Image via Author, Bighorn Range, Wyoming
Often in the Old Testament prophetic books there will lie almost hidden within the narratives a key truth for those who are serious seekers. Like treasures hidden ordinary fields, one must be alert to them and at times dig a little for them. But one need not dig too deep, for the Lord “hides” his messages of truth in plain sight.
Following is one of these treasures hidden in plain sight, a truth that is revolutionary and vitally important to our faith. A truth so important that almost no one has been writing about it for the last 75 years. So it is with the central, vital truths of the Bible. They lie neglected as the practitioners of religion scurry about doing other things.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.”
In Jeremiah 9 the prophet is calling out the Israelites for their deceitful and treacherous ways, and how the consequences of these ways will be the desolation of the land and the people. Verses 23-24 do not fit into the flow of the narrative and seem like they were added in a random fashion. Yet they are truly a treasure that lies hidden in plain sight in this passage.
In that day, the Jewish leaders believed that if you were learned, knowledgeable, and had wealth, it was a sign of God’s favor. To correct their thinking Jeremiah wrote: “Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth….” I can imagine the Jewish leaders as they heard this, scoffing at such a ridiculous statement.
Jeremiah then reminds us of what has always been the measure of righteousness before our God: “but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” To understand and know our God is the boast of His true followers.
To “understand” in the Hebrew means to be expert, skillful, and have wisdom concerning the subject. More than simply understanding facts this implies wisdom in living in light of the facts. To “know” in the Hebrew means to be experienced in, intimate, and to know with certainty. This form of the word is rare in the scriptures, and speaks to a deep acquaintance that is intimate, such as with very close friends. It is a deep knowing of the person Himself, not simply facts about Him. Intimacy, experience, and certainty are all rolled into this Hebrew word.
The people of our God have always had only one boast, to deeply understand and intimately know their Lord. Just go back into the Biblical narrative and you find the righteous usually described in terms that indicate intimacy with their God. Examples of those who knew their God in this way in the Old Testament include Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. Noah knew his God deeply, as did Jacob after he had his all-night wrestling match with the Lord. Joshua knew Him, as did Samuel, the prophet who had been a confidant of our God’s since he was a young boy.
Then there is David, who came to know His God early and had the Ark and the presence of our God available to Him daily for more than 30 years. Anna and Simeon, Old Testament figures recorded by Luke in his gospel, knew by God’s Spirit speaking to them that the baby Jesus who came to the temple was the Messiah long sought for by the Jews. These people experienced a conversational intimacy with their God.
It is for this intimate communion our God made humans in the first place. Without it, we are living outside His purposes. We are by nature empty souls made to be filled with our God and to live in intimate communion with Him. Instead, we are far too often filled with lesser things, disconnected from the fullness of life He desires to live in us.
The ultimate offer of intimacy would come in the incarnation our God that we see in the man, Jesus Christ. He laid aside His prerogatives of Creator and Son of God to live among us. And while here, He lived a life of intimate communion with His heavenly Father every day. After dying to ransom and redeem us, Jesus would impart His Spirit into us to bring us into union with Himself. Union, not distance. Love, not religion. Knowing Him intimately, not seeing Him from afar or only during “viewing hours.”
Now we have the perfect and complete opportunity to know our God intimately, to walk each day in close communion with Him but the Holy Spirit of Christ Himself within us. One need not ponder this for very long to see what an amazing opportunity this is.