Jeremiah 32

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Read Jeremiah 32:1-17

If you were to line up all the amazing works of the prophets in the Old Testament, what would make it into the top ten? Certainly Elijah would lead the way with his contest against the priests of Baal. He doused his altar with water and yet fire from heaven incinerated it.

How about Elisha summoning the bears to attack the youths that insulted him. That’s not just Old Testament, that’s sort of Old West. Do not mess with Elisha!

Elijah and Elisha would occupy 60 or 70% of the top ten. How many prophets leave the world in a fiery chariot?

Isaiah would get on the board for his quotable sermons: “The virgin will have a child and you shall name him Immanuel.” “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (yeah, John the Baptist was borrowing that). “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Prophets sometimes did things for shock value to make a point – they were embodying their message. Hosea married a prostitute to demonstrate how God was faithful despite the people’s unfaithfulness. It wasn’t a mock wedding – it was the real thing. Now that has to be on the list.

Then there’s Ezekiel and his strange recipes. “Cooking With Dung” – that could have been the title of Ezekiel’s other book. Of course he was trying to show what would happen when Judah was invaded.

Jeremiah buys a field. That doesn’t really seem like top ten stuff. Not even top 25 or top 50. But the purchase of the field may be one of the most significant prophetic acts in Scripture. It preaches even to us today.

The act is foolish on the surface. Who would buy a field that is about to be occupied by another nation? And why would Jeremiah buy a field if his message was that Babylon will take Jerusalem? That message even had him thrown in jail for treason. Is Jeremiah preaching down the value of the land just so he can get it at a bargain?

No, it is because Jeremiah has a vision of the future – God’s future – that is so compelling and real that it invades the present and changes the way he acts and the things that he does.

Jeremiah 33:14-16, The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

Jeremiah believes – we might say that he knows – that the days are surely coming when the Lord will keep his promises. The invasion by Babylon, though it is horribly destructive, cannot change that future. God will restore the land. God will raise up a righteous king. The desolate city will be populated again and there will be feasting and celebration and life within its walls once again.

Jeremiah is not buying a field because he wants in on a ground-level opportunity. He buys the field because the future Jerusalem is the Jerusalem he sees now.

There’s a word for that. (I rediscovered it in a sermon by Lee Camp.) Proleptic: The representation of something as existing before its proper or historical time, as in the precolonial United States. The assignment of something, such as an event or name, to a time that precedes it, as in If you tell the cops, you're a dead man. The future is so certain that we act now as if the future is the present.

This isn’t ...

It is action based on a trust that God’s promises MUST be fulfilled. God must fulfill these. Promise of land and kingdom. The reality of these promises change the future and the present. It is living and behaving as if the future that MUST happen is now present.

And it might as well be. Because we know some things about the future.

Now, what if we started living like those days, are these days? (What fields would we buy?)

What if today is the day Christ returns? Why aren’t we living like every day is that day?

Like that sealed document stuck in a clay jar for Jeremiah, we have the promise, the guarantee of better days. It is sinful for us to live like the best days are behind us. It is sinful for us to want to return to the “good old days.” God is bringing a glorious future our way – and if what God is doing is making us anxious, then maybe we’ve invested in the wrong fields?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 29 November 2009

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