If you know just a handful of stories or verses from Jeremiah, chances are you know a little of this narrative in which Jeremiah buys a field. As the chapter opens, we join Jeremiah “shut up in the court of the guard” (vs. 2)-he was in jail. The story of his inprisonment is detailed in chapters 37 and 38, but in short, he continued to speak God’s word thereby irritating king Zedekiah and receiving the punishment of being thrown into prison.
While there, God visits him and warns him of his visiting cousin, Hanamel, who is on his way to sell Jeremiah a piece of the family’s property.
Though the basic story of chapter 32 is fairly familiar, its impact does not have its full force until we pay attention to the setting of this transaction. First of all, the visitor is a relative. We last saw Jeremiah’s family in chapters 11 and 12 when Jeremiah learns of their plot to kill him, so it is doubtful that Hanamel has come to Jeremiah out of the kindness of his heart-he needs to make a buck and run. Second, the Babylonians are camped on the land Hanamel wants to sell. The family farm is swarming with angry Chaldeans who are killing and capturing Judeans. Thirdly, Jeremiah is keenly away of the coming exile and the 70 year period in which this piece of land is going to be a desolate waste. And finally, Jeremiah is a condemned man in prison. Even if the land is useful, it is doubtful Jeremiah will ever see it and make use of it.
So what does Jeremiah do?
“And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver.” (vs. 9)
Though this is likely the worst real estate transaction in the OT, Jeremiah buys the field. Another detail is significant. Jeremiah goes through the entire legal rigor necessary for this kind of contract and gives the documents to Baruch to be preserved. Why does Jeremiah buy the field and why does he preserve the documents? The answers are the message.
“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought on this land.” (vs. 15)
Jeremiah does not buy the land for its immediate promise or investment potential, but in faith hoping in God’s word that the land will again be populated and fruitful. Jeremiah believed God was powerful enough to accomplish His word and he acted on it. This transaction literally makes no sense unless you truly believe the word of God.
In commenting on this story, Eugene Peterson said that Christian hope is an act. If we hope in God, the actions of our lives-the insignificant and the significant-will reflect our hope that God will accomplish His word. Jeremiah’s act of hope was for his fellow Judean prisoners (vs. 12), his future descendants who would again settle on this very piece of property, and for us who need to learn what it means to live a life of hope in God.
One of my favorite quotes goes like this, “Live your life in such a way that it makes no sense apart from the existence of God.” Jeremiah’s purchase of the land makes absolutely no sense unless God exists and is able to fulfill His promises to His people.
Does my life reflect that kind of hope? Is it the case that the only way to explain my life and my choices is to conclude that God exists and that He is faithful?