It wasn’t easy to be a prophet. It was a thankless job that often got tomatoes (or worse) thrown at you. People didn’t want to hear about repentance, they wanted to believe that everything was hunky-dory, even when they knew better.
We’re not much different, are we?
The prophet Jeremiah warned that Jerusalem would fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of heeding the prophet’s forecast, King Zedekiah threw Jeremiah into prison for treason (Jeremiah 32).
But the Lord was faithful. While in prison, Jeremiah’s cousin asked him to redeem a piece of family land for seven dollars. Well, not really seven dollars—they didn’t use U.S. currency – but it was something like only seven dollars. Theologians believe the price was extremely low because the Jews were under siege. (Desperate times.) Jeremiah accepted the offer and told his scribe, Baruch, to preserve the purchase documents in a clay jar.
Jeremiah was beginning to see that all was not lost. Buying the property back meant there was hope he’d one day return. It became a sign to Jeremiah that God would prove faithful, not only to his prophet in chains, but to his people in exile.
Can you hear his sigh of relief? It wasn’t the end of God’s people. Jeremiah prayed, “Ah Sovereign LORD you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17 NIV).
Working and Planting
A little history of the language will help you really hear Jeremiah’s relief. A powerful nuance hides under our English translations of the Lord’s outstretched arm – a meaning our 21st century eyes can’t see. It implies a “work in progress.”
We might think of his outstretched arm as a bad thing like justice or punishment, but it held a hopeful promise. That’s good, isn’t it? Oh, but there’s more. The word “arm” was translated from a word that comes from zera, which means “seed.” So, God’s “outstretched arm” plants seeds, indicating new life, new starts, hope for future, growth.
Though Jerusalem would be burned, the walls destroyed and the people taken away, a seed had been planted and waited to bloom at the right time. Seventy years later, the Jewish people returned and rebuilt their beloved Jerusalem.
God’s outstretched arm would reveal itself again, however. An even better seed was yet to bloom. His name was Jesus.
Listen to John’s words. “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs, in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” (John 12:37-38 NIV).
Jesus was the arm of the Lord in flesh, outstretched to touch us, heal us, and plant hope beyond this life.
What seems hopeless to you today?
Cry out as Jeremiah did, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
There’s a seed planted for you.
Has there been a time in your life when you’ve recognized the outstretched arm of the Lord after a crisis or hopeless moment? Scroll down and leave a comment.
Our Guest BloggerAndy Lee
Andy Lee is a speaker, blogger, and author of A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called (Leafwood 2016) and The Book of Ruth Key Word Bible Study: A 31-Day Journey to Hope and Promise. She writes about digging deep (in the Word) to live fully on her site www.wordsbyandylee.com, and she teaches a daily Bible study called Bite of Bread at 8:20 ET on Facebook Live. Join the group! There’s a lot of room around her kitchen table.