One beautiful thing about God is how He strips, but does not leave bare. Oh, He lays bare, but He does not leave bare. For the believer, the one who trusts in Him, who accepts His perfect work, God does a marvelous and miraculous change.
Jeremiah 9:23-24, we heard God’s words and had our support kicked out from underneath. If we were Jeremiah, or one who takes seriously the desire to be heard, we realize quickly that weeping (out of frustration) and being ignored is part of the job-description for the prophetic office. When it comes down to it, wisdom is really not worth boasting or glorying in. Strength fails and riches run out. These things are worth nothing. They cannot save, are poor masters and do not provide what only God can.
We only examined that first part, verse 23 and were left on the rug. Now God does something phenomenal. Look at verse 24, “But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.”
Don’t you love that word, “BUT”? The great watershed word.
If we really want to glory and boast in anything, here it is: understanding and knowledge of the LORD. You want wisdom? You can have it—just don’t claim it as your own. Wisdom is rooted not in a catalog of concepts, but in a person; namely, the giver of all wisdom, the LORD Himself. He says, “understand and know.” These are not two separate things, but one and the same. The technical term is “hyndiadys.” (I hope I spelled it right).
Have you ever been “good and hungry?” You cannot break this term apart and pull up to the drive-in at McDonalds or Burger King and say, “Boy, I sure am good. I’ll have the #2.” The girl on the other end will wake up and say, “WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT, WILLIS?” No, we put the terms together to give deeper meaning to our feeling. You are not just hungry, but GOOD AND HUNGRY. Drive up and say you are Good and Hungry and she’ll want you to Supersize—right?
“Understand and know” means to go into the deepest comprehension. God wants us to fully grasp HIM, that HE is the LORD. He is the covenant making, in-your-face kind of God who cares about people. There is history to what He has done, what He is doing and there is a direction He wants to go. He wants us to recognize He is wisdom. This is one element of Providence. God wants to be known.
Just knowing Him is not enough. Facts don’t matter here. “Knowing facts about God doesn’t necessarily mean knowing God, any more than knowing American history means you know Abraham Lincoln. Some of the most learned theologians in history, with great grasp of the facts about God, had no faith in God. They knew about God, but Christ will say to them on their day of judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matt. 7:23). The heart of knowing God is relationship. God is a relational being and has made us relational also, so that we might know Him. And like human relationships, knowing God requires time and commitment.”[i]
Context is: God is going to destroy, repent. What follows repentance? SALVATION! All God is doing is bound up in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the one who makes salvation possible and this is where the relationship begins! In Christ Jesus! Get to know God—get intimate with the unknowable! Grasp the ungraspable! Conceive the inconceivable! Comprehend the incomprehensible! Be filled with an overflowing stream!
Ephesians 3:13-21: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”[ii]
How does this work? I can’t explain it, I can’t express it, but there it is! "It is written!"
Do you want wisdom? You can have it—but you cannot claim it as your own.
And what about the next part: “understand and know that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth”. Here is strength. Here are qualities by which He makes Himself known. We have nothing to glory or boast in as wobbly knees give way underneath us when He is manifest.
Remember when Moses stood in that place and asked God to show him His glory, what did God make pass in front of Moses? What did Moses see? What constitutes God’s glory but goodness, grace and compassion! These are all bound together in Him. These are His strength. These are the elements of the covenant-making God!
When Elijah was made to stand on the mountain of the LORD and the earth quaked and the fire burned and the wind blew, the LORD was not in these things. Elijah covered his face and stood before the LORD and answered he was there because people forsook the covenant.
He is one who loves, judges and is the absolute for all that is right. He is the standard of measurement. This is His glory.
“God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27).
If we are going to boast, we can boast that we have a relationship with Him. If we don’t have one, we can’t boast.
If we are going to boast, we can boast HIM and His glory.
If we are going to boast, we can boast in the riches of His delights. What delights Him delights me. If it does not delight Him, it does not delight me. If I am delighted and He is not, I’d better back up and check.
Richard Baxter, known for his immense contributions to the thought-life of the Puritans, made a list called “Signs of living to please God:”
- You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth please and displease God.
- You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God than men.
- You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
- You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.
- You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will not slight them: when they tell you of God's displeasure, it will disquiet you; when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.
- Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.
- Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God's judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.
God delights in the riches of his glory and God delights when we line up our delights with his. When we are on the same page, the riches of His lovingkindness, judgments and righteousness overflow in us and through us.
If we are going to boast, let it be Him.
[i]MacArthur, John. Strength for Today. Includes indexes. electronic ed., February 29. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998, c1997.
[ii]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 3:13. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.