By Simon ManchesterSunday 14 Feb 2021Christian Growth with Simon Manchester
We are looking at Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet around 600BC who has a very, very costly ministry and he pays a heavy price for speaking the Word of God. The price that he pays is a double price – he is persecuted (he is now in goal for being faithful) and he is also about to go out on what we might call a sacrificial limb to buy a field under instruction at a time where it could not be a worse moment to be buying some property.
But as the chapter goes on and this is what I hope you will see, that Jeremiah’s purchase of some property which is a symbol of trusting God for the future is not a risk at all and that God will infinitely reward him.
Now the Title of the Sermon this morning is REAL ESTATE CONFIDENCE. And when I was preparing through the week, I took a break and I went out to my letterbox and I got my mail and there was a brochure No. 2 million from the Real Estate Agency around about and this was the letter:
“WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FIRST? – SELL OR BUY?
IF YOU BUY FIRST, WELL THERE’S THE RISK THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO SUSTAIN 2 PROPERTIES.
BUT IF YOU BUY FIRST, YOU WILL KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING – SO COME AND LET US HELP YOU TO MAKE A CHANGEOVER ANALYSIS”.
Now I have to tell you friends this the sort of letter that does not tempt me at all. I have plenty of things that do tempt me but the idea of juggling a couple of properties doesn’t really tempt me at all. Although it is tempting to ring them and say that I would actually like to sell 4 of my properties and buy 6 more!! Just to feel the enthusiasm on the other end of the phone!!
But here is Jeremiah – he’s got a real estate issue – he has somebody more wonderful than “Ray White” to help him make the decision.
Now Jeremiah chapter 32 has 44 verses and yet we can cover this very simply this morning. I am going to divide it into 3 parts.
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First section – verses 1-15 is called The Price of Truth. Now this is to help you if you are a bit of a visitor today and you want to get on the train of where we are going. Jeremiah, prophet in the Old Testament, had a very tough job. He had to tell God’s people that they are about to go to goal in Babylon. They are about to be taken out of the Promised Land and go down to Babylon to be in goal.
I’ve never been in a court when somebody has been given a life sentence. I imagine that’s a very very solemn moment but I have been in a court room when somebody has been given a fixed term sentence and that is very salutatory as you see them being led down and you walk out of the court room and can go out into the free world and do what you like.
Now Jeremiah had a very difficult job of announcing on behalf of God that the people of God were about to go into a Babylonian goal for 70 years – not life – but a long time. And I cannot imagine anybody who would really want Jeremiah’s job because when he said to the people ‘Babylon will take over you’ and nothing happened. He says a week later “I tell you, you have been unfaithful to the Covenant and God is going to come through the Babylonian invasion and remove you from the Promised Land” and nothing happened – Week after week, month after month, year after year after year – and I can imagine the people saying “you are a joke Jeremiah, you are a complete joke”.
Now the Babylonians are setting up their siege ramps on the walls of Jerusalem and Jeremiah has got a new message and it goes like this:
DON’T DESPAIR, YOU CAN GO OFF TO BABYLON, OF COURSE YOU WILL BE OUTSIDE THE PROMISED LAND BUT GOD IS IN CONTROL AND HE WILL BRING THE NATION BACK TO THE PROMISED LAND.
And the people must have said “Jeremiah, you are a joke – this is impossible – Babylon is about to crush us and destroy us”.
So when he says the bad news – nothing happens
So when he says the good news – it looks unlikely
But God gave Jeremiah a message – “I will take my people out into Babylon and I will bring them back” and Jeremiah paid the price of speaking the truth. And the price that he paid was serious.
I was quite moved this week to read in a book about CS Lewis who died 51 years ago yesterday that when he became a Christian and was really the most popular lecturer in Oxford and then Cambridge, the students absolutely loved him and they flocked to his lectures and he spoke to “standing room only” crowds. But when he became a Christian his peers ignored him, ostracised him, didn’t include him and overlooked him and he paid the price of being a Christian.
Now Jeremiah pays a double price as I say for his faithfulness. The first in verse 2 is that the Army of Babylon is attacking and Jeremiah is under house arrest. Why is he under house arrest? He is under house arrest because the King hates him. The King has put his under house arrest. We read in verses 3-5 – “The King said to Jeremiah – why do you keep saying what you are saying? Why do you keep saying Babylon will come and take us over and why do you say that I the King is going to be expelled as well and captured?”
Now it’s an amazing piece of opposition isn’t it? Because Zedekiah looks at his captive, Jeremiah in house arrest – the first part of what Jeremiah has been saying is coming true. The Babylonians are there at the walls of the city.
You would think the King would turn around and say at that point, wouldn’t you,
“You are absolutely right,
We didn’t trust you one bit but you have told the truth about the Babylonians are here –
You must be telling the truth –
We want to take you seriously –
What will we do”?
But the King doesn’t do that – he still has an ounce of fight in him and he continues to fight again God and God’s messenger.
Do I need to tell you that there are people who you know and love who are in the same street as you and the same city as you and me and they continue to fight against God even while their life falls apart. That’s one of the great tragedies, isn’t it? The Lord is removing the props from their lives in a way to woo them back to himself – he’s causing them to be restless so that they will find their rest with Him and they fight to the end.
Now the section price that Jeremiah pays is that he must make a sacrifice and you see this in verse 6. His uncle comes to visit him in prison. Derek Kidner says in his Commentary “was there ever a more insensitive prison visitor?” and the uncle says to Jeremiah “in prison I would like you to buy my field”. In the Jewish world if you decided for one reason or another you were to sell some property, it was really compulsory that it would be sold within the family. And so this uncle is coming to Jeremiah and saying “I’m selling the field and I’m giving you the opportunity to buy it”.
Now we don’t know why the uncle was selling the field – it maybe that he was broke – more likely he is watching the Babylonian army come in and he thinks to himself ‘this field is no good any more, I’ll find somebody who will buy it for me’ and so Jeremiah is the person. You can just imagine this uncle coming in and saying ‘how would you like to buy my field?’ But in the back of his head he is thinking – you’ll have it for about 10 minutes before the Babylonians take it over.
Now Jeremiah of all people knows that this field is a stupid thing to buy. But in verses 6-8 if you look there, you will see the Lord told him that this is what he wanted him to do. And it’s not an accident that the Lord wanted him to buy the field. So Jeremiah goes ahead and buys the field and he does very, very careful paper work. He makes sure that the documents are correct – he is completely above board – he is thorough – he does it with integrity and (verse 14) he puts the documents in a clay jar, sort of clay jars that house the Dead Sea Scrolls that lasted for 2,000 years because Jeremiah wants this deed to last for 70 years because at the end of 70 years that deed and that property is going to be his.
So he in a way he makes a sacrifice…..it’s a sacrifice of faith. I don’t know whether Jeremiah was giving up all his money to buy the field but this is perhaps what he is doing. Perhaps he is saying ‘I will give everything I have and I will take a field which is going to be taken over almost immediately but I will get it back…..I will get it back because God has promised’.
Now friends, I think this is deeply, deeply instructive and I hope you will think about this through the week because Jeremiah, you see, is putting his faith into action. Why would he buy the field?
1. Because God tells him to do it.
2. Because it is a sign of confidence in God’s promises.
3. Because the field is a symbol of the Promised Land and he’ll get the field back and he’ll get the land back
4. It’s a model and example, a wonderful example to the other believers and even the sceptics
5. He is acting as if the future is real.
Can you believe that? He is acting as if the future is real. Now just imagine if we had people in our church (I am being cynical, I am being rude to you, I am being objectionable) – just imagine if we had people in our church who thought the future was real. Imagine friends if there was a real God – wouldn’t that be great – we know there isn’t a real God but just imagine there was a real God and he made promises and he kept his promises and he asked us to trust him with his promises and the proof of trusting him in the short term is that you would make sacrifices and you would get persecuted – maybe mocked and maybe goaled. As we probably see those people in our church wouldn’t we, probably see them do strange things as they put their faith into action.
Some of them and some of us would give up our sinful habits because we would stop saying to ourselves ‘there’s only this world so I’ve got to get everything now’.
Some of us would give us sinful relationships – we might stop building bigger houses and barns as if this was what life was all about. We would stop investing in temporary causes that are going to have no eternal value. We would stop taking our queue from the world. We would actually feel the cost of losing in the present instead of losing nothing in the present – something that made a person who is a believer or an unbeliever say – “Why would you do that?”
Now we don’t see much of this do we? We see Christians who call themselves Christians but seem to walk like non-Christians and enter into relationships with non-Christians and I mean “partner relationships”. We see people hoard like there’s no tomorrow. We see people who can never stop indulging themselves and we have to ask ourselves every now and again – whether there really is a God who makes promises that the future is what our investment should be primarily in.
I am very convicted about this partly by reading a book that somebody gave me from the congregation about the mission which is being done by many people in Third World countries to Third World friends. People who in their own countries could easily rise up the ladder, be very wealthy and successful and leave but decide to stay and live and work among the poor people in order to bring the Gospel to them.
And one of them gives a summary of what is required if you want to move into Ministry with Third World people and it goes like this:
“We begin by invading the house of the imaginary person or family and we strip it of its furniture. Everything goes – the beds, the chairs, the tables, the television sets and the lamps. We leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, and a wooden chair.
Along with the bureau go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his wardrobe his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse – we will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.
We move to the kitchen and the appliances have already been taken out so we turn to the cupboards. The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar and some salt, a few mouldy potatoes already in the garbage can must be rescued for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions and a dish of dried beans and all the rest we will take away – the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the biscuits and the candy.
Now we have stripped the house, the bathroom has been dismantled…..the running water has been shut off, the electric wires taken out.
Next we take away the house….the family will move to the tool shed.
Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books, not that they are missed since we must take away the family’s literacy as well. Instead in our shanty town we will allow one radio.
Now Government Services go – no postman, no more firemen, there’s a school but it’s 3 miles and consists of 2 classrooms. There are of course no hospitals or doctors nearby – the nearest clinic is 10 miles away and is tendered by a mid-wife. It can be reached by bicycle if the family has a bicycle.
Finally – money – we will allow the family a cash hoard of $5.00.”
Now I am not completely stupid and I am not pretending that when the Lord puts you in the place where he has put you, he expects you to live like that. What I am saying to you is – what do we make of people who could live like we are living but are living like this for the sake of the Gospel and are working with thousands of people who are hungry for the Gospel and are seeing thousands of them respond to the Gospel and wouldn’t swap places with us for all the money in the world. That’s the challenge isn’t it? We therefore have to interpret this issue – The Price of Truth and ask the question – What it is that indicates that we believe the promises of God?
You might like to think that out together over the Morning Tea break.
You might like to think that out together over the family lunch today.
You might like to think that out together through the week.
What would indicate that I believe the promises of God? That’s the challenge.
Now the second little section in Jeremiah is where he suddenly prays (verses 16-25). We didn’t read these verses but it is a beautiful prayer and Jeremiah in this prayer asks for nothing. You might expect him to say – “God I have just gone out on a limb and I have bought a field, please, please, please make it work” and he doesn’t.
He says in his prayer “I thank you God for being a God of great power, great love and great faithfulness who keeps his promises”. And therefore friends this is a vital thing about the prayer in verses 16-25 – what I’ve called A Prayer of Trust. Jeremiah is speaking the truth of God and therefore has nothing to worry about. It’s as if he is saying ‘Lord I have gone out on a limb and the limb is you and I am just measuring the limb which is you and the limb is 20 metres wide’. There is no risk at all.
He says in verse 17 “You made the heavens and the earth”. Well if I can give up a field and you made the heavens and the earth, there is no real problems is there?
Verse 18 “You love and you punish” – to take you seriously is a blessing and to ignore you is to be stupid and run into trouble.
Verse 20 “You brought us from Egypt to the Promised Land” – you can do anything – you got us here and you can certainly bring us back.
Verse 24 “Now the siege ramps are upon us” – because you have kept your promises even though the people have not listened to me – you have kept your promises – I believe the promises – nobody else believes the promises – I believe the promises.
Verse 25 “You’ve told me to buy a field” – implication, I could not be in better hands, you always have kept your promises and you always will keep your promises.
Now somebody has said and I found this very searching that our prayers are our Creeds. What that means is you can work out what somebody believes by what they pray so that if you were to sneak into the area outside an open window where I am praying you would learn a lot about what I believe. And if I was to sneak up beside you as you pray, I would learn a lot about what you believe.
And this prayer of Jeremiah shows that he is a great believer. “O God you are powerful, you are loving, you are just, you are Sovereign, you are faithful” – I trust you – He is a theologian with reality.
I was humbled as I prepared this sermon this week because I thought about my prayers are so babyish. You know sometimes you see a child have a tantrum because the DVD that they have put in doesn’t work fast enough. Sometimes an adult has a tantrum because the DVD they have put in doesn’t work fast enough. And you just sort of think – well – that’s just childish. Is it not true that a lot of our praying is just childish? It is so microscopic and it’s so self-centred, it’s so “God is my butler”.
Now Jeremiah takes time at the end of this deal, having made a very small sacrifice to reflect on a very great, great, great God and we need the word of God, don’t we? We need to be saved from our selfishness, that’s why we need to hear the word of God….it changes our brain. Sometimes good books do that. This book I was reading about Mission in India was written by a guy called KP Johanna. He runs something called “Gospel to Asia”. He says the average Western Christian gives 50c a week to world mission. Across the world, the average Western Christian gives 50c a week. Then he said they will spend 200 x that on a meal that evening – very often.
When he goes to speak at a church, he says I am given a cheque – the cheque is not worth the dinner that I have been speaking at. He says in some parts of the world, he receives letters from poor people who say ‘we are trying to work out how to increase our giving’ and he received a letter from a lady who said ‘I’ve decided to cut off my phone so that I can give my proper support to World Mission.
Now I am only saying to you – this is a challenge to us – to think about whether we believe the promises. We don’t have any more information than these other people.
Well behind this prayer lays this very great God and Jeremiah models his beliefs.
The third and last section this morning is The Promise of Treasure (verses 26–44). We looked at
The Price of Truth
The Prayer of Trust
The Promise of Treasure
Now you probably know I have been sharing this Sermon Series no doubt with some of the other very abled Pastors at St Thomas to our great benefit and I’ve generally given them the best chapters because that’s the sort of guy I am!! And I thought to myself ‘I’ll take chapter 32 – it’s some weird chapter about real estate. I discover as I get to the end of chapter 32 that there is a verse which John Piper says is ‘unbeatable’ in the Bible. He says, I cannot imagine any greater verse (and we will get to it in a minute) – just stay with me.
So Jeremiah has bought the field, he trusts God, he prays to God, he praises God and now the Lord speaks from verse 26 to the end of the chapter – for 18 verses, the Lord speaks and he says –
“Yes I am the Lord and I will cause Babylon to come in and take over and I will do this because the people deserve it.” He says in verse 30
“They have continued to be idolatrous,
They have turned their back on me,
There has been sin at every level, in every place, by every person,
And some of it has been detestable, even becoming sacrifice of children.
Then he says (and this is where the whole speech of the Lord turns – verse 37) “but I will gather them and I will be their God and I will give them singleness of heart, there will be no more double mindedness, there will be no more divided heart”
And this is the verse John Piper says is unbeatable – verse 40 “I WILL NEVER STOP DOING GOOD TO THEM, I WILL INSPIRE THEM SO THEY DON’T TURN AWAY”
Verse 41 “I LOVE TO DO THIS” says the Lord “I WILL CERTAINLY DO THIS” says the Lord, “I WILL DO IT AND I WILL DO IT WITH ALL MY HEART AND I WILL DO IT WITH ALL MY SOUL” and that friends, is unstoppable.
So you see what the Lord says – Yes I am the Lord and I am going to send these people into the Babylonian exile but I will bring them back and my long term plan, says the Lord, is that I am going to give them singleness of heart, they will not turn away and I love to do this. It’s absolutely wonderful. Undeserved grace.
Now if we ask the question – when will this happen? It’s helpful to think about 3 horizons.
The first horizon is that when the people come back from Babylon they were very humble, very chastened and keen to be faithful – but still very sinful. So in one sense this promise to bring them back and to give them a new transformation – it operates in a superficial way when they come back from Babylon.
The second horizon is the coming of the Lord Jesus. This is where all of the Bible points and it’s in the person of the Lord Jesus that we are going to meet somebody who really does have singleness of mind and heart. Unbelievable – no division in his mind or heart – his singleness of mind and heart is perfect – never turns away to the left or right. And of course, he pays a price which is way beyond anything that anyone will pay because he is going to pay the price of dying for those who have a double mind and a double heart. And he is going to take on himself the cost and the penalty for that double mind and that double heart and give to the person who receives the treatment of God as if they had a single mind and a single heart. That’s what will be done through the cross.
So Jeremiah in a way is a preview – a faint preview – he pays a price, he is quite faithful, he trusts God, he looks for the inheritance but this is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus. He pays the real cost and he has the real singleness of mind and heart and he really has the inheritance. This is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane saying ‘I don’t want to pay this price, it’s dreadful but I will pay the price’ and he endures the cross because of the joy that is to come.
The third horizon of course is that those who put their trust in Christ become new – not perfect – immediately new. Their heart begins to change, they become more and more single of mind and heart but look forward to the final day where face to face with Christ we shall be like him and we will have an absolutely sinless mind and heart. It’s unbelievable but that’s what the Bible promises.
So that’s what God is talking about in this remarkable section and I want to just close by saying this to you. There is some comfort this morning and there is some challenge.
I heard a man say recently and I thought this was deeply disturbing that for many people today their Christianity is like air conditioning. It’s just something that makes their journey a little more pleasant. That, I think, is a terrible terrible accusation. It anybody watches me and my Christianity comes across as ‘air conditioning’ I am deeply ashamed and I hope you will tell me and I hope I’ll repent. The trouble is that there are many people and their Christianity is not making life more pleasant – it’s making life dreadful. And they don’t as I say have any more information than we have but they believe their beliefs and they doubt their doubts. And we need to ask the Lord to save us from the world that we are addicted to and believe the promises of the next.
Now this is a very comforting passage because you see how the chapter goes – Jeremiah pays a small price but it’s on the backdrop of a God who is utterly faithful and will reward beyond anything which has been laid down.
Do you remember when Peter, the disciple, said to Jesus “Lord, we’ve left everything – it’s been such a costly thing for us” and Jesus turns around and says “you have received masses more in the present and eternal life in the future” – so don’t talk to me about losing, you’ve gained. The comfort of this chapter is that the God that we pay small, small, small prices to follow is utterly faithful and rewards sensationally. The challenge therefore, the huge challenge is whether there is anything in our lives which goes beyond cheap talk and an easy creed – the sort of behaviour that really costs us nothing because it’s absolutely costless. And the question is whether we really do believe in a God who can be trusted and who will be trusted and whether that trust will be seen. This is the God who we claim to believe in (chapter 32 verse 41) “I’ll rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in the land with all my heart and with all my soul”.
Now friends, can you respond to that God? Can I respond to that God appropriately?
LET’S PRAY _
Our Father, we are very thankful to you for this discerning and searching chapter. We thank you for reminding us that you are a God of great faithfulness and power, that you will keep your promises – you have and you will.
We ask that you will forgive us – we are ashamed of our unbelief, our doubt, our disobedience, our worldliness, our carelessness, our compromise and our double mindedness. We ask our Heavenly Father, that you will hear our prayer together and that in your mercy, you would forgive us and lead us into wise and faithful paths where you are really honoured and our trust is seen.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.