Thus said the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might…
Introduction. Cannot understand these prophecies without a knowledge of the history of the times. This is true of all prophecies, and especially of these. Therefore we will glance at such history as we proceed. Note -
I. THE GLORYING THAT IS CONDEMNED.
1. That of the wise man in his wisdom. The statesmen of Jeremiah's days had been thus glorying. They had prided themselves in their political sagacity. For many years they had formed alliances, now with one power and now with another. And they seemed to have managed well, for, for nearly a whole century, Judah had been, though so weak a power and so valuable a prize, left unattacked. Therefore no wonder that the wise men gloried in their wisdom. But now political trouble was beginning again. Egypt had become a great power, and was warring against Assyria. In this war the king Josiah sided with Assyria, and was slain in the battle of Megiddo. Thus they were without their king, and compelled to ally themselves with Egypt and to share in her fortunes, which to the eye of the prophet were the reverse of bright. Great troubles were drawing near, and it is in view of them that Jeremiah says, "Let not the wise man," etc.
2. The strong in their strength. The army of Judah was large, their fortress of Jerusalem was all but impregnable, but Jeremiah saw that all this would not avail. Their utter overthrow was fast hastening on. The great Babylonian power which had absorbed the Assyrian should accomplish this. Hence the word, "Let not the strong man," etc.
3. The rich in their riches. The long continuance of peace had enabled the nation to accumulate vast wealth. But this only made them yet more an object of desire to their approaching invaders. Their wealth was their wee.
4. The children of Abraham in the covenant, of which circumcision was the sign (Vers. 25, 26). From the time of Hezekiah's reformation until the time when Jeremiah wrote, Judah and Jerusalem had professed the ancient faith. The temple service had gone on, the sacrifices offered, etc. There had been a short, sad interval during Manasseh's reign. But so far as profession went they had been worshippers of God. And of late years Josiah's reformation had led to still louder profession. And in this profession we know they trusted very implicitly (cf. Jeremiah 7.). But it had not preserved them from the Divine displeasure in days gone by, nor in the present, nor would it in days to come. For beneath all this profession the moral and spiritual condition of the nation was most evil. Even in Hezekiah's day Isaiah had told the people that, in spite of all their profession, "he whose head was rock," etc. (cf. Isaiah 1.). And that this was so was shown by the readiness with which they followed Manasseh in his idolatries, and joined in the persecution of the faithful servants of God. And when Manasseh repented, and there was again an external profession, it was scarcely any better. But the monstrous conduct of Amon, who "sinned more and more," made the people desire the old ways. Hence, when Josiah came to the throne, they were prepared for his reforms. But again it was only a change of custom, not of character; outward, but not inward. Jeremiah sought to help forward a true reformation, for it was indeed needed (see his description of the moral condition of the people, Vers. 2-8 in this chapter). Hence it was that he told them their circumcision was no better than uncircumcision. Apply all this to our-solves:
(1) As a nation. We have all these several advantages above named: wise statesmen, great strength, vast wealth, universal religious profession; but all these, apart from moral and spiritual worth, will go for nothing. It is "righteousness," and that alone, that "exalteth a nation."
(2) As individuals. We are not to despise any of these things. They are God's good gifts; but they will not save us. We may not glory in them as a sure safeguard.
II. WHEREOF WE MAY AND SHOULD GLORY. (Cf. Ver. 24.) This means that them should be:
1. Intellectual apprehension of the truth in regard to God. His character is shown:
(1) In his exercise of loving-kindness. It is well to be open-eyed to the many and varied proofs of this - in creation, providence, redemption, grace. And it is well to be able to trace these proofs and to show that God is good.
(2) In his exercising judgment. He has given proofs of this also, and that is but a partial and therefore most misleading theology that shuts out of view the sterner aspects of the Divine Father. As in Christ we see most of all how God exercises loving-kindness, so too in him we may see the sure warnings of his judgment. "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where," etc.?
(3) In his exercise of righteousness. How full the proofs of this also! How manifest in Christ, his teachings, life, death, his Spirit's work now, etc.! Now, it is most desirable to understand all this, for the mind to grasp these sure truths. Too much of the religiousness of the day is weak, flaccid, unstable, because there is wanting knowledge and understanding in the truth. We are apt to be satisfied with an emotional religion, with the play of feeling and the outgoing of the affections. But for all this to be reliable we must understand as well as feel.
2. In that he "knoweth" as well as understandeth. This is more than to understand. For "to know" continually means, in Bible language, to approve, to be in sympathy with, to delight in, etc. (cf. "I will not know a wicked person; The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; This is life eternal, to know thee the only" etc.). And so here to know God is to have moral sympathy, personal experience, inward approval and delight in regard to God. He who thus understandeth and knoweth God hath "whereof to glory." The prophet desired that his people might have this glorying, for this would save them, whilst all the other things in which they gloried but left them to perish. Appeal to all who profess religion and who instruct others, Can you thus glory? Do you understand? Better still, Do you know God in his loving-kindness, judgment, righteousness? ? C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: