Thus says the Lord, “Let not the one who is wise and skillful boast in his insight; let not the one who is mighty and powerful boast in his strength; let not the one who is rich boast in his [temporal satisfactions and earthly] abundance; but let the one who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me [and acknowledges Me and honors Me as God and recognizes without any doubt], that I am the Lord who practices lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight,” says the Lord.
A casual walk past the magazine rack at a bookstore shows us what people value: beauty, wealth, lavish spending, physical strength, pleasure of every description, and political and corporate power. Millions of people read about these things, daydream about them, and work hard to have more of them. But God says, “If you pursue these, you miss the whole point of life.”
We glory in the people, places, and things that give us the most pleasure. We think about them, we praise them, and we can’t wait to tell our friends about them. The truly wise person, God says, doesn’t glory in what’s tangible in this world, but in the intangible thing of inestimable value: having a rich, rewarding relationship with God.
We become like what fils our minds.if we focus on beauty and riches, we’ll compare ourselves and everything else to those traits. But if the character of God fills our minds, we’ll become more like Him. What does that look like? God overflows with loyal love, accurate judgement and wisdom, and righteous choices that help people. When we rivet our thoughts increasingly on God, He works these traits into us, too.
Becoming more like God, though, isn’t just hard work and self-discipline. Walking hand in hand with God- leaving the things that promise life but deliver death and making choices that honor God- brings delight to us and to God.
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want now.
Can you imagine the anticipation God must have experienced when He showed Adam and Eve their home He had created for them? I’m sure as they ran from thing to thing and their joy and laughter echoed through the Garden, it must have given pleasure and satisfaction to God. As Jesus is telling the people-and us- to ask, seek, and knock, He concludes by saying, “If you being wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your Heavenly Father love you and will give good gifts to everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks.”
The delight of God over us is described as Jesus tells us that “ there is rejoicing in heaven in the presence of the angels when one sinner comes home.” One word and one phrase is significant. The word rejoicing in its literal meaning is to twirl violently, to dance. In the Old Testament we read that the Israelites danced after their deliverance at the Red Sea for joy. We read about David, the king, who danced in the streets of Jerusalem with all his might after the Ark of the Covenant was brought home. But all this pales in comparison to what happens in heaven when someone comes to know and receive Christ as their Savior. The phrase “in the presence of the angels” is incredibly significant. Some have taught that it’s the angels who rejoice and I have no doubt that they join in. On the night of the birth of Jesus we read that the angels proclaimed joy to the world and that announcement was followed by praise and worship. But this scripture tells us that while the angels might participate, they aren’t leading the celebration. God, Himself is rejoicing over that one sinner who has been redeemed. This is how much God delights in us. Can you see God dancing for joy over you when you were adopted into the family?
We as humans know in a very small way this feeling of delight. When a child is born, the joy and delight the parents experience as they hold that newborn is incredible. When that child says the first words or takes the first steps, one would imagine from the parents reaction that their child was the first in the world to ever accomplish such things. What joy and delight we experience when we can bless someone in someway. The beauty of gift-giving lies in the satisfaction we get when that gift gives to the recipient joy and pleasure.
But how do we delight someone who has everything? What could you and I possibly give to the Creator of all things? God, speaking through Jeremiah tells us specifically what delights Him. Now I don’t know about you but for me, buying the perfect gift is always easy when the person you are giving a gift to has given you some clues about what they like. So God makes it easy for us to give and do things that brings Him pleasure.
First, Jeremiah tells us, God delights in those who seek to know Him and understand Him. That may sound like a big assignment but God makes it easy for us. He said that if we were to seek Him with all our hearts, we would find Him. When Thomas asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus told him that if He had seen Jesus he had also seen the Father. James reminds us that if we will draw near to God, He will draw near to us. And Jesus told us that one of the missions of the Holy Spirit is to make God known to us. What delights God is when we set our hearts to know Him and to know Him more. To be sure we can know more about God by reading the Bible but as we invest time in prayer, conversation and walking together, our knowledge and understanding of God increases and we come to know the character and nature of God. As a dad and grandfather, one of those things that gives me joy is when one of my children or grandchildren will just come up beside me and put their hand in mine as we walk along together. I think that gives God delight too.
Second, Jeremiah tells us that it gives God delight when we acknowledge and honor Him. Sometimes we are prone to take the credit for our accomplishments as if we are the ones who made it happen. How easy it is to forget that it was God who created us, gave us our skills and abilities and provided opportunities for us to accomplish what we have. I can tell you that as a dad, how my heart rejoices when one of my children will say to someone, “My dad taught me that or my dad showed me the right path.” Even though I know that they really accomplished whatever it is themselves, it gladdens my heart to feel in a small way I influenced their lives. We, too, can give God delight when we acknowledge that all we are and all we have done is because we have been so blessed by our Father. On one occasion, God the Father proclaimed to the people, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” One of the ways that Christ pleased the Father was by always giving Him credit for whatever He was doing. We can do that too.
Finally, we can delight God as we accept, believe and tell others about His character. I think there is nothing more painful that to be perceived as something you aren’t. Far too often God is described as judgemental, harsh, strong disciplinarian, demanding, party-pooper, unkind, uncaring, and distant. Those descriptions come from those who don’t know God nor His heart. Some time ago someone said to me that if God existed and really loved He wouldn’t allow all the evil that’s taking place in the world. They talked about how He allowed people to suffer, how He destroyed the world with a flood and in their minds, if He existed, He certainly wasn’t about love. My response was that if you really want to know about God’s love, look to Calvary and the cross where God gave up His Son and the Son gave up His life for the whole world. Sometimes even the children of God can find themselves wondering about His character. Jeremiah is writing to the Jews in Babylonian captivity, who have and are suffering greatly to remind them and us that the true character of God is loving kindness, justice and righteousness. Like the child who is receiving discipline, we often forget the patient grace that God gives us and the space He gives us to change. The Jews had been given many opportunities and God had sent many messengers to tell them to change their ways and they refused to do so. Scripture tells us that God is not willing that any perish and He sent His Son to die for all. Oh what great love God has lavished on us. O what mercy and grace He offers to us. Yet we must not forget that He is also righteous and holy. Heaven will be a place where unrighteousness and sin will be eradicated forever and sadly those who refuse to give those things up will have no place. You see, even if somehow we could get to heaven and still want to practice sinful things, there would be no opportunity to do so. We would probably be miserable. God is also just. He can’t be persuaded by lawyers or political rhetoric. He isn’t persuaded by powerful humans, influential people, nor can He be bribed. Great and small, rich and poor, influential and insignificant will all find justice at the throne of God. Every injustice in this world will be made right one day. Every wrong will be made right. As we accept, trust and tell of the true character of God we give Him delight to be known as He is.
God works for us because it gives Him pleasure to bless us. Can we, too, choose to
live so that we delight Him?
Dr. John Thompson