Seventeen Shekels for Salvation, Part 1

Imagine with me that God told one of us that a hurricane or a tornado or a flood like no other was coming. Just imagine with me that God told us where the disaster would hit, what neighborhoods would be damaged, and what places would be utterly lost. Just imagine with me for a moment what that knowledge might be like for us. Just imagine with me for a moment being instructed by God to tell folks that a once-in-a-century storm was coming. Just imagine with me.

Now, just imagine with me one further instruction: God instructs one of us to buy some land, as the storm is heading our way, in one of the areas that will be severely damaged. Just imagine making that real estate deal a few days or even hours before that disaster hits. Now, just imagine being stuck with a piece of real estate once worth a great amount of money, now worth seemingly nothing. Just imagine.

Truth is, that kind of scenario is hard to imagine. It’s hard to imagine having that kind of knowledge about a terrible natural disaster; it hard to imagine having to tell folks about it; and it’s hard to imagine having to trust God in the purchase of the land. It’s just hard to imagine, isn’t it?

a little beyond crazy

Yet, this very situation is the one Jeremiah faces in the text for today. This very situation of impending destruction with an instruction to buy some land that will soon be lost.  It sounds just a little beyond crazy, doesn’t it?

We’d never do something like that. It just doesn’t make sense. But, Jeremiah operates in obedience even if it doesn’t make much sense.

Truth is, we’d probably ask that question we asked when we were kids and our kids now ask us when given instructions that don’t make sense – “Why? Why do I need to do that? Why do I need to do that crazy thing?”

Jeremiah is told by God to buy a field, even though Jeremiah knows the people of Israel will be kicked out of the land. It really doesn’t make much sense at the time because we’ve just heard how King Zedekiah will be dethroned by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 32.3b-5). Nevertheless, that’s what God instructs Jeremiah to do.

Now, the transaction in our text, if you’ll note, is described in business terms: deed, seals, witnesses, terms, conditions, copy, archiving, and, of course, money (Jeremiah 32.9-14). It’s an unlikely business deal, though.  For the folks not “in the know,” like Hanamel and the witnesses, it’s just a regular land deal. It’s the kind of stuff that happens every day someone buys or sells land.

we’d never make the deal

But for Jeremiah, who’s “in the know,” it’s a deal made knowing that somehow the land might not be available to him in the future. After all, Jeremiah knows that God is going to take the land from the Israelites very soon. And, the truth is, not many of us would make that kind of deal, knowing what Jeremiah knew.

Well, it’s even a little more complicated than that unlikely business deal. Jeremiah was virtually imprisoned because of his prophecies. He was being held in the court of the king because of what he was saying about the coming of the Babylonians. God just keeps giving Jeremiah these words to prophesy regarding the future of Israel, and it just keeps getting Jeremiah in trouble.

Jeremiah makes the deal

Then, seemingly out of the blue, right there in his imprisonment, God tells Jeremiah that Hanamel is coming to offer him the right of redemption regarding a piece of land. The right of redemption simply means that because of family ties, Jeremiah has the first opportunity to purchase the land before it is put up for general sale. And, Jeremiah is instructed by God to buy that land from Hanamel.

So, Jeremiah does the work. He buys the land. We’ve noted all the technical, real estate language of the OT here. Jeremiah just does all he’s supposed to do. It’s just a regular transaction. But it’s still a very irregular deal, as we can see. Why? Why do this? Besides the truth that God told him to buy it, why do this?

Please join me next week at a soul table to finish this post.

A text for the table: Jeremiah 32.1-3a, 6-15.

Photo Credit: “Property Deed Title” and “Coin Collection.”


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