JEREMIAH, Part 5

Some Things Worth Boasting About

Jeremiah 9:23, 24

God is the Source of all good in the lives of His people. This undeniable, though rarely considered truth, is seen throughout the Bible but is succinctly stated by the half-brother of our Lord:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Since all good and perfect gifts come from God our Father, it follows that we ought to be thanking and glorifying Him all the time. Yet this is seldom the case. We spend far more time asking than thanking. Perhaps God’s generosity is the reason for our thoughtlessness. We are so blessed, we get lost in those blessings and forget where they came from, or worse, we take them for granted and value them more that God.

It may be human nature, but God doesn’t like that attitude, nor does He tolerate it for long. The people of Judah were a thankless lot, and had been for a long time. It was during Jeremiah’s day that God finally decided to do something about His children’s attitude:

See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people? (Jeremiah 9:7)

God used human language and a human illustration to drive home His frustration with Judah and to explain what He intended to do. Metal is assayed in order to separate what is pure from the dross that has been mixed with the metal. At the end of the assaying process, the dross is disposed of and the pure metal is kept.

God loved His people, but they still needed to be judged. Neither God nor His prophet rejoiced over this coming judgment. But it had to come; the people were lost and showed no signs of repentance:

They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me… (9:3b)

Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. (9:4, 5)

Knowledge of the coming devastation began to take its toll on Jeremiah, and the behavior of his people did as well. The prophet loved his people and he knew God’s punishment, though just and fair, would be terrible. But at the same time, he knew that as much as he loved Judah, God loved them even more. If they would only repent, Jeremiah knew, judgment would be staved off. This fact—this part of God’s character—made Judah’s arrogant stubbornness even harder to take.

The die had been cast, however, and Jerusalem’s days were numbered no matter what. Eventually the city would be reduced to pile of rubble. Forsaking God cannot be overlooked. Serving other “gods” carries consequences. Boasting of one’s self and one’s achievements can only end in grief. This Jeremiah knew.

Jeremiah knew something else: knowing God was what mattered most. Circumstances of life notwithstanding, knowledge of God was the most precious blessing of all and it is the one thing worth boasting about.

1. What some boast about, vs. 23

Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches…

This verse packs a real wallop! It describes the three main things the world boasts about. Long before psychoanalysis and modern counseling techniques, the Bible had all the answers about man’s dysfunctions. Judah’s biggest problem was emphasizing the wrong things; the boasted about the wrong things:

Wisdom

Wisdom is a good thing, but God was not at all happy with Judah’s emphasis of possessing the wrong kind of wisdom. Apparently many in Judah were highly educated and they were proud of that. Typical of one who failed to understand that all good things, even wisdom, comes from the Lord, the wise thought that they were “all that” and more! The Lord hates that kind of attitude, and He used another prophet to put that message across to his people. Isaiah was around generations before Jeremiah, and here is what he preached:

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. (Isaiah 5:21)

Too bad God’s people didn’t get the message when Isaiah preached it!

Strength

The “mighty” are tempted to boast about and trust in their strength. That strength can be physical, social, intellectual, and even spiritual! Whatever it is you think separates you from the crowd can become something you start bragging about.

Riches

Is there anything wrong with riches? Of course not! The people of God are always blessed by the generosity of the who possess riches. Wealth can be a means of serving God and ministering to His people. But to brag about your wealth or to prefer your “things” to the God is something that rankles Him. To some, there is a kind of divinity attached to worldly wealth and they glory in it.

The Lord’s word to people like that is stern: don’t worship your possessions! Don’t trust in your wealth.

All this foolish boasting is worthless according to God. The apostle Paul nailed this attitude with his clever teaching in 1 Corinthians 1:25—

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Of course, there is nothing foolish or weak about God, Paul is using exaggeration to prove his point. Man thinks he is oh-so-smart, but even the dumbest thing about God is beyond man’s comprehension. In fact, Paul goes on to say that God, as if to rub the smart man’s nose in it, uses the so-called foolish things of world to confound these wizards of smart:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27—29)

2. What we should boast about, vs. 24

…let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…

It was an English chaplain, Donald Hankey, who coined the term “the Great Unknowable,” as in “God cannot be known.” Certainly the Bible teaches this after a fashion. God seemed to tell Job that he and his friends “got it all wrong” when they claimed to know about God. However, the Bible makes it clear that it is possible, in a limited sense, to know God and to understand Him, and this knowledge is the only thing worth boasting about!

Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

This raises the question: How do you get to know God? The answer is simplicity itself; so simple, in fact, scientists and egg heads have missed it: through the revelation of God’s Word, and more fully by His Son.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jeremiah gives three reasons why we who know God should boast about Him:

His lovingkindness

“Lovingkindness” is an old-fashioned word that simply means God is kind toward us; that He never fails to love us.

How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

God’s love for those He created was ultimately manifested in the sacrifice of His one and only Son to save them.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

His justice

God is a just judge; He is never wrong and His judgments are the very definition of “fair.” This is something the Psalmist understood well.

Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. (Psalm 97:2)

Just glance over all the judgments of Scripture: Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, God’s judgment upon godless nations, and God’s judgment of Israel. It’s a curious fact that we boast both of God’s judgment of sin, but also of the sinner, when he kneels at the Cross of Christ, then stands up, a forgiven and changed man. That is the justice of God!

His righteousness

It has been observed that righteousness, crowned with lovingkindness, is the character of God. Jesus referred to God as His “righteous Father.”  What does this mean? Among other things, God is never, ever wrong. Everything He does is right. All of His thoughts, opinions, and judgments are right. This is something is worth boasting about!

But it gets even better! Consider what Paul wrote:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

Jesus Christ is the righteous Judge, and one day, He will award a crown of righteousness to all those who love, serve, and long to see Him.

Jeremiah said, “these are things in which I delight.” Do you?  Or are you like those who lived in Judah, who delighted in all the wrong things?

 

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