Continue my journey with the Book of Jeremiah, I stopped at Jeremiah 32. A familiar passage to my eyes brings fresh understanding, most of all, it brings together my nodding head, my “yes and amen” thinking of the Courtyard in the middle of Svay Pak.
Jeremiah did what at the time appeared absolutely crazy: he bought a field for $17. A writer put it rightly, “it was crazy because at the moment that he was buying it, the Babylonian armies were camping on it. He himself was in prison with no prospects for getting out. The enemy was pounding the city walls and about to take the people off to exile. At that moment Jeremiah bought a field on which he would never plant an olive tree, prune a grapevine or build a house – a field that in all probability he would never even see.”
Why did he do that?? He did it because he was convinced that the troubles everyone was experiencing were at the very moment being used by God in what would eventually turn out to be the salvation of that land. Jeremiah’s ESSENTIAL REALITY was not that Babylonians were camped on that field in Anathoth (though no denial of that fact), but that …
God was using that ground to fulfill His promises. Jeremiah bought the field as an investment in God’s next project for Israel, an investment that, as we know now, paid off admirably.
6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’
8 “Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’
“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy— 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.
13 “In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’
Jeremiah knew that buying that field looked impractical and foolish. It was against history, against reason, against public opinion. But he didn’t buy the field on the advice of a real estate agent, but by the leading of God. He was not planning a retirement cabin on the property; he was witnessing an involvement in the continuity of God’s promises. All the same, he couldn’t have helped feeling foolish – so he prayed … recentering himself in God’s words:
16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord:
17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.Nothing is too hard for you. 18
You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them.
Great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, 19 great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds.
Your eyes are open to the ways of all; you reward everyone according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve.
20 You performed signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, both in Israel and among all nations, and have gained the renown that is still yours.
21 You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror.
22 You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law; they did not do what you commanded them to do. So you brought all this disaster on them.
24 “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. 25 And though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians, you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed. ’”
Jeremiah prayed … the confirmation is provided:
26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 “I am the Lord, the God of the whole human race. Is anything too hard for me? 28 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it. 29 The Babylonians who are attacking this city will come in and set it on fire; they will burn it down, along with the houses where the people aroused my anger by burning incense on the roofs to Baal and by pouring out drink offerings to other gods.
30 “The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord. 31 From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. 35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind —that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.
36 “You are saying about this city, ‘By the sword, famine and plague it will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon’;
BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT … (I love these 3 words, BUT …. I WILL) this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
42 “This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 43 Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, ‘It is a desolate waste, without people or animals, for it has been given into the hands of the Babylonians.’ 44 Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”
Thinking about the Courtyard which Ratanak International bought with a fair amount of money, for a world seeing dollar values on a plot of land, this swamp land would not be viewed as the prime choice of investment. To buy a junkyard? A garbage dump full of filth, vile sewage where snacks and rats called home?? But isn’t that just like how Jeremiah bought field in Anathoth, the purchase of the Courtyard is such a deliberate act of hope. All acts of hope expose themselves to illogical because they seem impractical, failing to conform to visible reality. But in fact they are the most PRACTICAL REALITY that is being constructed but is not yet visible. Hope commits us to actions that connects with His promises.
Our daughter’s Chinese name is based on this word “HOPE” 希 as in 希望. When I told my friend about this, their immediate translation of 希望 bears the meaning of “WISH”. That’s too far-off than the original meaning and/or the desire our family has set in mind. I cannot agree more when one said, “Biblical hope is an act! It’s not a wishful thinking” Like purchasing the Courtyard, when 514 trucks of soil pouring into that gigantic swamp hole, and another 100 truck-load of sand pouring on top of it — that is HOPE acts on the conviction that God will complete the work that He has begun in Svay Pak even when the appearances, especially when the grim reality of children still being sold day in and day out, night in and night, oppose it.
It is especially now I find myself in every situation, whether visibly or invisibly promising or heartbreaking or disappointing, all these must be included in the Kingdom that we are convinced our Lord is bringing into being. Hope is buying into what we believe. I don’t turn away in despair of disappointment when one is criticized or misunderstood. I don’t throw up my hands in disgust. I don’t blame the engineer of the train when I am in total darkness of a tunnel, I don’t throw the train ticket and jump off the track, I would believe the train engineer to control the train and we will come to light when the tunnel ends. We don’t withdraw from a complex web of interrelationship which seems too much for us. One said to me casually that it’s easier to languish in despair than to live in hope, it is easier to current with the way things appear. It is even fashionable and trending to espouse the latest cynicism. However, through His teaching, through the promises from His word, (Praise Him for His precious Word of Truth like dew drops on parched land), we are called to live in hope, we are bound to go against the current.
Biblical hope is the most practical thing ever!! So, let’s get practical with our seventeen dollars!!