Today’s reading begins with a sudden change in setting. Jeremiah, who has apparently stayed behind in Jerusalem, sends a letter to the people who are now exiled in Babylon. It contains a message of hope, including the most well-known verse of all from this book: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (29:11)
The letter continues with more words of comfort and encouragement, promising that Israel and Judah will one day be restored. It will not happen immediately; they will have to endure a lengthy stay in Babylon, but a turnaround is coming that will bring them back home. The good news delivered to the exiles is that no matter how badly they have gone astray, God still loves them deeply and will save them (sound familiar?). Here we see the shift from part one of God’s assignment for Jeremiah, pulling up and tearing down, to part two, building and planting (1:10).
Jeremiah also puts his money where his mouth is. As a tangible witness to his belief that the time is indeed coming when God will turn things around, he makes a long-term property investment in Israel. It’s an outrageous choice! While he is imprisoned and the future is uncertain for both himself and his people, he pays money for a piece of land that is presently worthless–after all, it is under the control of a foreign power.
Jeremiah’s surprising purchase reminds me of a quote that has most often been attributed to Martin Luther, although it more likely originated during World War II:
“Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.”