The True Ground of Glorying
Jeremiah 9:23-24
Thus said the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might…

The passage assumes that it is right to glory, and the tendency of our nature is to glory in one thing or another. The heart of man cannot remain empty. If you don't fill it with one thing, it will fill itself with another. If you don't tell man of the true God to worship, he will worship a false one.


1. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.

(1) Primarily, the reference is to the wisdom of statesmen, to political sagacity, and forethought. These are not to be gloried in, as the only way of escaping from political difficulties, or averting impending disaster and coming judgments. Political sagacity is not a thing always to be trusted. It does not always bring peace with honour. It may be another name for ambition — for the power of outwitting your neighbour, and, under some pretence or other, invading another's country, and destroying his liberty. It may have its root near low cunning, cheating, and chicanery. Let us rest assured that in all schemes of political sagacity, whatever their seeming success for a while, unless they are founded on principles of justice and righteousness, disaster and ruin will ensue. For God — who ruleth all the worlds — will do right; and He has said that, while righteousness alone exalteth a nation, sin is the reproach of any people.

(2) The text refers, secondarily, to glorying in wisdom of all kinds — the wisdom of the student, the scholar, the philosopher. Men are more apt to be proud of mental gifts and intellectual acquirements than of any other thing. There is an innate splendour, an imperial dignity, about them which does not attach to such worldly possessions as riches, gold, silver, jewellery. The man of great wisdom and intellectual gifts may be inclined from his elevated place, from his eyrie heights, to look with pity, with contempt, on the traffickers in small things — the trader, the handler of tools — while he himself is occupied with thoughts big as the infinite, vast as immensity, and long as the ages. And yet his pride may be checked by the thought of his utter dependence for his thinking power on the Divine hand. No gift comes more directly from the hand of God than mental power. A little clot of blood will paralyse the active brain, and fling reason from its throne. Then, how small after all is the sum of his knowledge and his vaunted wisdom. How men now laugh at the astrology, the chemistry, and the physical theories of other days! And so, as truth is infinite and knowledge advancing, the thought that the time will come when our philosophies shall have passed, when succeeding generations will wonder that we ever believed them, when they shall look on our advances in knowledge and wisdom as the groping of children in the darkness, and estimate our present savants and scientific men as the merest sciolists and drivellers, this thought may well clothe us with humility. Besides, unaided human wisdom could not find out God. Men tried the problem long, but it became the darker and deeper. Didn't Paul find the ignorance of the most enlightened nation on earth registered in the public square when he said — "Whom, therefore, you ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you"?

2. Glorying in might is prohibited.

(1) Military prowess. Other nations might, if they pleased, glory in their vast armaments, but Israel was not allowed to do so. Her strength was in the Lord. Their armaments didn't preserve those nations. Assyria is overthrown, her glory is gone, and Egypt is this day in the hands of strangers. Have the nations of Europe nothing to learn here? Napoleon I, at the head of his legions, made the world stand in awe of him. He overthrew Austria at Austerlitz, and then sprang upon the Prussian army, and smashed its power at Jena. But he in turn is worsted at Waterloo, and we see him gnawing his heart on a rock at the equator. Napoleon III, little more than twenty years ago, considered himself the arbiter of the peace of Europe. He gloried in his might. In overweening pride he attacked Germany. She turned upon him in righteous indignation, pulled the imperial crown from his head, and sent him an exile to another land. Our military prowess and scientific frontiers, our naval strength and greatness, will do little for us, if God's arm be lifted up in anger against us. Why, not long ago, the storm seized our guard ship Ajax, one of our most powerful ironclads, and made a play thing of her at the Mull of Cantyre; and more recently the Bay of Biscay grew angry with the Serpent warship, and flung her a shipwrecked thing on the Spanish shore.

(2) The prohibition refers also to the individual. How apt are we, in days of health and strength, when life is a joy, and the movement of our limbs a music, to put the day of sickness far from us, to fancy that the clear eye will never be dimmed, the strong arm never be palsied, and the heart, now so warm, will continue to beat and throb with unfailing vigour. We may see the sick, the frail, and the weak around, but we are inclined to look upon them as a class different from ourselves. Is there not a secret glorying in all this? How foolish is this! For who can do battle with the King of terrors?

3. Then you are not to glory in riches. Nothing is more contemptible than that a man should be proud simply because he happens to have a good account at his banker's, or a great deal of money in his purse. Why, any man, however worthless, who makes a happy hit may have that — a gambler on the Stock Exchange or a pawnbroker. How uncertain are riches as a possession! How many homes have we seen made desolate! How many households broken up and families scattered during recent years! I am not insisting on the uselessness of money. I am not inveighing against the possession of wealth. I am only cautioning you against making it the source of your happiness, or the ground of your glorying; for it cannot satisfy the deepest needs of the human heart. Didn't Queen Elizabeth, on her deathbed, say — "I would give ten thousand pounds for an hour of life"? Let not the rich man glory in his riches.

II. AN EXACT DIRECTION. "Let him that glorieth," etc. Here is the subject of glorying. Understanding God, and knowing Him practically, so as to love Him and walk in His ways. To understand Him is now possible, for He has made known His ways to men. His whole dealings with His people are a revelation of Himself. To know God is now possible; for He hath revealed Himself in the person of His own dear Son, who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person. We may understand and know Him as thus revealed; and if we do, we may glory. If you rejoice in any other, after kindling a few sparks, you will lie down in sorrow; but if you glory in knowing God, that is a thing which, stretching into eternity, casts a shadow over the brightest sublunary splendours, and remains an everlasting possession.

(J. Macgregor, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: Thus says Yahweh, Don't let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don't let the rich man glory in his riches;

The Pride of Knowledge
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