “walk" in them?                                 

Almighty God, whose knowledge has ordained all my days before one of them yet came to be, search me and know my heart. Try me and know what unsettles my soul. See if there is any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.

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