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Grace Notes

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LET US BOAST
by Philip Owen

            Americans have been known historically as a nation of achievers.  Perhaps the only thing we enjoy as much as achieving is boasting of our achievements.  After all, what value is there in achievement that goes unrecognized by our family, friends, and acquaintances?   This is less a cynical observation than an accurate appraisal of human nature.  But God, who knows the propensity of man to boast in himself, provides this corrective instruction:  “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” (Jer. 9:23, 24).

 

            Attainment of human wisdom, strength, and riches. With three terms, the Lord summarizes the whole compass of human ability and endeavor:  wisdom, strength, riches.  We spend decades gaining knowledge, developing skills, practicing our trades, crafts, arts, and professions, and building personal estates and empires. And God does acknowledge that these things exist.  Yet how small and insignificant they all appear from His perspective.  What we devote a lifetime of time and energy to acquire and develop, He dismisses with a single clause.  Blessed is the person who comes to the same conclusion early in his life and avoids the fruitless investment of his time and energy in things that are merely temporal.

 

            Acquisition of Divine knowledge and understanding.  God’s nature is not to withhold or remove some cherished object without replacing it with a superior one.  And so it is here.  Though boasting in human wisdom, or human strength, or human riches is vain, there is something in which we may genuinely and volubly boast, namely, that God has imparted to us a knowledge and understanding of the Lord Himself.  In such boasting there is neither self-congratulatory pride, nor divisive self-aggrandizement.  Rather, such boasting has about it a thankful spirit, humbled by the realization that this knowledge and understanding are the unmerited gifts of a gracious God who has bestowed them on us who are undeserving sinners because we could acquire them by no other means.

 

            Understanding of Divine lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.  The verb here is wonderful.  God is One who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.  And there is cause to boast in knowing and understanding such a God and proclaiming to the world His  nature and work.  By lovingkindness we understand that the Lord is faithful in all His ways and that what He promises He will steadfastly perform.  By justice we know that God governs a moral universe:  ultimately He blesses the righteous and punishes the unrighteous.   And by righteousness we realize that God adheres to the standards that issue from His holy nature.

 

            Acknowledgement of Divine delight.  God is neither a mechanical lawgiver and enforcer nor one subject to whim.  The fact that He delights in presiding over a moral universe with perfect and exacting justice and at the same time delights to demonstrate the mercy and grace of His lovingkindess reveals the truth that He is acting in perfect conformity with His own nature and that we can truly trust and rejoice in this delight along with Him.  It honors God when we do not make light of sin but recognize its heinous nature, and it honors God when, confessing it, we accept the proffer of grace and rejoice in His fellowship.  No human accomplishment can  begin to compare with that.  May our boasting be in the Lord alone.

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