Jeremiah bought a field.
This seems to be kind of a strange passage of scripture, an odd story to be included in the Holy Bible. All this passage of scripture does is tell us how Jeremiah went out one day and bought a field.
It’s obvious that Jeremiah was no businessman. Didn’t Jeremiah know that the Babylonians were coming? Couldn’t Jeremiah see the Babylonian army camped just outside the gates of the city? But Jeremiah bought a field.
Everybody else was trying to convert their holdings into cash. Wall Street was about to collapse, the bottom was going to drop out of the market. The Babylonians were coming! But Jeremiah bought a field.
Now, granted, the field had been in his own family. Jeremiah’s cousin was selling the field. Jeremiah was the oldest, and had first rights to the field. So maybe Jeremiah bought the field for sentimental reasons – to help his cousin out. But the Babylonians were coming! The Babylonians didn’t care about family or sentiment. They weren’t going to recognize any deeds or bills of sale. But Jeremiah bought a field.
Admittedly, real estate is usually a good investment. Buy some land, hang on to it for a few years, and then sell it at a profit. But Jeremiah didn’t have a few years. Jeremiah didn’t have even a few days. The Babylonians were coming! The Babylonian army was already besieging Jerusalem. The Babylonians would soon own all the real estate. But Jeremiah bought a field.
What in the world was Jeremiah thinking? Maybe Jeremiah should have stuck with what he knew – preaching and prophesying and such. Jeremiah was pretty good at that. But when it came to business dealings; not so much. The Babylonians were coming! Nobody in their right mind would go out and buy something that would soon belong to an invading army. But Jeremiah bought a field.
Of course, we know that Jeremiah was in his right mind. We know that Jeremiah didn’t buy that field as a business investment, not did he buy that field for sentimental reasons. No, Jeremiah bought that field for one reason, and one reason alone: Jeremiah bought that field because God told Jeremiah to buy that field.
Jeremiah bought that field as an act of faith. Jeremiah bought that field as a symbol of Jeremiah’s faith in God – God, who held in his hand Jeremiah’s future, and the future of Jeremiah’s people. Jeremiah bought that field as an act of faith and as an example of hope for people who were about to lose everything, including their freedom.
These were people whose world had been turned upside down. Everything they had ever known, everything they had depended on, their very way of life – all of it was about to be taken away from them. These people were scared. The King was scared. In fact, the King was so scared that he had Jeremiah confined, under guard, so that the prophet’s words of gloom and doom could no longer be heard by the people. But it didn’t matter. The people knew. The Babylonians were coming!
The Babylonians were coming, and the people were scared. They didn’t know what to expect from this new life they would be living, but they had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. Nothing was going to be the same, because the Babylonians were coming. But Jeremiah bought a field.
Many of us today are scared. Many of us wake up each day with a feeling of hopelessness. We feel as though our way of life has been taken away from us, and we don’t know what to expect.
“I’ve lost my job. My kids are on drugs. My mother is dying. I can’t pay my bills. I’m going to lose everything. My life has been turned upside down, and I no longer feel safe and secure. What am I going to do?”
Well, you know what Jeremiah did. Jeremiah bought a field.
Maybe we all need to go out and buy a field. Not literally buy a field, necessarily, but maybe we need to do something different, something to show our trust in God – God, who is the true source of our security, the true reason for our hope.
Our hope cannot lie in our wealth, in our health, in our families, in our country. We all know how fragile these things can sometimes be. We need to put our faith, our trust, our hope, in God. Only God can provide hope in the midst of despair. Only God can give us comfort in the midst of fear. Only God can give us peace in the midst of tragedy.
A few years ago I read a magazine article about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer. It was a hard time for this woman and her husband – surgery, chemotherapy, anger, depression – the works. Some people thought this couple was crazy when, in the middle of all the medical bills and trips to the hospital, this couple went out and bought a field. They called the field “Anathoth.”
Obviously, this couple had read this story about Jeremiah, and this couple went out and bought a piece of land in spite of the sound of illness and death knocking at their door. Oh, yes, some people thought they were crazy.
But they weren’t crazy, not at all. This couple was making a very powerful statement. They were saying that their lives were in God’s hands. They were saying that, despite the fact that the Babylonians were at the gate, they were putting their faith and hope in God.
Does this story have a happy ending? I guess that depends. The woman died from her cancer. The man still owns the field called Anathoth. I don’t know what will become of the man or the field, but that’s not the point.
The Babylonian exile lasted about 50 years. Jeremiah didn’t live to see the end of it. This woman didn’t live to see what became of her field, either. But the important thing is that both Jeremiah and this couple bought their fields in the first place.
Jeremiah bought a field when the Babylonians were at the gate. This couple bought a field when death was right around the corner. But neither Jeremiah nor this couple was really staking a claim on some piece of land. No, they were staking a claim on God. They trusted in God’s goodness and love and faithfulness, no matter the circumstances.
What about us? Do we trust in God, no matter the circumstances? We say we do, but sometimes our actions say otherwise. We say we trust in God, but we hedge our bets. Instead of buying a field outright, maybe we just put a deposit down on the field. That way, if the Babylonians do come, we’ve only lost a little.
But Jeremiah bought a field. Jeremiah didn’t hesitate, Jeremiah didn’t try to barter for a discount. Jeremiah put his faith in God. Jeremiah bought a field. And, although Jeremiah didn’t live to see it, in the end God’s word came true: Houses and fields and vineyards were again bought in the land of Jeremiah’s people.
This church needs to buy a field. We, as a community of believers, we need to put our complete faith and trust in God, as a group. We need to work together and buy a field. Again, not literally, necessarily, but we need to make a statement, as Timothy United Methodist Church, that we belong to God, not to ourselves.
And each of us, in our own lives, needs to buy a field, too. You need to do something to symbolize your faith in God. What kind of field do you need to buy? I can’t tell you that – no one can. You have to figure that out for yourself. You need to listen for the word of God in your life.
I can tell you this: your field needs to be something that doesn’t appear to make sense. Maybe you need to put more money in the offering plate, even though your financial situation says that there’s nothing left to give. Maybe you need to volunteer to work with the kids, or clean up the park, or deliver meals to shut-ins – volunteer to give your time to God, even though it seems that you have no time to spare.
Or, who knows, maybe you need to literally go out and buy a field, even though the Babylonians are at your gate. I don’t know what your particular Anathoth might be. But I do know that we all need to put our faith in God. God can provide the time, the money, the energy we need to do anything, if only we will put everything in God’s hands.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to believe in yourself, to have some faith in yourself. That’s a necessary part of being a whole, healthy human being. But the key is to believe in yourself enough to put your faith in God.
Jeremiah bought a field. You need to go out and buy a field. In the face of adversity, in the face of overwhelming odds, Jeremiah showed his people how to have faith and hope in God. In the face of whatever obstacles lie in your path, you need to show your family, your friends, your co-workers, how to have faith and hope in God.
Jeremiah bought a field, and for 50 years in exile, the people of Israel comforted one another by telling and retelling the story: remember how ole Jeremiah bought that field at Anathoth?
You need to go out and buy a field. Buy a field that will allow your children and grandchildren to comfort one another by telling and retelling the story. Buy a field so that, long after you’re gone, the symbolism of your act will live on.
Perhaps the field you buy will enable your children to comfort one another by saying, “Remember how brave Daddy was during his illness? His courage made it so much easier on everyone when he passed away.” Or, “Remember how grandmother gave her last dime to the church, and expected nothing in return? That church used that money to reach out to the lost, and that church is still growing.”
Yes, you need to go out and buy a field. What kind of field? Again, I don’t know. But keep this in mind: Who told Jeremiah to buy that field? God did. God will tell you what field you need to buy. And when God tells you, you will know it, just like Jeremiah, when he said, “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.”
All you have to do is put your faith and trust and hope in God, and God will guide you, just as God guided Jeremiah.
And Jeremiah bought a field.