"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; 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 (NKJV)
Have you ever met a person that loves to show off? That's the person who has to let everyone know what he has and tell the world in an "in your face" kind of way. The show-off is the person who calls attention to the fact that he or she has achieved.
A story is told of a turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--" This text focuses on Jeremiah as he warns Judah not to become too confident in their own accomplishments.
The people of Judah were caught in the middle of world history. It was a prosperous nation that survived under the world domination of the Assyrians and the Egyptians before them. A new world power was on the scene, Babylon. The people were confident that they could not be conquered because they had three things about which they boasted and bragged. They bragged about their intellect, knowledge, and reputation that was earned under Solomon. They bragged about their armies and fortified cities.
Jerusalem itself was surrounded by mighty walls. Even if their own armies failed, they had political alliances with other nations such as Egypt to insure they could stand. Moreover, they had money. Lots of money! Its king kept great storehouses of gold and silver and bragged about its wealth. If trouble came, the nation's leaders felt they had enough money to buy themselves out of danger.
Jeremiah spoke to the leaders and people of Judah about a coming judgment from God because of their sinfulness. Jeremiah's words were often ignored because the people were self-confident. They could not imagine the downfall of the kingdom. They pointed to their superior knowledge and wisdom, their strength and political alliances, and to their vast riches as evidence that they were able to ward off any impending attacks by would be enemies.
Yet Jeremiah reprimanded them for boasting. He said the wise man should not boast in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength nor the wealthy in their riches. All of these come from God. The man who wants to boast should boast about God, because it is God that exercises judgment and dispenses blessings as a part of his loving kindness and mercy. They were encouraged not to revel in their own achievements because those achievements were attainable only by the grace of God. Jeremiah reminded them that when the same God that allowed them to achieve gets angry at their actions he could, just as easily, take away the very strengths they boasted about. As Christians, we rejoice in the fact that God blesses us immensely.
Yet, in our rejoicing, we remain humble, because we know that all things come from God and not from our own abilities. We can't comfortably brag about our successes because, without God, we would have failed!