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Nov 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 32-33 – 11/26/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome RefleXion Community!           The Lord is with you!

My husband and I recently watched this teen movie—you know where troubled teens have an adventure together and end up falling in love?  There was a line in the movie that was woven in again and again:  “There will always be somebody somewhere who is happy that you were born.”  This week as I was remembering what I was thankful for, I remembered that line, but saying it to myself seemed harder than I would have thought.  Who is happy that I was born?

We may remember that during one period of his life, Jeremiah was so unhappy that he didn’t even want his parents to be glad he was born!  Jeremiah 20, vv. 14-15:  Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!  Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you.” But we are glad that Jeremiah was born and for the faithful life he lived.  There are periods where we can’t see the whole picture and can’t recognize the others who have benefited from our lives.  We can always know that God is happy that we are born and has a wonderful plan for our lives.  At any time, I think we can ask God to remind us why He is glad we were born.  And then, to live life so He continues to be glad that we were born!

It’s good to remember to tell others that we are not only thankful for what they have done for us, but for who they are–especially children.  Words spoken to us as children have stayed with us a long time, haven’t they?  I think we all find that being deeply known and deeply loved is so important, and just the best gift.  Let’s be mindful to love people in a way that will make them grateful for their lives and for God’s purposes for them.

And while we’re at it, be grateful for your own gift of life; be grateful for yourself.  Be grateful that’s there’s more to come, and believe that somebody, somewhere is happy that you were born.

Will you join me in prayer?

Father of us all, thank you for life and for your enduring love.  May we learn to number our days, each one bringing gladness to your heart.  Thank you for gathering us here.  Let us rejoice in our new covenant and for your faithful presence.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: Chapter is not what we’ve come to expect from Jeremiah

It is a short piece of autobiography,
a personal episode in the life of the prophet
King Zedekiah was the end of the line for the kings of Israel and Judah
And he was in the last full year of his reign
Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, was under siege
the army of Babylon was at their gates
Meanwhile, Jeremiah was behind bars “in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king”
King Zedekiah placed him there after interrogating him
“Why do you prophesy our defeat? Why did you say I would be handed over to the King of Babylon?”

While sitting in prison, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah
Not like any time before–at least not at first
This word was not a prophecy like the others.
It was a personal prediction with instructions regarding a family matter
Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, needed to sell a property
God told Jeremiah that Hanamel would come and ask Jeremiah to buy it
Jeremiah had the “first right of refusal”
As Robert Alter said, if Jeremiah purchased the property, that would keep it in the family
While Jeremiah was musing over this message from God, Hanamel arrived and his question was almost word-for-word what God had told the prophet
“Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD”

Jeremiah walks us through the transaction:
Hanamel counted out the money – Jer. signed the deed – then sealed it – rounded up witnesses
Then he gave the paperwork to Baruch (his sidekick) “in the presence of Hanamel my cousin, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard” (Jer. 32:12)
Jeremiah told Baruch to put documents in earthenware jar, “that they may last for a long time”
(the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved in earthenware jars for almost two thousand years)
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jer. 32:15)

Soon Jeremiah was left alone again in his confinement

And then he prayed
“Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17)

This sounds like the beginning of a very reverent prayer
Jeremiah praises God who made the heavens and the earth,
and who had revealed himself through history;
a God who shows kindness and mercy to thousands, but who is also a God of justice
Then Jeremiah’s prayer retraces Israel’s history from Egypt
Through signs and wonders, God set his people free from slavery,
he brought them to the land he promised Abraham, and settled them there
But the sad news is that they turned away from their God–generation after generation
Eventually, their sins caught up to them, and that led up to their current situation
At that moment, the Babylon army was piling up dirt against the city wall
“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” (Jer. 32:24)
It was all happening just like God had said it would

Now comes a twist – beginning with the word “Yet”
“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” (Jer. 32:25)
Jeremiah’s prayer is done – there’s nothing else to say
He just leaves his complaint hanging in the air
What use was it to purchase property and file a deed if the people of Judah were soon to be removed and the land was going to be taking over by Babylon?!
The impression I get from Jeremiah’s prayer that it is like saying:
“Lord, I just received word that the Titanic is sinking,
but You’re telling me to go buy stock in the company that built it!”

At that point, God takes over the conversation

He begins with a line from Jeremiah’s prayer

Jeremiah (in verse 17): “Nothing is too hard for you”
God: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”
That is the first “behold” – it begins the introduction to his answer
The word Behold is always an invitation to the reader, to enter the story as if we were there,
and to look, see, and feel the scene for ourselves
There will be two more “beholds,”
both of them will introduce two parts of God’s speech

The “Behold” in verse 28 begins a section of God’s complaint
It is a list of all of Israel’s violations against the Lord,
beginning from the time they entered the land to the present
His accusations culminate in what may be their worst atrocity;
offering their children as sacrifices to the god Molech, which God says,
“though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do this abomination” (Jer. 32:35)

The third “Behold” appears at a turning point in God’s speech
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them . . . . I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people and I will be their God” (Jer. 32:37-38)
God follows that promise with a series of “I will” promises:
“I will give them one heart and one way”
“I will make with them an everlasting covenant”
“I will put the fear of me in their hearts”
“I will rejoice in doing them good”
“I will plant them in this land in faithfulness”
“I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them”
I want to make a quick stop here
– when God said he would “plant them in the land in faithfulness”
• he added, “with all my heart and soul”
• here in our little group, we like to emphasize the two greatest commandments
◦ first, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Mt. 22:37)
◦ second, love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:38)
– so to hear that God acts on behalf of his people, with all his heart and soul, affects me in a special way
• it tells me that God is all-in the way he wants me to be all-in

Back to the story
The chapter ends with God saying,
“Fields shall be bought in this land . . . . Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed”
The land deal that Jeremiah negotiated was a prophetic drama
It portrayed a scene of future real estate deals
The fall of Jerusalem was not the end of Israel!
After the tragedies of war, after the loss of their nation, after the long exile,
God would restore the land to his people,
and restore his people to himself

Chapter 33 continues the same theme regarding the future

There would be a national restoration,
– but first God would bring a spiritual restoration
• in verse 6, God promises to bring “health and healing” and in verse 8 he says,
“I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”
• God is fixing the problem (that Israel could never fix within themselves)
– the last line of chapter 32 is the theme of chapter 33
“I will restore their fortunes”
Robert Alter, says this phrase is “More literally, ‘restore the former state.’”
• in verse 7, “restore” has to do with rebuilding the nation (cities and villages and their repopulation)
• in verse 11, “restore” refers to the joyful sound of celebration and worship
“The voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the LORD . . . .”
(Remember, these are precisely the sounds that had been banished previously–7:34; 16:9; & 25:10)
• in verse 26, “restore” is applied to the government under Israel’s ultimate and perfect King

Conclusion: When God told Jeremiah to buy that field,

It seemed a ridiculous thing to do while his entire world coming down around him
– Israel was losing its independence, their land, their homes, and their temple
• but they were not losing God — the Babylonians could not defeat or abolish him
• and God’s plan for Israel and all humankind was not abandoned, just postponed

What might God be saying to us?
The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard (Jer. 33:1)
Jeremiah was “shut up” but the word of the LORD was not confined
God’s word found Jeremiah where he was
Paul knew this same liberty that God’s word has everywhere and all times
“Because I preach the Good News, I suffer and I am even chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not in chains” (2 Tim. 2:9 GNB)

I can imagine that next year will bring a pandemic of insanity
– people on the political right will fear that the continuation of a Democratic president will take the nation on a downhill slide into communism
– people on the left will fear that a return of a former Republican president will the day after his election result in the Constitution being scrapped, a new autocratic government, and the president’s vowed revenge on all those he feels have betrayed or opposed them (lining them up against the wall)
But no matter how dark our world gets, there is always an “after this”
That’s the lesson Jeremiah learned when he purchased real estate that was doomed to foreign occupation

We may be confined temporarily to our present circumstances,
but we have a destiny that reaches far beyond them
We can find peace even in the furor of political instability and possible collapse
We know how to turn from the world’s distractions to the ever-present Spirit of God
Frank Tuoti wrote, “How we respond [to distractions] will determine whether or not we progress in prayer and advance along the spiritual journey.”

What might God be saying to us?
Take slow, gentle breaths
Gratefully receive the word of the LORD as it comes to us
(listening closely for that still, small voice
God tells us,
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known (Jer. 33:3)
This how we survive – and thrive – and overcome the world

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