“Some say this world of trouble is the only one we’ll ever see. But I’m waiting for that morning, when the new world is revealed.” — When the Saints Go Marching In
“Well there’s a better world that’s a-coming.” — Woody Guthrie
In this passage Judea is militarily occupied by the Babylonians. Jerusalem is under siege and about to be destroyed. While this is happening, the prophet Jeremiah is imprisoned in a cell in the King’s palace. While Jeremiah’s in jail, at God’s instruction he meets with his cousin and buys a piece of land from him.
By any rational measure, this was a ridiculous purchase. Jeremiah knows that the Babylonians will occupy all Judea and Jerusalem, and that the land he’s buying is worthless. But he trusted God’s promise and acted in faith.
Jeremiah’s purchase of land was a symbolic action signifying hope. “For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” Jeremiah’s purchase was a witness that Israel had a future, that God still loved them and would restore them.
It’s a testimony of God’s unquenchable love for his covenant people at their lowest point of sinfulness and calamity. It speaks of the astounding love that God has for us and for the world.
We learn a lot about hope from this passage. The hope we have in Jesus exists in spite of the immediate circumstances, however bleak these may be. Our hope doesn’t arise from circumstances but from God’s promise and God’s faithfulness.
There is much good and beauty in the world today, for which we rejoice and give thanks. But there are also many circumstances that are as awful as those Jerusalem experienced: a terrible war in Ukraine, chaotic violence in Haiti, political repression and economic misery around the world, pandemic sickness, and the personal struggles and heartaches of our own lives and families.
Our hope in Jesus doesn’t mean we shut our eyes to these realities. We look these hardships in the face and believe that a better world is coming.
We see too in this passage that hope involves action, not just feelings. Jeremiah expresses his hope by doing something in the present. He buys a piece of apparently worthless land.
Likewise, as followers of Jesus we invest ourselves actively now for a future that is beyond the horizon of this world. We live and act now in the hope of the coming Kingdom of God.
In God’s Kingdom the earth will be filled with God’s glory. So we invest our lives in honoring God now, in the midst of the world’s pain and our own.
In the world to come human beings will love each other as God loves us. So we give ourselves now to love others, to care for them, act justly and live with kindness toward all people, especially those considered “the least of these.” To bring whatever fairness, comfort, and healing we can amidst the world’s suffering.
In God’s kingdom, peace will reign on earth. So in a world full of conflicts – both personal and national — we forgive others, reject revenge, hatred, racism and violence, love our enemies and learn to be peacemakers. We help repair the world.
Because in Jesus we experience God’s love and love for others we act on the promise of the glorious future God will bring. We invest in that future as we make choices for God and for love in the everyday details of our lives now. Living this way brings something of God’s Kingdom into the world now. We make the world a better place now — a place of blessing and hope.
The promise of God’s new world also speaks to our very personal hopes. We humans have needs and we pray to God to meet them: We long for the love of a life-partner. For the well-being of our children. For a good job and an adequate income. For the respect of our family, friends and co-workers.
God very often answers these prayers and fulfills our deep hopes for this life. Because God loves us personally and individually.
Yet as much as God blesses our lives in this world, we will always face disappointments, shortcomings and hardships that keep life from being all that it should be, and that cause pain to us and to those we love. That’s the nature of life in this fallen world.
At 74 years old I think about the devastations of old age — heart disease, cancer, strokes, organ failure are the common lot of human beings. What seems particularly cruel is Alzheimer’s disease – the ruination of mind, identity and relationships. The progressive erasure of individual personhood while the body lives on.
And not only with Alzheimer’s. There are equally devastating diseases, conditions and circumstances that destroy a person’s self as truly as the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and burned it to the ground.
But I read something recently that expresses the hope that we have in Christ.
The person with Alzheimer’s may forget everything and everyone, but “At the heart of God’s intimate knowing of human beings lies God’s remembering of us. For God to remember someone means that they are present to God, and therefore their existence and worth are safe, fixed and undiminished.”
God remembers those whose very self has been robbed by Alzheimer’s or similar catastrophes. God holds them, as Scripture says, in the palm of his hand. So their mind, character, identity and personhood — all that they were, are, and could have been — God preserves and will ultimately restore and perfect. That’s God’s promise of resurrection.
And for those of us whose limitations and circumstances may not be so grave, but still keep us from being all that we could be. For us too, God promises liberation and wholeness. “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). In the world to come, we will be all that God created and calls us to be, made whole in the likeness of Christ, and living, loving and growing eternally from glory to glory.
And so we look to the future with hope and joy, investing our lives now in God’s Kingdom. Because God is faithful. Because a better world is coming.
Therefore, as Scripture encourages us, let us “always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because our labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Martin Shupack, New Hope Fellowship, 9.25.22