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The Book of Hope, Chapter 3 - Jeremiah 32

Whatever is happening to you may not be primarily about you at all. It may be for those who are looking on.

Jeremiah 32:1-44.

Jun 02, 2013 12:00 PM

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Before we begin with today’s message, I just wanted to take a few minutes and ask if any of you are interested, or if you know of anyone who may be interested in buying some property.  I have a piece of land I want to sell.  I’ve had it appraised and I can supply with a copy.  There are no liens against it.  It’s in a rather rural area with wide open spaces.  You could have a nice home there or a farm, or even a small ranch.

It’s south and west of here, about 1200 miles, an 18 hour drive.  Beautiful piece of land, right outside of Oklahoma City.  The price is negotiable.  And no, it does not have an underground storm shelter.

Knowing what you know about recent events in and around Oklahoma City, just how interested would you be in living there?  Why would you want to live in what seems to be the tornado capital of the world?  In the last two weeks, dozens of people have died and hundreds, if not thousands of properties have been damaged or destroyed.  I’m not sure what kind of offer a person would have to make in order to get me to even consider living there.

But in Jeremiah 32, we see something similar taking place.  Turn there with me please.

Jeremiah is now under arrest.  The king got tired of hearing him prophesy doom and gloom, so he arrested him.  Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah (V2). And for most of the rest of the book, that is where we will find him.

King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah a very mysterious question in verse 3: “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it; 4 Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans,. . . Etc.  If you were Jeremiah, what would your answer be to that question?  It seems Zedekiah answers his own question: If God is speaking this to Jeremiah, doesn’t Jeremiah have to say it?  He’s a prophet!  He’s supposed to say what God tells him to say.  That’s what a prophet does.

But Zedekiah shows his own ignorance of basic spiritual matters by simply asking the question, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord . . . ? Does a prophet have any choice in such matters?  Isn’t he obliged to say what God says?  And this is what God is saying: “Tell Zedekiah he will not escape from Nebuchadnezzar.”

The reason Zedekiah asks Jeremiah why he says such things is because he is not accustomed to hearing prophets say what God says.  The same is true today.  If we say what God says, people wonder at us.  Why would we say Jesus is the only means of salvation?  What kind of person would say such a thing?  Why would we say all people are in danger of eternal punishment?  Why would we say adultery and pornography and prostitution and abortion are evil?  Why would we ever say homosexuality is an abomination, or God hates divorce?  Why would we say laziness is sinful or self-esteem is dangerous?  Why would we punish our children for being disobedient to their parents instead of breaking our backs to encourage them with positive reinforcement?

We say these things because God says these things in His word.  In this way, we are like the prophets.  We say what God has said and the world cannot figure out why.  They are mystified that we would believe such things simply because they are supposedly in the Bible and the Bible is supposedly from God.  That’s why we teach such unpopular views as the doctrines of election and predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God.  That is why we preach that a person must be born of God to be saved.  That is why we preach and teach the doctrines of regeneration and Lordship salvation and godly living and submission to authority and the inspiration and inerrancy and authority of scripture.

Zedekiah’s question answers itself: “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord . . . ? Because thus says the LORD!  That’s why.  And those who still believe in “thus says the LORD” are becoming more and more rare.  It could even get you arrested and locked up.  Like Jeremiah.

So Jeremiah is confined to this place called the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king (v2).  It may be that Zedekiah just doesn’t want Jeremiah circulating among the people talking as he is about the coming destruction.  It is bad for morale.  It’s particularly bad for the morale of the soldiers who are supposedly occupied with the defense of the king and the people against their enemies.

But the enemy has arrived.  They are being besieged and this final attack on Jerusalem will last for a year.  It can hardly be called an attack because there is no fighting taking place.  The city has been surrounded, supplies have been cut off, food is scarce, and unless someone comes to their rescue like Egypt or the Persians, they will all die a slow death from starvation.

In the midst of this catastrophe, the LORD speaks to Jeremiah.  His cousin is going to visit him and ask him to buy his field.  And that is exactly what happens.  A man named Hanamel visits Jeremiah in the court of the guard, asks him to purchase his field, and Jeremiah does so, exactly as the LORD told him to do.

What is strange about this is that Jeremiah agrees to buy it.  We’re not entirely sure why his cousin wants to sell the field.  It may be because he sees the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and he knows that field is worthless if you’re starving to death.  But Jeremiah is in the same situation, if not worse, because he is under house arrest by the king.  What’s he gonna do with this field?  And how hard is it to sell real estate in a place that is being invaded by a foreign army?

Kinda like selling a house in Oklahoma City right about now.  It might be hard to find a buyer.

One of the reasons why Hanamel approaches Jeremiah is because he is a relative, a kinsman redeemer who could buy the land and keep it in the family.  So Jeremiah buys it, signs the papers in front of witnesses, makes it a legal transaction according to the law, and then, at the prompting of the LORD, he says,

‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. (Vs 14-15)

All of this is for the purpose of giving the people hope.  Things are bleak.  But it’s not over.

In an F5 tornado, the winds are so powerful that not only are trees stripped of all their leaves, but even the bark is peeled off.  Not even two weeks ago, a tornado left a 1 mile by 26 mile path of complete destruction of everything through Oklahoma.  It’s ALL gone.  Twenty-six square miles of nothing.  Houses, office buildings, grocery stores, schools, churches, shopping malls, hospitals, everything you thought was more or less permanent--obliterated.  And about two weeks later, the second wave of annihilation comes through town with flooding rains.

For those people directly affected by this, it is the end of their lives as they have known it.  Shock, despair, and hopelessness set in.  All is lost.  Everything familiar is gone.

That’s what the people of Judah were looking at: the end of their world.  So who wants to buy a field?  Or  house?  Or a vineyard?  That’s a hard sell when people suspect it is all about to be destroyed.  Jeremiah has been warning the people of the coming of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies.  Now they have arrived.  And things are looking very, very bad for King Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem.  But . . . According to the same prophet who brought a message of doom, there is a message of hope:  thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Then in verses 16 -25, we see that even though Jeremiah has prophesied and said houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land, he doesn’t quite understand what’s going on either.  Why did I just buy this property from Hanamel?

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.’” (V25)

Tell me again why I should buy a mobile home right in the middle of Tornado Alley when an F5 tornado coming right at me??  I know that’s what you told me to do, but it’s just not making a lot of sense to me.

I can only imagine what was going through Noah’s head when God tells him to build a boat.  A very, very large boat.  Or when God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.  Or when God tells Jonah to go and preach repentance to Nineveh?  What did Moses think when God said, “Raise up your staff and walk THROUGH the Red Sea”???  Or when God calls Gideon to fight against the Amalekites and the Midianites:

12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.

So Gideon sends messengers to the tribes of Manasseh and Asher and Zebulun, and 32,000 men come.  32,000?  To fight against this numberless hoarde of soldiers?  This is gonna be tough.  But God has promised Gideon the victory.  So God then tells Gideon he has too many soldiers.  “You only need 300.”

God says to Jeremiah, “Your cousin is coming to ask you to buy his field.  Go ahead and buy it.”  Then, after Jeremiah buys it, the LORD speaks through Jeremiah and says to the people there,

Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’  (Vs 14-15)

Then, after Jeremiah has reassured the people that this purchase of Hanamel’s property is for the sake of giving them hope, Jeremiah turns to the Lord and says,

I know nothing is too hard for you, Lord.  You brought us out of Egypt to this land, and we have behaved very, very badly as your people, and now the Chaldeans are here to destroy us just as You said they would.  So, just one more time, please explain to me why I bought this field.  It’s gonna belong to the Chaldeans.  I don’t get it.

There are things written in the Bible that I will defend as being true because God has spoken it.  It must be true because He has said it.  But don’t ask me to explain everything in this book.  I can’t do it.  I don’t understand a lot of things.

But beyond that, there are many, MANY things in my life that I do not understand.  If the Scriptures did not say very clearly and unmistakably that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and have been called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), I would never believe it.  What was the point of that cancer thing five years ago?  Why has Grace Fellowship not grown at all in 14 years?  Why has God determine to use this congregation and Sharon and me to start a ministry to the Deaf in Leon, Mexico??  I have NO IDEA!

Jeremiah, the one who is speaking God’s words, doesn’t understand his own actions which God commanded him to do.  And that’s okay.  He even says to God, not exactly in these words, “I know I just bought a field that I’m never gonna get to use.  LORD, can you tell me one more time why I did that?”

And the LORD graciously tells him:

42 “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, land in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

In other words, Jeremiah did not buy the field for himself.  That was not about Jeremiah.  It was about God.  It was about what God would one day do once again in the land and with His people.

It may be that the things you are experiencing aren’t primarily for your sake, but for the sake of others.  God is using you for His own purposes, for the sake of teaching others of His own love and kindness and provision and grace.  We sometimes become God’s object lessons to those who are watching.  Whatever is happening to you may not be primarily about you at all.  It may be for those who are looking on.

Jeremiah doesn’t fully understand what God is doing.  Thankfully, that is not necessary.  We dno’t need to understand God’s ways perfectly or in all their details.  We just have to trust Him and believe He will keep His promises.  Our hope for the future is in the promises of God today.

Oklahoma City has been devastated.  But it will be rebuilt.  Jerusalem was on the verge of total destruction.  But God said He would rebuild that place and those people so that they would once again love and serve Him.

And that is the promise we have as Christians.  One day, this world as we have known it will be destroyed.  And God Himself will create a new heavens and a new earth for His people, all those whose faith is in His Son.  We don’t need to understand exactly how He will do this, or when it will take place.  We just need to trust Him to do what He has said.

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is anything too hard for me?


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