It’s football season, and many college football fans virtually live and die on the success of their football teams. Fans wear their team’s colors on game day, and get excited when they win, and bask in the glory of that victory for a day or two — OR get really depressed when they lose. In a very real sense, it can be said that football fans “glory” in their team.
That sense of “glorying” in a football team like that, helps us to understand the heart of the meaning of Jeremiah 9:23 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” that is used throughout 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 many people today 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 God 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 adequate.
God said in Isaiah 55:6-9 “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 said earlier here in Jeremiah 9:12: “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 we can’t glory in our own wisdom. It always, eventually, falls short.
I’ve shared this before, but this concept of the limitation of man’s wisdom 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 there are hospitals and diagnostic medical centers which are some of the best in the world. “Go to Houston; they’ll 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 dismayed at the answer: “Well we really can’t do anything for that here.”
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.
I think this may be more the temptation for the young than it is for those of us who are older. Sometimes when we’re young we just think we know it all. When we’re older, we have a little more experience in being wrong, and hopefully have learned a little more humility — but not always! Some older people think they’ve got all the wisdom. But we should ALL be humble regarding our own wisdom. We need to regularly bow before God and admit that only HE has the wisdom we need. Be humble and open to what God has to say to you. 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 in the Bible to describe 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, where being youthful and strong and fit is virtually a religion to many people; it is what they live for! Now let me be clear: exercise and taking care of your body is a good thing; there is nothing wrong with that. It is a good stewardship of the vessel God has given us to serve Him with and many of us can and should do better on that than we are — as long as your physical body and your outward appearance do not become your “glory” — as long as you’re not building your life around it; as long as that’s not what makes you happy. Because your physical body will eventually disappoint you.
I’ve known people who have built their WHOLE LIFE around their physical ability — and ONE knee injury ends it all. I was watching the LSU/Florida State game, where they were talking about how great Maason Smith, the defensive lineman for LSU was — he was a 5-star recruit; a freshman All-American; expected to make a huge impact this year. But in the first quarter of the first game of the year last Sunday night he jumped up to celebrate a teammate’s good play, and when he came down, he tore an ACL and is out for the year. Hopefully he can rehab and come back, but how many times does something that happen?
If your “glory” is in your own might or physical ability, then your glory hangs by a thread! One knee injury; one year older when your body can’t do what it used to — and that WILL happen to EVERY single person without exception — and your “glory” is GONE! If all your glory is in your physical body — in whatever arena of life it is — 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 Whom The Bell Tolls. But as a result of a plane crash, and then multiple illnesses, over time Hemingway couldn’t do all the things he used to do. He retreated to his home, he tried to drown it all in drink, and finally in despair at the loss of his physical strength, at age 62 he took a shotgun and ended his own life at his home in Idaho. Hemingway had gloried all his life 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 physical body; don’t live for your beauty; don’t live for your own might. Because one day, you WILL lose it. And if that’s all you’ve lived for, and that’s all you’ve gloried in, and built your life around, then when you lose that, 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”
Many people glory in their money, or in the things they buy with it: homes, or cars, and other treasures. But God says, DO NOT glory in your riches.
First of all, these things will never ultimately make you happy. That’s why people always have to get “more.” Have you noticed that? You NEVER just buy one thing and are happy. You always have to buy another pair of shoes; you have always have to buy another golf club; you always want another boat, or car, or home. It’s never enough. You always want more. 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. And just like drugs, it never permanently satisfies you.
And even what you DO get, you aren’t going to keep. You 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) Someone asked of a rich man who died: “How much did he leave behind?” A wise man answered: “All of it.” You lose it all.
Washington Irving worse a series of short stories in which he described interesting things he saw while he was living in England. One of them was Westminster Abbey, the famous London church where so many great kings and writers and other notable people are buried. While touring the Abbey Irving was told about how a workman who was doing some remodeling on the church, once looked inside the tomb of one of the kings who was buried there. When he lifted up the lid of the tomb and looked inside, he saw a golden crown, inlaid with diamonds — laying on a little pile of dust and bones! That golden crown and all that king’s riches couldn’t save him when his time came; it only served 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 will be of no value to you in the most important time of your life: they can’t deliver you from death or save your soul, and you won’t have them for all eternity. No, God says: “Let not the rich man boast in his riches.” They’re fleeting.
Now, put all three of these things together, and they cover many of the things that people are tempted to put their hope in today:
— their own wisdom or mental ability
— their own physical beauty or strength
— their money and possessions.
These are the things that most people “glory” in — what comforts them, makes them happy when they think about their life. But there are other things we are tempted to glory in too. It may be different for each of us.
A few years ago, a man sat beside Pete Rose on airline flight. (If you don’t know him, Pete Rose was one of the best baseball players who ever lived. He had 4256 hits in his career, more than anyone who ever played Major League Baseball. He won 3 batting championships, and his team won 3 World Series. But while Rose was flying in this plane beside this other man, a big storm hit the plane, and for a short time it appeared that they might crash. This man who was sitting next to Pete Rose said that Rose turned to him and said: “I’m gonna face eternity with a .300 lifetime batting average, what do you have?” Pete Rose obviously “gloried” in His baseball accomplishments. It’s what comforted him most, when he thought about his life. Of course, the problem with that is, a .300 lifetime batting average doesn’t really help you any when your plane is heading down; or when you stand before God in eternity.
Would you ask yourself today: “Where is MY glory?” What do you take most pride in? What comforts YOU when you think about your life? THAT is your glory. Unfortunately most people glory in the wrong things. God says, don’t glory in your wisdom; don’t glory in your might; don’t glory in your riches. None of them are worthy to be your glory.
But there is One who IS worthy!
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 the LORD …”.
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’ll 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” there is in all capital letters, which means that in Hebrew, this is His name, “Yahweh,” 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 know I say this virtually every week, but this is so important: THIS is what we were made for: we were created to KNOW GOD. That’s our reason for existence. If that doesn’t sound good to us, or doesn’t make sense to us, it’s because our ability to know God has been impaired by our sin. Our sin made the One who was supposed to be our comfort and glory, into a stranger to us, and even our enemy. But “while we were yet His enemies,” as we just read in Romans 5:8, 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: coming back to God through Jesus Christ, to KNOW HIM. HE is our goal; HE is to be our glory.
— Knowing God will be our glory 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 glory of heaven is not that we get to see pearly gates or walk on streets of gold;
— The glory of heaven is not getting to see Abraham or Moses or Paul or even our loves ones;
— The great glory and goal of heaven will be KNOWING GOD. The sins that had separated us from God will have all been abolished, and we will 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 My glory in heaven forever, THAT is something to boast about and glory in!
— Knowing God should also be our glory here on earth.
But we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to start to get to know God. See, a lot of people act like Christianity is just about “getting saved,” making this “decision” to get your “fire insurance” so you won’t go to hell, and now you just live out your life, doing whatever, until the day you go to heaven, where you’ll finally meet God.
But that’s not it at all. When you ask Jesus to be your Savior, He forgives the sin that’s 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 even always “feel” His presence, but if by faith you will seek Him, He will speak to you every day in His word; and you can talk back to Him in prayer. That’s what our daily devotional time is all about — it’s not just about “getting our Bible reading in” it is about getting to KNOW HIM better day by day as we spend time with Him in His word and prayer.
That should be what’s happening every day as you read your Bible and pray. It’s not about “checking the boxes off” and being able to say you read through the Bible this year. As you read His word and spend time praying, you should be getting to KNOW HIM better. THAT is what it is all about.
I remember a speaker one time who was talking about relationships and our conversations. He 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. He said you can evaluate how well you are doing at that, by when you walk away from a conversation, asking yourself: “Do I know more about this person as a result of this 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? Were we interested in THEM: did we ask them about their life, and get t know them better? Or did we just focus on getting across what WE wanted to say? This speaker said we should come away from each conversation we have with anyone, knowing that other person better.
I think that’s a good goal for our interactions with other people. But the SAME thing is true about our time with God. Our devotional time shouldn’t be just us coming before 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 what a lot of us do, isn’t it?! We just say, “God, I need this; Lord, won’t You do that?” But if we do that, we 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 in the context of the relationship you have with Him, in which you also spend time just thanking Him, and singing to Him because you love Him, and you take time to learn more about Him in His word and get to KNOW HIM BETTER. So just like that speaker was saying about our conversations with other people, you need to walk away from your daily devotional time with God and ask, “DO I KNOW GOD BETTER?” as a result of my devotional time? Or did I just “say my prayers” or “read my chapters” and get it over with? We’ve got to understand that 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 happening, THAT is something you can glory in — THAT is something that neither age, nor poverty, nor tragedy, nor “heights nor depths 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! Illness, financial setbacks, trials and tragedies — things that totally devastate other people, because they take away inadequate things people were “glorying” in; can actually strengthen and deepen your walk with God, and increase the glory you have in Him! And that’s exactly why He allows some of these adversities to come into our lives. Because life is not ultimately about money or appearance or all the things the world glories in; life is really about knowing Him. And then when you do die, you won’t lose everything you’ve lived for, like so many people do. Instead, you’ll be instantly transported into the presence of God, where you’ll continue knowing and glorying in Him — only infinitely better than you ever did before. But that will only be true for you, if God really IS your glory.
In his classic book, Knowing God, theologian J.I. Packer tells how he was walking one afternoon with a friend of his who was a professor at a university, but who had basically forfeited any prospect of advancement at the university because of his faith in God, and his belief in the Bible. Packer said that while they were talking, his friend said something in passing that stuck with him ever since. As they were discussing the difficulties of situation, his friend said that the loss of academic advancement really didn’t matter in the long run; that the important thing was that he has known God! (Packer, Knowing God, p. 24)
Packer’s friend had it right. Advancing “up the ladder” at the college — or whatever job you have — isn’t what life is about. Making more money or getting a new house or car, or being looked up to by everyone, is not what we were created for. KNOWING GOD. THAT is what life is all about. If you know God, and you’re growing closer to Him, then you are doing exactly what God put you here on earth for, and you can be satisfied and glory in that. And if you’re NOT knowing God — then it doesn’t matter WHAT else you have or accomplish in this life. You’ve missed what you were made for. And in the end, you won’t have anything to “boast” about, at all.
So: Where is YOUR glory?