Jeremiah 9:23, 24
Thus said the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might…
The people had little reason to glory in their wisdom, or power, or wealth. These natural resources had utterly failed them as a safeguard against the avenger and destroyer. The prophet directs them to an infinitely surer ground of trust, a higher cause of rejoicing. These words are a striking appeal to faith, all the more remarkable because of the desperate circumstances of the time. In spite of all the desolation of the land, the wreck and ruin of all their pride as a nation, let them hold fast to their faith in the living God, and especially in those attributes of his being and principles of his government - loving-kindness, judgment, righteousness - which such circumstances tend to obscure and seem even to disprove. We fix our minds now simply on this thought - the knowledge of God and personal fellowship with him are immeasurably more worth our seeking and rejoicing in than all those endowments which to the carnal eye are so full of charm. There is a natural tendency in men to rejoice unduly in the good that they derive by birth, or education, or the favor of providence, forgetting that the chief good is something of a different kind, something that must come to them in a different way. Nothing that tends to enrich and adorn and gladden our life in this world is to be despised; but if we measure things by a true standard, and esteem them according to their real and relative value, we shall place everything else that men call good or great beneath that which connects us directly with God and heaven and immortality. Note respecting this higher good -
I. IT IS MORE TRULY OUR OWN THAN ANYTHING ELSE CAN EVER BE. This is seen if we consider:
1. The way in which it becomes ours. The surface acquirements and adornments of life - wealth, social position, favorable circumstances, etc., cannot be called "ours" in the sense in which that which is an inherent element of our individuality is ours. And even as regards personal qualities, there are important differences. Whatever natural gifts belong to us, our own will has had nothing to do with our possession of them. Their development may be dependent on it, but in their origin they are not so. Whereas the affections that connect us with God tell how the deepest depths of our being were stirred at their birth within us. Nothing so truly ours as that which has thus become ours.
2. The absolute satisfaction it brings. All the "springs of our being" are in God. He is the true Home and blissful Center of rest for every human spirit. "The good man is satisfied from himself" (Proverbs 14:14), not because of anything in the resources of his own finite being, but because he has learnt by the utter renunciation of all trust in these to find his true "self" in God.
3. Its perpetuity. We may soon be bereft of all other endowments; this we can never lose. There is no possession over which a man can rejoice in this world which is not precarious and uncertain. And though the sense of this need not check our free use and hearty enjoyment of it, it will always cast some slight shadow over the sunshine of our delight. But there is no shadow here, no sense of insecurity, no fear of disappointment. Have your soul in conscious fellowship with God, and you may rest in the thought that "nothing shall ever be able to separate you from his love" (Romans 8:38, 39). "This is life eternal," etc. (John 17:3). "The water that I shall give him shall be in him," etc. (John 4:14).
II. UNLIKE OTHER FORMS OF GOOD, IT IS INCAPABLE OF ABUSE. What natural gift is there that men may not turn, and have not actually turned, to some purpose contrary to that for which it was given? The false use grows, not so much out of any quality or tendency in the thing itself, as out of the innate perversity of our human nature. And there is nothing in the thing itself, or in the fact of our possessing it, that necessarily acts as a cure for that perversity. Intellectual capacity, genres, literary culture, rank, wealth, etc., - how often have these been allied with moral corruption, and given their possessors the ability to inflict incalculable mischief on the human race? The graces of holy character which spring from fellowship with God cannot, in the nature of things, be thus abused. You cannot conceive of their being prostituted to evil ends. They bear within them the pledge of their Divine use and issue.
III. IT ENABLES US, AS NOTHING ELSE CAN, TO APPRECIATE ALL THAT IS TRUE AND GOOD IN THIS PRESENT WORLD. You must know God before you can rightly understand and realize the highest profit of the world in which he has placed you. There are two popular errors in this direction - one is the error of supposing that the apprehension of the truth of nature depends solely on mental capacity and scientific investigation. Does not the inability of some of the most illustrious thinkers of every age to find out the Divine in nature, rather show that it is more a question of spiritual sympathy than of intellectual power? The other error is that of supposing that the power to procure the good of this life is the same thing as the power to enjoy it. And yet how many pampered children of wealth and fashion are there who bear upon their faces the marks of weariness and discontent! Their souls are withered by excessive physical indulgence and artificial culture. They have lost the capacity of pure and simple enjoyment, and childlike wonder and delight are things to them unknown. Let your spirit be in fellowship with God, let your "heart be set to hallow all you find," and the deepest treasures of truth and the sweetest satisfactions of life are within your reach. God has made purity of heart the condition, not only of knowing himself, but of knowing the best of his gilts. It both creates and verifies-
"The cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessing." Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). "Blessed are the meek," etc. (Matthew 5:5). "All things are yours," etc. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
IV. IT GIVES US THE POWER TO CONFER HIGHEST BENEFIT ON OUR FELLOW-CREATURES. We are disposed sometimes to envy the talents, the range of influence, the means of usefulness, that others possess. It seems a grand thing to us to be in certain commanding positions, and have resources that may be used at pleasure for the working out of certain desired ends. Remember, however, that what can alone give worth to these things are precisely those personal, moral qualities that are within the reach of all. The influence of godly character is deeper, more radical, more productive of enduring fruits of blessedness than any other kind of influence. Who would not rejoice in the power to confer this highest good upon the world? - W.
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: