Be The One Who Boasts The Most
November 23, 2008 | Randy Smith
Be The One Who Boasts The MostJeremiah 9:23-24
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Pastor Randy Smith
Jealous is not a flattering way to describe another person. When we identify someone as jealous, we ascribe to them overtones of selfishness, suspicion, distrust. Jealous people are not pleasant individuals to be around. They are possessive, demanding and overbearing. Often they breed tension and discord in their friendships, marriages and churches. No surprise that jealousy is listed as a "deed of the flesh" (Gal. 5:20; cf. Rom. 1:20; 2 Tim. 3:2).
Yet as we read our Bibles, we soon discover that God is a jealous God. As a matter of fact almost immediately He says, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:4-5). As a matter of fact, I just read one of the Ten Commandments! As a matter of fact, a few chapters later, God even discloses that His name is "Jealous" (Ex. 34:14).
Yet far from our conception of jealously, which is a sinful jealously, God exhibits a form of jealously that is altogether righteous. Since He is the highest and greatest Being there is, He must be passionately committed to preserving His honor and supremacy. He must zealously desire exclusive devotion. To do less would make Him less than almighty God, and therefore unworthy of our worship.
Basically, God's steadfast love demands that He be jealous. For God to be more affectionate toward anything above Himself would make Him a loveless idolater. And for God to call people to Himself in a special relationship and then not be jealous when they run after other gods would make Him a loveless companion.
Israel called from among all the nations, was God's special treasure. She belonged to Him as a special possession (Psm. 135:4). As a matter of fact, He called her to be His wife (Hos. 2:19). There was a spiritual union, a marriage. So when Israel forsook her true Husband and decided to find pleasure in idols, she performed spiritual adultery. God could not stand idle. His commitment to His integrity and His jealous love for His people obligated Him to take action.
This is the theme throughout the book of Jeremiah. Listen to a few verses from the Lord's mouth: "You are a harlot with many lovers" (Jer. 3:1). "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also" (Jer. 3:8). "Your sons have forsaken Me and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the harlot's house" (Jer. 5:7). "As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours." (Jer. 5:19).
God is too glorious to tolerate half-hearted allegiance. He will not share His spiritual bride with another. He expects all-out fidelity and single-minded devotion. He is a jealous God for the affections of His people-jealously not in the sense of a green-eyed monster but rather jealously in the sense of a red-hot lover.
This morning as we continue our study on select passages in Jeremiah, we will identify the person in which our jealous Lover delights. This morning we find ourselves in chapter 9. Our Lord's anger was aroused because of the actions spelled out in verses 13-14: "Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them." But the Lord's delight is also expressed for those who obey the directives spelled out in verses 23-24. This morning we will examine both of these verses and observe the individual that the jealous lover of our soul takes pleasure in.
1. UNGODLY BOASTING
Most young men are taught by the world to chase after the three "G's"-gold, girls and glory. Sit around any locker room or the mall on Friday evenings and I can guarantee these subjects will come up in conversation-high school adolescents expressing their desires or boasting of their achievements in these specific areas. For most young men, this is what makes life worth living. Attaining great gains in these domains to them is the measure of success.
The Israelites were not far from these ambitions as well. Instead of the three "G's," they had the three "M's" - minds, might and money. These domains became their ultimate pursuits. These domains brought confidence. These domains became their boast. And these domains became their gods.
Have the times changed very much? The Scripture is very much applicable to our age as well.
Look at verse 23: "Thus says the LORD, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom.'"
The pride in wisdom and knowledge comes early in life when we have more stickers than the other students for high quiz grades. It progresses to being in the newspaper for making the honor roll, and eventually it ends up with the various academic degrees we have hanging on the walls in our office. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with what I just mentioned, nor am I disparaging the need for good grades and the desire to pursue higher education. I am only saying that knowledge and wisdom can be a fertile field for arrogance and pride (as Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 8:1). It can cause us to look down upon others. And it can eventually become a god we worship by looking up to it for significance and confidence and identity.
Still in verse 23, "And let not the mighty man boast of his might."
Whether it be the athlete who pounds his chest after making a touchdown or the large bully on the playground that intimidates his classmates or the office president who takes advantage of those under him or the military that no other nation can touch. Might is a powerful influence to get what we want. It brings admiration. It brings respect. It brings position. No wonder might can easily be desired as a primary goal. No wonder might, even when it is not sinful, can easily become an idol.
Still in verse 23, "Let not a rich man boast of his riches."
Money has always held out the promise for happiness. And we often go through life working, planning, scheming and dreaming of ways to build our net worth. Maybe we need to look at our American bills, before it is one day removed, and be reminded that "In God we trust." As Solomon said, there is a deceitfulness to riches (Pr. 23:4-5), but the allurement of gold often too becomes a god that we worship.
Once again, I am not saying that any of these are wrong in and of themselves. I am only saying that they become idols and false gods when they become a substitute for the true and living God. This is the mistake made by millions today. And this was the same mistake made by the Israelites over two thousand years ago. And such a mistake not only provoked the anger of their jealous God, but also revealed the foolishness of their decisions.
Foolish because judgment was coming. The confidence that the Jews had in their three "M's" would not be enough to save them from a fierce band of Babylonians. Foolish because their three "M's" are all from God. Why worship the gifts when we can worship the Giver of the gifts? Foolish because they boasted before God in that which He by far surpassed them. Is anybody wiser or stronger or wealthier than God? Foolish because like all false gods, it is only a matter of time before they go on the shelf like a child's toy. Foolish because none of these three "M's" can be transported into the next life. And foolish because they were being satisfied with idols in exchange for the God who is incomparable - remember in the next chapter when the prophet twice said, "There is none like You"? (Jer. 10:6, 7).
No wonder God said in verse 23 that we should not boast in wisdom and might and riches (cf. Ecc. 9:11).
2. GODLY BOASTING
Let's move to the second point: "Godly Boasting."
Boasting is an interesting subject to consider. We are all hard-wired to boast. It comes very natural to brag about the things that are most special to us. In a unique way it actually increases our joy. And if we base our identity on a specific domain, we actually find a sinful pleasure in knowing that we surpass someone in that specific area. In this case I am talking about the times when our conversations go beyond pure communication to outright bragging.
For example: maybe you've been around other men and the conversation around the water cooler suddenly turns to golf. The boasting begins with the equipment they own. Then it goes to swing techniques. Then it goes to courses they've played. Then it goes to scores. It soon becomes clear that the intent of the discussion is one-upmanship. You find yourself laughing and playing along, keeping your cards close to your chest, hoping that you inadequacies will not be exposed. Then someone says, "Hey, how about you, don't you have anything to add to the conversation?" And all you've got is the hole-in-one you had at Seaside Heights boardwalk with your grandmother three summers ago.
We want to participate (compete) in these conversations without looking foolish. Deep down inside we want to be the one who comes out smelling the best. Boasting!
God does not like it very much when innocent communication turns into boasting (Gal. 5:26). First of all it is unkind. It makes people very uncomfortable when they can't "compete." Remember 1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love does not brag." Second, it is a form of pride. The sole intent in sinful boasting is to make ourselves look better than another. Third, sinful boasting reveals a misplaced priority. Golf is a great game. But on the grand scale of things…who cares! Fourth, we naturally tend to boast of our idols. Boasting often exposes our hearts and reveals the true gods we worship.
So is all boasting wrong? Absolutely not! I already said we are "hard-wired" to boast. Boasting is to be encouraged, but only when we boast in God-not in a way that draws attention to ourselves, but in a way that draws attention to the jealous Lover of our souls (cf. Psm. 44:8; Rom. 15:17).
Before I return to our text in Jeremiah in the Old Testament, allow me to read for you what Paul said in the New Testament.
First Corinthians 1:26-31, "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord'" (cf. 2 Cor. 10:17).
Where was that "written?" Jeremiah 9:24! In contrast to the one who boasts in worldly things (verse 23), God encourages us to boast in Him (verse 24). Discard the fading for the unfading! Discard the worldly for the spiritual! Discard the tin for the gold! Discard the sinful for the righteous! Discard the false god for the true God! Boasting is not to be avoided; only the subject matter of our boasting is to be changed! In verse 24 God says, "'But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the LORD."
Let's take a look at this wonderful verse.
According to verse 24, if we are going to boast we should boast that we "understand and know (God)."
I don't know about you, but this verse brings me great encouragement! I can't compete on the world's stage of boasting. More money? Financial knowledge? Home improvement skills? Computer savvy? A greener lawn? Politics? Superstar-status children? Fantasy sports statistics? I lose in every category! Technological devices? Still to this day I don't own a cell phone! Sports teams? I'm a Cubs fan! Our last World Series championship - 1908! Wardrobe? If you like what I'm wearing, compliment my wife. I don't even know my sizes! Exceeding athletic ability? I've even got a guy half my size like Sergio claiming he can bench press more than me! Cars? All we've got is the family minivan! In the world's perspective of things, I feel like a big loser!
But there is one thing I do have that others do not. Despite my inadequacies in the world's eyes, I can say that I "understand and know (God)." I may have never sent a "text message" or eaten dinner with Telly Sevalas or caught a 50-pound striped bass or vacationed in Hawaii, but I do know God. I know the very One who made Hawaii. I know the very One who invented striped bass and put that striped bass on your hook so you could reel it into the boat that God owns and eventually eat it with the body God created. I know the very One who dwells in every corner of this universe. I know the very One who has more wisdom, might and riches than the whole world put together. And I know the very One who is sufficient to meet all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). That gets me excited! That gives me meaning! That gives me hope!
John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
Does anything else really matter? As the old African spiritual goes, "You can have all this world…Give me Jesus!"
The humanist would say just the opposite. "It's all about this world. It's all about the here and now. It's all about placing self on the center of the throne." And we as a society have bought into this mentality. Even the church has jumped on to the world's treadmill and is attempting to run in the pattern they have determined. Listen, apart from God, there is no reason for purposeful living and no grounds for self-worth. How can we believe their mantra: "You came from nothing and you go to nothing, but in-between you have great significance." My friends, that is being programmed into our minds by the world and it makes absolutely no sense at all!
So enjoy the gifts that God provides for your enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17; Jas. 1:17). But do not stoop to the world's level and make these gifts into your god. That is foolishness and sinfulness. There is something much bigger to live for. And when we live for God with all of our heart, our boast will naturally be of Him. And when we manifest this Spirit-filled mentality, we will have absolutely no problem evangelizing or engaging in Christian fellowship. For both of these disciplines are simply Christian boasting at its finest. For how can we say we "understand and know (God)" and then keep our mouths closed? It is theoretically impossible!
If you were just given three million dollars, you would have to tell someone. If you just had a new baby, it would be torturous to keep the news to yourself. Is anything greater than God? Shouldn't boasting about God come very naturally?
As verse 24 continues, we are to boast that we know the God who exercises "lovingkindness." The very God who sent His Son as the substitute for sins, adopted us into His spiritual family and then promises to usher us into His eternal kingdom. Let's get excited to talk about that!
We are to boast about the God who exercises "justice." The very God who sees all, rewards righteousness and condemns wickedness and comes to the aid of the downcast. Let's get excited to talk about that!
We are to boast about the God who exercises "righteousness on earth." The very God who is committed to truth, displays His perfect holiness and demands upright living from His creatures. Let's get excited to talk about that!
But how can we get excited about these attributes if we don't know who God is? And how can we ever come to know who God is if we spend little time reading our Bibles? How illogical is the thinking that says we should be experts in one-million-and-one things and know so very little about our Creator? (Consider the geniuses on Jeopardy who can instantly solve the most complex mathematical equation, but find themselves unable to rightly discern how many disciples Jesus had.) Biblical knowledge about God leads to truly knowing God. You have been wired for this purpose. And you have been wired to share that with others. Don't settle for anything less!
And when I consider those three glorious attributes mentioned in verse 24, my heart is immediately taken to Calvary. It is impossible to know God without knowing Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is not only the perfect image of the Father (Jn. 1:1, 18; 14:7, 9; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) but He is also the One that reconciles us with the Father through His death and resurrection (Jn. 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:18; Rom. 5:10).
Consider with me these three glorious attributes in conjunction with Christ's sacrifice. The righteousness of God is the standard for our acceptance with Him. Yet unfortunately because of our sin we are unable to attain that requirement. His justice demanded that He separate Himself from us and that we face the punishment we deserve for our moral transgressions. Yet in His lovingkindness, He sent His Son into the world. Jesus Christ exhibited the righteousness He demanded and died as our substitute. God's justice was satisfied as He paid the penalty for our sins. By faith we can be declared righteous before the sight of God and forever be the full recipients of His lovingkindness.
No wonder God closes verse 24 by saying, "For I delight in these things." God delights in who He is and God delights when we boast of His attributes through our words and actions.
Do the things that delight Him delight me? Am I driven on by worthless and temporary pleasures or is it my passion to forever know and understand the living God in a deeper way? Is my boast in the vain trinkets of the world or is it the person and work of my Savior?
All of us have a testimony for our God, whichever God that may be. All of us will speak and boast about the things that are most precious to our heart. We all boast. Our affections cannot be hidden long. When others consider your boasting, which God are you leading them toward? Have you come to the understanding that apart from the true God there is really nothing worth boasting about? And have you come to the understanding that the jealous Lover of your soul will accept nothing less?