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"Secrets and Scripture" (Deuteronomy 29:29-30:6))

We all make transitions through stages in life. The young may find this exciting but all find it challenging. Some of you know how difficult it is to let go of one set of beliefs and adopt a different one. At least one here recently walked out of jail after a year into re-entry. One family in our fellowship is working through the transition bringing a baby home after almost a year in hospital.

At some point, most of us have had to adjust to life beyond a loved one. The loss threatens to undo us. The unfamiliar becomes painfully familiar. And the familiar disappears. We find an understanding friend in Henry Lyte the hymn writer when he prays,

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day; earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away. Change and decay in all around I see. O Thou, who changest not, abide with me.

Even welcome transitions bring fear of the unknown. Transitions may be exciting. But they are always difficult.

Today we mark a significant transition in the life of this church. Lynn and I will be relocating starting this week to Phoenix to care for my parents. I will begin an indefinite and unpaid leave of absence from my ministry here among you. Pastor Joe will step into the role of lead teaching elder. This will require adjustments to his involvement with Agros. Larry and Brandon will pick up additional responsibilities as fellow elders. The congregation will learn new ways of communicating with each other and serving together.

In a world where the certainty of change doesn’t change, it is good to step back and reinforce what is certain. In transition, it’s good to remember what transcends the changes. When things are shaky, look to what is solid.

Deuteronomy is written to people in transition. Moses, the 120 yr. old human author, is preparing to die. He is transferring leadership from himself to Joshua. God’s people must enter and conquer the Promised Land, but he will not be with them. God’s people are also in transition. They are the new generation, the children of those who left slavery in Egypt only to die as slaves of their own passions in the wilderness.

This new generation must stand on what is certain. The example of their parents is unreliable. They must have a stronger foundation. Deuteronomy resets the foundation for them. It grounds them in God and his eternal truth. In Deuteronomy, God renews the covenant that He made forty years before when He established Israel as His nation. He restates the law to prepare for life in the Promised Land.

That’s why a message from Deuteronomy is appropriate for today. My text begins with a verse that has been foundational to me in my ministry for many years. This verse has shaped my thinking about God and how we honor Him. I invite you to turn with me to Deuteronomy 29:29. The verse stands by itself at the end of its chapter but connects well to the opening of Chapter 30. I will read through 30, v. 6.

“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. “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 29:29–30:6)

As we meditate on these verses, especially v. 29, consider four statements about God and what He does. For each statement, ask yourself two questions. Do I believe this? And, if I do, how should I live?

God Keeps Secrets

Here’s the first statement: God keeps secrets. That’s the opening of v. 29. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Life is mysterious. Much of the past we can’t unexplain. Much of the present we can’t control. Much of the future we can’t know. We wish so much was not secret. I’d like to know how long this leave of absence will last. When might I return to Riverbend? Will I return?

We could construct a long list of things we’d like to know. We’d like to know the why of the past, the how of the present, and the who, what, and where of the future. But, for us, there are so many secrets.

But not for God. He is not simply aware of some secret things. He owns all of them. All the secret things belong to the LORD our God.

“God fully knows Himself and all things.”

That’s how one theologian summarizes the Bible’s teaching about God’s knowledge. The prophet, Isaiah, testifies about the Lord,

The Lord is the everlasting God, … his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)

And the Lord describes himself through Isaiah, saying,

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

One psalm poet exclaims,

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Psalm 147:5)

David, in another psalm, says to the Lord,

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

And Paul breaks out in exultant praise, declaring,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33).

Do you believe that God keeps secrets from you? If you answer “Yes” then you face two options. You may resent God. “What gives God the right to keep secrets from me? I deserve to know. I’ve got to be in control.”

The other option is to trust Him. “The pressure’s off. I don’t have to know everything. God doesn’t expect me to know everything. He knows I don’t know everything. I can make decisions without having all the information I’d like to have. I can trust Him and obey Him and leave the consequences to Him.”

Riverbend, the Lord knows what He is doing. He is in control. He will accomplish all His holy will. He will keep his promises in ways that will defy our expectations. He says to us,

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose….’ "(Isaiah 46:8–10)

We have more proof of God’s faithfulness than Moses or Isaiah had. We know that God kept his promise and sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Among the secret things that belong to God is the full knowledge of human sin. He knows the darkness of our hearts more comprehensively than we do. He knows the rebellion of his people against Him. Yet he kept his promise. He “took the blame, bore the wrath” so that “we stand forgiven at the cross.”

There is only One person who can answer the regret of your past, the confusion of your present, and the uncertainty of your future. It is Jesus Christ. He is the LORD of whom Moses writes in Deuteronomy. Moses calls him “our God.” Is He your God? If He is, trust Him. If not, turn to Him now.

God Gives His Word

God keeps secrets. But v. 29 tells us that God does not keep everything secret. A second statement about God from this passage: God gives us His word.

“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."

Content of God’s Revelation

Notice the content of God’s revelation. If you ask, what are the things God has revealed to us? the verse goes on to say that our focus should be on the “words of this law.” God’s book. His written instruction. For us, this refers to the whole Bible. We show ingratitude to God when we spend so much time trying to figure out secret things that we cannot know while we ignore the book that God has revealed to us.

Concern for God’s Revelation

That leads to a second observation in v. 29: Concern for God’s revelation. This translation says, God’s word belongs to us. He has entrusted us to it. It is a treasure second only to God himself in value. David shows how he treasures God’s word.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes … the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7–10)

When something precious belongs to us, we protect it, admire it, talk about it, and delight in it. I often see the classic car club members at community events in town. You can tell that they treasure those vehicles. They know every detail about them. They love to show off what they own.

Do you and I treat the Bible this way? Do we treasure it, delight in it, and talk about it? We have in the Bible something more precious than a classic car or rare antique. We have God’s living and active word. When we read it or hear it, God is speaking to us.

Conformity to God’s Revelation

But his purpose for giving His word is not information but transformation. He expects conformity to His revelation. Obedience.

The NT parallel to Deuteronomy 29:29 is Matthew 28:19-20. Here Jesus commands his people,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

The goal of teaching is obedience. To observe does not mean to look but to obey. The goal is not information but transformation. The point was not simply to look at the Bible, but “that we may do all the words of this law.”

Do you believe that God has revealed His word in the Bible? If you answer “Yes,” then your life will change. How can you know the Bible better? How can you treasure it more deeply? How can you meditate on it more thoughtfully? How can you obey it more courageously?

Ladies, the Wednesday study in the gospel of Luke has room for you in it. I urge you to make the sacrifice to attend, to do the homework, and to participate with the women who are immersing themselves in God’s word.

Men, Larry Scott has a study in the gospel of John that starts this Thursday. They are starting at Chapter 13. Jump it. Saturate your mind with God’s word. It’s never convenient to study and meditate on God’s word. It takes effort and discipline. But this is what God has entrusted to you.

Invest in friendships with people who know God’s word and will help you grow in it. Ask hard questions that stir obedience. Let’s not settle for Bible knowledge when God gave us His word for us to do it.

God Gives Us Children

Teaching for obedience introduces a third statement about God from Deuteronomy 29:29. God gives us children. There is implicit in this statement the understanding that those who know God’s word must pass it on to others. In the context of ancient Israel, Moses had in mind primarily natural children. And parents today have a sacred responsibility to teach their children the Bible.

However, in the New Covenant, through the gospel, God gives us spiritual children. Paul calls both Titus and Timothy, “my true child in the faith.” If you are a Christian, you are here not simply to live your Christian life but to reproduce your Christian life in others. Every disciple of Jesus Christ is a disciple maker.

Can you name at least one spiritual child whom you are helping to know and obey God’s word? I thank God today for Chris Gray, a man with whom I shared Christ back in 2015, who trusted Christ as Savior in 2018, and who continues to grow as a Christian today. I thank God that He has allowed me to invest in Chris’s life to help him love and live God’s word. He would be the first to grieve over his failures and admit that following Christ is not easy. But Chris continues to persevere.

Spiritual parenting is messy work. It’s like natural or adoptive parenting. It takes dedication and sacrifice. It means giving time we don’t have. It means facing problems we would rather avoid. It means enduring disappointments that break our hearts.

Spiritual parenting begins with evangelism. We declare the gospel not knowing how people will respond. No one can turn from sin and treasure Jesus apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But we do not know whom the Holy Spirit is bringing to life. That is one of the secret things that only God knows. He calls us to share the gospel.

Charles Spurgeon is credited with insisting that if the Lord had put marks on the back of his elect, he would go through London lifting shirts. But since God has not done that, he will preach the gospel.

And as we lovingly and convincingly speak and show the gospel, by God’s grace, people will respond. But the goal is not merely to get decisions but to make disciples. The work of spiritual parenting will not end until Jesus returns.

Do you believe God will give you spiritual children? Then you will deal with people differently. If you do not know where to begin, pray. Ask God to give you spiritual children. Ask Him to make you a spiritual midwife to lead someone to faith in Christ. Ask Him to prepare you to be a spiritual parent.

Riverbend, let’s be a church of disciple-makers. There is no other kind of healthy church. Let’s pray that God will grow our church through the loving work of spiritual parenting.

God Changes Hearts

God keeps secrets. God gives His word. God gives us children to disciple. If you believe these things, you could respond to this message with intense determination. “I’m going to trust God more. I’m going to treasure His word more. I’m going to teach others more.” I just need to do more right things more often. That may be a good step but it’s not the first step.

The problem with such a response is that it drives us in one of two directions. If we think we are succeeding in our determination, the result is arrogance. If we fail, the result is anguish. If we’re doing well, we will gloat. If we are not doing well, we will give up.

Deuteronomy 29:29 sets out God’s holy expectation: Do all the words of this law. And no one has succeeded. Moses’s generation did not. The new generation to whom he addressed Deuteronomy did not. The rest of the Old Testament is a record of failure. Moses anticipates it in the opening of chapter 30.

God brought blessings and curses on His people and they continued to rebel against Him. So he drove them into exile as 30:1 predicts. The people had a heart problem. Earlier in Deuteronomy, Moses recalled being on Mt. Sinai when God made the first covenant with his people. The people committed to obeying God. And God commended them for that commitment. Then he added,

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)

Their problem was a heart problem. As it is with us. We have a heart problem.

So, in Ch. 30:3-6, Moses anticipates that if they are to be restored (if we are to be restored), the Lord will have to do that. And that’s what he promises. And that’s the fourth statement about God from this morning’s text. God changes hearts.

In v. 6, 1500 years before Jesus, the Lord through Moses makes New Covenant promises. God will circumcise your heart. He will create in you a heart that will love Him completely.

God’s people remained in exile even to the time of Jesus. Jesus encountered some who thought they were doing well keeping God’s law. They were the Pharisees and other religious leaders. He confronted their pride.

He also encountered many who were wearied by their failure at law-keeping. They felt the pain of exile from God. The burden was too great for them to bear. They recognized that they did not love the Lord with all their heart and soul. And they could not save themselves.

Jesus perfectly fulfilled Deuteronomy 29:29. As the God-Man he loved God with all his heart and soul. He obeyed every word of God’s law in the fullness of its meaning. He was the one Israelite who did not deserve exile.

And that’s exactly what he got. Instead of receiving the blessings he deserved, Jesus was condemned. As He hung on the cross, the Father banished Christ from his presence while He absorbed the punishment for sin. By His holy blood, Jesus purchased all the blessings of the New Covenant for any who would admit and reject sin and rely completely on Him for salvation. He secured a new heart for His people. He rose again to demonstrate that He alone has power to save.

May Riverbend always be a church that delights in this gospel. May we have the courage to say to the self-righteous, “Turn from your attempts at self-salvation and trust Christ.” May we have the compassion to say to the sin-weary, “Repent of your rebellion and follow Jesus.”

May we be ready to say to those in our world, “You need a new heart and God changes hearts.” Then out of that new heart flows love for God, trust in Him, delight in his word, and the determination to lead others to follow Christ.

William Cowper left us a hymn called “Evangelical Obedience.” We might call it “Gospel Obedience.” In it, Cowper captures the radical transition that happens to a person when he or she embraces the gospel. May Riverbend always be eager to celebrate this gospel transition.

How long beneath the law I lay, In bondage and distress! I toiled the precept to obey, But toiled without success.

Then, to abstain from outward sin Was more than I could do; Now, if I feel its power within, I feel I hate it too.

Then, all my servile works were done A righteousness to raise; Now, freely chosen in the Son, I freely choose his ways.

What shall I do, was then the word, That I may worthier grow? What shall I render to the Lord? Is my inquiry now.

To see the law by Christ fulfilled, And hear his pardoning voice, Changes a slave into a child, And duty into choice.



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