God’s Hidden Will

He is wise in heart and mighty in strength…who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number” (Job 9:4-10).

- Job 9:1–10

The saints we have examined this month faced scores of difficult problems. Esther and Mordecai had to confront a man bent on the extermination of the Jewish nation. Joseph found himself helpless against false accusations and was forced to spend years in jail unjustly. Difficult problems confront every believer, and so we will spend the next week learning how to address them with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Dealing with Difficult Problems.

What is God’s will for my life?” summarizes the first problem we will address. Usually, we ask this question to discover the Lord’s wishes for our vocation or to help us choose the proper spouse. Certainly, it is wise to seek God’s will regarding such important decisions.

Yet discerning God’s will becomes complicated when we consider that Scripture speaks of it in different ways. In fact, the Bible says there are distinctions within it. Chief among these is the difference between His hidden will and His revealed will.

God has not told us everything that He knows. There are secrets that belong to Him alone. On the other hand, the Lord has revealed other things that are for us and our children forever (Deut. 29:29).

Our focus today is on God’s hidden, or secret will, which is alluded to in today’s passage and other portions of Scripture. Some theologians refer to it as the will of decree since the Lord’s hidden will encompasses His sovereign decrees by which all things come to pass (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:8–10). As we saw last month in our study of providence, these decrees are unalterable and are what Scripture alludes to when it says God cannot change His mind (Num. 23:19). We cannot know these decrees in advance, and they are, as Dr. R.C. Sproul teaches, “none of our business.” His sovereign will does indicate what the course of our life will be, but it never excuses our sin.

We must take care to not focus on the Lord’s secret will inordinately and at the expense of His will revealed in Scripture. Primarily, we remember His hidden will so that we will not forget that God has a good purpose for His people that cannot be thwarted (Rom. 8:28). But we are to live our lives according to His revealed will.

Coram Deo

Many people practice divination in hope of seeing the future (ordained in God’s hidden decrees). Reformed believers may not be inclined to this sin, but we can be too occupied with His hidden will and lapse into hyper-Calvinism. For example, we might let the truth that the Lord cannot fail to save His elect (whom He knows secretly) make us neglect evangelism since “He will save His chosen no matter what I do.” God did not tell us about His sovereignty to paralyze us.

Passages for Further Study

1 Sam. 28
Job 14:1–6
Jer. 29:11
Acts 1:6–7
Rom. 11:33

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