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Jeremiah 32:1-33:26

08.24.2010

In chapter 32, Jeremiah follows God’s advice and buys a plot of land despite the siege and imminent fall of Judah.  Baruch makes a cameo again, fulfilling his faithful role by facilitating the transaction (since Jeremiah is still in Zedekiah’s prison for counseling surrender).

Jeremiah here displays faithful doubt (if that’s an established term, I commend the coiner; if it’s not, I’d like to declare myself the coiner!)  He makes it very clear in the preceding verses that God is sovereign, that He is capable of all things, and that His wisdom is beyond human ability to comprehend.  However, the crux of Jeremiah’s question remains:  what the heck?  He wants to know why he’s being asked to buy a field that is about to be occupied by a ravaging foreign army who will not bother to concern themselves with deeds and property rights.

I try to use this pattern in how I approach my doubts and questions to God, but it’s certainly not easy.  In essence, I declare the things I know to be true about who He is.  I establish (more for my benefit than His) what is not at issue, the things that remain true and self-evident about God despite His answer to my question (or even if He provides one).  It serves to set the terms of doubt for me, limiting the destructive potential of questioning God.

For this example, God tells Jeremiah that He wants him to buy this field as a symbol to the people that they will return to the promised land, that they will not be rootless exiles forever.  Although it’s expensive for Jeremiah’s bank account (where is his income coming from, by the way?), it’s a beautiful demonstration of God’s promise of restoration to His people.

In this story, God provides a because.  He tells Jeremiah why He asks him to do something, or why He is acting in a certain way.  This is also true of many of the symbols and visions He is giving to Ezekiel at this same time.  We don’t always have this privilege though.  Sometimes God withholds the because.  This doesn’t mean we can’t ask Him for it (although He may not give it).  It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have one.  This is where faith has to take over for doubt.  God is not accountable to us.  He may give us reasons for His actions when it furthers His will to do so or when it brings Him glory.  But we are not entitled to those explanations.  This is hard for a lot of people to accept, especially in the post-enlightenment West, where rationality reigns supreme and rulers are held accountable to their people, but it’s true nonetheless.

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One Comment
  1. Christen permalink

    Excellent post. I think “faithful doubt” is a great term and one that expresses how I’ve felt in my job search. it’s not knowing anything beyond the “because i said so” that often hurts the most. our rational minds can be useful in human situations but God is so above all that, it confounds us. Just because He is God. that is enough.

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