From the Well - 10/15/2015

Jeremiah 32:1-15 (NRSV)
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, "Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the LORD: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4 King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5 and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the LORD; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?" 6 Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours." 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself." Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. 9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, 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. 13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

In September 588 BC, Jeremiah cried, “See, the siege ramps are built up to take the city.”  The city was encompassed with soldiers.  It would soon fall.  The siege had gone on for over two years and people were starving in the streets.  There was no food and no water.  Typhus and death were reigning in the streets.  Eleven months later Jerusalem would fall and become the home of wolves and jackals—a city of tumbleweeds and stark, empty streets.  The people would be gone carried off as prisoners and slaves to Babylon.

When Jerusalem was at its worst Jeremiah did the unthinkable.  When all of its citizens were either dying or in the pit of discouragement, Jeremiah took his last seventeen shekels and bought a piece of ground.  He himself was a prisoner and didn’t even get to look at or survey his purchase.  In 1400 BC God had promised Moses that his people would always own this land.  Jeremiah believed in the promises of God and believed that they would always hold.  So strong was his belief that he bought land in a city where you couldn’t give property away.

The lessons are inescapable:

·         We must learn to step out with hope.

·         We must learn to step out with a positive attitude

·         We must learn to step out with faith

I read this story in the Charlotte Observer a few years ago. It’s about a man named Sandor Teszler. Teszler was born a Hungarian Jew in 1908.  He was ostracized from childhood not so much because he was a Jew as because he was afflicted with clubfeet, requiring many painful operations.

In spite of his early handicap Teszler grew up to be an extremely successful businessman.  He though his success in the textile industry would protect him from the Nazis but he was wrong.  He, his wife and two sons were eventually arrested and taken to the death house on the Danube where victims were systematically beaten to death.

Midway through the beating, one of his sons pointed to the poison capsule each of them bore in a locket about his neck.  “Is it time to take the pill now, Papa?”  He asked.

Inexplicably, one of their tormentors leaned down to whisper in Teszler’s ear, “Don’t take the capsule.  Help is on the way.”

Shortly afterwards, the family was rescued by an official from the Swiss embassy and taken to safety.

Teszler finally ended up in this country where he once again made a fortune.  He also set about improving the lives of everyone he met.  In the aftermath of the Brown versus the board of Education desegregation ruling, Teszler took special note of the rhetoric all around him.

“I have heard this talk before,” he said, and with a combination of shrewdness and saintliness worthy of Gandhi, he decided to be the first in this region to integrate the work force in his mills.  This he did.

Teszler believed in investing in the future of his new country and he believed in investing in the future of other people’s lives. In the first Chapter of Jeremiah, we see God calling him to be a prophet. Jeremiah replied with the famous, “Who am I.” Jeremiah was just a young man and didn’t think he had the resources to be God’s spokesperson. God gave him what he needed. God will give you what you need to do God’s work. Even in the worst of circumstances, God will be there. God will make a difference in your life and in the life of someone else through you.

Questions for the week

Consider journaling your responses to these questions:

“For hundreds of years, God waited patiently, warned his people, and gave them one chance after another.” Why was God so patient with the people of Israel when they were so rebellious and sinful? How have you experienced God’s great patience in your life?

In the prophet Ezekiel’s amazing and powerful vision from God (Ezekiel 1, 2, 6; The Story, 235-237), what do we learn about the following:

·         The condition of the people’s hearts (The nation of Judah)?

·         The reasons for the coming judgement?

·         What lies ahead for Judah and Jerusalem?

Once Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, Jeremiah recorded what he saw and felt (Lamentations 1-5; The Story, 243-245). What did he write that made the situation seem hopeless? What did he write that gave a sense of hope?

When God called Jeremiah to serve him, he assured him that his plan had been in place since Jeremiah was in his mother’s womb. How has God gifted and called you to serve him and how are you following that call?

Like so many that God called, Jeremiah had his list of excuses. What excuses do we use to try and get out of following God? How can we encourage each other to stop making excuses and boldly follow God’s leading?

In one of the most hopeless time in biblical history, the prophet Ezekiel pointed ahead to a future time when the story’s ending would be rewritten (Ezekiel 36:1-37:14; The Story, 245-247). How do Ezekiel’s words bring hope when it feels as if the story is over?

Prayer Time

As you take time to pray, here are some ideas to get you started:

·         Thank God that he is the One who can bring hope, even in the times when it feels like there is none.

·         Ask God to speak to your heart as you read the words of the prophets. If there are areas of resistance or rebellion, invite God to open your heart to repentance.

·         Ezekiel expresses God’s desire for the nations to know that he is the Sovereign Lord. Ask God to use your life as a signpost to declare his might, presence, love and sovereignty.

Between Sessions

Personal Reflections

Jeremiah knew that God had a plan for him, even when he was in his mother’s womb. The apostle Paul assured all believers that God has prepared good works for each of us to do. In the coming week, ask God to help you see his plans for your life. If there is an action, commitment, or adventure that you have been resisting, surrender and follow him.

Personal Action

Hezekiah had children who were not faithful and so did Josiah. We see this pattern throughout The Story. Pray for those who have wandered from God. How can you be a steady presence in the lives of those who have stepped away from God?

Read for Next Week

Read Chapter 18.