Tuesdays with Jeremiah (Chapter 32)

32In the midst of the Book of Consolation, we have the record of a land purchase that Jeremiah made from his cousin Hanamel.  But this is more than a historical tidbit about Jeremiah’s purchase of a plot of land in his hometown of Anathoth for seventeen shekels (8-9). This is a symbolic act in which Jeremiah proclaims his confidence in God’s promise of restoration as the very time when hope seems gone.

The setting for this chapter is given in the opening two verses:  Jeremiah is imprisoned in the courtyard of the royal palace for his pronouncements of impending destruction of the city and deportation of the king, words perceived as unpatriotic by the Zedekiah (3-5). Verse 1 sets the chronology for this chapter as the “tenth year of Zedekiah.”  The Babylonians are literally at the gates; they have laid siege to Jerusalem and will overrun and destroy the city in the eleventh year of Zedekiah (52:4-5).

anatothWhile imprisoned, Jeremiah receives a word from the Lord that his cousin Hanamel will come to visit him and urge him to purchase a piece of land in Anathoth, according to Jewish custom where the “nearest relative” gets first right of refusal on family land sales (8). Anathoth in no longer a friendly place for Jeremiah; it’s the town where those who plotted to take his life live (12:18-23).

Humanly speaking, this is not a good time to invest in property in Judah.  The Babylonians have surrounded the city. Anathoth, which lies several kilometers north of Jerusalem, is already under their control.  God has revealed to Jeremiah that the Babylonian armies will capture the Jerusalem (3) and will carry the survivors into exile for the next seventy years (25:12). So Jeremiah is going to be asked to buy property that will be of no use to him. He will not outlive the exile and he has no children to inherit it (16:1).  On top of this, Jeremiah may need any money he has left to help him survive while imprisoned in the courtyard of the palace.  Buying this property at this time seems like a foolish idea from every angle.

But Jeremiah buys the field as God told him to do (25).

for saleAs he seals the deal with two copies of the signed deed (one private and the other public–11), he gives them to Baruch in the presence of the witnesses.  He instructs Baruch to put them in a clay jar for long-term storage.  The deeds will be needed in the future (70+ years later) as Jeremiah announces: “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land”(15).

After the transaction is complete, Jeremiah prays (16-25).  It’s not stated whether he is alone or still in the presence of Baruch and the witnesses. Jeremiah worships God, declaring his confidence in God’s power:  “Nothing is too hard for you” (17).  He recounts evidence that bolsters his faith in his “great and powerful God” (19)—the creation of the heavens and earth (17); the redemption of the nation from Egypt (20-21); the giving of the good land of Canaan to Israel (22); the sending of the Babylonian armies to destroy the city (24).  Jeremiah acknowledges God’s faithfulness to His word (“You gave them this land you had sworn to give their forefathers”—22; “What you said has happened”—24).  He praises God, saying, “great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds” (19).

Jeremiah ends his prayer ends reminding God that buying this property in Anathoth was His idea (25).  The implied message Jeremiah is sending is that he is trusting God’s great power and great faithfulness to fulfill the promise that houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought and sold by Israelites.  There will be a future and a hope.  Jeremiah didn’t just throw away his silver; he invested it in God’s future.

God responds to Jeremiah’s prayer with another message to the prophet (26-44). The Lord begins by affirming Jeremiah’s confidence in His great power; He is the “God of all mankind” (not just Israel and Judah) so nothing is too hard for Him (27). God’s word to Jeremiah can be divided into three sections:  1.  Jerusalem will be handed over to the Babylonians because of the persistent rebellion of the people (28-35); God will restore His disobedient people to the land, making a new covenant with them that changes their hearts to obey Him (36-41); property in Israel will again be bought and sold—making Jeremiah’s investment a wise one (42-44).

The emotional highpoint of God’s reply to Jeremiah is found in verses 37-41. Though He has been furious with them, God will graciously restore to their land to live in safety.  They will be His people and He will be their God. He will give them “singleness of heart and action” [literally, “I will give them one, one heart and way”] so they will fear and follow Him.  He will make an “everlasting covenant” [the “new covenant”—31:31-34] with them and “inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.”  He will rejoice to do them good with all His heart!

The stark contrast between Israel’s relentless rebellion (“done nothing but evil from their youth”—30) and God’s lavish goodness is stunning.  Here is grace. Here is God’s own fidelity to His covenant.  Here is love that is sourced in the Lover not the beloved.  Here is cause for rejoicing for all of us who have sinned and been spotty in our devotion.  Here is cause to worship God for His goodness.  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His faithful love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:32).

investI’m impacted by Jeremiah’s sturdy faith in the face of personal suffering.  He was in prison for courageously proclaiming God’s message of judgment (3-7).  He knew he was about to witness the capture and demolition of Jerusalem, not for his own sins but due to the sins of the people he served.  He believed God would “reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve” (19).  But he didn’t expect God to provide him with protection from persecution or give exemption from suffering.  Personal pain did not shake his confidence in God’s power or goodness.  He was not seeking great things for himself (45:5). He still invests in God’s future by buying the field in Anathoth as God directed him to do.  He is a faithful servant of God.  May I be too.

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