Rev. VanderWal is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
Thus saith the LORD, 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 exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
God created man with a heart, and a mind, and with the wonderful ability to tell what things lay upon his heart and mind. Man was created with a tongue to glory, to speak long and loud, about what he should see and remember. Man was made with lips to boast of the affections and desires of his heart. By that creation, established in perfection, man saw the world around him. In all its creatures he saw the hand of his Maker. As he saw, so he rejoiced. His joy was to employ his tongue in the glory of his Maker. He gloried in the Lord.
With the fall into sin, the gift of glorying was not taken from man. Taken from him was his ability to use it rightly, in the service of his Creator. No longer did he glory in the Lord. Now his glorying is contrary to his Creator. Instead of speaking of his Maker, he speaks of himself. He will speak of his possessions. He will declare his attainments and accomplishments.
There are times when men will boast of their wisdom. Ancient civilizations prided themselves in their learned men. Wise men sought to discover the mysteries of the universe around them. They learned of the physical elements. They learned how to use those elements to their advantage. Others sought to discover the mysteries of man, the workings of men’s bodies. Still others sought to discover the mysteries of men’s minds. Some sought the right way for men to live in harmony with fellow men.
The wisdom of the present day is rather different, but men still glory in their wisdom. Today’s wisdom is of technology and science. Men glory not only of knowing the secrets of the universe, but of using that knowledge to improve their condition. Men glory in the study of the economy and business and in the fruit of that study: wealth unimaginable. They glory in the art of diplomacy and boast that they can end all wars. Men boast in the science of medicine and imagine that they shall one day be able to cure every illness affecting the human race.
How far men have come! How much they have improved themselves! Are they not wise?
That wisdom of men fails. Wars come upon the earth. Businesses and economies tumble and collapse. Diseases still ravage mankind. The wisdom of men is utter folly before the wisdom of God. Before the manifestation of that wisdom of God, the wisdom of men is exposed in all its vanity. It cannot stand the light of God’s judgment.
The word of God comes to man: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.”
In times of war men boast of their strength. Heroic deeds are performed on the battlefield. One man sacrifices his life for the sake of his fellow soldiers. Bravery is seen in the actions of one who enters the line of fire to help the wounded. Courage is displayed in one who charges toward the enemy against all hope and destroys that enemy. Men of might storm a beach held by an enemy. A multitude dies upon that beach in order that a few might survive to carry out a great assault.
Stories of such feats warm the hearts of a nation that reads and hears of them. Such heroes are widely celebrated and hailed throughout that nation. Their stories are told and retold. What strength, not only of body but also of heart! What dedication to the cause of a nation’s survival and triumph!
Yet this might of men ceases. These men become old and weak. Their bodies, once filled with power to do great things, become weak and frail. Their hearts, before filled with courage, tremble before ordinary tasks. A generation soon arises that cannot remember or appreciate those deeds of valor. Nations raised upon the might of such great deeds surely fall as time marches onward. The might of the mighty is forgotten. Such deeds as were celebrated among grandparents are barely remembered, and they are surely forgotten by children and grandchildren.
“Let not the mighty man glory in his might!”
If not the mighty men in their might, then the rich will glory in their riches. The present day is a day of glorying in riches.
What riches there are in which men glory! Men have the riches of their income. They own businesses, stand in management positions, and have six-figure salaries. They have the riches of their possessions. They own large houses, vacation homes, and vast acreage. They have a number of toys, large and powerful. Large vehicles carry status with them. Their RV’s are more spacious than the homes of their grandparents. Their vacations are luxurious, exotic, and long.
All these things they love to talk about: what they shall purchase and what they have. They talk about these things among themselves. Continually they rate themselves by the things they possess. They easily become jealous of those who have more than they, and they strive to catch up and surpass, either in truth or in appearance. They look longingly and lovingly at those whose wealth makes theirs poverty in comparison. They consider the great estates they see in their towns or neighborhoods and boast of what meets their eye. Set before their eyes are the riches of billionaires, their great estates and the lavishness of their enjoyments. As they boast, it becomes difficult to distinguish whether they are moved more by envy or jealousy or pride. At the same time, they glory in those riches.
The rich man glories in his riches!
Yet, how much trouble comes with those riches! Those possessions fade in the eyes of men as they become greedy for more and better. Their “pride and joy” becomes old and broken-down. The more they accumulate, the more security they need to protect the things they own. Rich men glory in their riches one day, and then weep and howl over their misery the next, their lives broken and ruined. Their riches have not guarded them against their calamities.
“Let not the rich man glory in his riches!”
Wisdom, might, riches. From wisdom, to might, then to riches. Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In whatever men boast, they boast in themselves, their wisdom, their might, their riches. Men boast in their pride. In their hearts they possess themselves, love themselves, seek themselves.
But let them not glory! “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.” Let them all fall silent. Let the word of pride die upon their lips.
Let another come forward. On his tongue is a different word. He has a tongue to speak. He has something in which to glory. He will speak from his heart of the object of his delight and affection.
This man alone has permission to glory: “Let him that glorieth, glory in this.” His glorying has the approval of God. His glorying is righteous and holy. His glorying is in obedience to the Word of God.
He will glory in the Lord! The Lord of glory, who is worthy of all praise and honor. The Lord, who has created all things for the glory of His name. The Lord, who works all things for the glory of His name.
To glory in the Lord is most proper and right. For the Lord has made all things according to His good pleasure, not the pleasure of man. According to His good pleasure He has created all things for His glory. He has created man for His glory. He has created the tongue of man for His glory. Therefore, let man glory in this! Let him glory in the Lord.
What cause is given for glorying in the Lord! The true and living God, worthy of all glory, is a very particular God. He exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
He exercises lovingkindness. In lovingkindness He looks upon His people. He sees them as they truly are: not wise but foolish, not mighty but weak, not rich but poor. Seeing them in such misery, He does not turn away. Upon them He has tender compassion. But that compassion is more than a mere feeling. He exercises lovingkindness. That lovingkindness of the Lord is mighty to deliver from foolishness, weakness, and poverty.
The Lord also exercises judgment. In great compassion He comes near to His people in judgwounded. ment. The mighty, just Judge over all delivers them. He takes them to Himself and keeps them safe in His almighty hand. In His care they prosper and flourish. They enjoy the riches of being His people.
The Lord also exercises righteousness. He is the righteous, just Judge. As He sees, so He judges. In perfect justice He condemns and destroys the wicked. In perfect justice He delivers and protects the innocent and righteous.
He delivers us! He protects us! How can this be? How can this just Judge deliver us sinners?
He exercises righteousness. He exercises righteousness, not only to see and know who is righteous, who is worthy of deliverance. He exercises righteousness, not only to deliver and protect the innocent and righteous. But He exercises righteousness also in making them righteous. In His just judgment He declares them righteous, imputing to them a righteousness that is not their own. The righteousness He imputes to them is His very own. He made that righteousness theirs by promise in the Old Testament, the promise of the seed of the woman. He made that righteousness theirs by fulfillment in the gift of His only begotten Son in the fullness of time. He made that righteousness theirs by that Son’s fulfillment of all the law and by His mighty death on the cross, a perfect offering for sin. That righteousness He imputes to them, making them righteous.
Lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness the Lord exercises in the earth. This is the Lord we understand. This is the Lord we know.
“Let him that glorieth, glory in this!”
A right and proper glorying is this glorying in the Lord. An obedient glorying is this glorying in the Lord’s lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness. For these are the things in which the Lord delights.
But the glorying of this word of holy Scripture is not yet complete. This glorying is richer and deeper! It is not found only in the Lord, to glory in Him and His exercise of lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness. This glorying is also found in us, what is given to us.
“Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me.”
Here is the glorying of the covenant. This glorying is never to stand at some distance from God. It is not to behold the exercise of God’s lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth from afar. Such glorying is impossible. Rightly to glory is to know that lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the heart and soul. To glory is to possess them as God’s gracious gifts, given to the ignorant, helpless, and destitute. To glory is to possess through these wonderful gifts fellowship and friendship with the living God Himself.
“That he understandeth and knoweth me!”
That he understands the Lord is cause for glorying. He looks all around him. He looks around at all the creation, from the stars in the heavens above to the creatures in the earth beneath. There he sees the hand of God. He looks throughout the wonder of redemption and salvation, from regeneration to glorification. He beholds in every aspect of that work of redemption the hand of God. He understands the presence of God. He understands the almighty power of God.
That he also knows the Lord is cause for glorying. Through this understanding of God in all His works of lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, he knows the Lord. He knows his sovereign Lord in fellowship and friendship. His heart grows stronger in seeking the Lord. He is more and more richly blessed in finding the Lord. He delights in the Lord, and knows the delight of the Lord in him.
How can he that glorieth glory in this? How can he glory that he understands and knows the Lord?
Only because that very understanding and knowledge of God is God’s gracious gift to him. Not that he first knew God or these works of God. But that God first knew him. God first opened his understanding and illuminated his mind. God exercised His lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth upon this foolish, weak, and poor man. In that exercise, the Lord gave Himself to be understood and known.
Therefore, “Let him that glorieth, glory in this!”
This glorying is our blessing! Our delight is to have this glorying on our tongues, these works of the Lord in our hearts. Upon us He has exercised His lovingkindness, His judgment, and His righteousness. To us He has delighted to show His lovingkindness, delivering us from our foolishness. For us, helpless and lost, He has delighted to work salvation through His mighty judgment. From our sin and death He has delighted to redeem us by the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. These works He is delighted to exercise.
Our delight is to know these works of the Lord in ourselves. Out of that delight we speak, using our tongues aright. We glory in the Lord. We glory that we understand and know the Lord.
“For in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” The very works in which He delights are the works in which we delight. His delight is our glorying. What He delights to exercise in the earth we delight to declare in the earth. We show forth with our tongues these wonders of God and we speak of them following after Him.
“Let him that glorieth, glory in this!”
“That he understandeth and knoweth me!”