January 22, 2009
Why Pray? 7: When God's commands don't seem to make sense
“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch…, I prayed to the Lord…’though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field…’.” (Jeremiah 32:16 & 25)
Imprisoned by his own king for prophesying bad news and under siege from the Babylonian army, Jeremiah was told by God: “I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon…If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed” (v.4-5).
Yet he also promised that Judah would be restored to its own land…at some unspecified point in the future.
And then he wanted Jeremiah to buy a field.
So Jeremiah bought the field.
It is only after buying the field - trusting God at his word - that the prophet approached God to enquire. He did not demand that God prove himself but he wanted to talk the whole thing over and get some resolution about the obedience he had already committed to. It is that last part; the obedience “already committed to” that stands out as real faith.
It would have taken no kind of faith for Jeremiah to say to God, “I hear what you’re saying about buying the field but I need you to show me how that makes sense first and then I’ll do it. I want to see some evidence that I won’t lose out”.
God tells us every day to do what makes no sense in worldly terms. He tells us to push beyond the comfortable to the eternally glorious; to serve him instead of pursuing stuff and money. He wants you to tell people about the cross when they think you idiotic for doing so, to serve people who will throw your love back in your face. He says that everything we see is to be put aside for the sake of what we don’t see and that our reward for what we sacrifice on earth will ultimately not be on earth.
And when we point our lives heavenwards in faith day by day, then we are to go to him for assurance, acknowledging God’s sovereignty and simply laying out our situation before him. Jeremiah did not wait for his hope to wane before going to God as some kind of last resort – the prayer for assurance followed the act of obedience.
And God wonderfully comforted Jeremiah with the words, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (v.27).