Hope can come to us in the oddest of places. The poet Emily Dickinson famously described hope as a bird perched in the soul, its song never ending. While one might think of a bird as a delicate little thing that frightens easily and can fly away at the slightest provocation, she speaks of hope as a creature that sings sweeter in the gales and might only flee in the worst of storms.
The prophet Jeremiah found hope in an odd place himself. The Babylonian army was laying siege to Jerusalem, and King Zedekiah of Judah had confined Jeremiah to the court of the guard in his palace like a bird in a cage. The king was upset with Jeremiah, who prophesied that the Lord would hand over Jerusalem to the Babylonian army. Finding himself imprisoned in the court of an angry king, in the middle of a besieged city, Jeremiah did what any of us might do – he bought property.
This transaction took place during the low point of Judah’s history, at a time when most people believed their very existence was compromised. With Babylon’s King Nebuchadrezzar poised to topple Jerusalem and carry its residents into exile, most people were looking for an escape route out of town. They were more interested in selling off their possessions than investing in a dire future.
Yet Jeremiah, through his actions, delivers a powerful message to the Israelites. He purchases a piece of property in Jerusalem that had been in the possession of his ancestors. With this transaction, Jeremiah declares that he hopes and trusts in God’s deliverance. Even though there might be a period of exile, there would follow a time of restoration. The people of Judah needed to repent of their sins and face the consequences of their choices, but the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would redeem them, just as Jeremiah redeemed the property. The people needed to cling to hope.
Sometimes we may feel trapped and besieged. We may feel as though the storms of life have sent the fragile bird of hope spiraling into the abyss. However, we serve a faithful God who promises to keep hope alive for each of us. When we are part of a community of faith, each person contributes to the nurture that hope, and we realize that we are not in this alone. The songs of hope that quietly emanate from within each of us, like the song of a solitary bird, join together to create a chorus of hope whose strands can be heard by all.