Lesson 9: The Man Who Bought Property In A War Zone (Jeremiah 32:1-25)Related Media
Suppose a real estate agent called you and said, “I’ve got a choice property in the mountains with a luxury hotel on it. The building is worth $20 million, easily. I’ll let you have it for $20,000. What do you think? Oh, by the way, it’s located in Afghanistan.”
Buying property in a war zone is a high-risk investment, at best. But to buy a piece of property that is already under enemy control, when it’s obvious that the enemy is on the verge of overthrowing the entire country, would be crazy. Yet that’s exactly what God asked His prophet Jeremiah to do. Jerusalem was under siege, on the brink of falling to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah was in prison because he had been preaching that the nation was going to fall and that God wanted them to surrender.
While he was in prison, with the sound of the enemy army just outside the city walls, Jeremiah’s cousin came and offered him the family right of redemption to purchase a piece of property in Anathoth, which was already in Chaldean control. We can only guess at the man’s motives, but clearly he wanted to cash out of a hopeless situation. God told Jeremiah to purchase the land and go through the proper legal proceedings as a prophetic drama to emphasize to Israel that God would keep His gracious promise of restoring them to the land.
Jeremiah obeyed, but then he got a bit confused. Had he done something dumb? If God was going to overthrow Israel by the Chaldeans, as Jeremiah had been preaching and as seemed imminent, then why did God tell him to buy this land? So after the transaction was completed, Jeremiah prayed, and God granted him the answer he needed to endure. His prayer teaches us some lessons on how to pray by faith in a bleak, confusing situation.
Most of us can relate to being in confusing, seemingly hopeless situations. If we’re not there at the moment, we have been there and we will be there again! Perhaps you’re facing a financial crisis and you’re wondering where the money is going to come from. Maybe it’s an impossible family problem, where you see no hope and you don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s an overwhelming health problem. Or, you may be facing a pressing decision where it seems that none of the options are any good. You’re confused and wondering what to do. Jeremiah’s prayer shows that…
By faith we must pray for God graciously to fulfill His promises, no matter how bleak the situation.
That’s easier said than done! So let’s look at Jeremiah’s situation and prayer so that we can learn to pray better.
1. To pray by faith for God to fulfill His promises, we must be obedient to God’s difficult commands.
Jeremiah’s prayer occurs in a context and we would be remiss to consider the prayer apart from that context, which is, Jeremiah’s obedience to some very difficult commands from God.
First, God told Jeremiah to preach against Jerusalem, telling the people that the Chaldeans would overthrow the city and nation. If they fought against them, they would not succeed. To give that message in that situation would be like getting up after President Bush called our nation to war after 9/11 and saying, “We won’t win; you might as well submit to the Taliban now!” It was not a popular or patriotic message, to say the least! Obviously, the king wasn’t thrilled. And, the people weren’t very happy with it either, since it meant that they were going to suffer the consequences of their own and their fathers’ sins. It wasn’t an uplifting, encouraging message. But, Jeremiah obeyed God and preached it anyway.
May I remind you that God has not called pastors to give upbeat messages each Sunday so that you leave feeling warm and cozy! The modern evangelical church, sad to say, has often deliberately the marketing strategy of the secular business world. If you want to attract and keep your customers, you’ve got to give them what they want. Otherwise, they’ll take their business to your competitor who does a better job of meeting their needs. So churches have fallen into giving people what they want to hear, rather than lovingly, faithfully telling them what they need to hear, which is the straight truth of God’s Word (see 2 Tim. 4:1-5).
Jeremiah’s message was the truth, even though it wasn’t popular. The question you need to ask when you listen to preaching is not, “Do I like it?” or “Does it make me feel good?” but rather, “Is it the truth?” I cannot pray by faith that God would build His church here if I’m not obedient to His sometimes difficult command of preaching His truth, especially when it runs counter to what people want to hear.
The second difficult command that God gave Jeremiah was to spend his money to buy this field that was already under enemy territory. It seemed like an insane thing to do! It was like buying property at the base of Mt. St. Helens after geologists said, “It’s unsafe to be within 30 miles of that place.” At any moment, the country was going under. The Chaldeans had surrounded the city. Their siege mounds had almost reached the top of the wall, so that they could sweep into the city. And here’s Jeremiah, still in prison, going through an escrow to buy this piece of land. A lot of people no doubt thought that the man had lost it!
But he wasn’t crazy; he was being obedient to God’s difficult command. The point was to illustrate, by faith, that houses and fields and vineyards would again be bought in Israel (32:15). In Jeremiah 31, God had promised and Jeremiah had proclaimed that the days were coming when God would form a new covenant with His disobedient people, where He would write His laws on their hearts and forgive their sin, where they would be His people and He would be their God. By purchasing this field, God was asking Jeremiah to put his money where his mouth was. To pray by faith that God would fulfill His promises of restoring His people, Jeremiah had to be obedient to this difficult command.
The principle is just as valid today as it was then. You cannot pray by faith for God to fulfill His promises to you or to His church if you’re not obeying Him at whatever points obedience is difficult. Maybe you’re single, and you want a godly mate. You can’t pray by faith for a godly mate unless you’re growing in godliness yourself. If you’re married, you cannot pray by faith for God to bless your marriage unless, in obedience to His Word, if you’re a husband, you’re loving your wife sacrificially. Or, if you’re a wife, you’re submitting to your husband as unto Christ. You cannot pray by faith for God to bless your children if you aren’t modeling a godly life before them and seeking to train them in His ways.
Or maybe you’re praying that God would bless the missionaries or His work through this local church. That’s wonderful, but you can’t pray that by faith unless you’re obeying God by giving both time and money to His work. And, as I said, I cannot pray by faith that God would build this church unless I am obeying Him by faithfully preaching His Word, even when it’s not a popular message. To pray by faith, we must be obedient to God’s difficult commands.
2. To pray by faith for God to fulfill His promises, we must appeal to God’s character.
Like Isaiah’s prayer which we studied last week, Jeremiah’s prayer shows that he knew God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. If we pray to God as we would like Him to be, contrary to how He has revealed Himself to be, we have no assurance that our prayers will be answered, because we are praying to a figment of our imagination. But if we pray to the living God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, we know that He hears us and will answer according to His will.
A. God is all-powerful.
“Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (32:17). God reaffirms the same truth to Jeremiah in verse 26. No matter how bleak the situation, God knows that we’re in it (in fact, He brought us into it, 32:23) and He has the power to accomplish His sovereign will. Jeremiah appeals to God’s power as the Creator of the universe.
In our day of supposed scientific knowledge, we Christians have wrongly let evolutionists undermine the awe that we ought to feel as we consider God’s power as seen in His creation. Marla and I love to pack a picnic lunch, hike to a beautiful spot and drink in God’s handiwork. Often, as we take in the sweeping view of the wilderness and see hawks or eagles soaring on the thermal currents, I have said, “We’re supposed to believe that all this happened just by accident. Those hawks evolved from some lower life form and somehow they survived for millions of years before the rodents that they eat evolved, and then the whole thing balanced itself out so that there are plenty of rodents for the hawks and hawks for the rodents!” And the scientists say that they don’t have enough faith to believe in a creator God!
Take another example, the great horned owl. This intricately designed bird flies silently because of soft, downy feathers on the front of its wings, enabling it to swoop down on its food source undetected. Its eyes are 100 times more sensitive to light than human eyes, which enables it to see by starlight. The owl’s left ear is about an inch lower than the right ear, which allows sound waves from the left ear to get to the brain a split second faster than from the right ear. Its brain instantly computes the exact source of the sound. Also, the saucer-shaped disks of feathers around the owl’s eyes serve as receivers (like a dish antenna) to collect sound and transmit it through sound tunnels that go from the eyes to the ears.
The owl swallows its prey whole. Its stomach has powerful acids that digest the flesh, but not the fur, teeth, and bones. These useless parts stay in a top section of the stomach where a special muscle squeezes them into a small pellet. A special gland in the owl’s throat coats this pellet with mucus and the muscle pushes this slippery pellet up the owl’s throat so it can spit it out. Without the gland, the bones would get caught and tear up the owl’s throat. Even in 10 billion years, how could all of that have happened by chance adaptation to its environment, apart from a Creator? We could multiply millions of examples of God’s design.
Can any problem you or I have be too difficult for such a powerful Creator to handle? When we come to God in prayer, we are coming to the all-powerful Creator who made the heavens and the earth!
B. God is gracious.
He shows lovingkindness to thousands (32:18). Jeremiah goes on to chronicle God’s past gracious and powerful redemption of His people from Egypt (32:20-22). The Hebrew word translated “lovingkindness” comes from their word for stork. The Hebrews observed that the stork took extraordinary care of its young. There’s nothing quite as homely as a baby stork—all mouth and no feathers. But in spite of this, the parent storks protected their young by making their nests in the top of fir trees. They spent their whole day collecting food for their young and stuffing it down their gaping mouths. The Hebrews saw that and said, “That’s like God’s loyal love toward His homely, squawking people!” Even today, we associate storks and babies!
When you come to God in prayer, you come to a gracious God. That means that you do not approach Him based on your own merit or worth, but on the merit and worth of the Lord Jesus Christ. He receives you into His presence based on the work of His Son on the cross. Paul says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). You can come to Him as a child comes to a loving parent.
My children have always had access to me at the church office or by telephone. Others may have to make an appointment or wait until I can call them back, but my kids have access to me at any time and know that I will welcome them because of their relationship to me. Even more so, God’s children through faith in Christ can come into His presence because He is a gracious God.
Many Christians misunderstand God’s grace. On the one hand, they think that they somehow must measure up to be worthy or to earn it. But if we must earn it, it’s not grace. Grace is extended to those who do not deserve it. God didn’t save any of us because He saw something in us worth saving. He saved us in spite of our sin, not because of our goodness (which none of us have in His sight, anyway).
The other misunderstanding is that somehow God’s grace means that He either overlooks our sin or stops the consequences of it. This leads to the third aspect of God’s character that Jeremiah mentions here:
C. God is settled in His wrath against all sin.
In the next breath after mentioning God’s lovingkindness, Jeremiah says that He repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them (32:18). In the next verse he affirms that God sees everything we do and renders to each person according to the fruit of his deeds. In 32:23 he recognizes the direct connection between Israel’s sin and the present calamity. And, in 32:30-35, God affirms Jeremiah’s words by stating that the reason for His anger was Israel’s repeated sin. He lets Jeremiah know that He isn’t going to do any miracles to deliver Israel from the consequences of her sin.
We live in a day of tolerance toward sin. The only person we don’t tolerate is the one who is not tolerant of others’ sins. I am amazed at how many Christians think that we’re supposed to be tolerant toward those who claim to be Christians but who are living in disobedience toward God. They think that grace means that we just love and accept everybody. Often, they erroneously think that in the Old Testament, God was an angry, judgmental God, but by the time the New Testament was written, He had mellowed out into a nice old guy who doesn’t get all that upset about sin.
But God’s grace and His wrath against sin are revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. His grace doesn’t mean that He shrugs off the sins of His people. He sometimes deals severely with our sins because He is holy and He loves us too much to let us continue in sin. We need to see, as Paul put it, “the kindness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22). We need not only to love God, but also to grow in holiness because we fear Him (2 Cor. 7:1). We cannot pray in faith unless we are obedient to God’s difficult commands and unless we appeal to the character of God as He really is: All-powerful, gracious, and yet settled in His wrath against all sin.
3. To pray by faith for God to fulfill His promises, we must understand God’s sovereign purpose.
God’s sovereign purpose is to be glorified both through the salvation of His elect and the just condemnation of the wicked (2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rom. 9:21-24). In spite of how much it may seem that the wicked prosper without any adverse consequences, while they trample God’s people under foot, God will save those whom Jesus purchased from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9), and He will judge all the wicked.
This theme runs throughout Jeremiah 31-33. In chapter 31, God promises to make a new covenant with His people and to reestablish them in the land. In chapter 32, He tests Jeremiah’s faith by telling him to buy this field in the face of the Chaldean victory, which clearly is a judgment on Israel’s sin. In the face of both this terrible enemy and Israel’s great sin, Jeremiah gets confused and wonders how God can put it all together—the hard facts of the present (32:24) and His promises for the future (32:25). Yet even though he’s confused, he affirms that what God has spoken has in fact come to pass (32:24b). Knowing that God’s sovereign purpose will be fulfilled, Jeremiah can trust God to bring the nation through this terrible time.
Sometimes I get discouraged because I see the sad condition of God’s people and how the enemy is running over the church. The American church is shot through with worldly attitudes and values. It is doctrinally shallow and often in error. God’s people are often indistinguishable from people who do not know God.
And yet Christ promised, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). He said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). When we understand God’s sovereign purpose and His power, instead of despairing, we can pray by faith that He would fulfill His promises, because we know that what God has purposed He will do, in spite of the present overwhelming difficulties.
Jeremiah had a difficult life and ministry. He had faithfully preached for years, but no one listened. Instead, he suffered persecution and imprisonment. He was on the brink of witnessing inexpressible horror, as the Chaldeans would take Jerusalem, burn it and its temple to the ground, slaughter many of its inhabitants, and take most of the others into captivity. Even the few that were left in the land would not listen to Jeremiah, but stubbornly went to Egypt against God’s command (42:1-43:7).
But the God who delivered Israel into the hands of the Babylonians also promised Jeremiah that He would gather them out of the lands where He had driven them and bring them back to Jerusalem and make them dwell in safety. He would be their God and they would be His people, and He would never turn away from His covenant to do them good (see 32:37-41).
Remember, Jeremiah never lived to see those promises fulfilled. But because he believed in a sovereign God who would fulfill all of His promises to His people, Jeremiah could obey God’s difficult commands and trust that God would do the humanly impossible. Through Jeremiah’s prayer in this difficult and confusing situation, God granted him the understanding he needed to endure.
B. B. Warfield was a world-renowned theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary for 34 years until his death in 1921. Most of his insightful books are still in print today. But what many do not know is that in 1876, at age 25, Warfield got married and took his bride, Annie, on a honeymoon to Germany. While there, Annie was struck by lightning and permanently paralyzed. Warfield cared for her every day for the next 39 years, until he laid her to rest in 1915. Because of her extraordinary needs, Warfield seldom left the house for more than two hours at a time.
How did he endure this trial with patience and joy without growing bitter at God? His thoughts on Romans 8:28 may reveal the reason:
The fundamental thought is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favor of God to those that love Him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good… Though we are too weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for what we need, and can only groan in unformed longings, He is the author in us of these very longings… and He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us. (This story and quote are from John Piper, Future Grace [Multnomah], p. 176.)
You may be in what seems to be a hopeless situation. But no matter how bleak and discouraging your circumstances, remember Jeremiah, who bought property in a war zone. By faith you can join him in laying hold of our all-powerful, gracious, holy God who will fulfill His promises on our behalf.
- If God answers prayers by grace, why must we obey and have faith?
- How can God be both kind and severe (Rom. 11:22)? How can we both fear God and love Him (1 John 4:18)?
- Does God get angry with believers who sin? Support with Scripture.
- How can we pray by faith when we don’t know God’s specific will in our situation?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2002, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation