Why on earth did God tell Jeremiah to buy land in Judah?
Let me set the scene. Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonian army, and had been under siege for about 18 months at this point. Jeremiah is under house arrest in Jerusalem because of his prophesies that detailed the destruction of Jerusalem, despite Zedekiah’s repeated attempts to bully Jeremiah into changing is prophesy…Zedekiah obviously had not idea how prophesy worked. There was literally no hope for Jerusalem at this point and like shareholders in failing companies today (think Blackberry), people were looking to dump their land. Unfortunately, war and invasion tends to ruin housing prices and no one was buying.
It is in this context that Jeremiah’s cousin comes to him and offers Jeremiah a piece of land in their home town of Anathoth. God instructs Jeremiah to go ahead with the transaction, instructing Jeremiah to make sure that every “t” was crosses and every “i” dotted properly in the transaction to ensure its legality.
Jeremiah obeys, which is one very important characteristic that Jeremiah models for us continually (why else would he walk around with a yoke on his neck in chapter 27). But after the transaction is completed, Jeremiah does return to God and say: “Why did you have me purchase land that will soon belong to Babylon?” (Chaldeans are Babylonians by the way in case your translation uses that name).
God answers Jeremiah in chapter 32 verses 26-44. Basically, God says that although the people had provoked him to anger and he had sent punishment upon them, he was not bent on their complete destruction. Punishment was not his last message, instead there will be a time when God will gather the scattered people not just from Babylon but from every place that they had been driven (referencing the exiled Northern nation of Israel as well as the other Israelites who fled to other nations to escape the invading armies). This re-gathering would be a time of joy and prosperity for the returning exiles. At that time, land would once again be bought and sold, vineyards planted and crops harvested.
At that time, Jeremiah’s completely legal land transaction would be unsealed, and his descendants would have land that was rightfully theirs.
That my friends is the real lesson of chapter 32. Jeremiah obediently acted on God’s instructions, knowing that his obedience was, essentially, not going to gain him anything. He would be long dead before the land he purchased was valuable or usable by any Israelite. But he believed in God’s promises and invested in a future he would never get to experience or benefit from.
What a powerful lesson for us to learn, a lesson that Jesus teaches us when he prompts us to store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth (Matthew 6). A lesson that Paul and Peter reiterate when they instructs us to live our lives as foreigners and strangers in this land, keeping firmly fixed in our minds that our citizenship is in heaven (Ephesians 2, 1 Peter 1:17 & 2:11). It is this lesson that the author of the book of Hebrews is drawing our attention to in Hebrews 11 when he talks about the men and women of the Old Testament who “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance”
There is so much talk today about retirement plans and making sure that you have enough put away for your future. Allow me to humbly ask if you are paying at much attention to your spiritual investments and your spiritual inheritance as you pay to your pension plan.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 35-37