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The prospects were not good. Actually really bad, even disastrous. The city was under siege, and everything pointed towards a defeat. People would be assaulted, hurt and killed; houses burnt down and the remaining citizens of Jerusalem would be deported to a foreign land.

In this doomsday context the prophet Jeremiah was told by God to make an investment – in the doomed city! Sounds like bad advice, like buying property in war-torn Syria today. (Maybe we should?) But it was supposed to be a prophetic action by doing real business.

Jeremiah conveyed the message loud and clear: God will restore his people and the city, and the signs of a restored nation would be found in a functioning marketplace.

Jeremiah buys a field from a relative, using his birthright. Payment is fair and done in front of witnesses. Deeds are issued and kept for posterity.

This is a prophetic purchase: For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” (Jer. 32:15)

After war, destruction, despair and exile, restoration will come, and it will come from God. The indicators of the restoration are seen in marketplace functions.

Jeremiah did a prophetic act when purchasing the land. It involved a financial transaction, title deeds and archives, and a long-term investment with a potential return many years down the road. These are all present and future indicators of a God approved economy. These are signs of a transformed society, of justice in the marketplace. The wider context in Jeremiah talks about benefits from building businesses and growing the economy; wealth is created, there is joy, there are festivities and gratitude to God.

“The restored people would have lives of work, enjoyment, feasting and worship all tied into one. The picture of planting, harvesting, playing music, dancing and enjoying the harvest depicts the pleasure of work in faithfulness to God.” [1]

Jeremiah chapter 32 shows that God wants business and growing businesses. A God inspired nation has a legal and societal framework conducive for business development.

Let me list a few things that are implied or explicitly mentioned in this Biblical narrative, all part of a marketplace for peace and prosperity:

  • A Rule of Law society
  • Birth certificates, some kind of officially recognized identity
  • Property laws
  • An established currency
  • A functional system for economic transactions
  • Honesty and transparency in business dealings
  • Title deeds, records, archives
  • Buying and selling worked
  • Return on investment, and long term thinking

Other lessons we can learn:

  • There was a willingness to take risks
  • The importance of acknowledging God and honoring the Covenant in business
  • Readiness to follow God’s instruction, and take steps of faith
  • Rejoice in the harvest / profit
  • Work and worship was integrated
  • Wealth was created, and prosperity came to the city

We see a God who is engaged in the marketplace. It is part of God’s mission in the world and through history. The events in Jerusalem with Jeremiah show God at work in history. Business as Mission, BAM, is also a part of that story – His story

As David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby put it: “There is a God, and He’s not averse to business. He’s not just a ‘Sunday Deity’. He understands margins and spreadsheets, competition and profits.” [2]

Lastly, “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.” [3]

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[1] Theology of Work Bible Commentary

[2] More Than a Hobby, by David Green. Thomas Nelson, 2005

[3] Matthew Henry (1662-1714) in a comment on Jeremiah 32. Commentary on the Whole Bible

 

 

 

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