In Jeremiah 9:17-24, the prophet speaks three separate pronouncements from the Lord (vv. 17-21, 22, 23-24) each beginning with a similar phrase. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains it like this…
“In the first section (vv. 17-21) God called for the wailing women, who were professional mourners, to lament for Jerusalem. These mourners were then to teach their daughters another lament. This funeral dirge was over the death of the children and the young men who were killed when the Babylonians broke into the city.
In the second section (v. 22) God pictured the severity of the massacre by Babylon. The dead bodies would resemble the cut grain left behind the reaper in a field. But there would be no one left to gather this gruesome “harvest.”
The third pronouncement (vv. 23-24) summarized the response God expected from the people. The people were not to boast in their human wisdom or strength or riches for these would not last. Instead a person should boast only to the extent that he understands and knows God. Again the word “know” (yada) pictured an intimate knowledge of God. God wanted the people to be intimately acquainted with His kindness, justice, and righteousness. “Kindness” khesed refers to God’s loyal love (cf. 31:3; 33:11; Lam. 3:22). God would stand by His commitment to His people. “Justice” mishpat is a broad term that pointed to governing justly. God would vindicate the innocent and punish the guilty. “Righteousness” ts’daqah conveys the idea of conforming to a standard or norm. God’s standards of conduct were supposed to be Israel’s norm.”
When we come up against pain, suffering, grief; every fabric of our being is put to the test. Jeremiah speaks of three things people of the world trust in: wisdom, strength, and riches. If these fall short in the time of need, what will avail? What’s left after wisdom, strength, and riches? What else do we have to offer? Several months ago, none of these three things (in myself) helped me. There are more days ahead (including today) where in and of myself, my wisdom, my strength, and my riches (or resources) will not help me, never mind give me a place to boast in them.
Our highest good is to know God. To know him by experiencing him. I am learning that the ways that we experience him in and through those dark days. Walking with us through the valleys, God demonstrates to us exactly what these verses say…
“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord, who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.” (Jeremiah 9:24 NLT)
This really is an amazing passage. Knowing God means knowing his steadfast love (covenant faithfulness), justice (right judgment), and righteousness (right behavior, especially in keeping his promises).
Suffering strips us in so many ways. Our wisdom, strength, and riches are so pale in comparison to what God has to offer. If we are honest, that statement is far beyond accurate because we cannot even make a comparison that we can understand when we consider God’s wisdom, strength, and riches. He is out of our league as we would say. God is not like us. He is not like his creation. Yes, there are attributes that are communicable, but suffering and deep pain is teaching me that God stands apart from all of his creation.
Knowing and understanding God through suffering is when God really impresses on our hearts that his ways are higher. That is power is present to the weak. That his riches and resources in Christ are fully sufficient. For the sufferer, we want justice. The problem is that we want it now. We want all wrongs to be made right, today. God doesn’t have to work that way and when he doesn’t, he is still God.
I want to boast; I can devise a plan (wisdom) and get out of this mess or fix it, I am strong (strength) enough to face this trial head on, I can obtain (riches, resources) what we need to overcome this situation. I think the longer I live on this earth, life itself chips away at my boasting, but suffering and pain cut them off at the stump!
God can do what he wants to do because everything that he wants to do is perfect, good, loving, righteous, and just.
Let that be my boast!
Father, over and over I am so foolish to think that I can surmount the difficulties of life on my own. I fully admit that I try, I fail, then I try harder. I grasp the desire to boast or shine in myself, but its like holding on the water, there is nothing to grasp. But You, you have shown me in ways that I have never seen before, your strength and sovereignty. I have so much more to see, so much more to know (experience) you. I am almost frightened to say that there is so much more to knowing you because I understand that this knowing is going to come through more suffering. What is around the corner? I admit, that still strikes fear in me. I am finding myself anxious of the hours and days ahead because I don’t know the suffering that is around the corner. I am trusting that you know what is best to take me through. But I fear it is easier for me to say that, than to walk it. I need you.