Hoping Justifiably

Reflection: 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 32:1-15; Jeremiah 52.

The book of Jeremiah is not a straightforward manuscript. There are several perplexing issues quite apart from the chronological ‘disorder’ of his prophetic declarations. We will just handle one such puzzle. Jeremiah lived during a period of Judah’s history that seemed bereft of hope. Yet in the midst of desolation and the devastation of war, he did something strangely hopeful. He purchased a field while his nation was under a terminal siege by an overpowering enemy!

In his 9th year, Zedekiah, the vassal king of Judah, rebelled against the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded by besieging Jerusalem. The defenders began to suffer from famine, followed by pestilence, and subsequently, the city was reduced to the last extremity (Lam 4:10). In 586 BC, the city fell, and Zedekiah was captured while trying to escape. At Riblah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord’s servant, passed judgment on him, slaying Zedekiah’s sons, blinding him, and carrying him captive to Babylon. A month later, the temple, the palace, the houses of the nobles of Jerusalem, and the city walls were destroyed. The chief priests, the king’s advisors, and other high officials were put to death, and a large number of the people were deported. Jeremiah chose to remain behind with the poor, but was later taken against his will to Egypt by the remnant. That was the last we heard of him.

God’s patience with Judah’s persistent, impenitent, and flagrant covenantal violations was not eternal. Despite Jeremiah’s warnings, the people did not believe that God would ever forsake Jerusalem, the city of David. On the eve of the city’s fall, his inexplicable act of hope was quite symbolic. The redemption of the field was not the crux of the matter, but the status of the collapsing government that issued the deed of ownership. This act signified that the Lord would keep His promise to bring the exiles back to Canaan, to re-establish the government and their identity as God’s chosen people.

Jeremiah’s act is instructive for us today: Our hope ought to be secured on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit as a seal of our redemption (Eph 4:30). As we belong to God, Who is the foundation of our hope, our actions are to be in line with His purposes. Consequently, we cannot judge truth by what we observe (or choose to think for ourselves, although think we must) but by the Word of God. Our society will unceasingly contest that view as it incessantly appeals to its own hopes, whether it is to retire in financial comfort through tempting investment products, or new and exciting merchandises that will simplify our lives, etc. These hopes can obsess us and they can take us captive, disappointing us ultimately. Being in God’s will, Jeremiah’s prayer (32:16-27) after his redemption of the land became an expression of his faith and obedience. God immediately declared in response to him “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” The caveat here, of course, is that when we are in step with His Holy Spirit, our wills become one, and often self-interest is profoundly missing!