The Living Word
Jeremiah 24:1-7 The LORD showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD. One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very poor figs, so bad they could not be eaten. Then the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the poor ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” Then the word of the LORD came to me: “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. 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. 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.’”
The Word In Motion
Brief history review: The nation of Israel over which David ruled was split in two shortly after his grandson was crowned king. Since then the northern kingdom, Israel, has been ruled by a long line of kings that did not serve God. None of them. In fact they served just about every other god they could find. They were carried off into captivity as a result of their sins. The southern kingdom, Judah, was a little better. There were several kings that did serve God. But there were others that were just as bad as their northern counterparts - or worse. They caused Judah to fall into the same sins as their estranged brothers. Since God had punished Israel already, He expected Judah to view them as an example of what they could expect if they continued in their sinful ways. They did not have a clue and although a few of the kings attempted a revival in 586 B.C. they were carried off into captivity.
It was clearly their own fault. God had sent the prophets to warn them. Again and again. That’s why some of the prophets were so testy. Like Ezekiel, he was one of the last before their captivity. When you know the history, it makes it easier to understand why some of the prophets were so angry sounding. But did you notice the sound of God’s voice in the Scripture above?
‘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. 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. 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.’
Does that sound like an angry God? Absolutely not. You see, God was correcting them. Not punishing them. The end result? Skip ahead about 70 years. God brings them back and Israel’s history from that point on does NOT include idolatry! Amazing, God’s plan actually worked! “Of course it did,” you say, “He is God, after all.”
So why in your captivity (debt, broken relationships, unemployment, etc.) do you think God sees you as the basket of bad figs? (If you read on in this passage, the bad figs are addressed. They are the kings and other leaders that led God’s people down that path of destruction.)
Are you in Babylon? Suffering under the weight of the consequences of something you did (or failed to do)? Are you feeling like God is punishing you? Has he forgotten you? No, He’s saying the same thing to you today. ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the circumstantial exiles, whom I sent away from this place ... My eyes will watch over you for your good, and I will bring you back to this land. I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. I will give you a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. You will be mine, and I will be you God, for you will return to me with all your heart.’
This message was so important that God had Jeremiah give it to them again a couple of chapters later. Perhaps you're familiar with it. Jeremiah 29 - including (but not limited to) verse 11. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” The Israelites didn’t get it. This place of captivity was His Grace and Mercy to free them from the entanglements of sin. And it worked! They didn’t get it, will you?