What do people remember about you? Maybe they point out your commitment as a spouse. You are faithful and loyal— keeping your vows from day one. You persevered through sickness and disease. You work through disagreements and conflict. Perhaps people remember your contributions to society. You impacted so many lives at work. You are kind and charitable; you help those in need. Your volunteer-work addresses local issues. Or, maybe people remember your characteristics. Co-workers consider you a very patient listener. Those younger than you appreciate your wise advice and imitate you. Friends consider you trustworthy. What do people remember about you?
Undoubtedly you will ponder that question at least once in your life (and chances are, you’ll wrestle with it more the older you get). Contemplating a question like that demonstrates that life is significant; you will impact others. People will remember a trait about you.
When confronted with that reality, you may feel pressure to be known for something great. Let’s make it simple. Out of all your accomplishments and attributes, Boast about the Only Thing Worth Boasting About! No, not in your human achievements. Rather, that God knows you.
We read in Jeremiah 9:23-24: 23 This is what the Lord says: “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, 24 but 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,” declares the Lord.
Out of all the important qualities in life, which one reigns supreme? That you know God. Do you realize that’s all God really needs to say? Let him who boasts boast about [me]… Enough said. Yet, he includes more.
In verse 23, God identifies three commonly prized attributes. (1) Wisdom, that is, knowledge gained from past experience (and the resulting consequences). After squandering money as a teenager and having very little, you might be disciplined to save a set sum. Grandparents know many different ways to calm crying babies because they spent many nights trying to quiet their own child. They know what works and what does not. Wisdom grows through life experiences. God also mentions (2) strength, which is having physical abilities, mental toughness, or powerful authority. Finally, he cites (3) riches; either having wealth and possessions (such as houses, cars, and property) or feeling confident in your bank account.
God holds up these three common blessings, but then gives a warning. Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom. Many crave wise advice because wisdom presents a right answer immediately (preventing you from fumbling through all the wrong solutions). People may turn to you for advice, or maybe you think you have all the right answers. Go on Facebook and maybe there’s a friend who shares political posts— and implies that if he were in charge, the world would be a better place; all we need to do is follow his opinions as truth. Those holding college diplomas and advanced degrees may deny God because “they’re too smart for that.” The wiser people think they are the more they begin relying on their own knowledge. Then, there is no need to listen to others. In fact, many stop listening to what needs to be heard.
Let not the strong man boast of his strength. Those who feel strong find security in their own abilities. Nations find security in the size of their armies and the power of their weapons. The physically fit feel safe because of bulging muscles and youthful bodies. Many pride themselves in their last names because influential city and community leaders offer them favors.
Let not the rich man boast of his riches. People act as though money solves troubles! Yes, money might not make you happy, but you can buy medicine. If only you had more money, then you could have the cool clothes, a big house, and a luxurious retirement; you do not feel needy. With wealth comes respect because people will ask you for financial help.
What does this have to do with you (and me)? Well, remember that question I asked at the start? What do people remember about you? What was your answer? Did you boast about your worldly knowledge, power, or success?
God knows these blessings can pose a serious threat. The Bible makes you wise for eternal life (2 Timothy 3:15). So, you learn the many Bible stories in Sunday School. You learn Bible teachings in catechism class. The more you learn, the wiser you may think you are. After a while, you can think you have learned everything there is to know about God! So, when you (and I) approach the Word, the heart quickly glosses over it. John 3:16? You know that Bible verse. Skip it. Tune it out. You already heard it. Next. Christmas? Easter? You know the story. Jesus is born. Jesus rises. Move on to bigger life issues.
Or, we stumble into the delusions of strength. You may believe you have many more years to live, and therefore many more years to get right with God. Perhaps life does not seem all that challenging or complex. And if it does not seem to challenging, then you do not need help. So, why worship? You don’t need God right now; If troubles flare up, well, you know where to turn. Or, you boast that you are saved because this is your family church. God must save you because great-great grandpa built this place!
Or, money can sink its poisonous roots into the heart. Money is withheld from offering so that it might be used on toys. Money robs trust in God. After all, God promises to care for bodily needs, but how many hours of sleep are lost because you worry about retaining money? Money becomes a status symbol; you find self-worth in what you own. These blessings can become our boast, our source of self-pride; something we hold up so that others may praise us!
Wisdom, strength, and money solves very little. Because death strips away knowledge, strength, and wealth. When you stand before God and he asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” there is only one answer. The arrogant wise might say, “Because I demand you love me!” The strong one might say, “My name was in the church membership book!” The rich one might claim, “I gave my offering!” But all those answers remain terribly wrong. All those answers reveal a heart that has rejected a Savior and praises itself as god. None of those worldly treasures can save you.
That’s why verse 23 serves as a warning. If you are elevating yourself as God, then time to turn is now! “Do not boast in wisdom or strength or riches… Instead, Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.” That, my friends, is the only knowledge that will save your life. What do you understand and know about God? That I am the LORD.
God uses the Bible to teach you that only one eternal, all-powerful God exists. That God is not you or your achievements or your self-glory. That God is the One who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth…
God so loved the world— he so loved you— that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). Christ Jesus was in very nature God, but did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:5-6). He does not seek riches or a kingdom. Instead, he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (2:7). The God-man does not demonstrate powerful might and damn to hell every soldier who slaps his face or every smug creature who dares challenge his teachings. Instead, God exercises mercy. He could very well leave you (and me) wallowing in our destructive self-pride. Instead, he sends Jesus and exercises justice.
Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient to death on the cross (2:8). God does what is fair; he upholds his threat. Our pride deserves death (Romans 6:23). With our self-pride draped across Jesus and Jesus suffers our death-sentence— and Jesus wipes pride away. God does what is fair; he upholds his promise. He raises Jesus to life because Jesus is perfect. He raises Jesus to life in order to demonstrate that the payment for sin has been made for all time. In complete fairness God now says, “Jesus died for what you did wrong. He is punished so you never will be. You are forgiven.” He declares you: righteous!-- right in his sight, without fault or blame or blemish.
In these things I take pleasure, declares the LORD… Out of the many attributes the world considers so important nothing is greater than standing right in the sight of God. Boast about the Only Thing Worth Boasting About! God knows you.
You boast that you understand and know him. Be proud in what God has done for you. You can boast with certainty that you will enter heaven. That is not arrogance, that is truth. You can point to the Bible and say, “God promises me that I will live because Jesus lives (John 14:19). Of this I can be sure. It all hinges on what Jesus has done.” That brings real joy and peace.
Find joy in understanding and knowing God better. Make the effort to add to your knowledge. The Sunday School lessons you learned, build on them. In every story see how God worked in spite of weakness and still sent you a Savior. Take out your catechism; read (and relearn) the work God did for your benefit! God keeps his promise; this removes worry and fills you with peace. Reflect on Sunday’s message or your devotions during the week. Take home one key truth to discuss with your child or apply one point to a specific area in life. This is how you “boast in God.” Your pride, your joy is centered in what God has done for you. You know it. You understand it. You Boast about the Only Thing Worth Boasting About! No, not in your human achievements. Rather, that God knows you.
Life holds many qualities. Some are a reason to be proud. Your commitment as a spouse is commendable. Your contributions to society serve as a blessing for many. Your personality can benefit other. People may remember you for all those achievements.
Yet, all human achievements pale in comparison to Jesus’ great achievement. He does the one thing you (and I) never could; he makes you right before God.
That, my friends, is something worth boasting about. That is something to delight in. That is something to rejoice over. Out of all your accomplishments and attributes, Boast about the Only Thing Worth Boasting About. No, not in your human achievements. Rather, that God knows you.