“God turned up” Meditations: 24 : To Jeremiah (2)
Jer 32:6-8 Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, `Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’ “Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, `Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.
In all these studies on God turning up, as we’ve noted before, the Lord turns up in a variety of ways, but as the Bible develops it seems the most common way is that He comes and simply speaks directly to one of His servants, especially to the prophets who by their very nature had an ear open to God. In the previous meditation we saw the Lord coming to Jeremiah to call him to his ministry. Now there could be a dozen times where we could see the Lord turning up and giving Jeremiah a message, but this one seems a particularly significant example of God’s word coming.
To catch the significance of this episode we need to note what went immediately before it: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.” (Jer 32:1,2) So here is Jerusalem under siege, with all the surrounding country taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah gets a warning from the Lord that his cousin would come and offer to sell him some of the family land outside the city. Now don’t be under any illusion that Jeremiah thought the present siege was going to turn out all right, because he had just prophesied to king Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon.” (v.3,4)
So Jeremiah knows that the future is that Jerusalem will be taken and the land devastated by Nebuchadnezzar. What is interesting is that Jeremiah doesn’t say that the Lord told him to buy the land, merely that He had warned Jeremiah. Jeremiah obviously took it that the Lord was inviting him to buy the family land – in the face of impending doom. This is to be an act of faith in respect of the Lord’s plans for Israel obviously!
Jeremiah steps out in accordance with the warning from the Lord and when his cousin comes he does buy the land and goes through all the legal formalities so that there will be no question in anyone’s mind about the authenticity of this sale for he said, “I knew that this was the word of the LORD.” (v.8) .
Indeed at the end of the formalities we read, “I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard. “In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: `This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” (v.12-15) That was quite an amazing prophecy there at the end. So often Jeremiah was accused of negative speaking, but this is very positive. It says the Lord has plans for the future of Israel after Nebuchadnezzar.
Note what follows: “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD:” (v.16) What follows is a wonderful prayer declaring God’s greatness in all His deeds. Following this comes a further word from the Lord which includes, “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (v.37,38) and then a reiteration that fields and land will again be sold in the land. There is a remarkable clarity in this prophecy: yes, Israel will be taken into exile, but the Lord will eventually bring them back to this land and restore them.
What we have seen is Jeremiah being invited to step out in trust in the Lord and buy land which appeared worthless at present, as a sign that there was yet a future for Israel there. Jeremiah would not see it, but it would come. Once he acted in faith, the Lord confirmed His word to Jeremiah, a remarkable promise about the future. A simple lesson here? Sometimes we need to step out in faith on fairly minor revelation before the bigger revelation is given. Faith as big as a mustard seed releases greater things. Let’s not despise the small acts of faith for they can lead to much bigger things. Has the Lord invited you to step out in a small way? Go for it, for it may open the way to something much greater.