Monday, September 16, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 253: Jeremiah 31-33; Psalm 57; Hebrews 13

There's Hope, and Then There's Hope
I confess that while I have enjoyed the readings from Jeremiah for their imagery, their language and their overwhelming impression of God being very active in the life of the people of Israel and Judah in the day of the prophet, I have not found them calming or reassuring. Bad news for the nation, its king, priests and people continues to pile up around them. It's like watching someone in an old-fashioned movie who has stepped into quicksand. They keep sinking, and the vine/rope/horse's rein is just out of reach. Anything that might deliver them from submersion and death is just out of reach. On top of that, the director of the movie stretches out the shot and dials up the suspenseful music. It's excruciating. It's thrilling. It's overwhelming. 

Who will come to save the day?

For us, Jeremiah and the people of the Promise, the answer of "who" is easy. God is the deliverer, or at the least God's agent/messiah/anointed. What is problematic? The "when." That question hangs in the air over Jeremiah's visions and proclamations like a cloud that covers the sun. We keep waiting for the occlusion to pass, and yet it continues to linger.

Every once in a while, though, an errant beam of sunlight pushes through and strikes our face. The illumination offered during those brief intervals at least poke a tiny hole in the impenetrable curtain that God has drawn across what the future holds for the people about to be taken into exile. Those little. teasing moments do more for hope than any other element of assurance God offers to the people via Jeremiah's preaching.

We saw that rim of light peek through when God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house in the reading from a few days ago. God is promising to continue to shape Israel and Judah. God's hands will not leave the vessel that represents the people of the Promise unfinished or marred. It will be perfected and formed to God's purpose and intent.

We are seeing that ray of hope peek through the overcast of God's wrath again, today. Today, the prophet in prison is commanded to purchase a field according to the laws and customs of inheritance among the people of God. When the nation is falling, when every institution of government, religious and social authority is about to be obliterated and consumed by the Babylonian Empire....God is telling Jeremiah to invest in real estate.

This is not just sound investment advice. It is a promise. God tells Jeremiah and the people of the Promise that all will not be lost forever. There will come a time when the exile will end. There will be restoration. That is how God works. We saw it at the potter's shed, and we are seeing it now as Jeremiah literally seals the deed and in buying that field puts his trust in God and in the future that is promised.

Do you want to know what grace looks like? It's a man in imprisoned by a doomed king buying land that is about to be confiscated by a foreign power in the hope of a return promised by a God whose wrath is still burning against the sins of the people. It's a man who takes God at God's word and chooses then to invest in hope. After all, there's hope...and then there's hope.

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