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’Tis Mystery All

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25.2.

Eugene Peterson catches the thought of this verse so well when he paraphrases it as: “God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things” (The Message). Kings were the scientists of the ancient world — the people with the time and money and human resources to investigate the world around them and the heavens above them. Solomon himself, who wrote this proverb, boasted elsewhere: “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven” (Ecclesiates 1.12-13). But here he confesses that much remains hidden from even the most enquiring mind, and that it is hidden by intention. God actually conceals things from man. But why?

In fields of science, I see it as a gracious concealing. Every day, man shows that, in his fallen state, he has neither the wisdom nor the integrity nor the moral fibre to handle his discoveries aright. If all the secrets of the universe were laid bare to him, what would he do with them?

But in the field of the spirit, much is hidden too … and for a different reason. The clue lies in the parables of Jesus. In them were hidden spiritual truths and when Jesus was asked why he hid truths in that way, he answered: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand'” (Matthew 13.11-13). In other words — the secrets of the kingdom are hidden so that they are only open to revelation not discovery.

This comes out very clearly in Paul. He talks of “the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (Romans 16.25); “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (Colossians 1.26); and what is this mystery? In Romans it is the full gospel — The coming to earth of God in human flesh, his dying for us on the cross, his resurrection and ascension, the giving of his Spirit by whose indwelling we become sons. In Colossians it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1.27).

But what triggers such revelation? Jesus said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Luke 10.21). Revelation comes to the childlike — the ones who are open towards God, trusting, disingenuous, accepting. And it comes to those who seek. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11.9-10).

The wonderful thing about the mysteries that God has concealed is that although all the cleverness of man cannot discover them or grasp them, once God reveals them to us, they are so easy to understand! And that’s because the Spirit gives us understanding. Paul says: “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2.7-10).

Father, I thank you for all that you have revealed to me over the years of your goodness and grace, of your love and mercy, of the gospel of the kingdom. Open up to me each day fresh insights and new understanding so that I might know you more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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