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 9:24 (NIV)
As the college football season winds to a close, this is the time on the schedule typically reserved for rivalry games. The dissolution and realignment of certain conferences have wreaked havoc with many traditional rivals such as West Virginia vs. Pitt, for example, but plenty of other active rivalries still exist. These include Ohio State vs. Michigan and Alabama vs. Auburn. Regardless of the records of the opponents leading up the games, these games are typically hard fought and close scoring contests. Why? Because the winners wants to having bragging rights over their rivals throughout the next year.
Christians tend to view boasting or bragging much like anger or jealousy as inherently sinful. However God does not outright condemn these actions or emotions. In fact He has engaged in all of them. In Job 1:8, the Lord boasts to Satan about Job, “Then the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” God’s wrath or anger is described in Deut. 4:21, 29:27-28, 1 Kings 11:9 and 2 Chronicles 29:10. God is shown being jealous in Exodus 20:5, Psalm 78:58 and 1 Cor. 10:22.
Since bragging is not intrinsically good or bad, it is the source of the activity that makes this determination. We see this in Jeremiah 9:23-24a, “This is what the LORD says: Let not [bad source] 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 [good source] 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.” (Emphasis added).
Knowing God is the greatest source of bragging rights for the believer. I’m not referencing merely knowing of God or about him, like we might know about our favorite celebrity or athlete. Rather I’m talking about knowing God on a personal level in an intimate way. This is the heart’s desire of saints throughout the ages. The Psalmist expressed his desire in this manner in Ps. 42:1 (NIV), “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi of his desire, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” – Phil. 3:10 (NIV). (Emphasis added).
From a societal perspective, the Apostle Paul would have had much to boast about. Were he alive today, he would have been deemed a “rising star” on everyone’s “who to watch” list. He was a born Roman citizen. He studied under the renowned teacher Gamaliel. He belonged to the strict sect of the Pharisees and made a name for himself persecuting the church. Yet Paul accounted this acclaim as worthless. The King James Version uses the word “dung” (Phil. 3:8) to describe how Paul valued his worldly status compared to the surpassing knowledge of knowing Jesus Christ.
If we go beyond bragging about God to an all-out pursuit of him, we will find that he will return the favor and brag about us. As the servant in Jesus’ parable in Mat. 25:21 (KJV), the words I most long to hear are, “well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”