21 Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. 22 Say, “This is what the LORD declares: “ ‘Dead bodies will lie like dung on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper, with no one to gather them.’ ” 23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. 25 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” (Jeremiah 9:21-26)
Let’s put our study into a historical context. God established the nation of Israel from the prodigy of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. By the leadership of Joseph they were settled into Egypt but soon were persecuted and enslaved by a long line of Pharaohs. Through Moses they were rescued from slavery, were given the law and moved into the promised land. The time between Abraham and Moses was about 500 years and the time between Moses and David about 500 years and time between David and the time of Jeremiah was about 400 years. By the time we get to the time of Jeremiah, the northern kingdom of Israel was completely destroyed and the southern kingdom is struggling for existence.
TO understand the frequent devastation of Israelite culture is to think of it’s geography. The kingdom of Judah is located on a land bridge between the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. Huge kingdoms would occasionally emerge from one of these three directions and swallow up the Israelites, whether it was the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Babylonians or Persians. Why was this strip of land so contested? The answer is that the empire that controlled the land bridge between continents controlled the trade routes.
So throughout Israelite history there was constant and unrelenting cultural influences putting pressure on the people of God.
In other words, the Judeans were under the constant influence of outside Pagan cultures.
Jeremiah lived in a fragmented culture- a culture that has no consensus about what life is for. We live in a culture like that.
In a fragmented culture, the challenge is how do you form beliefs. How do you gain identity?
1. We are all searching for a sense of identity
We all long for applause. We all long to be recognized and praised and adored. Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice once said that her dad wanted to be the corpse at every funeral and the bride at every wedding.
There is a sense of that need in all of us. WE all long for applause.
2. The essence of our sin is misplaced identity
23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,
The word “boast “ is “halelel”- we know it as the first part of hallelujah. Our entire lives we are seeking praise- we desire the applause of others, we want to be adored and praised. It is the essence of the human condition.
“You shall have no other gods before me”. (Exodus 20:3)
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. (Jonah 2:8)
“Sin is trying to become a self without God” -Soren Kirkegard
3. True confidence comes from identity in God’s purposes
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD
How does a person get to where they are not bound by the need of applause? You have to live for the applause of God.
3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:3-4)
No one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. . . . I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be. (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
When Steven was stoned to death, he saw Jesus standing.
Christianity is not a set of rules. IT is a whole new way of becoming a self.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
- Why is it important to have a strong sense of identity?
- What happens when we don’t have a sense of who we are?
- How does the gospel help us form a strong identity?
- What is the result of a strong identity?