Jeremiah said,The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say,Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said,Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin...I knew that this was the word of the Lord; so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver.Jeremiah 32:6-9
That is a remarkable act of faith. It belongs with those acts of faith in the record of Hebrews 11. As we examine it, we learn what it means to walk by faith. Every one of us is called to walk by faith, and there are certain qualities of faith seen here.
First there is what we might call
the caution of faith. Notice how the account progressed. God said to Jeremiah, in the loneliness of his prison,
Your cousin Hanamel is coming to you, offering to sell his field. A little later on the account says,
Then Hanamel my cousin came to me ... in accordance with the word of the Lord. Later still,
Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. The important thing to see is how Jeremiah tested this impression he received.
Many of us have wondered how these Old Testament prophets were given
words from God. Many times you find this phrase in the Scriptures:
The word of the Lord came to me... How did it come? This account suggests that the usual way God spoke to these prophets was the same way he speaks to us, i.e., through a vivid impression made upon the soul, an inner voice informing us of something.
But the great lesson to learn from this account is that this inner voice is not always the voice of God. Sometimes the god of this world can speak through that inner voice, sounding very much like the voice of God. Many a person has been tremendously injured in his faith, and has damaged the faith of others, by acting impulsively on what this inner voice has to say, without testing whether it is the voice of God or not.
Faith, though it acts in a remarkable way, does not act fanatically. Faith acts cautiously, expecting God to confirm his word. Jeremiah was no novice in the active life of faith. He knew that God would confirm his word, and he had learned to wait upon God. God confirmed the word by fulfilling the prediction he had made.
Yet with all the caution of faith, notice another quality of faith here. It is what we might call
the audacity of faith. This was a thoroughly unreasonable thing to do! It was ridiculous to buy property when the city was about to fall into enemy hands. This is always a quality of faith. Faith has an apparent ridiculousness about it. You are not acting by faith if you are doing what everyone around you is doing. Faith always appears to defy the circumstances. It constitutes a risk and a venture.
Noah built an ark where there was no water, and where there had never been any rain. I am sure the people of his day called him Crazy Noah — building an ark out on the dry land! Abraham went on a journey without a map. People asked him,
Where are you going? He said,
We don't know; we're just going, that's all. God is leading us. They must have twirled their fingers alongside their heads and said,
Poor Abe — he's lost his marbles! That is the quality of faith — it acts in an apparently ridiculous way. But it acts this way because it is based on a higher knowledge. It always has a certain basis on which to rest. Therefore faith does not demand that we run out and do foolish, impulsive acts, without any reason. The reason is higher than many people can see, but it is there.
Thank you, Lord, that you have called me to walk by faith and sometimes that means in acting in ways that make no sense to the world around me. Help me to trust that you will establish your word and show yourself faithful.
What are two distinguishing elements in a walk of faith? Are we learning to both recognize and receive God's direction for our faith ventures?