Text: Jeremiah 32
Jeremiah the prophet’s in jail. The Chaldeans are laying siege to the city and Jeremiah has been preaching a rather unpopular message. He’s been going around Jerusalem saying, “You might as well give up…no use in fighting because God has raised up the Chaldeans and has assured them a victory and because of your sins the Chaldeans are going to overthrow the city and carry all of us into captivity…but God has promised that one of these days when the captivity is over He will restore us to the land and the land to us.”
So, Jeremiah was going around saying, “There’s no use in fighting. You’re fighting a losing battle. God has ordained that you’re going to lose. Therefore, why fight a losing battle and get killed and not be alive later on when God restores the land. It would be much better just to give up because we’re going to lose anyway. Just give up so we’ll all be alive when God brings us back.” He was sort of preaching a “better red than dead” message”.
The house committee on on Jerusalem activities met and they investigated Jeremiah and saw that he was preaching an unpatriotic message and they put him in jail. So, that’s the background and that sort of helps us to understand what’s happening.
Now that’s the sermon that Jeremiah was preaching over and over throughout the streets of Jerusalem and it’s understandable that Zedekiah threw him in jail for preaching that kind of discouraging message, isn’t it?
Now while Jeremiah is languishing there in that prison something happens in verse 6…
We’ll stop there for a minute because that’s enough for right now. We’ll read the rest later on.
Jeremiah is in prison for preaching this traitorous message. Now, while he’s in prison, he has an unusual visitor. Now there are three things that make this visit so unusual. Number one, it was a relative. Hanamel, his uncle’s son. That was his cousin. The reason I say this is unusual is that because by this time all of Jeremiah’s relatives had disowned him. Nobody wanted anybody to know that Jeremiah was one of their relatives. After all the fellow’s been going around preaching such an unpatriotic and traitorous message and he’s been tried and convicted of treason and thrown into prison that the best thing we can do is forget him and not send him any Christmas cards and don’t let anybody know that he’s one of us…he’s the black sheep of the family so… If you’d been a relative of Jeremiah’s you’d just soon nobody know about it!
So it was unusual that his visitor was a relative…a cousin… The second thing that made this visit so unusual was the purpose of the visit. Hanamel had a farm that he wanted to get rid of. So he comes to Jeremiah and he says to Jeremiah, “Such a deal I’ve got for you! I’ve got a farm and I’m gonna let you buy and the right of possession is yours since you’re a member of the family it’s only right that if I’m going to get rid of this farm I allow one of the relatives to buy it to keep it in the family.”
Now, I don’t know that much about real estate, but I’m told that this is not the greatest time to try to sell real estate. They tell me that this is not the best time of all and it seems to me that you had a farm you were wanting to sell the last place to find a good prospect would be in prison. I think you could find somebody that was better qualified to buy a farm than going down to the local jail and going up to one of the prisoners and saying, “I’ve got a deal for you…I want you to buy my farm.”
That was the second thing that made it such an unusual visit. The third thing that made this such an unusual visit was that the farm that Hanamel wanted to sell Jeremiah was in enemy territory! And it couldn’t be occupied by the owner! No wonder Hanamel wanted to say, “Such a deal I’ve got for you. I’m going to let this go real cheap!”
Folks, the Chaldeans had already occupied that part of Judah and the farm was presently being occupied by the enemy and so here comes Hanamel saying, “I want to sell you my farm!” “Well, where is it?” “It’s not really important where it is… Well, it happens to over yonder in Anathoth.” “Isn’t that where the Chaldeans are camping out?” “Well, near there… But, it’s a great deal.”
I’ll tell you what’s even more surprising. It is surprising to me that Hanamel would have the gall and audacity to offer it but it’s even more surprising that Jeremiah bought the thing…which goes to prove preachers have no business sense at all.
Now if that’s all there was to the story that would be an interesting story but I want you to note that Jeremiah knew it was going to happen before it happened… While he was there in prison, “The word of the LORD came to me saying, Hanamel, your cousin is going to come and offer to sell you a farm in Anathoth and I want you to buy it.”
Why did God set up this little deal? I wonder why God made this arrange-ment. When Hanamel finally showed up and told him about the farm, Jeremiah said, “Then I knew…” and the word means to know from experience… “…this is the word of the Lord…” so he bought the farm.
Now, Jeremiah didn’t have any use for this farm…especially a farm in enemy territory, but he was doing it out of obedience to the word of God.
What’s this whole thing about? Remember the message Jeremiah had been preaching? He had been preaching a two-point message. 1) God is going to deliver you into the hands of the Chaldeans because of your sin… You’re going to be carried off into Babylon and put into captivity. That’s the number one point of his message. But he said, two, you will be there until the Lord visits us again. The second half of Jeremiah’s message was a message of hope. Actually the whole sermon, even though at first it doesn’t look like it is clearly a message of hope!
This is the part of the book of Jeremiah where it speaks of the prophecies of hope and expectation. Jeremiah is saying, “Even though you’re going to be carried of into captivity the day is coming when God will release you from captivity and will bring you back to the land and all the land will be restored to you…even that farm that is in occupied territory!”
And here’s what Hanamel is reasoning…here is how he was thinking… He was thinking… “If Jeremiah’s foolish enough to preach such a message as that then he’ll be foolish enough to buy the farm. Jeremiah won’t have any choice!” He thought this because he knew that Jeremiah had been preaching that God’s word says that one of these days everything’s going to be made right…one of these days justice is going to be done…all inequities are going to be blotted out…righteousness is going to reign and God is going to restore every acre to His people…so I’ll go to Jeremiah and I’ll say to Jeremiah ‘I want to sell you my farm…’ and if Jeremiah says, ‘You’re crazy…that farm is in occupied territory’…all I have to say is, ‘Yes, but you’ve been preaching that it doesn’t make any difference…one of these days God is going to restore the land and brother if that’s true, then brother what I’m offering you is a good deal and a great investment…why is it you hesitate to buy it, Jeremiah? You have been preaching and telling us that the future belongs to God’s people and He’s going to restore all this and if you refuse to buy it then you’re going to have to stop preaching.”
See, either Jeremiah had to buy the farm or change his message. What Hanamel was actually saying was this… “put your money where your mouth is…put up or shut up…you say you believe that one of these days God is going to restore this land…alright, then you shouldn’t even hesitate about buying the farm…just prove it and back up your preaching with your pocketbook.” And that’s the theme of the whole story.
What’s happening of course is this…Jeremiah is a man who is living in the midst of darkness and he’s the only one who has any light. And when the light shines through it is an unbelievable message that regardless how dim and dark the present looks the future belongs to God and to God’s people and He’s promised that one of these days all will be made right and all inequities will be smoothed out and that the land will be restored to us. And that was Jeremiah’s faith. And God comes to Jeremiah and says, “Jeremiah, we’re going to find out if you’re just preaching or if you really mean that. If that’s just an easy sermon…or if you really and truly believe that then you’re going to have to buy the farm to prove that you really prove that you believe what you’re preaching.”
So, with that in mind I want to talk to you tonight about these three things.
God must eventually test the reality of our faith.
There comes a time when you have to buy the farm…that’s all there is to it. I can remember a time in my own Christian life and ministry when the Lord would allow me to preach certain things without having to experience it…do you know what I’m talking about? You know I could just preach anything and it didn’t matter whether I had experienced it or not…if it was in the Bible I preached it.
But, there came a point…there came a time in my ministry when it seemed
that God demanded that I go through everything I preached…that’s when I became more careful about what I preached. I started getting selective. I read in the Bible one day where it said that tribulation produces patience and I stopped praying for patience! Knowing how God gives it to you, I decided I could get along without it!
Folks, there are some things I can do without! You know, I’ll just make the best of it. I don’t mind being impatient once I knew how God operates. But, I think that all of us in growing up in Christ and developing in our faith come to a point…you see, when we are childlike in our faith and immature…and we’re in adolescence, God makes allowances just as we do with our children, but folks, when we became a man we put away the things that belonged to you as a child and there comes a point when God will stop letting you believe just anything you want to believe…you’re going to have to experience it and test it out and try it!
When God suddenly begins testing the reality of our faith… By the way, let me just point out something here…we have a tremendous anatomy of an act of faith. I think it would be helpful for us to just look at it.
Verse 6… “And Jeremiah said, ‘the word of the LORD came to me…”
Now, that’s the beginning of faith. In other words, if a person is going to live in confidence and faith there must be a certain sensitivity to the voice of God and all faith begins with a word from the Lord. I’ve said it many times and you’ve heard it that faith is not a means of our getting our will done in heaven, it is a means of God getting His will done on earth.
Faith is not originate with my desire or my wishes or my whims…positive thinking notwithstanding…I believe in positive thinking, but folks, it’s not Biblically based…it’s not even close to it. Faith begins with a word from the Lord and that’s where all faith originates. First of all we must have a revelation of God’s will to our hearts.
Then notice next there comes:
The confirmation of the word of faith.
In other words faith is not only sensitive, but it’s also cautious. Jeremiah waits for the verifying circumstance to confirm. God says, “This is My way…Hanamel’s going to come and offer you the farm and you’re going to buy it.” And then when Hanamel actually showed up, notice he says, “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.”
Now I believe that faith begins with that impression in our hearts…God’s speaking in our hearts…I don’t think God speaks to us in an audible voice or writes it across the sky or calls us on the phone because if He did, I’d miss it because I don’t answer the phone half the time. Sometimes I wish the Lord would make it a little more plain…you know, like send me a telegram or write it across the sky, but generally speaking God gives to us the impression in our hearts. It’s what I like to call the spiritual intuition…spiri-tual inclination…just a word that comes to your heart…you can’t explain it really but it’s just a knowing that this is God speaking.
But always I believe there will be a confirmation of that. I think God will eventually verify it and make you know that what you have felt deep within your heart is actually the word of God and I think you make a mistake if you act before you receive the confirmation to your heart. That’s why if anyone begins pressuring you to make the decision right now, you need to know that’s not the way of God. You never find Jesus in a hurry or in a panic and to act before you get that confirming impression in your heart is to act in danger. So, first of all the Lord came to him and certain things happened so that I knew…and notice the last thing…
Verse 9… “And I bought the field which was at Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle’s son…” He acted upon it! He did something about it! Faith, in the final analysis is obeying…it is obeying what God tells us to do!
First of all, God speaks to our heart. It may not be about buying a farm. It may be about selling a farm, as He did with Barnabas. It might be about moving to a new location or a thousand and one things, but there is that word of God that comes to our heart and then as we ponder on it, meditate on it certain events transpire, certain circumstances, sometimes it’s just an off word that somebody casually says but you know that that’s the word being confirmed to your heart and you just know that’s the word of God…and then you have to do something about it! You have to buy the farm!
Now I think basically that what God is saying here is this – that faith that is not worth investing in is not worth believing in. If I’m not willing to back up my preaching, back up my believing, back up my testimony, and back up my witness with something that costs me, folks, it’s not worth believing in. Folks, if Jeremiah hadn’t been willing to back it up with his money, Hanamel would never have listened to another word he preached. He wasn’t listening too much as it was, but, Jeremiah would have had to stop preaching.
I think God tests our faith. I think it has to be tested. I think an untested faith is absolutely worthless. And the reason for that is you don’t really know what you’re calling faith is the real thing until it’s tested. You may say that you know you have faith and you know you can trust God no matter what happens, no matter what is the issue, no matter what the price, no matter what God calls you to do you wouldn’t hesitate…you’ve faith!
Well, I want to tell you something. I don’t think that you can know for sure whether it’s faith or not until it’s put to the test. That’s the only way you’ll ever be sure whether or not it’s the real article. Folks, you see, you’ll never know anything about yourself until you test it.
I’ve never stolen a million dollars…but I’ve never had an opportunity to do so. I want to be honest with you…if the opportunity were suddenly given to me that I could steal a million dollars and never get caught…well, it is something to pray about…
You know, we look at people who commit certain sins or have certain weaknesses, and it’s easy for us to be judgmental and condemning in our criticism, but I want to tell you something, friend…how would you know if you had the same temptation they’ve had you wouldn’t do the very same thing they did?
I’m confident tonight that the only reason tonight that I haven’t committed certain sins is that I haven’t been tempted to do it. You say, “Well, preacher, I think you ought to be stronger and more spiritual than that.” I think so too. All I’m saying to you, friend, is that you never know yourself until you’re put to the test. You may say, “Oh, I trust God…I trust God…” and you don’t know if what you’re calling faith is the real thing or not until it’s put to the test…that’s the only way you’ll know it.
You see, it’s a good thing and it’s a blessing for God to put you to the test because if what you’re calling faith is not really faith you need to know about it so you can get the real thing so when the real crisis comes along you’ll be able to handle it. Did I say that right?
You put it down, friend…sooner or later God is going to put you to the test. You’re going to have to buy the farm. God is going to find out whether you’re just preaching or whether you really believe it. There is always the testing of the reality of our faith. God said, “Now, you’ve been preaching the message and you may think you’ve had it bad…you’ve been put in jail, but now we’re going to really put you to the test.”
And not only will it be a test of your own faith, but it will be a witness to Hanamel. He said, “You buy the farm…you back up what you preach with your life and with your money.”
Well, it would be nice if we could just stop there and walk away and say, “Wasn’t Jeremiah a great man of God?” But, you know that’s not where the story ends. Oliver Cromwell once had a picture painted of himself and Cromwell had a facial problem…he had warts on his face. And the artist thought it would be flattering and pleasing to Oliver Cromwell if he’d leave the warts off. And so he did, and when Cromwell saw the painting he said, “Take this back, and paint me…warts and all.” That’s where that phrase came from. He said, “I want you to paint me just like I am…warts and all.”
That’s the way God paints the saints in the Bible. He paints them warts and all. And it would be nice to say that that’s the way it ended…that Jeremiah was a great man of faith, but that’s not the way it ended.
Let’s pick it up in verse 16…
Now, Jeremiah is all alone in that cold, dark, damp cell…just sure God has asked him to buy that farm over there in enemy territory…
“Oh Lord God!” That’s a sigh. “Ah, Lord God!” (Read rest of verse)
It’s a marvelous prayer…verses 18-23…
But, look at verses 24-25…
What’s Jeremiah saying? After Jeremiah obeys God and seals the deed and gives it to Baruch to go and file it, he’s all alone. All alone. And he begins to pray. He let’s out a big sigh… “Ah, Lord God…there’s nothing too hard for Thee…” And all the way through this prayer you get the idea that Jeremiah is trying to pump himself up.
And he’s trying to remind himself of how great God is. And he’s saying, “There’s nothing too hard for You…and Lord, I see that everything You’ve said would come to pass has been done exactly as You’ve said…but now, Lord, You’ve told me to buy this field and Lord, the field is in enemy territory!”
Do you know what Jeremiah is doing? Doubt! He’s having a relapse! It’s exactly what he’s doing! You know what a real estate agent told me? He said, “Jeremiah had ‘buyer’s remorse.’” Have you ever heard that? I know one morning I looked out in the driveway and saw that new car I’d bought and you talk about buyer’s remorse… That’s what Jeremiah is having…
He’s all alone and I tell you the thrill of that moment is gone, the choir’s not there anymore…all the congregation’s gone home…the record player’s broken so you can’t have any of that good religious music to sort of soothe you and create an atmosphere…man, he’s all alone and he begins praying… “Ah, Lord God…”
And he said, “I’ve got to remind myself that there isn’t anything too hard for God. And he goes through this long and beautifully elegant prayer reminding himself of how good and great God is and he comes to the end of his prayer and he says, “Lord, everything You’ve said so far has come to pass, but now, Lord, you told me to buy this field and that cotton-pickin’ field is already in the hands of the enemy.” He’s having a relapse of faith!
I’m glad God put that in there! I really am! Because we sometimes get the idea that these saints in the Bible were super-saints about to sprout wings, standing around waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity…and that they have no frailties of the flesh like we have…and that they never had any doubts and never had any second thoughts…I’m glad God put that in the Bible.
Jeremiah bought the farm and then he had second thoughts. He began to think, “What in the world have I done? I’ve made a fool of myself! Every-body’s going to be laughing at me! Man, I could have used those seventeen shekels of silver for a lot of stuff and I’ve bought this crazy farm! I know better than to do business with relatives! I’ve let my cousin talk me into buying this farm and the thing’s occupied…” and he goes to God and said, “Lord, You told me to do this…I know You told me to do this…I believe You told me to do this…did You tell me to do this, Lord…and I’ve done it.”
Of course, none of us know anything about this, do we? You’ve never had that problem, have you? You’ve never made a commitment to obey God and then later on had second thoughts about it, have you? Folks, I want to tell you something…I believe with Calvin who said, “The mind is never so enlightened nor the heart so established that there remain no vestiges of doubt.”
I don’t think I have ever exercised pure, one hundred percent unadulterated faith! Actually my theme song has been the cry of that father of that demon-possessed boy… “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”
There are doubts! There is that relapse of faith! There are times after you’ve made the commitment…after you’ve bought the field and the van is unloading your furniture you start having all those second thoughts and such but man, you’ve bought the farm and there’s nothing you can do.
One of my favorite stories is over there in Acts 12…if I’ve already told you this…I forget what I say where…but that’s alright, you need to hear it again anyway…
But over there when Peter is cast into prison and Herod has just slain James with a sword and got such a good response from the Jews on that he decided to do it again so he put Peter in prison and the Bible says in Acts 12 that the church were praying for Peter to be released.
Now, they’re in the house of Mary, having a prayer meeting, praying for Peter to be released and while Peter is there in prison, an angel comes from the Lord and Peter is sound asleep…now there is something right there…if you’re going to get your head chopped off the next day, I don’t see how anybody can sleep…but Simon Peter is so sound asleep the angel of the Lord had to kick him in the side…he just smote him in the ribs…and said to Peter, “Let’s go.”
And he got and the angel led him outside and when he got outside Peter came to and he realized this was not a dream, that he was really out. So, he made his way to Mary’s house and he knocked on the door and Rhoda, the little servant girl hears the knock on the door and she goes to the door and looks through that little peep hole and sees Simon Peter standing out there…what they’ve been praying for…and she runs back in to the prayer group and she said, “Peter’s at the door. We’ve been praying that God would let him out and God’s done it…Peter’s at the door!” And they said, “Aw, go on, girl, that’s his ghost.”
They were praying and the answer is knocking at the front door!
Now, I’m glad God put that in there because sometimes gives us more than we deserve! There have been a lot of times when I’ve prayed and not prayed in perfect faith and God has given me what I asked for anyway…just to kind of remind me that this whole business rests on grace anyway!
I think the reason it’s important for us to understand this is for you not to get down on yourself and count yourself out when you start having some second thoughts and you begin finding the relapse of faith going on in your life…and you begin to doubt. Have you ever made a commitment to God…when you said, “I know I’ve got a word from God…I know the Lord has given me the assurance of this…” but in the meantime certain things are contradicting everything God has said and you find it mighty difficult to continue to believe?
Well, what do you do when you have doubts? Well, let me just make a couple of suggestions before we move on…
1) It’s pretty good to keep them to yourself.
I think it is significant that Jeremiah waited until Hanamel and Baruch and everybody else was gone. He did not express his doubt until he was alone with God.
Now, it’s become very popular in the last few years for everybody to just…how shall I say it…you know, to just get up and vent their unbelief…Now, I think there are times when I’m having some doubts when it’s good for me to go to somebody I love and who loves me and we can get together and counsel and share… That’s not what I’m talking about!
It has become popular in the last decade to sort of let it all hang out…to let everybody know how stupid you are and how sinful you are and how weak you are…I want you to know…I don’t want to know all that about you! I want to hear about your victory! I want to hear about your confidence. You get out there alone with God and you get all that settled and then you come back and talk to me.
You see, doubt is contagious! Listen, friend, I can be up there on the top shelf and believing in God and I can be around some folks and I’m crawling on my stomach before the days is over. Doubt is contagious!
I’m not saying we ought to always go around smiling…you understand! You know me well enough to know that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that it is significant that Jeremiah did not voice his doubts while Hanamel was still around…not even while his secretary was still around. He waited until he got alone with the Lord.
I’ll run through it again so no one will misunderstand. I think it’s good when we’re going through a trying period of doubt to go to some person and sit down with them and try to get some encouragement and counseling. I think that’s good and healthy. But I’m talking about openly and publicly expressing all of our doubts and fears. I think Paul was right when he said that we ought to speak that which edifies and which ministers grace.
2) Talk about our doubts to the Lord.
If we’re going to talk about our doubts talk about them to the Lord. He came to God. Now, don’t try to hide your doubts from God. I believe there can be no real reassurance of faith until you’ve been honest to admit your doubts. It think the very word “faith” implies doubt. You see, there’s no real faith unless there’s a risk. If there’s no risk involved, there’s no real faith.
Hebrews says it’s the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! You see them! They are things that are not present! They’re not tangible! There’s always a risk! You’re believing in things you can’t prove…you can’t touch. You’re believing in things that at your choosing confirm to yourself…there is always some doubt. I have never yet gone to the Lord and told Him that I have some doubts and heard Him gasp in surprise and say, “I never would have thought that of you!” The Lord already knows all my weakness…He already knows frailties…He already knows of my doubts…and the things that I’m to do with my doubts when that relapse of faith comes along is that I am to bring them to the Lord!
Be honest with Him and open. Don’t try to hide your unbelief from the Lord!
Well, lastly I want us to look at:
The reassurance of faith.
That sounds familiar. I’ve read that somewhere before…oh yes, that’s what Jeremiah said! That’s the way Jeremiah opened his prayer as a matter of fact…verse 17
Do you notice what God’s doing? Jeremiah hears his own doubts. God is expressing Jeremiah’s unbelief for him. Have you ever made a statement and never realized how ridiculous that statement was until someone repeated it back to you? Hear it from somebody else’s mouth! “Did I really say that? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”
Sometimes we’re so close to something we can’t see it and we can never hear it objectively until we hear it from somebody else’s mouth. That’s what god is doing! Jeremiah starts out and says, “Lord, there’s nothing too hard for You.” And ends up saying, “But this may be…”
So, God comes to reassure him by saying the very same thing… “Is any-thing too hard for Me?” And immediately, of course, Jeremiah knows how ridiculous his doubts have been.
Another thing, the Bible says, “Then came the word of the Lord…” When “then?” A little technique of Bible study is every time you see a “then” ask “when.” THEN… When he had expressed his doubts…when he had gotten honest with God.
When he had come to God and expressed to God the uncertainty that was in his heart THEN the word of the Lord gave him reassurance.
And it is interesting to note that when God gave him reassurance God didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know. Now, I want to tell you something…there is a real temptation and a tendency when we are passing through some dark period of life and we don’t seem to be in touch with God to think that we can solve a situation by seeking some new truth…some new experience…
Most of the people I know that have gone off the deep end into some excessive teaching have done it out of despair and darkness looking for some answer from God and they thought they could find the answer in some new truth.
Folks, I want to tell you something…God always confirms His word by telling us stuff we already know! He just reminds us!
And I don’t know how many times folks have come up to me after a service and said, “Preacher, you didn’t say anything today that I didn’t already know, but it’s some things I had forgotten and God did something this week that I really needed Him to do. He reminded me of some things I already knew.
And now I want to try to give you a word of encouragement.
Friend, I don’t care if you do have a relapse of doubt…God will give you the reassurance that you need. I just don’t believe God is going to tell you to buy the farm and then let you sink. I have a more benevolent view of God’s grace than that. When a fellow is willing to trust God and he is willing to back it up with buying the farm I don’t think God will abandon him.
And let me just say this…Don’t doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. He will come through! He will give you that word of encouragement and reassurance. You hang on!
Now I want to ask you tonight. Is there a farm that you’re hesitating to buy? Is there something God has called you to do that you’re hesitating to do? Are you fearful? Do you have doubt or uncertainty in your heart? If it’s not worth investing in, it’s not believing in.
Sooner or later are going to have to buy the farm. God is going to require it.
God will not abandon you in the day of doubt and darkness…
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005