Symbolic gestures have been commonplace in Jeremiah’s ministry. Consider the yoke he carried representing the rule of Babylon, the potter’s clay, or the linen belt that was ruined. God communicates through word but also communicates to the eyes the message we should hear. So what should Jeremiah’s audience hear when he purchases the field from his cousin Hanamel? It would seem foolish to buy a field under Jewish law when the Babylonians would soon establish their reign.
God wants Jeremiah’s audience to, as one Old Testament writer puts it, “hear with their eyes” God’s promises that “I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety” (Jeremiah 32:37). The Bible is full of words about images God uses to convey meaning (e.g., baptism, Lord’s supper, and even the cross) that affect our thoughts and imaginations in ways that simple descriptions cannot. As ministers (yes, all of us) of the Gospel, we do well to consider how we can take the stuff of our world, art or even symbols derived from scriptures, to explain truths from God. For example, imagine teaching children the idea that for a “kernel of wheat to give birth, first it must die” (John 12:24) and connecting that with the cross; we could easily bring a seed of any plant, along with the plant it grows, to show how soil transforms the seed (transformation is what Jesus means when he speaks of seeds dying, for Jesus wasn’t giving a scientific explanation). This brings to life the idea that Jesus must die to transform into the resurrected king who will transform His followers into in the likeness of His image (Philippians 3:21).
As a pastor, Jeremiah’s ministry is a challenge to me to use illustrations and even sometimes living illustrations to help people hear with their eyes the word of God.