In what would have looked like one of the worst investment decisions in Israel’s history, the prophet Jeremiah bought a field. His purchase doesn’t sound illogical and unsound until you know the greater context.
Jeremiah’s story started well. After all, as stated clearly by the Lord in the first chapter of the book chronicling His life and prophecy, he was literally born for the job he grew into.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations….Behold, I have put my word in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:5 &9-10.
Jeremiah then had the oh-so-unpopular job of declaring, in no uncertain terms and images, myriad ways that God’s people had played the whore and the harlot with lovers less worthy and wild than the One True God. Jeremiah was God’s mouthpiece of warning and judgment to wayward Israel. The job often proved too much for Jeremiah himself, as often throughout his heavy ministry, he begged God to take his life, wishing he had never been called to such a task.
“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. Oh that I had in the desert a traveler’s lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.” Jeremiah 9:1-2.
The hard-to-speak and even-harder-to-hear indictments and prophesies continued, leading up to the promise of coming exile under Nebuchadnezzar. Unhappy false prophets and leaders tried to take the life of our unfortunate prophet, but God sustained him.
I’ll let Jeremiah himself finish setting the stage for the purchase of the aforementioned field.
“At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of Judah…Jeremiah said, ‘The word of the Lord came to me. Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself’.” Jeremiah 32:2 & 6-8.
While Babylon literally had Jerusalem under siege, a siege which would end in the 70 year exile of God’s people, God saw fit to set up a real estate transaction. Seems strange, right? What’s the deal with the field and why did God deem it important enough to be chronicled in the Bible?
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, had many reasons to despair. His lifelong career had been the bearer of mostly hard news for people who did not want to hear it. Those people, whom Jeremiah had spent scores of nights weeping over, were literally on the brink of being taken away from their homes and homeland to a foreign land forcefully.
Yet God told him to buy a field in Jerusalem, the land they were about to be removed from for nearly a century. And, in a bold declaration of hope, Jeremiah bought the field.
God knew the deep despair in the heart of his chosen prophet. He knew that His people would be reeling in conviction that would eventually lead them back to Himself and His ways. God knew they needed to know that this was not the end.
They would return to their land, they would be changed in their hearts, softened toward the Words of the Lord again. Thus, He bid Jeremiah buy the field in the tribe of Benjamin.
For in the far future, a greater prophet would rise up from the tribe of Benjamin. He would weep more than Jeremiah. Unlike Jeremiah, God would not spare his life. Rather, He would die a tragic death on behalf of the same sinful people bent on returning to the same harlotry.
And then He would fill His people with hope and laughter.
Although we live on the other side of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we still struggle to hope.
Like Jeremiah, God bids us to follow him into bold acts of hope in what appears to be a shriveling, grief-stricken world.
Fostering a child who you know will be taken away is buying a field. Praying for a hardened family member even though nothing has happened for decades is buying a field. A widow waking up expectant of God’s purposes in her life is buying a field. We all have fields to buy, acts of hope in Christ in grim situations. What’s your field?
In his excellent book regarding the life of Jeremiah, To Run With Horses, Eugene Peterson beautifully unpacks the drama of Jeremiah being called to buy a field in the midst of a desperate situation. My thoughts on Jeremiah and hope find their roots in Peterson’s mastery of imagination and words, as well as the Word. If you are looking to find a picture of a life of hope lived in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations, the life of Jeremiah is a good place to begin.
By studying the God of Jeremiah, you may too find the source of his courage to buy the field.