Day 37

The Secret Things

Wisdom Psalm 18:37-42
New Testament Matthew 24:32-25:13
Old Testament Job 38:1-40:2


When I first encountered Jesus, I thought I had to know the answer to every question about faith. However, the more I have studied the Bible, the more I have realised that we do not need to know the answer to everything. There is such a thing as healthy agnosticism, or what might be described as biblical agnosticism.

There are some questions to which we do know the answer. But there are other questions to which the best answer we can give is, ‘I don’t know.’ ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us’ (Deuteronomy 29:29a).

We need to be clear about what the Bible is clear about. Don’t be agnostic about what you can know. Equally, don’t be dogmatic about the things that the Bible is agnostic about.

In today’s passages, we see three examples of big questions that are frequently asked. In answer to each of these questions there are some things we know (‘the things revealed’) and some things we don’t know (‘the secret things’).


Psalm 18:37-42

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
   I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
   they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
   you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
   and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them —
   to the Lord, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
   I trampled them like mud in the streets.


What does the future hold for me?

At one point in my life I developed a tendency to catastrophise – especially about health issues. If I experienced the slightest pain or symptom I would assume the worst. I was really helped by someone who pointed this out to me and said that to catastrophise means to ‘overestimate the danger and underestimate your ability to cope’.

Catastrophising leads to fear and is the opposite of faith. Fear tells you that you will not be able to cope. Faith tells you that your Father in heaven knows when you will need strength to cope and he will supply all you need just in time. God will arm you with the strength that you need for whatever lies ahead.

God had given David victory over all his enemies. As David looks back at these battles he says, ‘You armed me with strength for the battle’ (v.39). These were not the last enemies that David would have to fight. Plenty of battles lay ahead.

  1. What you don’t know

Like David, what you don’t know is which battles lie ahead. However, for most of us, it would probably be very unhelpful to know exactly what the battles will be.

  1. What you do know

As the saying goes, ‘We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.’ What David knew was that since God had ‘armed [him] with strength’ (v.39) in the past, he would do so in the future. You can know that God will supply you with the strength you need when you need it.


Lord, thank you that I can be confident that your Holy Spirit will arm me with strength just in time for whatever challenges lie ahead.

New Testament

Matthew 24:32-25:13

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.


When will Jesus return?

Jesus speaks about his return – the second coming. He says that there are certain things about this that you are supposed to know and certain things that you do not know. (‘You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know...’, 24:42–43, MSG.)

  1. What you don’t know

Jesus makes it absolutely clear that no one knows when he will return. He says, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (v.36). There were certain questions to which even Jesus (while he was on earth) had to say, ‘I don’t know.’

So much time and energy has been wasted speculating about the exact time that Jesus will return. You are not meant to know when Jesus will come back because you are supposed to ‘keep watch’ (v.42) and be ready for him to return at any moment.

  1. What you do know

Jesus tells us to learn from the fig tree. When the leaves come out ‘you know that summer is near’ (24:32). Jesus says if you look at the signs then ‘you know’ that Jesus’ coming ‘is near’. Therefore, you are to ‘keep watch’ (v.42; 25:13) and ‘be ready’ (24:44).

You know too that although his coming is near, it may be a long time before he comes (25:5). And you also know that he will come at an hour ‘when you do not expect him’ (24:44). Whenever he comes it is going to be a surprise and the key is to be ready for him to come at any moment.

To enable you to see what it means to be ready for his return, Jesus paints a picture of the difference between a servant being wise or wicked (vv.45–51). The wise servant remains ready for their master’s return by remaining faithful to their master’s instructions and honourable in the way they treat others. The wicked servant is faithless to their master’s instructions and destructive in how they treat others. The conclusion is markedly different (compare v.47 with v.51). In other words, you are ready for Jesus’ return if you live a life where you love God and love others.

However, underneath this love for God and love for others is the key component of what it means to be ready for Jesus’ return. In the parable of the ten virgins, the bridegroom says to those virgins who have been asleep and are not ready, ‘I don’t know you’ (25:12). We see here that the key lies in a different type of ‘knowing’. It is not intellectual knowledge but personal knowledge.

Ultimately, it is not about what you know, but about whom you know. It is about having a personal relationship with the bridegroom. In the end, this is what matters more than anything else – knowing Jesus (John 17:3).


Lord, thank you that all that matters in the end is that I know you. Help me each day to get to know you better.

Old Testament

Job 38:1-40:2

The Lord Speaks

38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
   with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
   Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
   Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
   or who laid its cornerstone —
7 while the morning stars sang together
   and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
   when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
   and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
   and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
   here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
   or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
   and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
   its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
   and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
   or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
   Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
   Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
   And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
   Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
   You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
   or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
   for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
   or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
   and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
   an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
   and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
   Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
   Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
   when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
   Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
   or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
   Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
   and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
   Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
   or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
   Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
   and the clods of earth stick together?

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
   and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
   or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
   when its young cry out to God
   and wander about for lack of food?

39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
   Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
   Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
   their labour pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
   they leave and do not return.

5 “Who let the wild donkey go free?
   Who untied its ropes?
6 I gave it the wasteland as its home,
   the salt flats as its habitat.
7 It laughs at the commotion in the town;
   it does not hear a driver’s shout.
8 It ranges the hills for its pasture
   and searches for any green thing.

9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
   Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
   Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
   Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
   and bring it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
   though they cannot compare
   with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
   and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
   that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
   she cares not that her labour was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
   or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
   she laughs at horse and rider.

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
   or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
   striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
   and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
   it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
   along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
   it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
   It catches the scent of battle from afar,
   the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
   and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
   and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
   a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
   its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
   and where the slain are, there it is.”

40 The Lord said to Job:

2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
   Let him who accuses God answer him!”


Why does God allow suffering?¹

As we reach the climax of the book of Job, after many chapters of Job and his friends asking questions of God, the tables are turned and God starts asking questions. This passage might be described as ‘Job’s final examination’. In his exam paper there are numerous questions to which he does not know the answer.

We see that in answer to the question that is so often asked, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ there are some things we know, and some things we don’t know. The Lord’s complaint about Job’s friends was that they had spoken ‘words without knowledge’ (38:2). Instead of saying, ‘I don’t know,’ they had tried to explain Job’s suffering, but without really knowing the answers.

  1. What you don’t know

God asks him forty-nine questions (in poetic language) about the natural universe to which Job, if given the chance, would surely respond, ‘I don’t know.’ Many of the questions start, ‘Do you know…?’ (v.33; 39:1–2). It is almost as if God is lovingly teasing Job. He says to him, ‘Surely you know!’ (38:5) and, ‘Tell me, if you know it all…’ (v.18b, AMP).

The point of God’s questioning is to demonstrate the fact that there are certain things that we do not know as human beings – the ‘secret things’ belong to the Lord our God. This is especially true in relation to the issue of suffering. Theologians and philosophers have wrestled for centuries with the problem of suffering and no one has ever come up with a simple and complete solution.

When you are suffering you will not always be able to work out why. God never told Job why he was suffering (even though we know part of the answer from the start of the book), but he did tell him that there was a good reason. He pointed out to Job that he really knew very little about the universe and asked him to trust God.

The book of Job is not so much about why God allows suffering (theodicy) as it is about the appearance of God in the midst of suffering (theophany), and how we should respond to suffering.

  1. What you do know

In tomorrow’s passage we will see that Job recognised that there are some things ‘too wonderful for me to know’ (42:3). In other words, there are some things that you are never going to know in this life. On the other hand, there are some things that you can know, ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted’ (v.2).

You can know that God is ultimately in control and therefore you can live at peace and confidently trust that, in everything, God will work for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).


Lord, I know that you can do all things and no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Help me to have humility about the secret things that I cannot know and to be confident about the things that I can know.

Pippa adds

In Matthew 24:44 it says:

‘So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’

Just occasionally, when I’ve not been expecting anyone and there are no meetings in the house, I have got distracted and not cleared away breakfast and the general mess. Then the doorbell has rung and some unexpected visitors have arrived, and I’ve found myself throwing things in the dishwasher, into the cupbards, back in the fridge. I know the panic of being caught unprepared. How much more terrifying when Jesus returns. It is not the tidy house that he is looking for, but the prepared life. And that needs constant work.



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¹For a more detailed response to the subject of suffering, read Chapter 1 of Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel, available on

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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