The Wise Servant
Guest Contribution submitted by Debbie’s Dad
Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
-Jeremiah 9:23–24 (NASB)
In this curious passage in Jeremiah, it seems that the Lord is encouraging us to boast about the fact that we know and understand Him. Is this an encouragement to boast? Isn’t boasting an act of pride? We are certainly warned of pride, arrogance, and boasting throughout the Scripture (See, for example, the warnings in 1 Samuel 2:3 and Proverb 27:2).
This passage comes after a severe lament (verses 1-22), weeping over the state of God’s people – treacherous, adulterous, deceitful, forsaking God, and soon to be judged and scattered among the nations of the earth. Jeremiah describes the horrors of Jerusalem being destroyed, and then, in verses 23 and 24, he declares the Lord’s warning. Men must not exult in their own wisdom, power, or riches (because, considering the coming annihilation, these attributes are of no value whatsoever). If you are going to boast (based on the Hebrew word halal, with a root meaning “to shine forth”), you must shine forth in the joy of your relationship with your Creator!
In the New Testament, Paul refers to this passage in both of his letters to the believers at Corinth. Let’s look at these:
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (NASB)
But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:17–18 (NASB)
In both cases, Paul is using a Greek word (kauchaomai) that can refer to taking pride, exulting, or glorying in an object. Of course, in the context of both verses, he is speaking of exulting or glorying in the character of God, rather than in the accomplishments in Corinth that were brought by God.
Being commended by the Lord, rather than self-exultation is the genuine blessing. Jesus alluded to this when he told the parable of the servants entrusted as stewards. The master commended the faithful servant, … ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23 (NASB).
This is the wise servant – to serve faithfully, and to exult and shine forth in that he knows and understand his Lord.