TWO KINDS OF FIGS
Prepare my heart, Father, to receive and apply what you would have me see in your Word today.
Read JEREMIAH 24
Two Baskets of Figs
24 After Jehoiachin[a] son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the Lord. 2 One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.
3 Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.[b] 6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
8 “‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. 9 I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse[c] and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. 10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, who ‘though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’1
In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and King Jehoiachin and most of the people were exiled to Babylon, leaving only the poorest of the land behind; and leaving Zedekiah as a puppet- king of Judah. Those who remained would have thought they were under God’s favor, still in the land and still with access to the temple for worship. They would have thought that the Babylonian exiles were under God’s judgment, far away from God’s presence. Ten years later, in 587 BC, the Babylonians returned, destroyed the temple, executed Zedekiah, and exiled the remainder of the people. All of Judah was exiled away from their land.
Sometime in that ten-year period, Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple, perhaps first-fruits offerings.2 One contained good figs and the other rotten figs. After a brief dialogue with Jeremiah, the Lord interpreted the vision in a way that was totally contrary to the thinking of the people. The good figs represented the exiles as the ones under God’s favor. God would watch over them for their good, transform them, and restore them to the land. God would be their God and they would be God’s people. The rotten figs represented those who remained in the land. They would be afflicted with sword, plague, and famine and ultimately exterminated.
The vision is not about the moral and spiritual qualities of either group, for all had been guilty of rebellion against God. It is about the grace of God, who reverses human values. This is the grace of God who chose a mixed multitude to be his people and of Jesus who chose sinners to be his friends.3 This is the grace of God who entreats us with his unmerited favor.
Look back over your life and think about ways you have experienced God’s unmerited favors. Spend some time giving thanks to God and look to the future with confidence.
Loving Father, I know that you have plans for me, plans for hope and a future. Show me those things in my life that would stand in the way of my experiencing your best for me.
1 2 Cor 8:9 2 Deut 26:1–11 3 Walter Brueggemann, Jeremiah 1–25: To Pluck up and to Tear Down, Eerdmans, 1988, p212
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