Reading: Jeremiah 9-11
I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
This verse is the introduction to a prayer which Jeremiah is praying. It provides us with a wonderful teaching on “how to pray.” When we pray we are committing our way to God. We are not telling God how our lives should be and asking Him to bless it; we are both acknowledging our lack of wisdom in knowing how we should live our lives and asking for God's kind mercy to direct our steps. This verse is a good example of how we should approach the throne of grace in humility. The verses that follow reveal that Jeremiah did indeed have boldness and confidence in his requests, however those are not to be confused with a cocky arrogance.
And how does God desire to direct our steps? If our lives are not our own, then how does God want us to live them? The sections preceding this prayer make it clear how God wants us to live our lives. They provide insight into how God would direct our steps; insight into how we will be living our lives if we are not living them as if they are our own.
This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Our human wisdom, or strength doesn't impress God and will be of no value when standing before our Holy God. Our wealth and stuff will be of no value on that day. What is God interested in? What is God like? God works kindness, justice and righteousness on earth. And those who do that have something to rest in on that day.
This word kindness is really simple. In the original language it means kindness. On the street where hurting people live, it means kindness. It is synonymous with mercy; loving-kindness is also a good translation. It is the kind of mercy which describes God's condescension, God's stooping low to be kind to us though we were wretched, poor, pitiful, blind and naked. It is the kind of mercy we must have on the oppressed, the hurting, the lost and the weak. It is mercy which is demonstrated to orphans and widows.
Justice is that element of a good judge by which he makes a good decision. As a judge God cannot be bribed. The wealthy, the athletic, the intellectual elite do not have a pass with God. These all receive a pass in our society. But God will decide a case with justice even if that means siding with the weak and powerless. God doesn't need the power of anyone else, so He isn't trying to win anyone's friendship through side-room bargains against the weak. And we should not be wanting to impress anyone but God. Therefore we should act in His interests, and the interests of truth and kindness.
Righteousness is closely related to justice. It is doing what is right in each situation. We could say that this righteousness is the product of doing kindness and justice.
Our life is not our own, we are to be following God's way of showing kindness, bringing about justice and doing what is right. Of course that brings up some bad news and good news. The bad news is, none of us have lived up to that standard. None of us can stand before God with anything to boast in. We have acted without kindness all too often; without mercy all too often; not doing what is right.
The good news is that Christ did live up to that standard. He came “to preach good news to the poor....to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And when we are baptized into Him, we are baptized into His works of kindness, as He healed the sick and fed the poor; we are baptized into His acts of justice as He set people free from the bondage the Pharisees were laying on their backs, and He healed the sick on the Sabbath and as He released people from the oppression of Satan; we are baptized into His complete fulfillment of the law: loving the Father with all His heart, soul, mind and strength, and laying down His life for others. We could go on. But the point should be clear: we can boast in the Lord! He is wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Now, having been placed into that perfect kindness, justice and righteousness, let's go and be conformed to the image of Christ in our daily lives. Let's be the body of Christ...Christ in us the hope of glory. Whose life are you living? Christ's, or your own?
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
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