Exultation of Heart and Life According to the Will of God
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…

I. MAN IS SET BEFORE US HERE AS BEING IN A STATE OF VERY LIVELY EMOTION. He is spoken of as glorying; and the Hebrew word used is such as suggests the idea of a man, not only intensely pleased within his own breast, but whose pleasure, like heat bursting into flame, finds vent in words and songs of exultation. The glory and exultation felt by the mind within may appear in many ways - in the face, in the gestures, in the speech; but the prophet indicates here the highest kind of expression, that of poetic and musical utterance. Genius comes in to render permanent certain experiences of exultation, the record of which would otherwise speedily pass away. There is thus set before us a certain state of mind and a certain expression of it. And be it observed that this state of mind is not condemned in itself; nay, it is rather invited and encouraged. It is only condemned when it is produced by a wrong consideration of the objects exciting it, and there is a plain direction how to produce it in the right way. Hence we see how God intends man to be raised into great activity of emotion. It is a wicked thing to repress and starve the feelings. Some there are who act as if the expression of emotion were a thing to be ashamed of; they seem to think they are doing a good work in trying to kill everything like living feeling within them. Now, it is perfectly certain that God would encourage everything which gives the emotions a large part to play in human life, and particularly the joyful emotions. Notice, for it is an interesting thing to notice, how it is Jeremiah, the weeping prophet as he is called, who here points out to his erring brethren the way to the best sort of exultation. The truth is that Jeremiah was a rejoicing believer as well as a weeping prophet. He wept over Jerusalem, as did the greater One who came long after; but it is plain that he must also have had deep joys in his own soul, even as Jesus had. God wishes us to cultivate the singing, exultant heart; for that we all may have, even when we lack the singing lip. We are to have much grief and pity, continual sorrow of heart, because of the world's sins, but it argues a great lack and a great loss if we have not much joy because of God's salvation. The exultation which comes from a selfish use of the world and a selfish success must be put away, but only that another and purer kind of exultation may take its place.

II. THE WARNING LEST THIS EXULTATION, WITH THE CONSEQUENT EXPRESSION OF IT, SHOULD BE PRODUCED IN A WRONG WAY. Three classes are spoken of - the wise, the strong, the rich. Wise and strong by natural endowments; rich by the acquirement of visible, tangible possessions. And wise, strong, and rich men may rejoice and boast and sing when, perhaps, their feelings should rather tend to the other extreme, of mourning and humiliation. A word on the warning to each of these classes.

1. The wise. The existence of the wise man is recognized. A wise man is not of necessity to be always contrasted with the foolish. He has a right to the name of wise if his practical faculties of mind rise above the common level. When such a one has shown himself foreseeing and cautious, patient to wait when action would be hurtful, yet prompt to decide when decision is necessary - when, in short, he has obtained a general reputation for wisdom - it is then only mock-modesty for him to pretend that his gifts are not beyond those of common men. Wisdom is the strength of the mind, and the man who has it cannot be unconscious of it, any more than the man strong in body can be unconscious of his strength. But this wisdom, while it is to be used, disciplined, made the most of, is not a thing to glory in. The more it is looked at, the more its limits will be seen. See how easily it can be misused. It was said of Burke that he gave up to party what was meant for mankind, although he would strenuously have maintained that, through party, he got his best means for serving mankind. But of many it is only too true that their great faculties of intellect, meant for the good of men and the glory of God, have been deliberately given up to that which hurts men. Wisdom, as wisdom, is not to be gloried in. It must be an instrument in a higher hand before it can work out such a result as will fill the contemplating mind with exultation and praise.

2. The strong. How much men admire strength - strength of body, or strength to maintain and carry out some settled purpose! The young men who contended in the Grecian games gloried in their strength, and so did their kinsfolk and all the people who took pride in the land that produced such. And yet glorying of this sort would not bear reflection. Assuredly it could not endure in a renewed mind to think that the prize of victory had been gotten by the defeat and humiliation of a brother man. Glorying in strength means looking back on victories of brute violence, such victories as Goliath was wont to rejoice in. Glorying in strength means sitting down at the banquet with the bleed-stained conqueror, and singing of his achievements amid the flush and insolence of wine. And it means also the encouragement and the formation of similar hopes and purposes for the future. Such feelings of glorying in mere strength the beast of prey may have as he goes up and down in the forest, but they are not the feeling of a man considering the possible range of his thoughts and aspirations. A strong man must employ his strength usefully, recollecting that it was given so that, with a devout and obedient mind in a strong body, he might serve God in his day and generation.

3. The rich. Rich men glory in their wealth, and not without plausibility. They find that it stands excellently well in the place of wisdom and strength. They can buy the wisdom and the strength of others; and the more freely they expend, the more also, in certain ways, they obtain. He who professes to despise wealth never gets credit for sincerity; and yet it is perfectly certain that those who profess to glory in this same wealth are preparing for themselves, in one way or another, a terrible humiliation. Let them lose their wealth, and they will waken to the discovery that they have also lost their attractions. There is more to be said for glorying in one's wisdom and strength than in one's external possessions; for the wisdom and strength, whatever their shortcomings, are really a part of the man, while the external possessions are little better than an accident.

III. MAN IS DIRECTED TO A CAUSE OF EXULTATION WHICH, WITH THE UTMOST CONFIDENCE, HE MAY ALLOW TO OPERATE FREELY ON HIS MIND. There is a song for man to sing worthy of his highest powers - a song in which he may glory with respect to himself, because he has become somewhat of that which he ought to be. We are not allowed to sing exultingly and proudly of our own natural powers, even if they were the powers of a Plato, a Shakespeare, or a Newton; but there is a sure standing-place for us to exult lawfully in what we have become. The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the greatest horn of women. We may always magnify humanity when we see one of ourselves coming to a true knowledge of God. The peculiar possibility of glory to man is that he is able to know his Maker. Understand and know. Surely these words mean a great deal; one can hardly put too much of meaning and encouragement into them. Through Isaiah, Jehovah said, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." And yet, if Israel will only consider and turn, it is capable of knowing God as no brute, however docile, attentive, and faithful it be, can ever come to know its master. The brute gives to its master a brute's recognition; it does the utmost its faculties enable it to do; but in coming to man we come to one who can be so altered as to know God even as a child knows its father. The true glory of the worst of men is that he can be regenerated. The glory of the best of men is that has been regenerated. The great end to be aimed at is that every man should exult in his having been made a partaker of the Divine nature. The more he thinks of his Savior, the more he will glory in this - that he, in spite of all his spiritual ignorance and blindness, has had in him a power to be so renewed and uplifted; that he has become one of the exceeding great multitude, who owe eternal blessedness to the work of Christ. To speak of the possibility of such glorying as comes from the knowledge of God was a great matter in relation to these children of Israel. They had fallen into the most appalling errors as to the character and disposition of deity. They had come to have gods many - gods who were the patrons of cruelty, rapacity, tyranny, injustice, lust, and covetousness. They had to practice, as a matter of religion, things opposed to those very things in which Jehovah here represents himself as delighting. What was required from them, therefore, was to listen humbly and attentively to those prophetic expostulations which pointed towards light, truth, redemption, and a new song to be put in their mouths by Jehovah himself. And a similar way is to be ours if we would be sure of glorying in the Lord. The way of God in this matter is by the truth as it is in Jesus, and into that way God's Spirit must lead us, and keep us in it even to the end, amid all the difficulties arising from the natural pride of human hearts. - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: Thus says Yahweh, Don't let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don't let the rich man glory in his riches;

Earthly Riches Unavailing
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