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 (ESV)Recently I performed a service for a man who was killed in his early 50s in an accident. Ironically, he was a recent cancer survivor. I shared at the service that while it is tempting for Christians (especially if we are uncomfortable investing in someone) to throw some well-intentioned verses toward someone and expect (hope?) it makes it all OK, the reality is that short of a direct revelation from God this side of Heaven we won't understand things like that which happen all too often in this painful, broken world.
As I was in my reading through the Bible this morning I came across Deuteronomy 29:29. It comes after the people have been reminded of the blessings and curses of obedience and disobedience, and have renewed their covenant with God. I thought it captured so much of our life so well. The secret things belong to God. Those things we don't and won't understand. His ways are not our ways. He knows things we don't know. But, that we might stay in faith and not stumble, the things revealed (the things we DO know) belong to us are intended to keep us in faith and obedience.
I am reminded of Matthew 11:4–6. John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (ESV). The ASV version says, "And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me."
Keeping in mind that John declared who Jesus was, was there when the Father spoke about His Son, etc., it is an amazing (and confusing) moment, that John would then question if He was the One. Equally perplexing to me when I would read it was the last part of Jesus' response to him. But then one day a pastor I was listening to taught on how Jesus was the one supposed to set captives free, and here John was in jail and rightfully confused. He said Jesus was telling John, "Don't be caused to stumble because of what about Me you aren't understanding—what about Me doesn't match your expectations." That really spoke to me and I believe there has to be some truth in that interpretation.
I shared at the service that while I didn't understand a cancer survivor then dying in an accident a short time later, there were some things I did understand, and that it is those we must hold to and stand on. When I look to the cross I understand that God loves me. Because He loves me I understand that I can trust Him. When I look to the cross I understand that He wants to be with me, and I understand that He understands suffering and loss. And when I look to the empty tomb I understand that He is bigger than death.
"The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . ." Yes, there is much I don't understand. And God has revealed so much of Himself that I don't think it is wrong to seek to understand. Even Jesus, talking to Nicodemus, expressed that we must be born again as we can't understand the things of Heaven if we aren't. ("If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:12)
". . . , but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." But not understanding must not cause me to stumble in my faith. My faith is anchored in what I do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death. Whenever I doubt these the cross and the empty tomb stand there reminding me I don't need to doubt them.
I believe that we, as Christians, must be OK with saying we don't understand something. It is so much better than trying to hide behind verses. And, when I am honest, while I'd love to understand everything, the reality is that if I could understand everything about God He'd be too small for me to trust Him with my life. He is God. He is holy. He breathes out stars and by His power not one is missing. He knows every hair on my head, and He has assured me I am more precious to Him than Creation. This I do understand and on this I must stand.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8–9All of this is not to say that we miss an attack of the enemy, or accept everything as God's will. Things do happen as a result of spiritual warfare, and of poor choices. We must be ready to recognize those things and take action when that is the case. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our choices do matter—or else God would have no place to be angry with Israel for their choices, or to warn us about the consequences of certain choices, if everything happened by His doing. I am not saying we shouldn't examine things, or that we shouldn't be open to the Holy Spirit teaching us or showing us things, but I am saying that, when all that is said and done, and we find we still don't understand something, we need to be OK with the mystery of God and to not stumble because of it. We need to stand on (and trust in) what we do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death.