God’s Will, Hidden and Revealed
“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
Scripture’s teaching on the will of God must determine our understanding of this important topic. This means that we must consider the various ways that the Word of God speaks of the will of the Lord, and one particularly important aspect of this instruction is the distinction between the hidden will of God and the revealed will of God. We find this distinction made in today’s passage: “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” (Deut. 29:29). Our Creator has revealed some things to us about His plans, attributes, and character, but He has not told us everything. God has hidden some things from us, and He will hide some things from us for all eternity, if for no other reason than we are finite and cannot ever fully comprehend an infinite being. We can know the Lord truly—He is not wholly other but has made us in His image (Gen. 1:26-28). Nevertheless, we will never know Him fully. The distinction between Creator and creature will always remain.
The Lord’s hidden will encompasses all that He has not revealed to us. God’s hidden will is also called the will of decree (or decretive will) because it consists in His eternal decree that ordains all things. Nothing can thwart this will; it always come to pass (Job 42:2). Our Creator’s hidden will is unknowable to us except in retrospect. We can look back at history and know the particulars of what the Lord has ordained because we know what has happened. If what God ordains always comes to pass, whatever has happened must have been ordained by Him. He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).
God’s revealed will is also known as His will of precept (or preceptive will) because it contains His commandments or precepts. This will tells us what is pleasing to the Lord in and of itself, and it reflects His eternal holy character (Pss. 119:105; 143:10). If we want to please God, this revealed will must be our guide.
Understanding this distinction can give us great peace as we seek God’s will in particular circumstances. We need not worry excessively that we are not where the Lord wants us or that we will fail to be where the Lord wants us, for our future will work out according to the secret will of the Lord, and we know God has good plans for His people (Jer. 29:11). All we need to concern ourselves with is our Creator’s revealed will. As long as we seek to obey Him, we can do what is pleasing to Him wherever we are.
Though we should be appropriately concerned about making the right decisions and the potential consequences of all of our choices, it is pointless for us to worry excessively about where we will be in the future. We cannot know God’s hidden will that has decreed the future, so fretting about it is a waste of time. We simply need to consider what we know is pleasing to the Lord. If we please Him today, we have done all that He requires of us.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 3:19–24