DOING MY PART

 

Week of February 26, 2006

 

Bible Passage:  Jeremiah 32:6-9, 27-30, 37-41.

 

Biblical Truth:  Through obedience to God’s commands, believers participate in His purposes – a cause much larger than themselves.

 

Obey Without Delay:  Jeremiah 32:6-9.

 

[6] And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, [7] Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle is coming to you, saying, Buy for yourself my field which is at Anathoth, for you have the right of redemption to buy it.” [8] Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the guard according to the word of the LORD and said to me, “Buy my field, please, that is at Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for you have the right of possession and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. [9] I bought the field which was at Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle’s son, and I weighed out the silver for him, seventeen shekels of silver.  [NASU]

 

We are now into the year 588/587, only months before the fall of a starving and plague-ridden Jerusalem [32:24], and with Jeremiah now in prison [32:2; 33:1]. Chapters 32 and 33 are placed here no doubt to reinforce the buoyant prophecies of chapters 30 and 31, by showing in sober prose how unpromising, humanly speaking, were the conditions in which such words from God were spoken, and with what conviction they were stood by. Everything in 32:1-15 reveals the man of faith. The outspokenness which had put Jeremiah in custody [3-5] is now matched by his humble openness to what God might have in mind to say to him.

 

God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of property, even though buying it seemed like a complete waste of money. It was absolutely the worst time to buy. At the moment God told him to buy the property, Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard [32:2]. Jeremiah had been sent to jail by King Zedekiah because Jeremiah prophesied that the king would be defeated and humiliated. In addition, this took place shortly before the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. In short, it was positively the worst time for Jeremiah to buy. The city was under siege, the prophet under arrest. But God told Jeremiah that his cousin, Hanamel, was coming to offer land for Jeremiah to buy under the right of redemption. According to the Law of Moses [Leviticus 25:25-34], the Promised Land was a sacred inheritance. Property was not to leave the family. God did not want his people to go outside their bloodline to get help. If they fell into debt, one of their own kin was supposed to redeem their property. Hanamel was asking Jeremiah to be his kinsman-redeemer. The old family farm was on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in Anathoth, which at that very moment was enemy-occupied territory. To put it bluntly, it was a dumb time to buy. But Jeremiah bought the land anyway.

 

Why did he do it? For one thing, because God told him to, which is the best reason to do anything. But a second reason was simply audacious faith. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land [32:15]. It may have been a bad time to buy, but Jeremiah had a good reason to buy. Eventually God was going to bring his people back home from their exile. Despite the war, the siege, the destruction the Babylonians were about to wreak on Jerusalem, and the seventy long years of captivity that would ensue, it was a buyer’s market for those who trusted God’s promise. And Jeremiah believed. He was willing to take the long view.

 

So he gave Baruch these instructions: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Take these deeds, this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in a earthenware jar, that they may last a long time [32:14]. This was standard practice for keeping a document safe in those days. Preserving the title to the property was an act of faith. When Jeremiah signed and sealed the deed, he was banking on God’s ability to deliver on his promises. Even though Jeremiah would not live to see that day, he made sure the documents would be around to prove that God was faithful to his promise. Since the early, doubt-ridden days he has learnt to recognize the hidden hand of God in what befalls him, from whatever human quarter it may arise. In fact, the very meanness of his cousin’s pressure on him as next-of-kin gave Jeremiah his opportunity to have his visions of the future taken seriously. To buy land overrun by the world’s conqueror, and then to take elaborate care of the title-deeds was a striking affirmation, as solid as the silver that paid for it, that God would bring his people back to their inheritance.

 

Do you have faith to act on God’s promises, even if some of them will not be fulfilled until the end of history? Jeremiah had that kind of faith. He made a major life decision based on what God promised to do seven decades later.

 

Yield to God’s Purposes: 32:27-30.

 

[27] “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” [28] Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will take it. [29] The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city will enter and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses where people have offered incense to Baal on their roofs and poured out drink offerings to other gods to provoke Me to anger. [30] Indeed the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah have been doing only evil in My sight from their youth; for the sons of Israel have been only provoking Me to anger by the work of their hands,” declares the LORD.   [NASU]

In verses 16-25 Jeremiah prays to God that He might show last-minute mercy for Jerusalem. The beginning [17] and the end [25] of his prayer contain the substance of it. In the opening cry, Nothing is too difficult for You [17c], and in the probing of verse 25 into the paradox of God’s simultaneous yes and no: the ‘yes’ implied in the purchase just completed, and the ‘no’ implied in the rapidly collapsing city. It is a fine example of the way to pray in a desperate situation: concentrating first on the creative power [17] and perfect fidelity and justice [18-19] of God; and remembering next his great redemptive acts [20-23a]. Then with this background, laying before God the guilt of the past [23b], the hard facts of the present [24] and the riddle of the future [25].

The Lord takes up the three main points of Jeremiah’s prayer and answers them. Jeremiah had confessed his faith in God’s omnipotence [17]. The Lord declares Himself to be Elohim, the strong, powerful Creator and Ruler of all flesh. Before Him man is flesh, a weak, sinful, mortal being. Neither the bitterest hatred of the strongest of His enemies nor the doubts and misgivings of His perplexed and puzzled child can nullify the plans and purposes of the omnipotent God. As if in astonishment at the prophet’s unbelief in the very truth he had confessed, God asks: Why do you not draw the proper conclusion from your conviction and trust Me that I can do whatever I promise?

Jeremiah has confessed that Israel had deserved the judgments of God by its rebellion against their Redeemer. He knew that God was powerful enough to keep His threats [20-23]. God confirms this truth also. As the Lord of the Covenant He fulfills His threats, although the Jews had not believed that God would or could reject His people. The Therefore of verse 28 announces that the omnipotence which Jeremiah’s prayer invoked will empower the attackers, not the defenders (it is put more strongly still at 37:10). The guilt that called for this judgment could hardly have been more broadly based (notice the wide cross-section of society in v. 32), or more persistent [30-31, 33] or more flagrant.

 

Trust God’s Plan:  Jeremiah 32:37-41.

 

[37] “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. [38] They shall be My people, and I will be their God; [39] and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. [40] I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. [41] I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.  [NASU]

 

And now God proceeds to answer the doubting question asked by the prophet [23b-25] by repeating His covenant promises [36-44].

 

[36-38] Now, therefore resumes the argument begun in verse 27. As the omnipotent Lord is able to execute the judgments threatened in His covenant, so even the complete destruction of the city and the deportation of the people will not frustrate His covenant promises. Once more He tells His prophet that they will be carried out to the letter. Verse 37 recalls the promise of the Mosaic covenant in Deuteronomy 30:1-5; verse 38 the covenant promise of Exodus 19:5-6, repeated in Exodus 25:8; 29:45-46, etc. But did not God stipulate in Deuteronomy 30:2 the condition of a repenting return to the Lord before the people would be permitted to return to their homeland? The Lord of omnipotent grace will attend to that also. What is impossible to man, He will do.

 

[39] He will give them one heart. Their heart will no longer be divided between the Lord and idols. And one way, no longer will they scatter their ways, running from one idol to another. Heart denotes the inner disposition; way, the outer expression. Their entire conduct will manifest that they fear the Lord, that in their heart rules that love and childlike confidence toward their Covenant God that stands in holy awe of Him and fears nothing more than to do that great wickedness and sin against Him. Forever, all days, all their lifetime, this fear will fill their hearts and direct their ways, and this fear will redound not only to their own, but to their children’s good. Again, this is exactly what He promised in His covenant [Deut. 30:6]. The salvation of man from beginning to end, his conversion, his sanctification, his preservation, is God’s work.

 

[40] I will make with you an everlasting covenant. That is the covenant with His elect, which stands fast to all eternity; a covenant in which God will not turn away from them to do them good, showering down upon them His gifts, pursuing them with His blessings. And I will give My fear into their hearts. Constantly and ever anew will He generate that fear, that loving, trusting awe, that is all He requires of man [Deut. 10:12]. And the result is that on their part there will be no departing from Him. And again that is not their own, but God’s work, the grace and loving-kindness of the Covenant God.

 

[41] While sinful, rebellious Judah was a source of grief and anger to the holy Lord, the Lord now will rejoice over His people, whom He has made, and not they themselves, to be His people [Ps. 100:3], and He will evidence His joy by gladly doing them good. Compare the covenant promise in Deuteronomy 30:9; Isaiah 62:5; and Zephaniah 3:17. And since the Sinaitic covenant is still in force with its specific promise of possession of the land of Canaan, He will, in keeping with His covenant promise, gladly and wholeheartedly again plant into the land He promised the people He converted.

 

[42-44] Divine logic to convince Jeremiah: as God has done the one, He can and will do the other. And so will come to pass what Jeremiah had thought impossible. As God does not apologize for His judgments nor even explain them, so He does not go to great lengths to prove the possibility of His unfathomable grace and mercy. He simply repeats what Jeremiah already had been told: He is I AM THAT I AM [Ex. 3:14], who will be gracious to whom He will be gracious [Ex. 33:19]. Only believe! Trust Me, that I know why I do what I do as I do it, and that I am the Lord of unchanging justice and never-ending grace, even if you cannot fathom My ways and judgments.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.     Often in Jeremiah we see God using object lessons to teach spiritual truths. What spiritual truth is God teaching us by having Jeremiah buy the land from his cousin in verses 6-9?

 

2.     In verses 27-30, God answers Jeremiah’s prayer found in verses 16-25. What was troubling Jeremiah that caused him to pray in the manner he did? How does God respond to Jeremiah’s prayer? Why is the statement by Jeremiah in verse 16 and by God in verse 27 the key affirmation for all prayer? Why does the sin of idolatry provoke God’s anger and wrath?

 

3.     List the things God promises to do in verses 37-41. What do God’s actions tell us about Him? About ourselves? What does it mean to you that God rejoices over you [41]?

 

 

References:

The Message of Jeremiah, Derek Kidner, Inter-Varsity Press.

Jeremiah, Theo Laetsch, Concordia Publishing.

Jeremiah & Lamentations, Philip Ryken, Crossway Books.