Friday, February 19, 2016

Bread Upon the Waters

Awaiting me on the table of the train the other week was a discarded newspaper. Nothing unusual about that. This one had a Bible text written on it. Was this a wayside text giving the gospel to anyone who would follow it up? But the reference didn't sound familiar. I looked Jeremiah 32:15 up and it was an unusual verse to see referred to. Did they even get the verse/chapter number right? No doubt someone wrote it there more for their own memory rather than the encouragement of others. What did they make of it? What did I make of it? Nothing happens as mere coincidence. What could be learned? 

In this verse, Jeremiah is acting in hope even though it seems pointless and meaningless to buy a field.  It would be destroyed and dispossessed. It was an act of faith and obedience.  It is like casting your bread on the waters and finding it after many days. It is like Abraham going out by faith not knowing where he was going but believing in God's direction and covenant promise. The promise is that this will be fruitful in the future. The evidences would be preserved and the land restored and inhabited once more. The evidences preserved in the earthen vessel are as much the promises of God as the deeds to the land.

I think that the encouragement is that serving God in our generation may seem to be hard and bear little fruit. Those whose labour is in the Word and doctrine seem to toil all night but take nothing. The Word is circulated, tracts distributed, good material published with little apparent effect. But God's Word will not return to Him void, it will accomplish the purpose He has determined for it. He will bring fruit from it, perhaps after many days. We must fix our eyes upon the horizon. The future is as bright as the promises of God. They sow in tears but there will be a joyful reaping. The harvest is said to be certain according to the promise.

Humphrey Hardwicke preached a sermon on sowing in tears and reaping in joy. He said that
as the husbandman [farmer] in times of dearth and scarcity is much more diligent and plentiful in manuring his land, carefull to provide precious seed, and incessant for the repelling of famine, and procuring of plenty; so must Gods people, they must be up and doing, put their shoulder to the work, their hand to the plough, think nothing too much that they are able to do; hey must labour plough, sow part with all as precious seed, lay it down in the dust.
He continues on a similar theme: 
It remains now only, that I call upon every one that would not be counted an enemy, but a friend of Sion, to be up and doing, to be much and active in pious and precious endeavour for the perfecting our Sion's deliverance, and the establishing of our Jerusalem in peace and truth. Now is time for... every one in his place and station, to few precious seed. What considering man then would suffer sloth or negligence, ease or self respects, to hinder him from being an instrument of so great good, as may come to the Church and State. Many of you are, all of you may be, under God, the cause of much good to many generations: Be therefore of St. Paul's mind, suffer nothing to deprive you of the glory of such rejoicing, and the testimony of a good conscience.
Matthew Henry says about Jeremiah 32:15:
though Jerusalem was now besieged, and the whole country was likely to be laid waste, yet the time should come when houses, and fields, and vineyards should be again possessed in this land, v. 15. As God appointed Jeremiah to confirm his predictions of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by his own practice in living unmarried, so he now appointed him to confirm his predictions of the future restoration of Jerusalem by his own practice in purchasing this field. Note, It concerns ministers to make it to appear in their whole conversation that they do themselves believe that which they preach to others; and that they may do so, and impress it the more deeply upon their hearers, they must many a time deny themselves, as Jeremiah did in both these instances. God having promised that this land should again come into the possession of his people, Jeremiah will, on behalf of his heirs, put in for a share. Note, It is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith, and to do common business with an eye to the providence and promise of God. Lucius Florus relates it as a great instance of the bravery of the Roman citizens that in the time of the second Punic war, when Hannibal besieged Rome and was very near making himself master of it, a field on which part of his army lay, being offered to sale at that time, was immediately purchased, in a firm belief that the Roman valour would raise the siege, lib. ii. cap. 6. And have not we much more reason to venture our all upon the word of God, and to embark in Zion’s interests, which will undoubtedly be the prevailing interests at last? Non si male nunc et olim sic erit—Though now we suffer, we shall not suffer always.