“Glory in the Lord”

“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: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” —Jeremiah 9:23,24

“That no flesh should glory in his presence.” —I Corinthians 1:29

THE words of our text from the Prophet Jeremiah constitute important advice to all of us. God sent this message to Israel of Old Testament times and especially to the church during the Gospel Age, because of his love and concern for his people. He knew that our adversary, the Devil, would be relentless in his attempts to influence our motives along the lines of evil and selfishness. Hence, he inspired the prophets and the apostles to so write as to make us aware of the devices of this great enemy, and not become ensnared by his wiles.

The Lord knew that Satan would exploit our weaknesses. These sinful tendencies, common to all the fallen race of Adam, are opposite to the characteristics which should be developed by those who would be followers of the Lord. According to our text, the wise individual, whether truly wise or merely believing he is wise, is bent in the direction of glorying (boasting) in his own wisdom. The mighty man has a proclivity for boasting in his might, and the rich man in his riches. We all have these tendencies to some degree. How can we resist these evil inclinations? The answer lies in directing our thoughts to be mindful always of God, his character, and his plan. All of the Lord’s people have received untold blessings because of being drawn to God and his Son. If we should forget the source of these blessings and begin to think that our own abilities have been solely responsible for our achievements, we are in danger, not only of losing further blessings from God, but also of losing the benefit of those blessings already received. The entire nation of Israel was blessed because they were chosen of God to be his people. But Israel soon forgot the source of their blessing and went astray. Since the things that happened to Israel are described by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10:6 as “our examples,” we should take heed to their experiences and endeavor to discern why they occurred, and thus profit from them.

When Jeremiah wrote the words of our text, he was on a special mission to the nation of Israel. God had instructed Jeremiah to inform Israel (Jerusalem in particular, and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah and Benjamin) that their idolatry and lack of appreciation for God had doomed them to complete overthrow and captivity by Babylon. When Jeremiah faithfully carried out this mission, he was viewed by his countrymen as a traitor. But their expressed hatred and sore persecution did not deter him from his duty. He, of course, was saddened by his nation’s treachery, and general disobedience of the laws of God. This feeling was expressed in Jeremiah 9:1, where he wrote, “Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” because of the punishments coming upon his people. Judah’s obstinate course of action was well expressed in verse three, “They proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 9:3) Yet Israel was given every opportunity to know the Lord and had every advantage with which to be a faithful and obedient nation. They were led by God through the giving of the Law as a guide to their conduct, and they were blessed when obedient. The Law was like a schoolmaster which should have eventually led them to Christ. By receiving the oracles of God, they were to have the first opportunity to inherit the spiritual promises of God and become his royal priesthood. But, influenced by the adversary, Israel, except for a remnant, fell from favor with God and failed to inherit the chief blessing. In the ninth chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet, speaking for the Lord, recounts their iniquities and tells of deserving punishments to come. Their failure resulted from neglect to heed God’s counsel as stated in our text.

Jeremiah said, “Let not the wise man glory [boast] in his wisdom.” However, the trend in the nation of Israel was exactly that: they boasted in their wisdom. This can be seen in the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, the masters of the Law in our Lord’s day. They constantly sought to improve the rules of conduct given in the Old Testament, making long, detailed commentaries on God’s law. The Talmud, containing these commentaries and interpretations, became more voluminous (and more important) than the Torah, the original five books of Moses.

Jeremiah continues, “Neither let the mighty man glory in his might.” Israel refused to learn the lesson of humility. They looked for a Messiah who would overthrow the rule of Rome, their conquerors, because they chafed under the Roman yoke. How could they receive Jesus who was meek and lowly of heart? How could they follow Jesus when he sought those of a similar disposition to follow him?

Finally, Jeremiah said, “Let not the rich man glory [boast] in his riches.” Israel enjoyed wealth to the extent that her religious leaders, because of greed, would devour widow’s houses in the name of God. (Luke 20:47) How difficult it was for those who desired riches to accept the son of a carpenter as their leader!

The Apostle Paul reflected sentiments similar to Jeremiah’s when he wrote concerning his brethren: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Rom. 9:1-3) What motivated the apostle to make such an expression? It was because his brethren (Israel) had failed in their opportunity to receive Christ and be associated with him. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem at the time of his rejection of them as a nation, he said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.”—Luke 19:41,42

The Apostle John described explicitly the condition of the Jewish people when he wrote: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and. I should heal them. These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:37-43) Most of Israel were blinded and could not understand the call to follow Jesus; their leaders loved the praise of men more than the praise of God and so Israel failed to gain the chief blessing.

These experiences of Israel should help us to appreciate so much more the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 13:16, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” When Israel refused to heed the advice of the Lord through Jeremiah and the other prophets, the opportunity to become members of the royal priesthood was given to others.

And how have the Gentiles fared in heeding the Lord’s counsel? It is evident that some who responded to the call of Christ in the Early Church had similar problems of permitting fleshly propensities to becloud true spiritual values. The tendency to boast in wisdom, might, and riches, manifested itself time and again. It seems this was the case with the church at Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote very plainly to his brethren there, reminding them of the wonderful glory and honor which God had promised them if they were faithful; but he warned, if they should continue in their selfish interests, causing trouble and strife, they would lose their position of favor with God. The Apostle Paul made a vigorous effort to help them by pointing out where they had erred. He called attention to the divisions among them, saying, “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”—I Cor. 1:11-13

He admonished the brethren that instead of being divided in their consideration of leaders, they should be united by the message of truth which was common to all and which was his mission to preach. Repeating this commission he said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I Cor. 1:17 RSV) Oratory and eloquent wisdom glorify the flesh and therefore the real message concerning Christ might elude them. It was far more important that the message of the cross be presented in its simplicity. As the apostle continues his argument he quotes from the Old Testament: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent [or the one who thinks he has great knowledge].”—I Cor. 1:18,19; Isa. 29:14

In this quotation from Isaiah, the apostle tells of God’s purpose to destroy the supposed wisdom of this world. In a sense this wisdom perishes upon the death of each individual. However, there is an additional thought in the apostle’s words. The wisdom of the world is so motivated by selfishness that it leads in the direction of pride, and “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) All such wisdom will perish. Those who become enamored of their own accomplishments in either wisdom, might, or riches will have a difficult time discerning how God has provided for their needs and will not render him due praise. These, in a measure, have fallen prey to the adversary’s spirit of pride, whereas the path to true wisdom lies in an awareness that all things good are from God.

Continuing his presentation, the apostle asks, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”—I Cor. 1:20-25

As the apostle asks, “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” we may wonder how he has done this. The answer is found in the succeeding verses. There it is stated that the world, blinded with its earthly wisdom and its own philosophies, is unable to perceive and recognize and know God. Therefore, it pleased God to use the simplicity of the message of the sacrifice of Jesus to save the church class from sin and death. This message was so simple that the Jews failed to receive it because they were looking for other evidences of God’s power and wisdom; and the Greeks refused to accept it because they looked for a complex philosophy. Yet this uncomplicated doctrine of the cross is the basis for all the marvelous work which God intends to accomplish through his plan.

The power and wisdom of Christ as revealed in the sacrifice of Christ, has been understood and accepted only by those called of God to share in the sufferings and glory of his Son. Through this calling God intends to show how that which is considered foolish by the world “is wiser than men,” and that which is considered weakness by the world “is stronger than men.” (I Cor. 1:25) In describing those chosen of God to be his children, the Apostle Paul uses expressions such as foolish, weak, base, and despised. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are.” (I Cor. 1:27,28) While the words in this text are descriptive of how the world esteems those whom God chooses, they also contain an even more personal lesson. God wants us to realize that he did not choose us for our nobility, wisdom or wealth, but rather that he is accomplishing the task of developing the church by working with unknown, unimpressive, ordinary people, so “that no flesh should glory in his presence.”—I Cor. 1:29

The key to the handling of matters involving wisdom, might and riches is to look constantly to our God. We, like Moses, have been given a glimpse of God’s goodness and have heard the refrain: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God of compassion and favor,—slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and faithfulness: keeping lovingkindness to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin.”—Exod. 34:6,7, Rotherham

The world of mankind has not yet been privileged to see God in his true glory. In due time, however, our Father, who is the great supreme Creator of the universe, will become known for his lovingkindness, his justice and righteousness, even as Jeremiah said, “Let him that glorieth [boasteth], glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me that I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.” (Jer. 9:24) In today’s evil world, people are more apt to glimpse God’s wisdom and power than they are his justice and love. If they are alert to the marvels of creation around them, they can see the intricate and wondrous design of all things in earth and heaven. To the extent that the children of men pause to reflect upon the pattern of the universe, our solar system, the earth itself, or even the tiny atoms that compose all matter, to that extent they are bound to stand in awe at the wisdom and power therein revealed. Unfortunately, few take the time to pause and consider how the fathomless complexities of creation declare the great power and wisdom of God.

Yet the greatest wisdom of all and the greatest power of all is to be found through Christ. God soon will reveal to mankind, through Jesus’ blessed kingdom, the wisdom of his plan and all will see his power manifested. And not alone will men see God’s wisdom and power, but they will also see his justice and love. These wonderful attributes of God will be manifested as the blessings of Christ’s kingdom flow to the people through the Christ. All people will return from the grave and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. They will then with one voice glorify God. It has been the privilege of the church class to glory in their wonderful Heavenly Father as they have journeyed through this world. And they will continue to boast in their Lord and to teach all men to do likewise, even as the Apostle Paul has said, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”—I Cor. 1:30,31

As God made Jesus the church’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, so it will be the church’s privilege to help the world of mankind also see Jesus as their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption—forever and ever—and then the ransomed of the world will glory in the Lord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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