I’m just finishing up listening through the book of Jeremiah at night before I go to sleep.
It’s a strange book. And disturbing.
I’ve not found it easy to fall asleep to, because there isn’t much comfort to be found in this book. It seems to be full of God’s wrath. Quite frankly, I find it a bit frightening and I’ll be glad to finish it up tonight. I guess that’s kind of funny.
But I did find one passage that I think merits further contemplation. I posted it on my Facebook wall last night. It’s found in Jeremiah 9:23-24:
23 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, 24 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.”
I understand verse 23. The wise man should not boast of his wisdom. The mighty man should not boast of his might. The rich man should not boast of his riches.
Boasting means to brag. And no one likes someone who brags continually. It’s wearisome. It’s obnoxious. And the word “boasting” seems to be even more intense than the word “bragging”. It sounds so much more self-centered; selfish; self-consumed. I don’t want to be known as a boaster. If that is a word.
But take a look at verse 24: Let him who boasts boast in this—that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord…
What?? Does this strike you as strange? It does me, because boasting has such a negative connotation. but this scripture seems to say that if someone is going to boast, let their boasting be that they understand and know God. Yes, I am struggling with this idea.
It’s sort of the same trouble that I have with 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 where Paul boasts about his sufferings. Who would boast-brag-about such a thing? Boasting leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Unless, I suppose, the goal of the boasting is to give glory to God. Going back to Jeremiah 9:24, we see that the boasting is that a person understands and knows God. I can grasp the “knowing God” part, but I have a difficult time grasping the “understanding God” part.
I don’t understand God. His ways are not my ways. They are beyond my understanding.
As you can tell, I’m wrestling with this passage and have no answers. Except this:
The second part of verse 24th is truth. And this I do know. And, I suppose, I boast in it as well, if by boasting I mean that I brag on my God. Not on my knowledge of God, but on God Himself. For my knowledge and understanding of Him is less–much less–than that of a mustard seed. But this I know is truth:
- God is a God that practices steadfast love. As I continue to research and write for my book project, I remain captivated by this phrase, because it seems no other phrase comes as close to describing God’s love as the word “steadfast”; and, because of His steadfast love, I can stand fast in that love.
- God is a God of Justice. Justice is something I don’t understand well. There are things in my life that I question God’s justice on. But who am I to do so? He practices justice—the only perfect justice available. He is the only perfect judge. And one day, justice will be served to each of us–but justice served out of love and perfection.
- God is a God of righteousness. And it is His righteousness that covers my sin, through the death and sacrifice of His son on the cross, and His resurrection three days later.
In these things, the Lord delights. He delights in them. And if He delights in them, then I can understand where boasting about these qualities of my God is appropriate. Therefore, I will boast in my Lord. I will boast that He took my life–a broken, sinful mess–and granted me salvation and a new life. Not that I have done anything to deserve it. At all.
But then, isn’t that what grace is all about?