At the end of Jeremiah chapter 9, the language changes from prophecy and lament to reflection on wisdom. The passage we are looking at breaks down into two sections: what humans boast about in themselves, and how things are different for followers of God.
The first list contains three items-wisdom, might and riches. Wisdom is the Hebrew word for “skill.” We tend to believe that through technological, political, or scientific advancements, we will be able to save ourselves. Might is simply the word for strength. Our culture idolizes the physically fit exactly because they are physically fit. What an incredible character trait to have!
The third item on the list, riches, is also plain to see. For many in our culture, wealth has become a surrogate for significance. We believe that a little more-a little more of anything-will fill us with meaning and purpose. We wrongly assume that significance is measures in dollar amounts, notoriety, corporate promotion, fame, etc.
God, however, sees things differently. Note how the second list in our passage is introduced:
“…but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows me…”
The first step of wisdom in a rebellious world is to grasp how different God’s character is from ours. So what marks that character? What is wisdom for the faithful?
Justice and Righteousness mark God’s character, and should mark the character and actions of His followers, but for present purposes I want to focus on the first item on the list.
God practices “steadfast love.” This is a hard word to grasp in English, but one commentator describes it this way, “[it is] that inner aspect of character which prompts God or man, quite apart from any constraint of law, to show kindness, friendship, and magnanimity to another….It is the virtue that knits society together.” It is a display, even a disposition, of love where none is required, demanded, or even deserved.
Imagine living a life where traits like justice and righteousness come flowing from your very core-they come naturally from your character and disposition. Imagine a life in which the fruit of the Spirit come easily from you-they come flowing from an abundance of “steadfast love” at work within you.
As foreign as that sounds to us, it was the life Christ lead, and it is the life we are called and empowered to lead as we follow Him. Reflecting on whether all this can be said of your life, ask yourself, what do I value?