32The word that cameto Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, whichwas the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At that time the army of the kingof Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined inthe court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3where KingZedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy andsay: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the kingof Babylon, and he shall take it; 6Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came tome: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy myfield that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.”8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordancewith the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth inthe land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buyit for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel,and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed thedeed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I tookthe sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the opencopy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah,in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses whosigned the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who weresitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch,saying, 14Thus 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 anearthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus saysthe Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shallagain be bought in this land.
If we did a bit of a survey this morning and asked - ‘’what havebeen the 5 most significant events in our lives ? “ – what would be on thatlist?
For many of us, that list would be about people and our relationshipswith those in our lives.
Most I guess, would relate to births, deaths, loves,successes, failures, jobs, adventures, maybe.
There is one event that might not have been on our top 5list, but it is for many of us, the most significant financial transaction thatwe will ever be personally involved with.
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to do this, itis the purchase of land or a house.
I have been talking to some of the younger families who havedone this – especially in Papakura and Takanini, - but to buy a home - is for most of them, so much more than just afinancial transaction. It represents those things that can be more difficult totalk about - A place, a future, an investment in acommunity, stability, control, choices.
It’s no wonder that the Herald, and probably almost everyother media outlet in the country, has an article about home ownership almost everyday.
And that’s what our reading from Jeremiah this morning focuseson. The purchase of some land. And howcentral and important that is, in this story of God present in the lives ofGod’s people. 6Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7Hanamel son ofyour uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is atAnathoth,”
And we read today the details of the purchase.
9And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel,and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed thedeed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales., in thepresence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presenceof all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.
A significant legal public event.
Let’s think about the picture here. This foreign army iscoming, about to overrun the country, and I am going to buy some land.
So why does our scripture contain all this detail about aland purchase. Not only that, the purchase of land that is about to be taken byan invading Babylonian army who will have very little interest in who owns it?
A little bit of context.
Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians under the rule ofNebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah has been locked up in the palace by King Zedekiah,because it seems that Jeremiah has said to all the people, something like -
“- look it is all over, happening just as I said it would, this is the outcome of all the things the Lordhas told us are wrong. We should just count our losses and surrender to the Babylonians.“
King Zedekiah saw this as an act of treason and that was whyhe was locked up.
But we need to go to the end of the passage we heard thismorning to understand what is really going on with Jeremiah.
The last verse we heard this morning tells us:
15For thus says theLord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall againbe bought in this land.
What we are being told here is that the destruction ofJerusalem and the exile of its inhabitants, despite all the obvious evidence,will not be the end of the story. Jeremiah in this act, is telling this group of onlookers, the daywill come when the people of Judah will return to reclaim their land—when theywill once again carry on normal commerce in fields and vineyards in theirhomeland.
You might remember at the start of the book, when the Lordfirst approached Jeremiah, God said,
“Behold, I have this day set you over the nations and overthe kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, tobuild and to plant”
For most of hisprophetic ministry, Jeremiah has emphasised plucking up and pullingdown—destroying and overthrowing. Now, at last, he is able to emphasisebuilding and planting.
I came across a wonderful reflection on these passages by DietrichBonhoeffer. A German pastor accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler,imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis .
Her wrote to his wife,
“When Jeremiah said, in his people’shour of greatest need, that ‘houses and fields and vineyards shall again bebought in this land,’ it was a token of confidence in the future. That requiresfaith, and may God grant us it daily. I don’t mean the faith that flees theworld, but the faith that endures in the world and loves and remains true tothe world in spite of all the hardships it brings us. Our marriage must be a‘yes’ to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplishsomething on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth ononly one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer,Love Letters from Cell 92).
It is worth remembering that Bonhoeffer’s situation as hesat in that cell was every bit as bleak as that of the besieged people in Jerusalem. Bonhoeffer had no reason to believe thathe would survive the war—or that his writings from his prison cell wouldsurvive. The facts were that he lived for two years in that cell (April 1943 toApril 1945) and was executed just days before the war ended.
The Nazis were defeated, but Bonhoeffers writings from thatcell became some of the most influential Biblical reflections for the last 50years.
In this story from Jeremiah, the real-estate market isplummeting, and God decides to do this crazy thing and purchase prime propertyin the middle of the stock market crashing. This is a public transaction withthe intention of sending waves of hope throughout the land where fear isconsuming everyone. Jeremiah encourages the people that one day their familieswill return and live on this land once again.
What act would be the equivalent today? With Auckland houseprices increasing so much. An event of celebration for some. TheBabylonians. But an event too of despairfor those under siege - who long to have a stable home to live in. Imagine a modern-day Jeremiah who goes andbuys a house, and then sells it not at market rates, but at a price a youngfamily could afford.
Isn’t it true that the most defiant acts, the ones that seemto stand in the face of common sense, or normal acceptable behaviours, are alsothe ones that bring with them hope, and also learning about ways to do thingsdifferently.
Last week I was listening to an interview with Dan Price. A wealthyand successful businessman who heads a company in Seattle. What made Dan famous was that 5 years ago, atnot a particularly good time, Dan made the decision to cut his huge income sothat all his 200 or so employees would each have a minimum wage of $70,000.
As you can imagine at the time, he was denounced as anidealistic nut case , and a headline read ‘’how to destroy a perfectly goodcompany with an act of enormous stupidity.’’ In fact the conservative media labelled him acommunist.
You probably know what I’m going to say next. The companyhas flourished. Dan said last week thatthere were all these totally unexpected outcomes. People could afford a mortgage and buy homes.So they had stability and security. In fact,families found they could now live on just one income, and the birth rates amonghis employees has increased by a factor of 10. And a whole lot of other things. What is even more interesting is that throughthe Covid crisis and the lockdowns in Seattle, 98% of staff including Dan have voluntarytaken temporary pay cuts to allow the business to continue to grow and survive.
This morning, we are people here who gather to follow theone who acted in the most defiant way - a way that we can hardly imagine. In the face of fear, hatred, torture,execution, Jesus from the cross asks God that we each be forgiven. We discoverthat forgiveness is the ultimate act of defiance.
The denial of the damaging power that maybe other people, events,even fear and death have over us.
We might not be in prison, or facing an invading army or eventhat anxious about Covid. But we findtoday that our confidence in the future depends on faith in God.
We have our fears, our worries, our financial challenges,maybe even our business challenges.
But let’s think today of one thing we might do, that Jeremiahwould look on with encouragement, one thing that stands in defiance of thoseforces of fear and loss and anxiety. To identify and to say to that fear orchallenge, In Jesus name I am no longer going to be subject to the damagingpower that that thing has over me. I am going to do something expressing thehope I have for the future. I am going to do something that may not even bewhat is expected.
It may be a word of forgiveness. It might be that decisionthat we have been putting off. So, let us think of one big or small thing wecould do this week that gives tangible expression to the hope and confidence wehave in God’s promises for today and for our futures. AMEN
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