I never thought the book of Jeremiah would make me laugh. Isn't he called the weeping prophet? But when I closed my Bible, I was chuckling.
Last Thursday we received some discouraging information from our banker. We're working on a loan to make some repairs to our house, and the appraisal came back lower than we had hoped. It won't stop us from doing what needs to be done, but it certainly presented an unwanted bump in the road. My wife in particular was pretty crushed about it, and I knew it.
I am currently in the nineteenth month of my quest to read all the way through the Bible in one year (it's been a really long year!) and that evening after getting the negative news, I picked up my Bible and simply turned to the next chapter on the list: Jeremiah chapter 32. And that's the chapter that made me laugh. "Guess what my Bible reading was about tonight, Sweetie?" I said to my wife.
"What was it about?" she asked.
"A bad real estate deal!"
Let me set the stage for you. The nations of Israel and Judah, God's people, were in deep trouble. They had finally rebelled against God past a point of no return, and they were on the brink of being completely conquered by Babylon. Some of them were already in exile in Babylon, in fact, but there were still pockets of resistance to the conquerors; one such pocket was Jerusalem itself, where the king, Jeremiah, and the rest of the inhabitants of the city were barricaded in and under siege. Jeremiah, in addition, was under arrest in the palace; the king was very upset with him because Jeremiah had prophesied that indeed, Jerusalem was going to fall to Nebuchadnezzar, and the king himself was going to face some unpleasant consequences when it happened. So in the middle of Jeremiah being under arrest in a city that was about to be invaded and the inhabitants deported, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.
God told him to buy some land.
To his credit, Jeremiah immediately and publicly did what he was commanded to do by the Lord. But later on he went to the Lord in prayer, and after reviewing just about the entire history of the Jewish nation, Jeremiah asked a very logical question, but one that you wouldn't expect to hear from the lips of a faithful prophet of God. "Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it," Jeremiah prayed. "What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, 'Buy the field for money and get witnesses'—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans." (Jeremiah 32:24-25 ESV)
It gave me a chuckle when I read that, because it seemed so unexpected. Jeremiah is all like, oh Lord, You made everything. You save people, You punish people, You do mighty signs. And then at the very end he almost whines, God, you just told me to waste money on land that's about to be taken away from me by a conquering army! What's the deal here, God? What's going on?
I don't know if you've ever felt like that... wait, yes I do know. You have felt like that sometime if you've been a Christian longer than about ten minutes. We all do. It's nice to see that the mighty prophet Jeremiah felt that way, and yet he still acted in obedience. I guess that means that being a Christian doesn't always mean that you understand what you're being instructed to do, but you're being faithful and obedient right now and asking for an explanation later, right? Food for thought.
Anyway, as I was reading through it, God's answer to Jeremiah's question hit me like a ton of bricks, and it has become my theme verse for what we're doing with our real estate. "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh," God said to Jeremiah. And then God added, "Is anything too hard for me?"
What God knew but Jeremiah did not know was that buying the land was a prophetic act. God had his prophets do all kinds of weird things in Old Testament days. Live completely naked for three years. Marry a known prostitute. And, in this case, buy land that's going to be taken away almost immediately by a conquering army. These outlandish acts were done not to be outrageous, but to make a point. The point in this case was that one day, God was going to rescue His people from Babylon, and when that happened, they would return to the Promised Land and Jeremiah's land deeds would once again be valid. What looked like a crazy act turned out to be an investment in a future only God could see. And bringing that future to fruition was not in any way too hard for God! Jeremiah's bad business deal would one day turn into a valuable investment.
Well, despite our bump in the road, we're going ahead with the plan for our house which we believe God has placed in our hearts. Just because it seems like it's not going perfectly doesn't mean it's not God's wisdom. I'm certainly not advocating making wild business deals in hopes that God will somehow magically turn them into good business deals, but I am advocating a life of prayer and listening for the voice of God. When God is behind something, it will not fail.
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27 ESV)