Summary: A sermon for a NEW YEAR, based on a striking text from Dt. 29:29. As we enter a new year, we cannot know the SECRET (unknown) THINGS that the year will bring, but God has REVEALED to us his commandments, his priorities, and how to enter into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
THE SECRET THINGS AND THE REVEALED THINGS—Dt. 29:29
If you could know the future, would you do things differently?
I was playing basketball with my brother, and I noticed an older guy who seemed to play every day. I asked my brother what he did for a living, and my brother informed me that he hadn’t worked in years. It seems that he bought stock in a small company called Microsoft, and he did pretty well in his investment. If we could only know the future…
Would you want to know all that the future will bring, even this year? Would you want to know what will happen to your health, or the ones you love, this year? Would you want to know the challenges you will face, and the opportunities and joys that will come to you? Would you want to know what will happen in the world this year—in the stock market, or the world at large?
If you did know any of those things, would you do anything differently? Do you have any control over what will happen in your life this coming year?
Moses is speaking to God’s people, the Israelites, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. He reminds them of what God has done for them in the past few years, and then he challenges them to trust and obey God in the future. In the middle of his sermon, we find this:
Read Deuteronomy 29:29.
THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE SECRET; they are not revealed to us in advance.
We can’t know many events in our future: our health, actions of other people, or how our circumstances might change. On a global scale, we can’t know whether there will be prosperity or recession, war or peace, hurricanes or heat waves. Even when we make wise choices, we don’t always know how events beyond our control will affect us.
We might like to control our future! The desire to know and control the future is as old as Moses.
Read Deuteronomy 29:16-18. Why would God’s people be tempted to worship idols? It was thought that idols could be manipulated, to ensure a good life. Sacrifices would appease the gods, and make them favorably disposed to the requests of the people. Pagan rituals were a kind of sympathetic magic, bringing rain and healthy babies. Divination, using the innards of animals, would provide guidance and insight into the future. There was a social element as well: Worshipping with pagan neighbors would ensure peace.
It all sounds so strange to us. Yet primitive religion is still with us. People read horoscopes and go to fortune tellers. They try to get 10,000 posts for a sick person on Facebook, with the idea that somehow that will do some good. They believe, against all odds, that their lucky number will win the lottery.
Of course, we wouldn’t depend on false gods like that. We depend on science and technology, medicine, education, good government, and a healthy economic system to ensure our future. When they come through for us, we congratulate ourselves on placing our faith in them. When they fail us, we are frustrated, and we say, “Why couldn’t anybody fix this?”
People will do almost anything to guarantee a good future. They might work more than they should, hoard their wealth, appease other people by conformity, or try to manipulate their families in unhealthy ways. When their plans seem to work out, they congratulate themselves. When they can’t seem to control everything or everyone, they are frustrated or angry.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” And you are not God!
The Apostle James put it this way: (James 4:13-16) “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”
Does that mean that we should not make plans for the future, or that it doesn’t matter what we do? Should we just sit back and let tomorrow come to us? No!
THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE REVEALED TO US, and we should act on them. Read Deuteronomy 29:29.
Moses specifically refers to the “the words of this law.” God gave the law to guide his people.
The Ten Commandments are a good example of what the law reveals. The law doesn’t reveal to us what stress we might have in this coming year, but it does reveal that by keeping the Sabbath of rest and worship, we will have resources to handle the stress. The law does not reveal what struggles we might have in our family this year, but it does set the boundaries of marital faithfulness and honoring parents. The law does not reveal the challenges we might face in business dealings, but it does reveal that honesty must guide us. The law does not reveal how people will treat us, but it does tell us that we should “not kill,” or as Jesus explained, not try to destroy people. The law will not reveal whether we will prosper this year, but it does reveal that we will be happier and healthier if we do not covet.