The blessing of ‘enough’

“Living by the Word” © 2010 The Christian Century. Used with permission. September 21, 2010

Security and risk are nothing new. . . . Biblical texts deal not with stocks and bonds exactly, but with living in the real circumstances of a difficult and uncertain world while also accepting the possibility of good, of help and support, comfort and security. Jeremiah, for example, is anchored in the real and mundane world. The prophet tells of nations at war and of his decision to engage in a personal real estate transaction. We read about a powerful enemy attacking the capital city—and about a specific plot of land, with money exchanged and a deed drawn up.

Then, with the same matter-of-fact inflection, Jeremiah says: “I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” How did he know? Was it because the instruction to buy that land made so little sense? After all, it was clear that the Babylonians would soon have control of Jerusalem and probably all of Judah. They had already taken some Israelites away to Babylon and would surely do the same again. Talk about a bad investment! Yet Jeremiah explains the extraordinary symbolism of this ordinary act: against all expectation, God has determined hope for the future, when “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

Call me a pessimist . . . , but I’ve found that it’s easier to trust the bad news than the good. It’s easier to assume that things will be hard than to believe that peace will come. Yet not only Jeremiah but others too declare that God wants good for us. In Psalm 91 we read, “Under his wings you will find refuge . . . with long life I will satisfy them.” In Hebrews, the words “the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid” remind us that God promises to deliver.

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January 10, 2011

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