Uniform 09.21.2014: Acting with Hope

Jeremiah 32:2-9, 14-15

When this week’s text begins, things look pretty bleak for Jeremiah and the people of Judah. Jeremiah finds himself imprisoned by King Zedekiah, who is distressed by Jeremiah’s message of coming destruction. All the people of Judah brace for the inevitable Babylonian victory that will forever change their lives. At this unlikely moment, Jeremiah is given an opportunity to purchase a plot of family land.

We also experience situations that threaten to turn our worlds upside down. The warning of layoffs soon to sweep through your department. A devastating terminal diagnosis. News that the country from which you are adopting long-awaited children is stopping adoptions to the U.S. Our lives are filled with turning points like these that force us to decide how we will face each day in light of such heart-breaking realities.

It might seem that giving up and accepting what is to come is the most logical response. Why keep putting in the effort at a job that won’t be yours much longer? Why endure months or years of pain and suffering? Why get attached to children that might never be part of your family? Or, in Jeremiah’s case, why buy land that will soon belong to a foreign enemy?

But Jeremiah’s story proves that giving up is not part of God’s plan. While he might never see the property himself, God promises him that, one day, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jer 32:15). Jeremiah’s purchase becomes an act of faith in a God who restores us and brings us home.
I think we act like Jeremiah more than we realize. In desperate situations, we are often incapable of giving up. It might seem foolish to others, but the only thing we know to do is to keep moving forward as though our dreams for the future will be fulfilled. Employees facing layoffs continue to do good work while updating their resumes and seeking new, exciting opportunities. Terminally ill patients spend intentional time with their families and look forward to the next milestone to celebrate together. Prospective parents prepare bedrooms and buy clothes while they wait for news from a foreign embassy.

Our hopes for the future might never be realized. But God wants us to know that we shouldn’t give up. God sees our fear, sadness, and uncertainty yet encourages us to act out of faith. The God who co-signed the deed to Jeremiah’s land stands behind our acts of hope, too.

Discussion

1. What situations have you faced that threatened to completely change your life? How did you feel as you waited for that event to occur?
2. When have you witnessed others behave like Jeremiah—making plans for a future that is, at best, unlikely? How did you react to their situations?
3. When have you acted out of hope in a desperate situation? Why? Did others tell you that you were being foolish?
4. How do you feel God encouraging you to act out of hope? How can we honor God’s promise of restoration through our actions?

Reference Shelf

Verses 9-15 provide detail regarding Jeremiah’s land purchase and the divine interpretation of its meaning. The seventeen shekels of silver that Jeremiah pays for the field is a reference to weight (v. 10; about seven ounces) and not to coins (which were apparently not used until the Persian period in the late sixth century BC). Jeremiah signs the deed in the presence of (two?) witnesses (who also sign it, v. 12; see v. 25), rolls up the scroll, and seals that copy of the deed. This was the official copy, but there was also an “open copy,” apparently rolled around the sealed deed, for easy public reference.

Jeremiah gives both copies of the deed to Baruch in the presence of Hanamel, the witnesses, and the Judeans who were present in the court where Jeremiah was confined (vv. 12-13). These various witnesses indicate that this is a genuine legal procedure and also assure that adequate memory of this transaction will survive the devastation. Such a written document will also constitute a verification of the truth of Jeremiah’s word on the far side of these disastrous events for the land.

In giving the deed to Baruch, Jeremiah charges him with a word from the Lord (apparently received earlier) regarding the secure disposition of the deed (v. 14). Is it because of the uncertain future of Jeremiah that Baruch is given this role? Baruch is to take both deeds and preserve them for future usage in an earthenware jar (the kind of jar in which the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), for the day will certainly come when houses and fields and vine- yards will again be purchased in the land. The symbolism associated with the act includes houses and vineyards, and commercial activity related thereto, so that the field is but a sign of a much more comprehensive future reality (v. 15; see 31:5, 12).

This word of God that Jeremiah conveys to Baruch (vv. 14-15) is a divine interpretation of this purchase as a sign of a certain future life that the people will have in the land. Note that these properties are to be purchased, even though they may have belonged originally to the families involved (vv. 15, 43-44). In other terms, this future constitutes no new conquest of the land, but a peaceful reappropriation of property.

Resource

Terence E. Fretheim, Jeremiah, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2002) 458.

Bonnie Chappell is the editor of the Uniform Series Bible Study. She is a graduate of Mercer University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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