Proper 16 (Aug. 26, 2007)
Anathoth is one of my favorite places in the Bible because of how the Lord used it to speak hope into my own life and into my ministry. One day, while residing in Siberia I found myself on a train in Romania reading Jeremiah. A colleague said, “What are you reading?” He knew it was the Bible but wanted to know which book. “Jeremiah,” I replied. “What are you getting out of it?” He may have asked this because like me he sometimes struggled to know what to make of Jeremiah, the ponderous prophet from Anathoth.
Michalengelo’s painting above seems to pick up on this heaviness. Another title for the piece might be, “This does not look good.” What a thankless job Jeremiah had: the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen, and despite all that Jeremiah would do, Judah would soon fall as well.
Yet amidst all of this darkness persists a little beacon of hope named Anathoth. Anathoth was a beacon of hope first of all because it was one of the original cities of refuge. Second, it was the birthplace of Jeremiah himself, one of the righteous remnant. Third, it was the place where God commanded Jeremiah to buy real estate in the face of the impending Babylonian invasion. Talk about the ultimate contrarian!
Back on that train in Romania, in response to my friend’s question, “what are you getting out of this?”, I answered, “Well, I’m thinking I may need to buy some real estate in Siberia.” I did, and that too has proven to be a good investment. Never doubt that the investments you make in ministry will be worth it, despite the hardships that may attend.
Jeremiah’s investment turned out to be a good one, too. Eventually the Babylonians faded away and the people of Israel returned. Finally Jesus himself arrived to plant his kingdom, the one that once planted would endure forever.
Keep your eyes on the promise of God and hope will never be lost again.