There is a curious verse at the end of Deuteronomy 29, and some scholars have said it should not even be there. Other scholars, who are not so quick to chop, have said that it serves a relevant purpose in that very place. It reads like something out of Proverbs rather than a piece of history, but that same phenomenon happens elsewhere also in Deuteronomy.
The verse is Deuteronomy 29:29: “The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.” I am using the Holman Christian Study Bible here because of its rendering “hidden.” It is a participle in the Hebrew as is “revealed,” and that contrast clashes better than many of the other versions.
So, where is it found? Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 focus on the covenant relations God established with Israel. You do such-and-such, and I will bless you. You do such-and-such and I will punish you. More specifically, the text at that point has just been discussing what will happen in the future if Israel fails.
Some have conjectured that the first statement, “The hidden things belong to the LORD our God,” is aimed at the future or what will happen in the future. God knew, but Israel did not. That is probably so, but there is no further explanation, and the statement does stand as if it has broader application.
There are areas of knowledge to which only God is privy. You can read other scriptures such as Isaiah 55:8-9 or Romans 11:33-36 or Job 38-41 to discover the same truth. That in itself notes one of the vast differences between God and a human being.
There are people who claim to have uncovered some of these hidden things. In the past certain theologians tried to calculate how many angels could dance on the head of a pin--obviously a very valuable bit of knowledge! In the present day it may be other topics yet of similar value such as the secret of living 120 years, the secret of success in any area you choose, the secret prophecy of any event of our time (after the fact!), and the ever-popular one of the time of Jesus’ return to earth.
Folks love these ‘revelations,’ and pay honest money to buy the books and videos which claim to uncover. It reminds me of Jeremiah 5:31 where the prophet said: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this. But what will you do at the end of it?” Where is the value?
The remainder of our verse is just as significant. (It is almost amusing, if it were not so serious, to see various teachers straining to uncover what God has reserved for Himself when He has given us so much that we can easily know.) “The revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.”
So there are actually two areas of knowledge. Some is hidden, and that belongs to God. Some has been revealed or uncovered, and that is for people. It’s been given to one generation and their offspring, and its purpose is that they should live by it.
The Israelites had a choice. They could live by what God had revealed and experience the many blessings He had promised. Or they could reject what God had revealed and experience the many punishments He had promised. It seems quite straightforward.
There is something that appeals to us when we hear that someone has uncovered some of the hidden things of God. Of course that person does not know what he claims to know, but we can discuss it and argue about it and arrive at no conclusion. (A professor I had once told the class that we could invent a theory of behavior, regardless of whether it works, and become rich while people are trying to make it work!) And all the while we can ignore what God has revealed that calls us to a certain kind of living. As you can see, it is very useful. ‘But what will you do at the end of it?’
This was written a long time ago to the nation of Israel. But can you that easily dismiss it? I’m sure it applies to me, and, likely, also to you.