Let him who glories…
Whenever election time rolls around in a Western democracy, the public is treated to a bizarre spectacle — politicians strutting their stuff on the hustings catwalk, each one straining to convince voters that he (or she) is wearing the prettiest dress, that he has the right stuff to lead us ordinary folk to dizzying heights of financial and national security in the brave new world of the next few years. Each one presents himself — in the hope that you will be suitably impressed — as the archetype of pragmatic wisdom and thus the ideal choice as leader. Aren't you tired of such boastful self-promotion? What would you give to see a politician who takes Jeremiah 9:23-24 to heart?
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.
Of course, politicians are no worse than the rest of us, really. We all tend to pride ourselves in our own wonderful attributes, whatever we may perceive them to be.
If we aspire to godliness, we must resist this temptation and consciously make the infinite glory of God our delight and focus. The question at hand is this: where do we see the divine exercise of “lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness”, which we can summarize under the heading “goodness and justice”, in the earth?
His “lesser attributes” of sheer power and intelligence are clearly displayed in the wonders of nature (Rom. 1:20); how can we “know and understand” His greater spiritual attributes? That question is not easy to answer in light of both experience and biblical testimony. Do we see a world in which truth and justice prevail, or a world in which
injustice and oppression are the rule? Do we see good people prospering and wicked people struggling? Does mankind as a whole enjoy blessings and prosperity? Scripture itself tells us that we are all subject to the vagaries of time and chance (Eccl. 9:11), that the wicked often prosper (Eccl. 8:14), that God has appointed times of adversity (Eccl. 7:14) and that Adam's transgression has brought death (and suffering) upon all mankind (Rom. 5:12).
Where oh where in all of this do we see evidence of the exercise of goodness and justice by God? Undoubtedly the answer lies in seeing Jeremiah's words as promissory for the future. Prophecy often speaks of future acts of God in the present tense, possibly because it's so certain it's as if it's already happening. Isaiah 42:4 tells us,
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.
These words are grounded in a simple truth — justice is not currently established; most of mankind is weighed down by misery and hardship as a result. The godly cope in this evil world by clinging to Isaiah's assurance of a new age of peace and prosperity — and justice — when He will,
… pour contempt on princes, and cause them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way; [and will] set the poor on high, far from affliction (Ps. 107:40-41).
As a result,
The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth. Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord (vss. 42-43).
The righteous and the wise see God's future exercise of goodness and justice in their mind's eye and delight themselves in knowing and understanding the awesome truth about the infinite goodness of God. Wait for it. It will be revealed.