In 1960-62 Miss Sophie Graham was a Bible teacher at Swannanoa Elementary School, Swannanoa, North Carolina, when I was in 5th and 6th grades. She was a missionary in China prior to the Communist takeover, and when I knew her she lived in retirement in Montreat, North Carolina. Miss Graham was one of the best teachers I have ever seen, bar none. She could teach the Bible! Amazingly, she could hold the attention of children ten to twelve years old. She certainly held mine. And we learned so much! One week, she taught a passage I’ve never, ever forgotten: Jeremiah 9:23-24 “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 exercises judgment, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight,” saith the Lord.
Over the years I’ve taken that passage and taught and preached it on several occasions. Some tremendous truths emerge, ultimately culminating in what Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul1 stated “Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord.” Our glory, our boasting, our trust is ALL to be in Him.
First of all, some thoughts that stand out to me after 56 years thinking back to Miss Sophie Graham and the Jeremiah passage.
The importance of Scripture memorization. To be honest, I don’t remember if Miss Graham tried to have us memorize the passage, though I rather think she did. The point is, Scripture was written to be learned, even memorized. Fanatical, dedicated Muslims memorize the entire Koran. Why can’t we followers of Jesus learn many more verses than we do?
The example of a godly teacher. I was blessed to have good and godly Sunday teachers all the way from childhood. Their commitment to Christ and their example cannot be overstated in terms of the impact it can have on a young person.
The principles of the passage itself deserves a second look, that’s what I want to do now:
- It’s not what we know; we don’t know enough. (“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.”) Education, learning, and knowledge are important, but we’ll never know enough; we need the Lord’s wisdom. In 1799 George Washington was sick. He had served two terms as the first president of the United States. Now retired, he was 67, when he became ill. His doctors recommended “bleeding” him, a common practice at the time. It was thought that getting rid of the “bad” blood would help bring healing. However, Washington, in a severely weakened condition died, apparently of pneumonia. Antibiotics could have cured him. Human knowledge didn’t go far enough. We will never know enough, compared to God. That’s why God’s revelation to us is so vital.
- It’s not what you can do (might or power); we aren’t powerful enough. (“Neither let the mighty man glory in his might.”) Goliath was a 9-foot giant, probably stronger than any other human on earth in his day. Yet his “might” was not enough to guarantee him a victory; David felled him with a sling and a stone and cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword. How many victories did God give His people when it seemed impossible, when they were outnumbered many times over? II Chronicles 20 tells of an amazing victory God gave Jehoshaphat and Judah in which Jehoshaphat put the choir in front of the army! Do not glory in your own might, power, or ability.
- It’s not what we have; we don’t have enough. (“Let not the rich man glory in his riches.”) (Psalm 49 declares that we carry nothing away when we die (vs. 17), and that those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, cannot redeem their brother (vs.6-7). He (not we) owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Jesus said that a man’s “life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).
- Money can’t buy happiness, health, success, or salvation. If wealth is ultimately so powerless, why should we place our confidence in it? Rather, it’s in understanding and knowing Him that we are to glory, to boast.
- We are to boast in the fact that He is the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. These are the things He delights in. We are to boast in Him; He is to be our heart’s passion and desire, and the source of our confidence.
G.K. Chesterson was out on an English countryside sketching pictures using colored chalks. He was frustrated to realize he had brought no white chalk. Suddenly he started laughing with uncontrolled delight when he realized that the ground underneath him was porous limestone – a perfect white chalk.2 God provides everything necessary for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.