“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day. You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror. And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them. Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’” – Jeremiah 32:16-25 ESV
If anybody but God had recommended to Jeremiah that he make a long-term investment in real estate located in Judah, he would have told them to take a hike. But when God commanded that Jeremiah buy land from his cousin, Hanamel, he obeyed. No, it didn’t make any sense. Paying good money for land that had been confiscated by the occupying forces of King Nebuchadnezzar had to have seemed like a lousy investment strategy – even to Jeremiah. But he did what the Lord commanded. Then he prayed. And in his prayer, he communicated to God his confusion over what had just transpired. But first, he started by praising God for His great power. He acknowledge that God was the creator of the universe. He acknowledged God’s unfailing love, but also noted that God was just and righteous, giving people exactly what they deserve. He confessed that God had a reputation for doing great things for His people, having delivered them from captivity in Egypt. Then He had given them the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, helping them take it from the pagan people groups that occupied upon their arrival. And Jeremiah praises God’s all-powerful capacity to come to the aid of His people, acknowledging that “Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17 ESV). Now, part of that is probably Jeremiah speaking what he cognitively knows to be true, but he is obviously wrestling with it on a practical level. While he has praised God for His power and the unquestionable reliability of His word, he ends his prayer with the statement:
“Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, ‘Buy the field for money and get witnesses’—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.” – Jeremiah 32:25 ESV
Everything God had said would happen to the people of Judah had happened. He had brought disaster upon them in the form of the Babylonians. Siege walls had been erected the city of Jerusalem. Famine and pestilence had already begun with the city because of the blockade created by the Babylonian forces. Food was not making its way into Jerusalem. People were dying of hunger and, as a result, disease was spreading among the living. And Jeremiah tells God, “What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it” (Jeremiah 32:24 ESV).
And this is where Jeremiah becomes a bit incredulous. With all that is taking place, he can’t believe that God would have him buy land in Judah. Even though he believes that nothing is too difficult for God, he is having a hard time getting his head around the idea that one day land in Judah will be of any value again. This prayer is a great reminder to each of us that trusting God will not always be painless or doubt-free. Jeremiah believed in God. He had seen God do incredible things. He had watched as every single one of God’s pronouncements against Judah had come about. He knew God was reliable and trustworthy. He was convinced that God was fully capable of accomplishing anything and everything He promised to do. But now that Jeremiah had a personal investment in the future of God’s restoration of Judah, he was struggling with some doubts. Now, he was personally dependent upon God to one day restore the people to the land. And it had to have crossed Jeremiah’s mind that he would not be around when that event took place. God had already said that the people of Judah would be in captivity for 70 years.
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV
There is no way Jeremiah would live long enough to see that day. So, God’s command that he buy land in Judah had to have seemed that much more strange to him. How would he ever know how things turned out in the future? What guarantees did he have that his descendants would occupy the land he purchased? He was going to have to trust God. As we looked at yesterday. the author of Hebrews describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Jeremiah could see the Babylonian troops and the siege walls. He was fully convinced that God’s promises come true, because they were staring him straight in the face. But when it came to the promise of the restoration of the people to the land, something God had said would happen 70 years later, Jeremiah was a bit less adamant in his belief.
In speaking of the faith of Abraham and Sarah, the author of Hebrews says they “died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 NLT). That is exactly what God was asking Jeremiah to do. By having Jeremiah purchase the land in Anathoth, God was forcing Jeremiah to put his hope and trust in something he couldn’t yet see. Not only that, he would never live to see it happen. But this was about far more than just a piece of property in Anathoth. This was about the far-in-the-distance promises of God. At the end of Hebrews 11, the author states:
And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us. – Hebrews 11:39-40 NLT
Each of the patriarchs listed in this great “Hall of Faith” died without having seen the promises of God fulfilled in their entirety. Moses never entered the land of promise. Jacob and his son Joseph would each die in Egypt, but both believing that their descendants would one day return to the land. Joseph even made his brothers promise to take his bones with them when the did return. Sarah had to believe that God was going to bless her with many descendants, even though Isaac would be the only one she would live long enough to see with her own eyes. She never lived to see the incredible fulfillment of God’s promise to she and Abraham. But she believed. And Jeremiah was going to have to believe God as well. The land purchased by Jeremiah would one day be inhabited by his descendants. No, he would not be around to see it, but he could trust God for it. And as Jeremiah stated in his prayer, nothing is too difficult for God. But he was going to have to trust God for that which he could not see. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25 NLT
Paul emphasized the same thing to the Corinthian believers.
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT
For we live by believing and not by seeing. – 2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT
Jeremiah had been forced to invest in the trustworthiness of God. And isn’t that what each of us does when we place our faith in Jesus? We are believing in that which we cannot see. We are investing in a future that has not yet happened or realized. In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these powerful words that echo the expectation God was placing on Jeremiah by having him buy the land.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 6:19-21 NLT
In essence, Jeremiah’s investment was a heavenly one. He was buying temporal land, but it was based on eternal and spiritual promises given by God Himself. His purchase was not based on earthly financial strategies. It was in obedience to the word of God and solely based on the trustworthiness of God to accomplish His divine will – even if Jeremiah never lived to see it happen. Now, that is faith.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.