Jeremiah’s Action Sermons: Jeremiah Buys a Field

Faith sees things not as they are, but as they will be.”[1] This is not the same as “wishful thinking,” but rather looking beyond present, transient circumstances to focus on future, permanent certainties. Considering Jeremiah’s seventh action sermon (ch.32), it is evident that he was a man of faith. This narrative is intensely practical for us today, as this is how a Christian is called to live.

The Purchase He Made

His Circumstances

The story revolves around Jeremiah’s purchase of a field in his ancestral home, Anathoth. The date stamp (v1) places the events of chapters 30-33 in the 10th year of Zedekiah, months before his ignominious deposition and the end of the dynasty of the kings of Judah.

Conditions in Jerusalem were very challenging – “sword and famine and pestilence” (32:24).[2] Jeremiah’s personal circumstances were particularly difficult. His forthright denunciations earned him near-universal disfavour, and he was under arrest in the court of the guard. He was given a daily ration of a loaf of bread “until all the bread of the city was gone” (37:21).

We are not told why Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, offered the field for sale. Perhaps he was desperate for bread or hoped to buy his escape. Given the siege conditions in Jerusalem, nearby Anathoth was probably overrun by occupying Babylonian soldiers, or would be soon. We recall from an earlier study that Anathoth was not prime property. It was hardly an asset worth holding on to (and hardly worth purchasing)!

His Guidance

Through trying circumstances, Jeremiah maintained close communion with God, so that He was speaking to and through him, notwithstanding the difficulties. Consequently, the offer to buy the field did not surprise Jeremiah. In fact, it was confirmation of the word of the Lord, for it was expressed in terms exactly as the Lord had said it would be.

This underscores an important principle. Jeremiah did not act until he had triangulated three sources of guidance: a word from the Lord (scriptural), unfolding events (circumstantial), and his own feelings about the matter (volitional/emotional). Generally, these three elements should agree, even if not present in equal measure, before we claim guidance from God. For example, even if we do not have “thus saith the Lord,” we should at least be sure that what we purpose does not contravene Scripture. In this instance, the emotional element was much less significant than the scriptural and circumstantial; Jeremiah did not have a strong desire to buy the land, but God clearly gave him peace of mind about it – “Then I knew…” (v8). We should beware “uncorroborated guidance.”

His Diligence

Having discerned that the Lord was guiding him to buy the field, Jeremiah acted decisively. His diligence shows he was a man of integrity and took the matter seriously. Even in the extremity of siege conditions, he did not exploit Hanamel’s need, nor treat the legalities as a pointless waste of time. Acting in faith, he exemplified the attitude the Apostle Paul urged upon bondservants toward their masters: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24 KJV). It should go without saying (but sadly doesn’t) that as God’s people we should be beyond reproach in everything we do with others, not just when it comes to handling money.

His Confidence

Confident faith in the Word of God motivated Jeremiah. Confidence in God is incremental. Throughout his life and ministry Jeremiah demonstrated that such confidence does not grow merely from an enlarged understanding of God’s will but from increased obedience to it. Although he did not yet fully understand why or how, he knew what the Lord was directing him to do and was committed to doing it.

His confidence was in God who brings His Word to pass in His own time. The transaction was properly attested and recorded in duplicate. Then Jeremiah instructed Baruch to put both the open and sealed copies in “an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time” (v14).

The Prayer He Offered

Jeremiah’s prayer was apparently informed by what the Lord had already told him. He had recently revealed His purpose to rebuild and repopulate Israel, to bring an end to her sorrow and restore her joy and prosperity. All of this was based on a New Covenant by which He would put the law in their hearts and write it on their minds. The Lord had declared that the perpetuity of Jerusalem was as sure as the permanence of the heavens and earth themselves (ch.31).

Seizing on that, Jeremiah prayed for understanding: “It is you who have made the heavens and the earth …. Nothing is too hard for you” (32:17). Recounting the Lord’s many miracles bringing Israel to their inheritance, he pondered, “Behold, the siege mounds …. Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, ‘Buy the field … and get witnesses’” (vv24-25).

The Promise He Received

The Lord responded in kind to his prayer: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (v27). Repeating many elements of the promises associated with the New Covenant, the Lord reassured Jeremiah: “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 …. Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin … for I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD” (vv42-44).

The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem is home to seven ancient scrolls accidentally discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd at Qumran. Since then, thousands more fragments have been discovered, some dating from shortly after Jeremiah, safely stored in clay jars just like the one he entrusted his documents to. This writer is inclined to think that Jeremiah’s title deeds await discovery and will yet prove his ownership of prime real estate in Anathoth.

We are living in times of great uncertainty – politically, economically, socially and morally. Rather than being distracted and alarmed, now as much as ever is a time for Christians to look beyond present circumstances and focus on the future: a time to trust in the immutable God, a time to rely on His unfailing Word, a time to invest in what is eternal, a time to see things not as they are, but as they will be!

[1] Lawrence O. Richards, Bible Reader’s Companion (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1991), 467.

[2] Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.