Since the beginning of human history, wealth has been measured either by the extent of one’s material possessions, or by position of power and prestige over fellow man. And these have generally gone hand-in-hand.

Those who have been more or less successful in acquiring a greater proportion of this kind of riches have been looked up to as the wise of this world. But in this mad scramble for fame and fortune, they have generally overlooked …

The Greatest Treasure on Earth

“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 glorleth glory in this, that he understandeth and knowth 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

THE DESIRE TO ACQUIRE WISDOM and understanding is in itself a laudable one, and has motivated human behavior from the very beginning. Eve was influenced by the desire for wisdom when she partook of the forbidden fruit: “It was a tree to be desired to make one wise.” (Gen. 3:6) Eve’s desire to be wise was not in itself a sin. It was her act of disobedience to God in order to attain wisdom that constituted her wrongdoing.

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said to this young king, “Ask what I shall give thee.” Solomon’s reply was, “Give … thy servant an understanding heart.” The Lord was pleased with this request, and replied to Solomon, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, either after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.”—I Kings 3:5-13

Solomon became renowned for his great wisdom, and his fame spread abroad among the nations. But as time went on it became apparent that this wise king was not using his wisdom wholly to seek out and to do the Lord’s will. He allowed the worship of false gods to become rampant throughout the land of Israel. In order to increase his riches and glory, he overtaxed the people, placing burdens upon them which after his death led to rebellion. It was good to have the wisdom. Indeed, God had endowed Solomon with great wisdom, but this ambitious king of Israel misused God’s gift to his own injury, and because of this he found later that life was all vanity.

Throughout the ages there have been many wise men and women in various arenas of activity. Today, as never before, the world is seeking wisdom. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge, and never before has so much stress been laid upon the importance of education. But alas, the more the world learns and endeavors to apply their knowledge, the deeper humanity seems to sink into chaos and misery. This is not because knowledge and wisdom themselves are evils, but because sin and selfishness thwart human efforts to use these advantages properly. Human happiness does not stem alone from gaining much knowledge.

Strength Not the Answer

Our text continues, “Neither let the mighty man glory in his might.” Throughout human experience there have been many mighty men. Some have been mighty warriors; others have been mighty in commerce, or in government, etc. Many have endeavored to use their positions of strength for the betterment of fellow man; others have been selfish and arrogant, and have used their power to exploit and oppress. But none have found true satisfaction and peace of mind simply in the fact that they have been mighty. In many instances, their final end is in weakness and disillusionment.

Riches Futile

Our text continues: “Let not the rich man glory in his riches.” Like being wise and strong, to be rich is in itself not wrong. It all depends on how the riches are acquired, and what use is being made of them. Some have become rich by fraudulent means. This is contrary to the law of God under any circumstances. Others have become wealthy through inheritance or wise planning of their business. Many of these make the acquisition of wealth an end in itself, and are never satisfied with the extent of their riches. These are they of whom it could be said that they “glory in … riches.”

On the other hand, some who become wealthy see their opportunity to use their affluence in the service of the Lord and of his people; while others who are given the same opportunity find this sacrifice too great. An example of this is the rich young man who went to Jesus and asked what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus invited him to sell what he had and give it to the poor, and take up his cross and follow him. The man went away sorrowful because the cost was too high.—Matt. 19:21,22

This rich young man had not learned the lesson contained in Paul’s admonition to Timothy when he wrote, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (I Tim. 6:17) The rich young man did not realize this, or else he did not have sufficient faith to believe that if he gave up all in the Lord’s service, all things really needed would be supplied. He decided instead to put his trust in his riches, rather than in the living God.

Paul further admonished Timothy “that they [the rich] do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” (I Tim. 6:18) Actually throughout the Gospel Age not many of the Lord’s followers have been rich according to worldly standards. The Lord’s people have been mostly those of modest means. But as with the widow and her mite, or with those who have been able to do more, the Spirit of the Lord has imbued his people with a zeal to serve him, both with their means and with whatever other talents they have possessed. In this we have the ideal example of the proper use of whatever the Lord may have entrusted to us.

Knowing God

Our text continues, “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me [the Lord].” Here the words ‘understandeth’, and ‘knoweth’, are from different Hebrew words. Together they convey the thought that we should not only desire to know about the Lord, but we should become acquainted with him through an intelligent grasp of the glorious attributes of his character.

To know the Lord is a knowledge which in itself is richly rewarding. In addition, this is a knowledge which, if we are faithful to it, leads to glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. (Rom. 2:7) Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) It is necessary to know God in order to love and serve him, and it is through our loving obedience to his will that we will prove worthy of the eternal life which he has provided through the redemptive work of his beloved Son, Christ Jesus.

But how can we know God? We cannot see him, neither can we touch him. He dwells in the “light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (I Tim. 6:16) Knowing God is more than an emotional experience, although there is great joy in realizing that we do know him. This is a knowledge in which we can truly glory, and it is the basis for that wisdom which is from above, which, as James wrote, is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”—James 3:17

To a limited extent we can become acquainted with God through his works of creation. The psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” (Ps. 19:1,2) We see the wisdom of God in the delicacy and beauty of a flower. We know how true it is that “only God can make a tree.” But the heavens and the flowers and the trees do not explain the suffering and death of an innocent baby; or the apparently useless destruction of thousands by earthquakes, storms, and similar upheavals of nature; or other terrible, man-made tragedies.

Yet in our text we read, “I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” How can we know that God delights to exercise lovingkindness in the earth when all around us there is suffering and death? It is difficult to see the lovingkindness of God reflected in a funeral parlor; and certainly the groanings of the suffering on agonizing beds of sickness is not the language of a loving God.

Through His Word

We can know the lovingkindness of God in fullest measure only through his plan of salvation as set forth in his Word of truth. First of all, the Word reveals that what is taking place in the earth now is the result of sin—original sin, the sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Paul wrote, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”—Rom. 5:12

The penalty of death afflicts all—the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the innocent and the guilty. Its manifestations are all around us, and the dying process is evidenced in many ways. God is not now interfering with the outworking of this penalty, for he has a larger plan for the future blessing of all. That plan was mentioned by Paul when he wrote, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) And again, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

God’s love for his human creatures is so great that even before they called on him for help he had set in motion a plan to deliver them from their afflictions. True, not many have as yet learned about this plan. Some have—that is, those who have heard are invited and prepared now to cooperate with him in the future time when all the world will be judged in righteousness. He is allowing the others to fall asleep in death where they are “still” and “quiet,” and where they are “asleep” and “at rest” until that time arrives.—Job 3:13

God’s lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness are revealed in his plan of redemption through Christ. Paul wrote that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Tim. 2:4-6) The philosophy of the ransom is not too difficult to understand. It is a matter of simple justice—a man’s life for a man’s life—Jesus’ life for Adam’s life; and, of course, with the redemption of Adam there comes also the redemption of his offspring.

So much for the fact, as a teaching of the divine plan. But think of what was involved! In order to accomplish this great feature of his plan it was necessary that the Logos be “made flesh.” “The Word [Greek, Logos] was made flesh.” (John 1:14) And then he further humbled himself and became obedient unto death. Paul wrote, “Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though being in God’s form yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God, but divested himself, taking a bondman’s form, having been in the likeness of men; and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”—Phil. 2:5-8, Diaglott

“Obedient unto death”—think what this meant for Jesus! Yes, even the death of the cross. Here was Jesus, the beloved Son of God, being crucified as a blasphemer and an imposter. Those who watched him die called upon him to come down from the cross. “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Mark 15:31) Little did they realize that by Jesus’ refusal to save himself he was providing salvation for them, and for all mankind—all the families of the earth!

In addition to the mental anguish which Jesus endured, he suffered excruciating physical pain; not because he had sinned, but because he was performing his part in the great plan of his Heavenly Father to extend his lovingkindness throughout the earth.

And in all this the Heavenly Father himself suffered—suffered to see his beloved Son enduring such great contradiction of sinners against himself. God was willing thus to suffer, and was willing to see his Son suffer—voluntarily, of course—because he was, and is, delighted to exercise his lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.

Further Preparation

However, the death and resurrection of Jesus did not fully prepare the way for the manifestation of God’s lovingkindness in the earth. There was a further feature of his plan to be developed; namely, the calling from mankind of a ‘little flock’ who will be associated with Jesus in the dispensing of divine blessings of health, joy, and life, to the thousands of millions of the sin-cursed and dying race.

God had promised to shower blessings upon all mankind. He had promised this to Abraham. (Gen. 12:3) Paul explains that Christ is this promised ‘seed’, and then adds that all who are baptized into Christ are also counted by God as being part of the seed of blessing. So now for nearly two thousand years the work of calling these from the world has gone on. They are called through the message of the Gospel which goes out from the Word of God. But then they have to be tried and tested; and if they pass faithfully through the experiences which God in his wisdom permits to come upon them they will make “their calling and election sure.”—II Pet. 1:10; Rev. 17:14

This class is invited to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and to suffer and to die with him. Jesus said to them, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Fiery trials come upon the followers of the Lamb, and by their faithfulness in these trials they prove their worthiness to live and reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 20:4,6

These, even as the Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, are sympathetic toward the poor, groaning creation, but they realize there is little they can do now, except faithfully to follow in the footsteps of Jesus that they might be worthy of sharing the power and glory of his kingdom—that reign of righteousness which will reveal God’s lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness to the whole world of mankind.

These realize that the wise course for them now is to follow the instructions of the Lord as they are contained in his Word; that any other course would be following human wisdom, and the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. God’s wisdom is displayed in many ways throughout his Word—one of these ways being that his people accomplish his will through their preaching of the cross of Christ. It is through the knowledge of the cross and what it signifies in the plan of God that those whom the Lord calls are drawn to him, and he has given to his consecrated people this work of preaching.

Paul wrote, “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. 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.”—I Cor. 1:18-24

Only those who truly know the Lord are prepared to be guided by his wisdom. There is today, and always has been, a professed people of God. The Lord tells us about these. We quote: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; therefore, behold I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”—Isa. 29:13,14

Jesus said in prayer concerning the hypocritical people of his day, especially the scribes and Pharisees, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matt. 11:25,26) Thus we see the wisdom of being childlike in our humility and faith. It is only to such that our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son reveal themselves.

Continuing, Jesus said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27) And then Jesus pointed out some of the qualities we will learn concerning him if we accept his invitation to come unto him. We quote again, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matt. 11:28-30

Jesus said to his disciples the night before he was crucified, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” To this Thomas replied, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”—John 14:3-7

Then “Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”—John 11:8-10

Thus it is that through Jesus—through his teachings and through his example—we are able to know the Father, and it is in this knowledge that we delight to glory, as our text indicates. We see the meekness and lowliness of Jesus; we see his faithfulness and zeal; we see his willingness to suffer and die that the lovingkindness of our Heavenly Father may ultimately be extended throughout the earth. In this wealth of knowledge we are truly made rich!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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