This time, let's turn in our bibles to Jeremiah chapter 32 as we continue this exciting journey through the word of God.
Chuck never ceases to amaze me. Jeremiah chapter 32. So often I find-- as do many others who teach and preach the word of God-- that God will allow His teachers to experience what they're going to teach or what they've already taught on. So that if you're going to teach on trials, the Lord wants to keep you in touch with your topic. So he'll allow you to go through a trial so it's not academic or cold. It's incarnational, it's personal, it's real.
Couple of weeks ago, I was teaching on evangelism, and I love it when the Lord does stuff like this. I got a knock on the door, and it was a neighbor. And I just knew it was one of those set ups-- those blessed interruptions. Because it was one day when I was taking the trash out, and a guy was walking. And I just put my hand up and said, God bless you.
And this same fella knocked on the door and said, the other day, you said God bless you. I want to talk to you about that. And he came in the living room, and we talked and got on our knees and led him to Christ. It was was just one of those great set ups by the Lord.
Well, Jeremiah has been preaching on God's promises. God, he said, though he'll take you from this place-- Jerusalem-- and take you to that place-- Babylon-- he'll bring you back to this place-- Jerusalem. So he kept preaching on God's promises. Now, God calls upon Jeremiah to live what he believes-- faith without works is dead. If I were to give chapter 32 a title, I'd call it put your money where your mouth is. Because in this chapter, God tells Jeremiah to buy a piece of land that is at present part of the battlefield-- the very place that the Babylonians have already surrounded and have already captured.
The setting of both chapter 32 and 33 is Jeremiah is in jail. He's been preaching faithfully. He's been suffering intensely. He's done everything right. He's obeyed God implicitly, and yet he suffers for it. The people's response, especially King Zedekiah-- the final King before the captivity-- his response is to throw Jeremiah in prison.
If you think that serving the Lord and doing everything right is going to guarantee you smooth sailing, think again. And be comforted in the fact that even Jeremiah-- one of God's most faithful servants-- experienced hardship. Jesus said that the Father in heaven causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust and the sun to rise on both the just and the unjust alike. In other words, good or bad, righteous or wicked-- there are common mercies, common graces, and even common trials that are afforded to the righteous and the unrighteous, but especially to those who are faithful in the Lord. All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
I was reading something in Reader's Digest some time ago that said to be expected not to be treated badly just because you're a good person is like expecting an angry bull not to attack you just because you're a vegetarian. That makes sense. Let's look at the trial that Jeremiah's in-- the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the 10th year of Zedekiah the King of Judah, which was the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar.
Now, you may remember that in 2 Chronicles, the chronology of the kings of Judah is given. And there, we are told that King Zedekiah was 21 years of age when he came to the throne, and he reigned for 11 years. This is the 10th year of his reign, or one year before Jerusalem ultimately falls to the Babylonians. Which would make it-- if it fell in 586 BC-- the year is 587 BC, a year before Jerusalem finally fell.
For then the King of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the King of Judah's house. For zedekiah, the King of Judah, had shut him up saying, why do you prophesy and say, thus says the Lord, behold, I will give this city into the hand of the King of Babylon, and he shall take it. And Zedekiah, the King of Judah, shall not escape from the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye. Then he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall be until I visit him. Says the Lord, though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed.
That was the message Jeremiah was preaching. And several times, he gets very personal and mentions Zedekiah by name, saying you're toast. This is it. These are the last days. The kingdom is going into captivity.
The siege of Jerusalem began in the ninth year of King Zedekiah's reign. And it was a long time-- months and years-- until it finally fell. But there was a lull in this siege, and the lull came when the King of Babylon heard that Egypt was advancing once again. And so Babylon pulled out, causing a lull in the siege. It was during that time-- if we piece the chronology together-- that Jeremiah left to go to his hometown up in Anathoth, and we'll get to this in chapter 37 of Jeremiah.
While he's out there, he's accused of defecting to the Babylonian army, and he is arrested. Jeremiah was a very, very effective preacher, very powerful man of God, very potent prophet of God. But he got a little too personal for King Zedekiah, because he mentioned that Zedekiah would be arrested-- would be taken to Babylon, would see the king face to face, and ultimately would die in Babylon.
Reminds me of a story of two ladies who went to hear the new preacher of the church. The first Sunday, he preached hard and loud and demonstratively against adultery. And the two women came up afterward and said, that was some preaching. That was amazing.
The next week, they went back to the church, and they heard the preacher preach against smoking loud and vociferously and dramatically. And they came up afterwards and said, that is great preaching. You're amazing. You're awesome. The next week, he preached against another sin-- stealing or something like that. Amazing, they said. Incredible preaching.
The fourth week, they came back. This time, the preacher spoke about tithing-- giving, being faithful to the Lord in these matters. Afterwards, the two ladies came up to him and said, now you've done it. You just went from preaching to meddling. They didn't like the message. Jeremiah has gone to meddling, saying directly to King Zedekiah, you're going into captivity. It's too late.
In verse two, it says Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the prison in the King's house. This is an open courtyard where prisoners were confined and left to suffer the open elements there in the palace in Jerusalem. Now, Jeremiah is in prison, and yet the Lord has spoken to him in prison, will speak to him in prison, and will use him in prison. You can imprison ministers and messengers of God's word, but you can never imprison God's word.
Paul the Apostle was in prison and saw some of his most fruitful years of ministry from jail. He had quite a prison ministry. Not only did he write letters to churches and strengthen the leaders in those churches, but he was in Rome on one occasion. And for a couple of years, he was chained to different guards who had around the clock change, switch off from other soldiers who would watch him. And he spoke about to the Philippians how that God had opened doors in Caesar's household so that many of the soldiers had been converted.
Now, you can imagine what it would be like to be chained to Paul the Apostle-- knowing what you know about him from the writings of Paul, what it must have been like. And talk about a captive audience. They were chained to the guy! And people would come in, and he would dictate letters, and he would minister to people on a local level. And they would overhear it, and no doubt from those conversations, from those meetings, so many came to faith in Christ. And so Paul, when he writes to Timothy, said, I suffered trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains, but the word of God is not bound.
Now, in verse six, God tells Jeremiah to do something that an outsider would see as nuts, illogical, something that would be counter-intuitive. It just doesn't make sense, especially concerning the times. He's to buy land. He's to buy a piece of the battlefield. Jeremiah said, the word of the Lord came to me saying, behold Hanamel, the son of Shallum, your uncle will come to you saying, buy my field which is Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.
Then Hanamel, my uncle's son, came to me in the court of the prison, according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, please, buy my field that is in an Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin, for the right of inheritance is yours and the redemption yours. Buy it for yourself. Then I knew that it was the word of the Lord.
God comes to Jeremiah and tells him of an interesting real estate opportunity. It's interesting and illogical, because the country of Benjamin where Anathoth is has already fallen in Babylonian hands. They control it. They own it. It's in captivity. It's part of the battlefield.
Now, what could that land be worth? It's like somebody saying, I've got a great deal on a land opportunity in the Everglades. There's some swamp land. I know it's swamp land, but you can get it for a steal. I'm sure you could, but then what?
The Lord says, Jeremiah, your cousin is going to come, and this is what he's going to say, and you are to buy this land. And he responds to the Lord in obedience. Interesting in verse eight, it says, then I knew this was the word of the Lord. Now, 51 times in the book of Jeremiah, we hear and read the phrase "the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." And now it says, then I knew that it was the word of the Lord.
We don't know exactly how the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, but we know that the Lord did speak to Jeremiah. Sometimes God spoke very dramatically in the Old Testament, sometimes audibly. Sometimes the mountain shook as when God spoke with Moses. At other times it was in quiet ways-- a still, small voice as God spoke to Elijah on the same mountain, Mount Sinai. Here, God had spoken to him, and the fact that what God said came to pass was a confirmation. If at all Jeremiah was in any doubt, the doubt was banished when his cousin came to him, and then I knew it was the word of the Lord.
So verse nine-- I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money-- 17 shekels of silver. Now, I suppose if his cousin had just shown up on the scene unannounced and told him in his own words the deal he was proposing without the word of the Lord having come first, probably Jeremiah would have refused to buy it. He'd have said, cousin, Hanamel, why would I want to buy this land? The Babylonians own it now. It's worthless. Get a clue, buddy boy. We're surrounded here. This is a battlefront.
Besides that, it's going to be under Babylonian control for 70 years. The future looked bleak, but the coming of his cousin was at least enough of a sign to trigger his faith. He knew it was the word of the Lord, and he went through with it. The Lord will often provide triggers for our faith so that we can grab a hold of something. There was the woman in the New Testament who said, I know that if I can touch the hem of Jesus' garment, I'll be healed.
There was nothing magical or mystical in the hem of Jesus' garment. It was a garment. The power was in Jesus. But she set that hem of the garment as a point of contact, and it triggered her faith.
Or this sweatbands of Paul the Apostle and his shadow passing over them healed so many as he went by. And so the word of the Lord came to him. It came to pass exactly what God said. It with enough to trigger his faith, and faith is the substance of things hoped for-- the evidence of things not seen.
And he went for it, because God was trying to tell this man it's time to put your money where your mouth is, Jeremiah. You talk about the fact that Judah is going into captivity. It will take 70 years, and then everybody will be back. So if everybody will come back, and if I will restore Israel to the land and Judah to the land, then buy a piece of it. Invest in it. Put your money where your mouth is. Show the people that you believe me. Show them that you trust me.
And so I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money-- 17 shekels of silver. What do you think the people, the neighbors who saw this transaction or heard of it-- what do you think they said? They probably said, he's crazy, he's nuts. This doesn't make sense. Who in their right mind would buy this field? It's illogical, but it was a spiritual act of faith.
When my son was much younger-- much, much younger-- I used to take him and toss him up in the air. And I'm six foot five, and I could get him 10, 11 feet up in the air. And it would frighten my wife to death. What are you doing?
But I'd say, now look at his face, honey. He didn't seem worried at all, and he didn't have any reason to be worried. I had never dropped him before. I never missed. I always caught him. He had perfect confidence, absolute faith. He giggled and laughed all the way.
But others saw it and said, something's gotten into Skip. He's crazy, throwing his son up that high. Jeremiah acts upon what he said he believed, so I bought the field. You might say that faith is putting all of your eggs in God's basket, and then counting your blessings before they hatch. This is going to happen. In 70 years that would be some valuable land-- a sign of faith that God was going to bring them back from captivity.
And I signed the deed, and I sealed it. I took witnesses and weighed the money on the scales, so I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and the custom, and that which was open. And I gave the purchase deed to Baruch, the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel, my uncle's son, and the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison.
Under Jewish law, if land was sold or land was forfeited, there were legal documents-- legal instruments that were drawn up. There was the title deed, and title deed was drawn up-- the deed of ownership to the land. It was put on a scroll and then rolled up, and the scroll was sealed.
Then there was another piece of paper that was a copy of the deed. It was kept open. There was then a third document which stated the terms and conditions of the transaction, so it was all documented. Now, this was drawn up. If a person did own land, it did have to be forfeited. It could be redeemed on the seventh year, as long as the person buying the land or redeeming the land met certain qualifications.
Number one, he had to be a relative-- had to be related to the person who lost the land, so it could be brought back into the family. Number two, he had to be able to go through with the transaction. He had to have the wherewithal, the money. Third, he had to be willing to redeem it.
All of these stipulations were fulfilled by Jeremiah the prophet. Now, the reason that law was put in place, is because the land God said was his-- it couldn't be sold permanently. And so that the family would have their tribal allotments in Israel, this interesting person-- this family redeemer called the Goel, kinsman redeemer-- was part of the law process.
One of the best stories of that is in the Old Testament, the book of Ruth, where you remember this story. Elimelech and his wife Naomi from Bethlehem experience a famine in the land. They go to the other side of the Dead Sea over in Moab. And while they're there, they're there with their two boys Mahlon and Chilion, both their two boys, married Moabites-- Ruth and Orpah.
Elimelech, the dad, dies. The two boys also die. Naomi says, I'm going back home. She goes back to Bethlehem. Ruth says, where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your God will be my God. Your people will be my people. So she goes back.
They go back to Bethlehem. They're poor. Naomi notices that there's this handsome elderly gentleman by the name of Boaz who is related somehow to the family, who also takes quite an eye and an interest in young Ruth. And she even mentions that this guy is a Goel.
He is a relative-- a near relative. He is able to take the land that had been forfeited because of the famine, purchase it back, and in the process marry Ruth. He becomes the Goel-- the kinsman redeemer-- which is what Jeremiah became in this case.
Verse 13-- then I charge Baruch before them, saying, thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel-- take these deeds-- both this purchase deed which is sealed and the deed which is open-- and put them in an earthen vessel that they may last many days.
You see, that document had to stay in storage for 70 years, so it was rolled up. It was sealed, usually with a wax seal, placed in an earthen jar, and there it lasted 70 years. Now, if you think that such documents couldn't last 70 years, I will tell you about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which when they were found in 1947 had lasted in earthen jars 2,000 years.
There was a little Bedouin boy playing with his sheep and goats, and he threw a rock in a cave down by the Dead Sea, and he heard a crack. And he went down, and he found a couple of old pots. And he opened up the lids of the pots, and it looked to him like a bunch of old books-- old documents. Took them to an archaeologist named Sukenik in Bethlehem, and after looking at these documents and unraveling them, determined their age-- that they were from the Qumran community 2000 years old. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the most important modern archaeological find-- they lasted a long, long time for many days to come.
For thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. We have a beautiful parallel to this, and this provides great background and insight into a great transaction that we get a glimpse of in Revelation chapter five. The earth that was once the Lord's-- the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.
Because of Satan's tempting of Adam, and because of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden, turned over the ownership of the earth to Satan so that even Jesus calls the devil the ruler of this age. And Paul writes in his epistles and calls Satan the God of this age or the God of this world. So by sin, man forfeited the dominion over the earth to Satan. And so when Jesus was tempted on that mountain early in his ministry, and Satan suggested that Jesus fall down and worship him, and he would give him all the kingdoms of the earth, Satan said, for it is mine, and I can give it to whoever I wish.
And Jesus did not dispute that. He didn't say, now, wait a minute, Satan, I have a theological problem with that statement, because he knew it was true. God gave the earth under man's dominion. Man forfeited that. Romans chapter five tells us by one man sin entered the world, and by sin, death, so that death spread to all men.
And then in Romans chapter eight, Paul fills in the blank even more. He says the whole creation groans and travails with pains until now, desiring to be delivered because of the sin that they're suffering-- because he said creation was subjected to emptiness, futility, vanity.
So in Revelation 5, there's John. He's taken up into the heavenly scene. He sees the sea of glass, the angels, the 24 elders casting their crowns down praising the Lord. And he said, I saw in the right hand of him who sat upon the throne a scroll that was written within and without, on the inside and the outside, sealed with seven seals.
And a strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, who is worthy to take the scroll and break or unloose the seals? And it says there was no one in heaven or in earth or under the earth who was worthy to take the scroll and unloose the seals. And John said, so I wept much. I wept convulsively.
And no wonder. No wonder he wept convulsively. That's the title deed of the earth that he saw. That's the scroll with all of the stipulations that had been forfeited by man's sin. And there is no one worthy, which would mean that the earth is doomed perpetually. No one could buy it back.
And then the angel said to John, weep not. Don't cry, for behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to take the scroll and loose the seals. And I looked, I beheld, and I saw a lamb as though it had been slain. And it goes on to tell us that there's praise in heaven, because the lamb shed his blood to redeem us from every tribe, kindred tongue, and nation.
There was no man that was worthy. No man could pull it off-- no man in heaven or in earth, no creature. But Jesus Christ by his blood could take the title deed to the earth purchased with his blood and redeem humanity back to God. Of course, the law said he had to be a kinsman redeemer-- a Goel. Remember the stipulations-- he had to be related, had to be able, had to be willing.
He was related. In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. So God became a man to be related to us in our sinful condition, though he had no sin in and of himself. He took no sin upon himself. He took our sins in payment.
Then he had to be able to do it. And he was able, because he was the only perfect one who ever lived. He had no sin at all, and he paid the price by shedding his blood.
Then he had to be willing to do it. And I love what Jesus said in John chapter 10. He said, no one takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down and take it again.
The death of Jesus Christ was not some colossal accident. Jesus wasn't murdered as much as Jesus gave voluntarily, willingly, his life for the world-- our Goel, our kinsman redeemer. And here's the background that gives insight into that incredible transaction.
Now, when I had delivered the purchase deed to Baruch, the son of Nuria, I prayed to the Lord, saying, ah, Lord God-- now understand, that in Hebrew, the word "ah" is an exclamation of usually disgust or unbelief. It's not like wow, it's ah. I mean, he's doing what God told him to do. It is an act of faith, but he's wrestling with the transaction.
Ah, Lord God. Behold, you made the heavens and the earth by your great power and your outstretched arms. There's nothing too hard for you. You show loving kindness to thousands and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them. The great, the mighty God, whose name is the Lord of Hosts, you are great in counsel and might and work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men to give to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.
By the way, that's a great way to begin your prayers-- to recognize who it is you're praying to. Jesus said, when you pray, say our Father who art in heaven. It's good to remember to whom you're praying, because too often we love to bring our own littleness, our own limitations over onto God. And we pray in such a weak manner, almost as if to say, Lord, this is really hard. This is a really big request.
Hey, wait a minute. You're talking to God. Hello-- the creator of heaven and earth. And if you can believe Genesis 1:1, the rest should be a snap. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Well, if he can do that, I guess he can do anything.
But listen to some of our prayers. Somebody has a cold. Oh, Lord, we just pray that you touch him and heal him. We know you can do anything. After all, we say-- not out loud-- it's a cold.
But somebody has cancer. Oh, Lord, oh. And it's almost as if to God cancer is harder than a cold. Well, to us, there's a disparity. To us, it would be impossible-- either one. But to God, nothing is impossible.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, they got it right. They adjusted their perspective, and they realized to who it was they were praying. You see, they had just been arrested and threatened in Jerusalem for preaching in the name of Jesus, and they were let go. And it says they went to their own company. Now, a law had been passed making it now illegal to be Christian representatives in Jerusalem. And it says they got together with their own company, and they lifted up their voices.
And they said, Lord, you are God. You made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. Then they quote Psalm 2-- who by the mouth of your servant David has said. And they prayed with perspective. And after they prayed, it says the building they were meeting in was shaken, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. It's important we recognize to whom we are praying-- who we're talking to.
I heard about a woman who was sick. She was in her final stages of life, but she was quite cheerful. She lived in a tenement building-- a beat up old apartment building in the worst part of town. Friends would visit her, and on one occasion, one of her friends came with a very wealthy woman from the wealthiest part of town. So it was a part of town that this wealthy gal had never frequented-- never visited.
There was no elevator in this old tenement building, and so they walked up the stairs to her fifth story apartment. As they went up to the first floor, the one wealthy gal was shocked. She had never seen a building quite like this. It was musty and dirty and smelly. And her friend turned to the wealthy gal that accompanied her and said, don't worry, it's better higher up.
So they went up to the second floor, and the second floor looked worse than the first-- dilapidated, beat up. And her friend said, don't worry, it's better higher up. They got up to the third floor-- worse. All the way up to the fifth floor, and they went into a very small, meager, poor, but neat and clean apartment where this infirmed woman lay in her bed with a big smile on her face-- joy beaming from her.
And the rich woman, not knowing what to say, really not experiencing situations much like this, said to this suffering woman, I'm so sorry. It must be so hard for you to live in these conditions and be here. And the woman just smiled and said, oh, it's better higher up. You see, that's where she was living-- not in that tenement building, not in the fifth floor apartment, she was already in her mind in glory. It only gets better.
And prayer brings you to that place. Prayer elevates your perspective, and you realize, hey, it's better up here. This is where I want to hang out, man. This is where I want to live. It's better higher up.
Well, Jeremiah starts his prayer that way and continues his prayer that way, but you will notice the shift in his demeanor. He says in verse 20, you have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt to this day. And in Israel, and among other men, you made yourself a name as it is this day. You have brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror. So he's reviewing the past now.
Lord, nothing's too hard for you. You've made it all. Now he looks back over Judah in Israel's history, all the way back from Egypt and the deliverance. You have given them this land of which you swore to their fathers to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, and they came in and took possession of it. But they have not obeyed your voice or walked in your law. They have done nothing of all that you commanded them to do, therefore you have caused all this calamity to come upon them.
Another important thing to do when you pray is to look back and review your history. How has God taken care of you up to this point? He's done a pretty good job. You've made it. You're here. The Lord's been faithful. He's kept his word, He's kept his promises.
So Jeremiah looks back and said, you're a God. There's nothing too hard for you. And he starts recounting all of the great awesome deeds, including the deliverance from Egypt and the coming into this land. And that's important, because your mind should think, if God has done that in my past, then my future looks pretty good. If God has been that powerful to sustain me up to this point, why am I so worried?
God has got great things in store. I just got to hang on-- trust him. Grab a hold of him and his promises by faith.
Look, he says, in verse 24. And now he's telling to God. Look. Now, this is where his faith gets challenged by his sight-- by what he sees. He's up there in heavenly places. It's better higher up. Lord, there's nothing too hard for you.
Notice the next one. Look, the siege mounds-- they have come to the city to take it, and the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who fight against it because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What you have spoken has happened. There-- you see it. And you have said to me, O Lord God, buy the field for money and take witnesses. Yet this city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.
Lord, you're awesome, you're amazing, you've done great wonders. But O Lord, I just don't get it. Everything you said has happened. The city is surrounded. The walls are being besieged. The siege mounds were built up. These were piles of dirt that would take the armaments of the enemy to the level of the city walls on top-- so making the break in easier. It would take several months to build a siege wall-- a siege ramp.
God, look around. Look at the siege walls. They're at our doorstep, and you told me to buy some land. OK, I did it.
Now, look how God answers him. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me? That's one of the greatest answers in the Bible. It's one of the greatest facts of history. Jeremiah, you just said I'm amazing. You're right. I am the Lord, and you're right. There's nothing too hard for me.
But he puts it in question form. OK buddy boy, you said it. Is there anything too hard for me? God had promised Abraham and Sarah that though they were past the age of having children, that they would have children within a year's time of Genesis chapter 18. Within a year, I'm going to visit you, and Sarah your wife's going to have a son.
Now, she's 90 years old. Sarah is in the tent. She overhears the conversation through the tent flaps. She's preparing a meal, and she laughed. She thought, that's a good one. I'm going to have a baby in a year. But she didn't laugh out loud.
And so this fella-- this theophany in the next room, this appearance of God in the Old Testament-- the Lord speaks and says, why did Sarah laugh-- Asking Abraham. Sarah got nervous and said, I didn't laugh. Now, it's bad to laugh at God, it's worse to lie to God.
God said, oh, but you did laugh. And then God asked, is there anything too hard for the Lord? What's the answer to that? Absolutely not. God can make a 99-year-old Abraham into a dad and a 90-year-old Sarah into a mom. God can take the Red Sea and open it up, and God, Jeremiah, can take this city and deplete it of its resources and take away people as exiles into a foreign country and use that to chastise them and bring repentance and then bring them back in 70 years and bless them abundantly.
That's what the purchase of that land in Anathoth was all about. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? Therefore-- verse 28-- therefore, because he is the God of all flesh, because he is omnipotent, because he can do anything, thus says the Lord, behold, I will give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, and he shall take it. And the Chaldeans who fight against this city shall come and set fire to the city and burn it with the houses on whose roofs they have offered incense to bail and poured out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.
The rooftops in that part of the world is flat. Gardens were planted in those days. It was packed full of dirt like adobe buildings, and it was a great recreational relaxation area for the family to go. But apparently, during Jeremiah's time, the city had been so given over to idols that rather than people leaving their homes and going to local shrines and these Asherah poles and altars of Baal, they had their own private little worship centers on the rooftops of their houses. And God was getting at that root of idolatry, and that's part of the reason for the captivity.
Because the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done evil before me from their youth, for the children of Israel have provoked me only to anger with the work of their hands, says the Lord. For this city-- that's Jerusalem-- has been to me a provocation of my anger and my fury from the day they built it even to this day, and so I will remove it from before my face. Now, there's a reference to the time it was built. It says from the day that they built it even to this day.
It's interesting, because the Israelites didn't build the city. It was a Jebusite city, and King David came upon Jebus-- this capital Jebusite city-- and one of his officers climbed up through the water shaft. The city was overtaken, and it became under Israeli occupation. However, under King Solomon, he enlarged the city. He effectively rebuilt the city, and the word here for built in Hebrew means to enlarge or to rebuild-- reconstruct.
And it must, then, have reference to the era of Solomon, who not only rebuilt the city, but himself from that early period got involved in idolatry through all of the wives and concubines. They turned his heart away from the Lord. Idolatry was introduced into the nation at that time. And then after his demise, the nation split into two-- Israel and Judah. Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they-- their kings, their princes, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem-- everyone is involved, the Lord says.
And they have turned to me the back and not the face. They have refused the fellowship for which God created them, though I taught them-- rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction. But they set their abominations in the house which is called by my name-- that is, the very temple courts themselves to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom-- that's the valley of Gehenna-- to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molek-- that horrible, insidious worship of trying to appease the god Molek by placing their babies in the red hot burning arms of that icon idol Molek till their babies died.
Which I did not command them, nor did it come into my mind that they should do this abomination to cause Judah to sin. Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say it shall be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. Behold, I will gather them.
Now, notice this. God had already said he would bring them back from Babylon, but notice this. I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in my anger and my fury and in great wrath. I will bring them back to this place. I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be my people, and I will be their God.
This must apply not to just the Babylonian captivity and their return, this must apply to a greater return after a greater diaspora or dispersion, because God said I'll bring them from all of the countries. And so the prophecy goes past the near fulfillment into the far fulfillment into the future-- into where Chapter 31 introduced the new covenant-- the time of Messiah's reign when their hearts are changed-- Israel's hearts are changed-- toward the Lord.
And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, and I will not turn away from doing good or from doing them good. But I will put my fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and with all my soul.
Now, that's an interesting phrase that God says, because it is the only time in scripture where the phrase is used of God. Oftentimes, the Lord will say, worship me, love me, obey me with all of your heart, all of your soul. But here, speaking of that future restoration in the new covenant, the Lord says, with all my heart and with all my soul. For thus says the Lord, just as I have brought all of this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.
And fields will be bought in this land of which you say it is desolate. Without man or beast, it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin in the places around Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the low land, in the cities of the south, for I will cause their captivity to return, says the Lord.
I found it interesting in doing a little bit of research on these passages from Jewish sources. And you won't find it publicized by many these days, but almost all of the ancient Jewish commentators see these promises as referring to the Messianic Age and the fulfillment of even the branch, the Lord, the righteous branch, and the Lord our righteousness as referring to the Messiah who will come and restore Israel.
And so many of them, it's so easy to see how Jesus fits into the prophecy. And though they'll deny that-- though they'll deny that Jesus is the Messiah-- almost all of the ancient Targums-- the Talmud, the Mishnah-- will say that this is the Messianic Era when the Lord our righteousness will reign as the Messiah. Interesting how they get out of their own predictions.
But in verse 44, it's sort of a geography lesson to encompass all of the land. The land of Israel is fascinating. If you start from the west coast, you have the coastal plain, and the coastal plain never really had many cities on it because of the lack of navigable harbors in that area. They had really no natural harbors. They had to have a man made one built years later by Herod the Great. And then the land rises as it gets inland into an area known as the lowlands, which are mentioned here in our verse-- or the Shfela-- a place where many cities sprung up in ancient times, because the land is just so fertile.
And then the land rises further up to the mountains or the high plains and the plateau and that spine of mountains where Jerusalem, Judea, Bethlehem, these fortified cities were built, because the mountains provide natural fortifications. Then the land drops dramatically into the rift valley-- that huge geographical area known as the Syro-African Rift. And in Israel, it is all below sea level. So the Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level, the Jordan River is all below sea level, and the Dead Sea is 1,290 feet below sea level.
And though it's low and hot in the summertime, down in the south many cities were built in the Negev. And that's the reference here in this verse-- the cities of the south. God is saying that he'll restore the land, and virtually all of these places will be inhabited and blessed once again. Moreover, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time while he was still shut up in the court of the prison. So poor guy is still there.
Thus says the Lord who made it and the Lord who formed it to establish it-- that is, the city of Jerusalem. That's what has been on the purview of the subject so far. The Lord is his name. Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know. But Jeremiah has been praying. He's already been talking to the Lord, and the Lord says, keep it up, buddy. Don't quit. Call on me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty.
The Hebrew word for mighty means fortified. It is a word that is often used to refer to the strongholds of Zion or strong impenetrable city walls. One of the first books I read as a Christian was a little book by Charles Spurgeon called 12 Sermons on Prayer, and I remember the first chapter was a sermon on this verse of scripture. And Spurgeon made a very interesting remark that God so often has to command his children to pray.
Call on me, the Lord said as a command. And then he asked the question why? And he said in answering it, because we are mankind, we are stubborn, we are disobedient, we are despondent, we are forgetful. So that the Lord in his graciousness has to come along and say, pray. I command you. Call on me. I want to bless you. I will bless you.
But so often, the blessing is tied to our asking. Jesus said, ask, seek, knock. Ask, and it will be given to you. Knock, and the door will be open. Seek, and you will find.
But did you know that all of those-- ask, seek, and knock-- are in the imperative form? It's a command. It's like God is holding the blessings, and he's saying, I've got blessings. Now I command you to ask me for them, because I want to unload them on you. Call upon me. Pray, ask, and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.
For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, the houses of the kings of Judah which have been pulled down to fortify against the siege mounds. So they would pull down materials from their own homes that were built close to the city walls, the debris from the captivity or from the attack, some of the stones from their own houses, and they would build their own you could call them counter mounds on the other side of the wall to make breaching the wall more difficult for the enemy. They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but only to fill their places with the dead bodies of men whom I will slay in my anger and my fury all for those wickedness I have hidden my face from this city.
Behold, I will bring it health and healing. I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. So God is saying both you are going to be judged and blessed. And that interval is the 70 year captivity and then ultimately the final restoration in the end times. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return and will rebuild those places as at the first.
And I think as at the first refers to the time of Solomon before the kingdoms split-- when they were united, when they were at that point at their zenith, at their glory. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against me, and I will pardon their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against me. Then it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth who shall hear all the good that I do to them. They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it. Thus says the Lord.
Again, there shall be heard in this place of which you say it is desolate without man and without beast in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate without man and without inhabitant, without beast. The voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride-- the voice of those who will say praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for his mercy endures forever. And of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, for I will cause the captives of this land to return as at the first, says the Lord.
Now, that little refrain that God says they will say-- praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever-- was one of the worship or liturgical refrains, phrases, praises that was sung in the temple courts when sacrifices were being made. And you may want to just jot down in the margin of your Bible Psalm 118. That's one of the few where you have the ascent up to Jerusalem, or you have the temple goings on and then the frequent refrain that is said. Praise the Lord of Hosts, for His mercy is good. His mercy endures forever.
Thus says the Lord of Hosts, verse 12. In this place which is desolate, without man, without beast, in all of its cities, there shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. That prediction would come true literally as well as figurative. Literally in the sense that they would come back and inhabit the land, and shepherds would come and occupy the hillsides. And flocks would be raised again in that place, and they would find their pasture and their rest.
But also it is figurative of just an idyllic time of peace, prosperity, rest. David said the Lord is my shepherd. He makes me lie down in green pastures. It's not necessarily that David was walking along one day and God said, lie down. It's green here. But the idea that, look, God gives me rest from my enemies. God brings me refreshment and peace. And it was metaphorical of days where it was so hot, and the sheep were worn out. And the Shepherd, in love and caring for his sheep, would bring them to a place of repose and refreshment-- that God would bring us refreshment and peace.
In the cities of the mountains, the cities of the low land, the cities of the south, the land of Benjamin, the places around Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, the flocks shall again pass under the hand of him who counts them, says the Lord. Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah in those days. And at that time, I will cause to grow up to David a branch of righteousness. He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
We know who the branch is. We read about him earlier in Chapter 23 and in Isaiah 11 that a rod will come out of the stem of Jesse. A branch will come from his roots, that it would be the Lord himself coming as the Messiah. In those days, Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called the Lord our righteousness. For thus says the Lord, David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.
In Chapter 23, Jeremiah tells us his name. His name-- that is the branch's name, the Messiah's name-- will be called the Lord, or Jehovah, Yahweh, Tsidkenu-- the Lord our righteousness. What is interesting here is Jeremiah says the city of Jerusalem will be called the Lord our righteousness. So the city gets the same name as the Lord. In that day, it will become the Holy Land.
You say, oh no, I'm going to the Holy Land with you guys in February and March. Well, it's a great place, but not nearly as holy as you might think. In that day that we're reading about, it will be the Holy Land when the Lord of righteousness dwells in that land.
When a couple go to the altar, and they exchanged vows, and they get married, it is typical for the bride to assume the name of the bridegroom. She is called by his name. And so I love that. This speaks of the intimacy of fellowship that the Lord will enjoy with us, his people, in that day. The city will take the name of her husband, the Lord, the city called after the same name.
Verse 18, nor so the priests the Levites lack a man to offer burnt offerings before me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually. You say, now wait, wait just a minute. Why are there sacrifices after Jesus has returned? I thought, you say, Jesus was our sacrifice and offered up his sacrifice once and for all. You're right, he did. He offered up the sacrifice for sin.
And notice there's no mention here of the sin offering at all, but of the burnt offering, which was an offering where a portion was taken and it was wholly consumed. And a portion was taken, and the participant would eat of it. And it spoke of consecration, fellowship, intimacy once again that we're going to experience with the Lord.
And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah's saying, thus says the Lord, if you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that there will not be day and night in their season, then my covenant may also be broken with David my servant so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne with the Levites, the priests, my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister to me.
Moreover, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, have you not considered what these people have spoken saying the two families of which the Lord has chosen? He has also cast them off, thus they have despised my people as if they should no more be a nation before them. Thus says the Lord, if my covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David my servants so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for I will cause their captives to return. And I will have mercy on them.
If you ever hear anyone say God is finished with Israel, and all of the promises of the Old Testament, all of the promises of restoration to the nation of Israel have been forfeited by Israel and now apply to the church, don't you dare believe them. God has given us glorious promises to the church, but God has a plan for the Jewish nation. And God, no matter what the United States policy is, or whatever Germany or France or Russia's policy is with Israel, God's policy will always be the same. God will keep his promises. And though Israel sinned and has done so quite frequently in its history-- and God makes mention of that-- God will ultimately bring them back and restore them.
Call on the Lord. He will answer you. Don't give up. Don't be like the woman who called the opera house. The night before she was at the opera, she couldn't find a diamond brooch. She thought she left it there. She was frantic.
She called the next day saying, I lost my diamond pin. Would you look for it? And the attendant said, yes, hold the line. He left, looked around. It took him some time, but he found it. He rushed back to the phone to say I found it. She had hung up.
He thought, surely she'll call back. It's a diamond pin. She'll call again and again and again. She never called. Hold the line where his last words. She hung the line up,
He put an ad in the paper thinking, surely she'll read the ad in the paper. She never read it. She never responded.
You've been praying about some issues. You've been talking to the Lord, and maybe tonight you're hearing the Lord say, call on me. I'll answer. O Lord, I've been calling on you. Hold the line.
Keep calling. Keep knocking. Keep seeking. God-- your God, our God-- is ever faithful. Let's pray.
Lord, we are addressing you as our friend, because our Lord Jesus said I don't call you servants anymore. I call you friends. We're delighted to be both your servants and your friends. We address you as our Lord, our master, the one to whom nothing is impossible, for you made it all. You created the heavens, the earth, the sea, everything in it, everything under it.
And we declare there is nothing that is too difficult for you. And so Lord, whatever it is that we might be anticipating, wondering about, worried about, wrestling over, we bring it to the one who made everything and can do anything. And when we think about it in that perspective, we can rest.
And we do rest, Lord, because you will perfect that which concerns us. Thank you for your word, your promises, and thank you for the commands to call upon you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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