Sunday morning came to our church in Southwest Louisiana, and the crowd was exuberant. Purple and gold clothing was everywhere. People were cheerful and talking in the hallways. A festive air just covered the whole place. LSU had won their football game in Baton Rouge the night before! And some of them had actually been there — and everyone was happy. A few weeks later, it’s Sunday morning again. But this time, a darkness just draped over the church like a shroud. People dragged in, sat slumped in their seats, and listened to the sermon with glazed eyes. For late that Saturday night, LSU had lost to “Nick Satan” and Alabama. Again.
It’s football season, and the lives of many people hang very much upon the success of their football teams. They wear their team’s colors on game day; they get excited when they win, and bask in the glories for a day or two — and get really depressed when they lose. In a very real sense, it can be said that they “glory” in their team. (Some of us here in North Carolina may identify more with basketball than football, but you get the idea!)
But that sense of “glorying” in something is very much at the heart of Jeremiah 9 when it says, “let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him boasts, boast of this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD …”.
The word “boast” in this verse is the Hebrew word “halal,” we get our word “Hallelujah” from it. It means “to praise, to glory, to boast” in something — like people do their favorite sports team. What you praise or glory in says a lot about what’s really important in your life. And God has a word for us here in these verses about what we SHOULD and should NOT boast or glory in:
I. Inadequate Glories:
A. Your Own Wisdom
“Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom”
Now someone might say, but wouldn’t wisdom be good? But notice He says, “Let not a wise man boast in HIS wisdom.” All of these things He’ll mention here are the same way: “HIS wisdom … HIS strength … HIS riches …”. There is a wisdom and riches and strength which come from God, but that is not what He is talking about here. He’s saying DO NOT glory or boast or trust in YOUR OWN wisdom.
One of the things God has shown us as we have been reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah is that human wisdom without God is not reliable.
God had said in Isaiah 55: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts … for My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Then God had said in :12 of this chapter earlier: “Who is the wise man who understands this?” Human beings don’t have the wisdom and insight and perspective that God has, and we are foolish if we proudly rely on our own wisdom. Mankind has made some great strides, but can’t glory in our own wisdom. It always, eventually, falls short.
That really hit home to me when I got sick back in 2012 in Louisiana, and none of the doctors in our area had any answer for what was wrong with me. Everyone kept telling me: “Go to Houston! Go to Houston!” In downtown Houston they have a series of hospitals and diagnostic medical centers which are some of the best in the world. “Go to Houston; they will have the answer for you; they’ll know what to do.” I was skeptical, but at one point my doctor did end up sending me to Houston to confirm his diagnosis. When I got there, they said, yes your doctor is right, you do NOT have an adrenal gland problem, you do indeed have POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). I asked them what they could do for it then, and I was shocked at the answer: “Well we really can’t do anything for that here. We don’t know much about it.”
So much for man’s wisdom! It is very limited. It is inadequate. It can’t always be relied upon. No matter how much mankind learns, our wisdom will always be limited. No matter how smart you are as an individual, you are going to run up against something that just stumps you entirely. There are things you cannot know; there are problems you cannot solve; there are mysteries you will never understand. We must be very humble and open to what God has to say to us. God says, don’t glory in your own wisdom.
B. Your Own Strength
“let not the mighty man boast of his might”
The Hebrew word for “might” here is often used of a warrior’s strength. So it’s talking about physical strength or ability. SO many people in our world today glory in their physical strength or appearance, especially here in the United States. Now let me say up front: exercise and taking care of your body is a good thing; there is nothing wrong with that, and it is a good stewardship of the vessel God has given you to serve Him with — as long as your physical body and your outward appearance do not become your “glory” — what you live for, what makes you happy. Because your physical body will eventually disappoint you.
I’ve known guys who have built their WHOLE LIFE around sports — and ONE knee injury ends it all. Did you see how many NFL players went down with injury just this first week? And for many of them, their career is over. If your “glory” is in your sport, then your glory hangs by a thread. One knee injury; one defeat; that one year older when your body can’t do what it used to — and that happens to EVERY single person without exception — and your “glory” is gone. If your glory is in your physical body, then you’ve built your life on a foundation of sand. And then what are you going to do?
Back in the 1950’s Ernest Hemingway was the American “man’s man.” He’d “roughed it” as a reporter in wars overseas; he hunted and fished and drank and caroused and wrote about that robust lifestyle in his books like The Old Man & The Sea, and For Who The Bell Tolls. But as a result of a plane crash, and then illnesses, he couldn’t do all the things he used to do. He retreated, he drank, and finally at age 62 he took a shotgun and ended his own life at his home in Idaho. Hemingway had gloried in his own robust physical strength, but when that was gone, he had nothing else to live for.
That’s why God says, “let not the mighty man boast in his strength.” Don’t live for your sport, or your beauty, or your physical ability. One day, you WILL lose it. And if that’s all you’ve lived for, and that’s what you’ve gloried in, and built your life around then you will have lost everything. And then what will you do on that day?
C. Your Own Riches
“Let not a rich man boast of his riches”
People so often glory in their money, or in the things they have bought with it: their homes, or cars, or other treasures. But God says, DO NOT glory in your riches.
First of all, they will never ultimately make you happy. That’s why you see people always have to get “more, more, more.” Because it’s never enough. Do you realize that buying and accumulating things can be just as addictive as drugs? Many people are just as addicted to shopping or collecting or buying something new as any drug addict is to their drugs — it’s just a different addiction. But just like drugs, it never permanently satisfies you.
And even what you get, you aren’t going to keep. You will lose it all eventually. Jesus said of the man in Luke 12 who built bigger barns to hold more of his “stuff”, “You fool; this night your soul is required of you. And now who will own what you have prepared?” (:20)
A few weeks ago I read a book of short stories by Washington Irving in which he described things he saw while he was living in England. He wrote about Westminster Abbey, where so many great kings and writers and other notable people are buried. While touring there he was told about how the crypt of one of the kings was buried, and a workman looked inside the tomb. And when he looked in he saw a golden crown, inlaid with diamonds laying on a little pile of dust and bones. That golden crown and all his riches couldn’t save that king when his time came; it did him no good except to serve as a crown for his dust!
So God says, Don’t glory in your money or material possessions. They won’t satisfy you; they won’t last; and they are of no value to you in the most important time of your life. “Let not the rich man boast in his riches.”
Now, all three of these things taken together cover many of the things that people are tempted to put their hope in:
— their wisdom or mental ability
— their physical beauty or strength
— their money and possessions.
These are the things that a lot of people “glory” in — or what comforts them, or makes them happy when they think about their life.
Some years ago, a man said he sat beside Pete Rose on airline flight. (Rose was one of the best baseball players who has ever lived. He had 4256 hits in his career, more than anyone who had ever played. He won 3 batting championships, and his team won 3 World Series. While they were flying in this plane, they hit a big storm, and for a short time it appeared that the plane was going to crash. This man who was sitting by him said that Pete Rose turned to him and said: “I’m gonna face eternity with a .300 lifetime batting average, what do you have?” His baseball accomplishments were obviously what Pete Rose “gloried” in. It’s what made him happy and comforted him, when he thought about his life.
A good question to ask yourself today is: WHAT IS IT THAT COMFORTS YOU WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR LIFE? THAT is your glory.
Where do you get your comfort; your “good feelings” about your life? Unfortunately most people are glorying the wrong things. God says, don’t glory in your wisdom; don’t glory in your might; don’t glory in your riches. All of them are inadequate to be your glory.
II. The One True Glory: Knowing God
:24 “‘But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understand and knows ME, that I am YHWH who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares YHWH.”
What should we “boast” in; “glory” in? What should comfort us and make us happy in life? God says, “that (you) understand and know ME.”
Now, when He says, “understand” here, that doesn’t mean that you “understand” everything about God. We will NEVER understand everything about Him. He’s beyond our comprehension. Someone has well said, if you could wrap your mind around God, He wouldn’t be God. But the word mean “to have insight into.” If you have some insight into GOD — and KNOW Him; THAT is what you should be thankful for, and glory in, and find comfort for your life in.
And notice that He adds: “that I am the LORD.” You see the word “LORD” is in all capital letters, which means that in Hebrew, this is His name, “Yahweh.” That is the personal name of God — not just “any” God; or a “generic” God that “everyone” believes in, but Yahweh, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says understanding and knowing HIM — the One True God — is what you should glory in.
I say this virtually every week: THIS is what we were made for. We were created to KNOW GOD. That is our purpose for existence. Now, if that doesn’t sound good to us, or doesn’t make sense to us, it’s because our ability to know God was impaired by our sin. Because we sinned against Him, the One who was supposed to be our comfort and glory, became a stranger to us, and even our enemy. But “while we were yet His enemies,” as Romans 5 says, Christ died for us” to make peace between us and God, so that we could come back to Him and KNOW HIM, like we were originally created to.THIS is what salvation is all about: KNOWING GOD. HE is our goal; HE is to be our glory.
— Knowing God is our goal in heaven
Jesus said in John 17:3, “THIS is eternal life, that they may KNOW THEE, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” The goal of heaven is not pearly gates or streets of gold; it is not seeing Abraham or Moses or Paul or even our loves ones: the great glory and goal of heaven will be KNOWING GOD. Because the sins that had separated us from God have been taken care of, we will then be able to live in heaven with Him forever and spend eternity knowing Him and His glory:
— a glory so majestic and holy that no man can look upon it on earth and live!
— a glory so satisfying that we will not need anything other than Him
— a glory so lasting that it will never end.
God says if you know that you are going to experience His glory in heaven forever, THAT is something to boast about!
— Knowing Him is our goal here on earth.
You don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to start getting to know God. See, a lot of people act like Christianity is just about “getting saved,” which means you make this “decision” to get your “fire insurance” so you won’t go to hell but know you are going to heaven, and now you just live out your life, doing whatever, until the day you get to go to heaven, where you’ll meet God.
But that’s not it at all. When you ask Jesus to be your Savior, He forgives that sin that had been separating you from God — as Ephesians 2 says, the barrier of the dividing wall has been broken down — so you can start getting to know God RIGHT NOW. We’re still in this world of sin, so we can’t “see” Him, or always “feel” Him, but if by faith you will seek Him, He will speak to you every day in His word; and you can speak back to Him in prayer. That’s what our daily devotional time is all about — it’s not just about doing our “religious duty;” it is about getting to KNOW HIM better day by day as we spend time in His word and prayer.
Paul said in Philippians 3 that he counted all things as loss for the sake of Christ, “that I may KNOW HIM.” (:10) THAT is what our lives here on earth are supposed to be about: spending time with God so that we know Him. Glorying in HIM. Christian person, is that what is happening to you as you spend time every day in God’s word and prayer?
I remember hearing a speaker one time who was talking about relationships and our conversations. They said when we talk with someone, we need to make it our goal to get to know that other person better as a result of our conversation. And they said you can evaluate how well you are doing that, by when you walk away from a conversation, ask yourself: “Do I know more about this person as a result of the conversation I just had with them — or did I spend it all just talking about myself or whatever was on my mind?” That’s a pretty good question, isn’t it? If we were interested in THEM, and not just “what we wanted to say”, then we will ask them about their life, and get to know them better. We should come away from each conversation we have with someone, knowing that other person better.
But listen: the SAME thing is true about our time with the Lord. Our devotional time shouldn’t be just us coming to God and giving Him our “laundry list” of all the things we want Him to do for us. And if the truth be known, that’s basically all that a lot of us do, isn’t it?! All we do is just say, “God, I need this; Lord, won’t You do that?” But you are missing the whole point. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him”? God already knows what you need; you can’t really “tell Him anything.” He does want to hear your requests — He told us to bring them to Him — but He wants to hear them from in the context of the relationship you have with Him, in which you are also spending time just thanking Him, and singing to Him, and learning about Him in His word and getting to KNOW HIM BETTER. So just like that speaker was saying about your conversations with other people, you need to walk away from your time with God and ask, “DO I KNOW GOD BETTER?” as a result of this time I just spent? Or have I just “said my prayers” or “read my chapters” and got it over with? See, our goal is not just to do these “religious things.” God says here our goal is to KNOW HIM. THAT is what it is all about. Is that what is happening with you and God every day?
When it is, THAT is something you can glory in — THAT is something that neither age, nor poverty, nor tragedy, nor “any other created thing” can ever take away from you. In fact: The adversities of life that ROB other people of their glories, will actually DEEPEN your glory and knowledge of God! And that’s why He allows some of these adversities to come into our lives. Because it is all about knowing Him, and He knows that these adversities will help you to know Him better. And then when you do die, you haven’t lost everything you’ve lived for, like so many people do. Instead, you’re instantly transported to heaven, where you will know and glory in Him infinitely more than you ever did before.
In his classic book, Knowing God, theologian J.I. Packer tells how he was walking in the sunshine one afternoon with a friend of his who was a scholar, but who had basically forfeited any prospect of academic advancement in his university because of his commitment to Biblical doctrine. He said that while they were talking, his friend said something in passing that has always stuck with him. As they were discussing the situation, his friend said, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve known God, and they haven’t.” (Packer, Knowing God, p. 24)
See, Packer’s friend had it right. Advancing “up the ladder” at the college isn’t really what life is about. Making more money or getting a new house or car, or winning the big game isn’t what you were created for. KNOWING GOD. THAT is what life is all about. If you know God, and you’re continuing to grow closer to Him, then you are accomplishing what God put you here on earth for, and you can be satisfied and glory in that. And if you’re not doing that — then it doesn’t matter WHAT else you have or what else you accomplish. You’ve missed what you were made to do in this life. And in the end, you won’t have anything to “boast” about, at all.