Boast in the Lord
Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, I know that true strength, wisdom, and riches come from You. Yet, repeatedly, I begin to rely on the things of this world for guidance and comfort. Please be with me and show me that You alone are the source of direction in this dark world and consolation in this veil of tears. Guard me, protect me, and keep me. Amen.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
BOAST IN THE LORD!
I. In HIS Wisdom
II. In HIS Might
III. In HIS Riches
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
Have you ever talked to someone who always seems to think that they have a better story than you? It doesn’t matter what the topic is or how fantastic or wild a story you can tell about your latest adventure, he or she has something just a bit more fantastic or a little bit crazier. No matter how big a fish you caught or a trophy you won, this individual caught just a little bigger fish or won a little bigger trophy.
I think we have all known people like this in our lives. And I think if we each take a hard look at our own lives we can see that often we are that person. It really is a natural thing for us human beings to brag about our activities, to exaggerate our accomplishments, to make ourselves look better in other people’s eyes than is probably true. The bottom line is, we like to toot our own horns.
Pride really is a nasty thing. Pride leads to all kinds of issues and problems in this world, and yet what does God say about pride? He says, “The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled)” (Isaiah 2:12 NIV). He says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NIV). He says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6 NIV).
Jeremiah wrote around 2500 years ago, but the sources of peoples’ pride were the same then that they are today. Wisdom, might, and riches--Jeremiah warns against all three of these sources of pride and we pray that the Spirit would bless our study as we learn to boast, not in ourselves, but to BOAST IN THE LORD--in His wisdom, in His might, and in His riches!
I. In HIS Wisdom
A couple of summers ago, when I was vicaring, my supervising pastor and I were asked by an older couple in the congregation to go and visit their youngest son who was no longer living in their home and was attending the university in town. This young man hadn’t been to church at all in quite a few years and his parents were naturally and rightfully concerned about his soul.
We spent close to an hour trying to converse with him and convince him about his need for Christ. But in the end, the question that he kept repeating and that sticks with me to this day is, “How dumb do you think I am?”
This young man thought that his knowledge and understanding of the world gained through the public university he was attending was greater that the wisdom of God. This is the danger that Jeremiah was warning about.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. We need wisdom and learning in our world. They can bring us so much in life. Just imagine what people living just 100 years ago would think of things like high-definition televisions and cell phones, jet engines and space capsules, surgery techniques and organ transplants. All of these things brought about by wisdom that our Creator God has placed into the mind of mankind.
We need to pursue wisdom, but we need to be very careful that we do not make it a god on which we pin our hopes or to which we give the glory. When we do this, we are worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. We are putting the limited mind of mankind up on the throne of the eternal Creator. Such a use of our God-given wisdom means no more than to live a miserable life intelligently.
It happens all the time, doesn’t it? We all run into people who think that they are “smart” enough to solve their own problems, even the problem of sin. We see people who think that they are wise enough to control their own destinies. These “wise” people ask, “Why do I need God?” and state “I can take care of myself.”
How often don’t we think those thoughts ourselves? Thinking that we can by our own reason and strength take care of our families and finances and issues and problems. We all need Jeremiah’s reminder here. You may know about many things. You may even know many things. But unless you know THE thing--the cross of Jesus Christ by which you and all people receive the forgiveness of sins--and unless you know the wisdom of God who sent His Son to die on that cross, we have no wisdom at all. As Pastor Nolting reminded us last week, we are the fool who builds his house on the sand.
In 2 Timothy, Paul reminds us that it is the “Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). It is the Word of God which gives us wisdom. It is the Bible that gives us understanding. This book is so important to your life. And James assures any of us who may think we are lacking in wisdom, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). God wants to give you wisdom. Ask for it and He will give it.
II. In HIS Might
Have you ever heard the phrase “Might makes right”? That is pretty much how this world is run. It doesn’t matter if you have leaked private top-secret emails, you can still run for president if you have enough might. It doesn’t matter if you spoke of women in a derogatory and indecent manner, you can still win the presidency. Everyone in this world seems to both admire and desire worldly strength and might. However, physical strength and might may carry people for a little while. But then comes the fall. And of course, the bigger, stronger, and mightier they are, the harder they fall.
Just take a brief glance at the history of the world. We can clearly see that powers arise only to fall away. Look at the Greek empire who rose to strength through the conquering might of Alexander the Great… only to have him die and have their mighty empire split up.
Just as the Roman empire was flexing its mighty strength, the moral corruption at the heart of the Senate in Rome eventually led to the downfall of that great civilization. Even more recently in Communist Russia, just as it seemed to peak in terms of strength and might, it very quickly declined.
Who knows how long our own seemingly mighty country may have left as the greatest of the world powers-- especially in this nuclear power age that we live in, with countries like Iran dealing in nuclear bombs and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles?
Earthly power is what people look to for might and strength today, but what about tomorrow? Earthly power may conquer in many battles between countries or peoples, but what about the eternal war that all of mankind has been waging with death?
Do we need Jeremiah’s warning? Speaking for the younger generation, I can safely say, that we tend to think that we can handle anything. There is no job too big or challenge too tough for us to overcome. If we put our minds to it, we can do anything.
Or perhaps, as we grow older, the desire for power and the drive for a higher position at work or in a group may propel many people. How quickly we seek power and strength and might in this world! How quickly we take our eyes off of our heavenly goal and focus on the earthly. How soon we forget that although some of the gravestones at the cemetery rise higher off the ground than others, underneath everyone lays at the same depth.
Do you want to boast about strength? The apostle Paul did. He had an infirmity that he prayed to the Lord three times that it would go away from him and the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And so Paul concluded, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The world wants to boast in who has the biggest biceps, the biggest pickup truck, the biggest on and on…. Let your trust be firm in the power of a loving God! The almighty, all powerful God who has already destroyed death by His Son’s cross and has given you and me entrance into eternity through our Savior’s empty tomb.
Just as the popular children’s song tells us, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me!" God is the true source of strength!
III. In HIS Riches
The final warning that the prophet Jeremiah has for us this morning is to not boast in riches. Now for many if not all of you this may seem like the easiest one of the three to not boast in, to not rely on. After all, in comparison to the riches of some people, especially the celebrities and self-indulgence we see so regularly on the television, we really aren’t that rich, are we?
However, let me ask you, have you ever met a poor man who trusted in riches? I have. Some days I am even that person. When I fear that my retirement plans won’t keep pace with the economy, I’m exhibiting the symptoms of spiritual affluenza. When I’m dissatisfied with my house, my job, my position in life, I’m hugging the things of this world more tightly than I ought. Not just the rich trust in their wealth, so do those who are dissatisfied with what God has given them and long for more.
I was reading an article online earlier this week about a band of clever thieves who hit a small community. They would enter a store in a group. One or two of them would separate from the group. The rest would cause a disturbance in another part of the store. While the clerks were distracted, the accomplices filled their pockets with merchandise. Then all would leave. Hours later, perhaps days later, the victimized merchant would discover his loss and call the police, but it would be too late!
This is exactly what the devil tries to do. And how he delights in using this tactic. In fact, this was the exact trick he used with Adam and Eve--distracting them with the riches that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had. Satan tries to divert your attention as well to the money and goods of this world while his evil angels attempt to steal away your salvation.
Do you want to be rich? Really rich, that is? Then it’s time to head for Jesus’ cross. There the Savior dispenses freely the riches of His salvation. What can compare to having forgiveness for my sins? What can come close to having the robe of His righteousness wrapped around me? What can be more precious than the crown of life waiting for me in heaven?
Those are the riches in which we can truly boast, on which we can truly rely, and in which we can truly trust.
So if we can’t boast in wisdom, and we can’t boast in might, and we can’t boast in riches, what are we going to boast in? Well, the Lord gives us direction in that as well. He says, “But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”
Boast in the Lord who has all wisdom, who has all might, who has all strength. Boast in the three things that the Lord reveals as greater than any earthly wisdom, might, or strength.
Boast in the steadfast love of the Lord. The Lord's unchanging love sent Jesus Christ into the world to live a sinless, holy life in our place. The Lord's constant love forsook Jesus on the cross to bear the pains of hell to take away our sins. The Lord's eternal love raised Jesus from that cold, dark tomb on Easter morning to assure us of our bright and glorious resurrection.
Boast in the justice of God--the pure justice that did not just sweep our sins under the rug or hide them in the closet. That would not be justice. Instead, God meted out the punishment of sin, the wages of sin which is death on His Son Jesus when He suffered and died on the cross in our place.
Boast in the righteousness of God--the righteousness that held us to the perfect standard. God's righteousness sent Jesus who won for us by submitting to the law and by keeping it perfectly in every way as we could not. The righteousness of Christ now protects us from every evil intent of the evil one and will usher us into the eternal gates of heaven.
My dear friends, let us not boast in the things of this world, in the wisdom, might, and riches of this world. Rather let us boast that we have a Savior--that we have a God who knows us, who loves us and who came into this world to rescue us! In Jesus' saving name! Amen!
Pastor Joe Naumann