BOASTING IN THE LORD!
What an extraordinary call that Jeremiah makes in today’s reading (ch 9)! Isn’t boasting something we should not do? Jeremiah’s answer from God is almost, ‘no and yes’! Consider what the LORD says:
“Wise people should not boast that they are wise. Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful. Rich people should not boast that they are rich. If people want to boast they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know Me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the LORD, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,” says the LORD. (vv 23, 24)
Of course, what God seems to be saying also is that once we know and understand God in the ways He describes, we are going to be less likely to want to boast.
Once we know and understand God, and these elements of His character, and how He has revealed these to us, there is no room for boasting about ourselves. But there is cause when we consider what God has done for us—we do boast, celebrate and glorify God’s faithfulness, fairness and justice!
We should also note something else about God’s call. God desires people to do these things—He wants us to act as He acts. The reason we will be inclined to do so, is because He has first been faithful, fair and just to us. We will have seen Him acting in our lives in this way. Consequently, our response will reflect our thankfulness for what He first did for us.
“We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4 v 19). Similarly, we are faithful, fair and just in our daily lives, because He was first those same things with us.
In a local “Fair Trade” shop which my wife, Dorothy and I frequent, there is a wall painting which says:
I suspect you will recognize the words and will know where they come from. They are wonderful words and if everyone did just those three things, how much better would the world be?
But there’s an important piece missing! The full quote from the prophet Micah is:
“With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (ch 6 vv 6-8).
In fact, it is probably unreasonable to expect that the dear lady in our shop might spread the whole quote across her side wall, but we might expect that the three words “with your God” would not have involved either greater expense or compromised the space on her wall.
Sadly, the world in which we live wants faithfulness, fairness and justice, but not God. We should not be surprised! In the days of the prophets, God’s people responded in exactly the same way—‘just tell us what we want to hear, but please don’t confront us with God, the Holy One of Israel!” (see for example, Isaiah 30 vv 9-11). Most of us, at least in the West, will have seen the municipal street banners and shop front posters at Christmas time, extolling “peace on earth and goodwill among men”, but sadly forgetting that the basis of this angelic promise is the first part of the angels’ proclamation at Jesus birth—“Glory to God in the Highest”!
Similarly, the insistence on human rights, is diminished and ineffective when Divine right is shunned and ignored. The lesson which God wants us all to learn is taught us in a very short introduction to the man Melchizedek, king in Jerusalem (Genesis 14). The writer to the Hebrews letter (chapter 7) interprets this short phrase as, “being first, by interpretation, king of righteousness, then king of peace”.
The lesson we are being taught is that there can be no peace, until God’s righteousness is upheld. Once we declare God as right, and ‘we poor weak ones, we poor sinners’ as ‘wrong’ and in need of His grace, ONLY then can there be personal peace. Similarly, for the world in which we all live, when nations can finally acknowledge—as they will when Jesus comes—‘glory to God in the Highest’, only then will there be peace on earth.
In last week’s ‘encouragement’ we noted that for each of us, as followers of Jesus—as people of the Kingdom, living by Kingdom rules and submitting to the King—the kingdom is already here NOW! Of course, Jesus sitting on David’s throne and the law going forth from Zion are still future. But there should still be no doubt as to what God requires of us, NOW.
In the week ahead, let each of us reflect on what God has revealed to us. He first loved us. He has been faithful, fair and just in dealing with us.
In ‘boasting’ or glorying in His grace, freely given in His Son, let us practice the same love, faithfulness, fairness and justice in all of our thoughts, words and actions to those around us. God delights in people who do these things!
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