Recently I was reading a commentary on the book of Jeremiah and a certain passage caught my attention. As I read it and re-read it, several times it really gripped me, so I prepared it as a meditation to be used in our vesper services.
This morning, I woke up much earlier than I wanted to and felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to re-work it for our Jubilee Newsletter, so here it goes. The passage has to do with success. We love success stories. Remember the TV series of years past, “The Rich and the Famous”?
How do we view success? What are some of the benchmarks of success?
- Position in life
- Power that goes with the position
- Research that makes life better for others
- Victory over an addiction
- Winning in some sport
The list could go on and on. In this meditation, I want to focus on “Success from God’s Perspective.” Let’s look at Jeremiah 9:23-24
“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 loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth. For in there I delight says the Lord”.
In these verses, God puts His finger on ways that we as individuals or nations measure success.
- Many times, we boast about our wisdom and what we have accomplished.
- Sometimes we boast about our might and wars we have fought and won.
- We also boast about our riches and what we have accumulated.
Years ago, I read a quote that has stuck with me —
“The person who is all wrapped up in himself or herself, makes a very small package.”
Our Heavenly Father loves to bless us, but so often when He does, we accept His blessing(s) BUT FORGET TO PRAISE HIM FOR HIS LOVE AND GOODNESS TO US. A classic example from scripture is Christ healing ten lepers, in Luke 17:11-19. They cried out to Him for mercy, so He healed all ten. Only one of them went back to thank our LORD and praise Him. He asked, “Were there not ten who were healed? Where are the (other) nine?”
As you read the book of Jeremiah you will see that God had blessed the people of Judah many times and in many ways. But again, and again, they rebelled and turned from following Him.
Jeremiah, the prophet, was very concerned for them because He knew God would hold them accountable. He was a man of prayer and he frequently prayed for them and wept over them. The LORD had revealed to him what was going to happen to his people and in Jeremiah 7:16 God told him to stop praying for his people but to keep preaching to them.
Folks, listen to me. When God tells us to stop praying for our nation or certain individuals, it is a pretty good indication that —
- God’s cup of wrath is full.
- God’s judgment, in some form, is going to fall on them.
God told Jeremiah that the people would not listen. “They won’t pay attention to you. They will go right on doing their own thing.”
Let me give you a little background to this story.
Over the years, worship in the temple had been neglected and the temple became a store-house much like our attics and garages. Young King Josiah was seeking for ways to turn his people back to God, so he gave orders to clean up the temple. 2 Chronicles, chapters 34 & 35.
During the clean-up operation, the high priest Hilkiah uncovered the old scroll of the Law. (Probably the book of Deuteronomy). As they came across the Passover instructions and they realized no one had celebrated the Passover since the days of Hezekiah — probably 100 years.
So, King Josiah ordered that there be a great celebration of the Passover. He went all out in preparations.
- Sacrifices were to be offered according to the Levitical commandments.
- The priests were to prepare themselves to conduct the ceremony.
Note: The great day arrived for the celebration – sacrifices were to be prepared and offered in the temple. The singers and the chanters were ready. The procession was led by the King himself. The priests were swinging their incense pots and chanting as they went. The choir was singing a hymn that included these words, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”
People were heaving a sigh of relief and thinking to themselves (their wisdom), “Now God is satisfied. Now He will save us. Now the nations around us will not take us over, because at last we are settling our religious accounts with God.”
Suddenly, a young prophet climbed up to a prominent place on the temple steps and basically yelled, “HOLD IT!” We read what he said in Jeremiah 7:1-4, The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD!’” 3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘[a]This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.”
Here is my interpretation of what God was saying to the people through Jeremiah,
Who do you think you are kidding? Do you really think God is like this, that all He is interested in is religious games and rituals? Do you really think that if you merely get all this religion going God will be fooled and spare the land? Don’t you know that God knows what is really going on?
The young prophet went on to describe their actions —
“Behold you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultry, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My Name and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations? Has this house,
which is called by My Name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold I, even I have seen it, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 7:8-11
This sounds very similar to what another young Jew declared years later as He went into the temple with a whip and cleared out the money-changers saying, “You have turned My house into a den of robbers.” That was Jesus. He went on to say, “My house shall be a house of prayer.”
Jeremiah pointed out that his people were counting on several things:
- The temple was now clean.
- They had discovered the LAW of God.
- They were counting on performance, and outward ritual. They forgot that God knows what is in our hearts.
Proverbs 21:3 says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
So, this brings us back to where we began —
- The tendency to trust our wisdom and not God’s.
- The tendency to boast in our might rather than God’s.
- To trust in our riches rather than God’s riches. Man’s riches are “uncertain”.
So, from God’s perspective, what is the key to a successful life? God told the distressed prophet —
- Glory in the fact that you know Me and my wisdom is perfect and available to you.
- Glory in the fact that I am almighty and that my might and strength is at your disposal.
- Glory in the fact that you have riches that money can’t buy — Love, Peace, Joy, Grace, Mercy, Truth, Salvation and Eternal Life by trusting in Me.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”
One last powerful thought — as Jeremiah listened to God, he realized that his people were headed for judgment — God’s judgment, but he also realized that God’s judgment did not mean God had given up on His people. Rather, it was a last desperate act of love. God will do anything to turn us back to Him.
Are you on God’s path to success?
For His Glory,