For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’
Jeremiah 32:15 (NIV)
For many years, Wendy and I have been part of a wine club. Every quarter we receive bottles of wine from small winemakers around the world, many of them small family vineyards. In recent years, one of our favorites has been a Sicilian wine called Tenuta Fenice, which means “House of the Phoenix.”
Back in 1968, a devastating earthquake destroyed the everything in the village where Dino Taschetta’s family grew their vineyards and made their wine. Everyone abandoned the region. In 2016, Dino returned to the ruins of his family estate and, from the ashes, resurrected his family’s vineyard of ancient, slow-growing vines. That year he produced the first vintage of Tenuta Fenice in a half-century.
I thought of this story as I read today’s chapter. Jeremiah is confined to the palace in Jerusalem, under house arrest. Jerusalem is surrounded by the Babylonian army who are laying siege to it. Jeremiah’s relative visits the prophet and offers to sell him a field.
Consider with me, for a moment, how ludicrous this proposition really is. Jerusalem is under siege. The Babylonian army surrounds it, everyone inside the city walls is trapped, nothing is getting in-or-out. There is little to no hope that anyone will survive, and once the city is ransacked and destroyed, the Babylonians will control everything. Everyone inside Jerusalem is starving, food is scarce, and inflation is through the roof. Every person needs their last shekel of silver to buy what scraps of food are left in the city. The most stupid thing you could do in this moment is spend your silver buying a field that you won’t ever see because you’re likely to be dead. Even if you do survive, the conquering Babylonians could claim it and its produce, leaving you with nothing.
Jeremiah buys the field, as God directs him.
It’s not a personal investment but a powerful word-picture.
Yes, the Babylonians will destroy the city.
Yes, those who survive will likely end up in captivity.
Yes, everyone’s emotional brains and survival instincts have kicked into overdrive and no one can think beyond how they might possible make it through their immediate, dire circumstances.
Nevertheless, Jeremiah buys a field, a vineyard. Jeremiah is looking beyond his momentary circumstances to embrace the larger story God is authoring in their tragic events. In doing so, Jerry foreshadows the same perspective Paul had despite suffering shipwrecks, imprisonment, beatings, lashings, and hardship I can’t possibly imagine:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Though Jeremiah will not survive to see it, he purchases a field with the faith and hope of the promise God has proclaimed through him over, and over, and over again: After seventy years, God will bring his people back. The city will be rebuilt. The temple will be rebuilt. Wine will pour once again from this vineyard.
In fact, in about 500 years the wine of the new covenant will be poured out in this very city for the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of humanity. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the wine at Jesus’ last supper was from the vineyard Jeremiah purchased in today’s chapter?
In the quiet this morning, I contemplate the story of Jeremiah’s seemingly silly purchase. I contemplate the story of Dino Taschetta’s family vineyard, and their wine called “House of the Phoenix.” The mythical Phoenix was a popular symbol among Jesus’ early followers. The bird that rises up from the ashes to new life. Wouldn’t you know it, I’m preparing a message for my local gathering of Jesus’ followers this Sunday. The text? “I am the resurrection, and the life.”
I love God’s timing.
Up from the ashes. No matter the hopelessness of my momentary circumstances, God promises there is a larger Story He’s authoring.
I will trust the Story.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.