“Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” - Jeremiah 32:14-15 (NRSV)
It was the early 1970s when I first studied Jeremiah. It was the time of Watergate, Vietnam, and the Cold War. We were discouraged about the state of our nation and the world. Jeremiah prophesied during one of Israel’s worst times: the armies of Babylon had surrounded Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was under house arrest because his words had been too painful for King Zedekiah of Judah to hear.
There was not much room for hope. In the midst of all this trouble Jeremiah received a word from God to buy a field and to put the deeds in a jar to be kept safe for a long time. Someday, God promised, “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”
It was Bill Holladay, my Old Testament professor, who first brought this text to my attention. He took Jeremiah to heart and bought himself land in Vermont as an act of hope.
We survived Watergate. The Vietnam War came to an end. The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. Of course, we have new worries. Global warming is an unprecedented threat to our world. There are still nuclear weapons. Gun violence threatens the lives of our children. Hatred and bigotry are on the rise.
But Jeremiah’s symbolic act of purchasing land at the very worst moment is a reminder to take a long view of history and to live our lives within a horizon of hope.
God of time and eternity, help us to live, not by our worse fears, but by our best hopes, and by your enduring promise and steadfast love.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.