Boasting sort of seems like it has no good purpose. But somehow God wired us with the ability and the propensity to boast. Jeremiah 9 (in the New International Version) reads this way:
23 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)
I personally prefer the New King James, It poetically morphs “boasting” to “glorying”, and reads this way:
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJVS)
Whichever you might choose, these verses in any translation say the same thing: The issues and accomplishments of life are not what boasting/glorying is for. After all, “what do we have that we did not receive?” asks Paul (1 Cor 4:7).
Both KNOWING and also UNDERSTANDING our great God – who He is and how He operates, is what we ought to be doing cartwheels over, and in which we ought to be finding our security and safety.
Jeremiah 9 is rather a brutal prophetic chapter – with the prophet starting off (verse 1) saying “I don’t have sufficient tears to weep for the upcoming troubles of my people”. He then goes into detail regarding the upcoming tough season. Israel, in their stubborn religiosity, in their continuous refusal to hear God and to respond to how He was dealing with them, had provoked God to escalation of His ways and means.
They were plenty religious. But that has never been what God has been looking for. They had plenty of popular doctrines. Jeremiah, in fact, was regarded as a party-pooper because he failed to go along with the church/synagogue philosophy. It was not “all good”. Their refusal to repent was soon going to come to a head. Sound familiar?
As long as the people of God dig their intellectual, philosophical and spiritual heels in, and determine to do things their own way, embracing “relevant” world-ways instead of God’s ways, they are in for His correction and judgment. He is jealous. He tells us so.
I cannot find a scripture or historical reference pointing to our great God competing in some popularity contest. He is God. His word endures forever.
To the point – verse 24:
24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
“understands (Me)” – Hebrew is “sakal” – circumspect, wisely skilled and taught, prudent in understanding, thus having good success….
“knows (Me)” – Hebrew is “yada” – implying an intimacy of acquaintance and knowledge and understanding, even to the point of describing Abraham “knowing” Sarah, at which time she bore a child. It runs deep.
So BOTH of the those elements have to be act work, together, for successful living, particularly in trying times (although, in all times).
The “knowing and understanding” of Jeremiah 9 also reveals the never-ending and not-waiting-until-the-end-of-time (1) lovingkindness, (2) judgment and (3) righteousness, by God, in the earth. All three. Ongoing.
In those He delights. “Exercising” those things means happening always. That may war against superficial grace doctrines that sound so good and mean so little, but the reality is God is who He is, and we are invited into that knowing, because He loves us, and because His ways are better than ours.
Pretending God is a softy has never worked. Nor will it. God is God, and that is a good. His love for us runs deeper than we can imagine. In that love is His mercy, and His righteousness, and His judgment. History has proven these truths.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
Happily and soberly, we also can boast/glory/rejoice in His willingness to be discovered by those who would diligently, biblically, and prayerfully seek Him.