Last week as I was reading in my chronological Bible, I came upon Jeremiah chapter 32. It was set in a long line-up of daily readings about the foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem. Actually, it wasn’t even just the destruction of Jerusalem, but many places: Egypt, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. It was following daily readings about God’s judgement on Pharaoh, Jeremiah’s imprisonment, lists of Jerusalem’s sins, and prophesies about Babylon’s coming attack on Judah. So there in my reading for that day was this story, which sometimes seems randomly placed, about Jeremiah buying a field. I’m certain I have read it in the past and thought, why on earth is this here? What is this random story, in the middle of all this prophesy, about a routine business transaction? But on this day, as I read it, it was so clear to me that it isn’t random at all.
Leading up to chapter 32, there is Jeremiah, repeatedly warning God’s people that His judgment is coming, making the king very angry in the process. As a result, Jeremiah is being held by the King in the courtyard of the guard at the palace; rather like a ‘house arrest’ where he is not free, but people can come to see him. Surrounding the city are the Babylonians, occupying the land around the city and beginning to attack the city just as he has been warning the people. And in the midst of that…the Lord tells him to buy a field. Oh, and not just any field. A field that was in Jeremiah’s family, so he had the right of inheritance to it; which meant that it was God’s intention that the land would not leave a particular bloodline, but would be redeemed by their family if the need arose. It would symbolize longevity in the land. A family staying and living and remaining. AND, it just happened to be land that was already occupied by the attacking Babylonians. That’s right, as Spurgeon said, “it was purchasing an estate which was utterly valueless.” But Jeremiah proceeded as asked. He paid for it, registered the deed, put them in clay jars as was usual at the time, which was like a time capsule – sealing it up to preserve it, trusting it would be needed in the future. Why did he do all of this? In obedience to the Lord, because the Lord had said to him, “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” Even in the face of what looked grim, he acted in obedience and trusted the outcome to the Lord.
Following this purchase, Jeremiah prays to the Lord, and it is recorded for us in chapter 32, verses 17-25. He begins with, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” He acknowledges God’s power and might, and then proceeds to affirm many ways that God has provided for his people throughout history. And then at the end of the prayer there is something that I find very comforting, because it’s a very relatable human reaction. Jeremiah reminds God, as though he needs to, that the Babylonians are in fact attacking the city, just as God said they would. And that the city will in fact be handed over to the Babylonians, just as God warned it would. And then he seems to share his confusion at why on earth God would choose THIS TIME to have Jeremiah buy a field, symbolizing longevity in the land. Verse 25 says, “And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” Or in our modern words perhaps, “Now Lord? Why would this even make sense now…when our whole city is going to be captured?”
“Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” In his answer, the Lord confirms that, yes, Jerusalem will indeed be handed over to the Babylonians, because the people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in God’s sight. But it doesn’t end there. God also continues to tell of when He will restore his people. “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…I will make an everlasting covenant with them…I will never stop doing good to them…Once more fields will be bought in this land…and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed…” If you read further in chapter 33, God goes on to promise peace, health, and healing, and ultimately a redeemer, that is, Christ.
On the particular day that I read this passage, I had been feeling admittedly quite defeated about all of the crazy things happening in our world and country. The negative news had bombarded me and left me discouraged and impossibly uncertain. We have been obediently following God’s call to camping ministry for two years now. We have waited for God’s perfect timing, with our support level slowly climbing. We found ourselves getting very close to being fully supported and now, in fact, are at 97% of our needed support. We have been making plans for a transition, prepping our house to sell, waiting on one last project to be finished before listing, choosing a tentative week to move. All the things we have been waiting for. But looking at all of the new uncertainty happening in our country, facing closings and shutdowns of what feels like everything, I had found myself feeling a bit like Jeremiah in this passage. And we feel a bit like saying to the Lord, “And though our country is being ravaged by a destructive virus, You, O Sovereign Lord, say to us, ‘Sell your house, quit your job, and move north.'” Oh how thankful I was to read of Jeremiah’s struggle with what the Lord asked him to do, at what seemed like an impossible time. And how much more thankful I was to read of the Lord’s reply: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
One month ago, this looked like perfect timing to us. It was all lining up just so. Now, if we succumb to our humanity, it would look like a terrible time. How do you sell a house when words like ‘quarantine’ and phrases like ‘social distancing’ are the rules of the day? How do you quit a job when words like ‘recession’ are flying around economic reports? Well, all we can hope is that we do these things with the same faith that Jeremiah had. A faith in the Sovereign Lord, who says, “Is anything too hard for me?”
Please pray for us in the days ahead. We are knocking on the door of being fully supported, and are faithfully but cautiously moving forward with the same plan we have felt called to all along: to serve the Lord, the God of all mankind, and to proclaim His greatness at Camp Barakel. And we are preparing to see God show that truly nothing is too hard for Him.
Rachel, for the Bennetts