- Jeremiah 24 (Contemporary English Version)
- The LORD spoke to me in a vision after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had come to Judah and taken King Jehoiachin, his officials, and all the skilled workers back to Babylonia. In this vision I saw two baskets of figs in front of the LORD's temple.
- One basket was full of very good figs that ripened early, and the other was full of rotten figs that were not fit to eat.
- "Jeremiah," the LORD asked, "what do you see?" "Figs," I said. "Some are very good, but the others are too rotten to eat."
- Then the LORD told me to say:
- People of Judah, the good figs stand for those of you I sent away as exiles to Babylonia,
- where I am watching over them. Then someday I will bring them back to this land. I will plant them, instead of uprooting them, and I will build them up, rather than tearing them down.
- I will give them a desire to know me and to be my people. They will want me to be their God, and they will turn back to me with all their heart.
- The rotten figs stand for King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, and all the others who were not taken away to Babylonia, whether they stayed here in Judah or went to live in Egypt.
- I will punish them with a terrible disaster, and everyone on earth will tremble when they hear about it. I will force the people of Judah to go to foreign countries, where they will be cursed and insulted.
- War and hunger and disease will strike them, until they finally disappear from the land that I gave them and their ancestors.
Things are not always as they seem, and with God things are often upside down or opposite to what we might expect. Such is the case with the message of chapter 24. Babylon had defeated Judah and taken many of its leaders captive, deporting them to Babylon. The expectation of those at that time and even our expectation now might be that those deported were worse off, or even cursed, compared to those who survived Babylon's destruction of Judah and remained in their homeland. But God's message to Jeremiah indicates that the opposite was true.
God showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord. One basket contained good figs and the other bad figs. The vision may have represented the offering of firstfruits before the Lord in which case the basket of bad figs would be unacceptable to the Lord. The interpretation given by God to Jeremiah was surprising. The good figs represented the exiles from Judah whom God regarded as good, not bad as might be expected, and the bad figs represented those "remaining in this land (Judah) and those living in the land of Egypt." Those living in Egypt had disobeyed the Lord and fled to Egypt for safety. But there is no safety apart from the Lord. We are safer in proximity to danger but in God's care than away from apparent danger and also away from God's care.
Those living in exile, who were represented by the good figs, were regarded as good by God. He had sent them away from Judah for their good rather than for their harm. Thus He would protect them in their exile and "give them a heart to know Me (God)" and "I will be their God because they will return to Me with all their heart." (24:6-7) But as for those who remained in Judah and in Egypt, who were represented by the bad figs, God said He would "make them an object of horror and disaster to all the kingdoms of the earth." (24:9) They were the ones who would truly be banished from the land and from God. (24:10)
Those who trust in the Lord will demonstrate their trust by waiting on Him to fully reveal His work in their lives. God exiled to Babylon those He was protecting from what was to happen to those "bad figs" remaining in Judah. What seemed bad was really good. If we are to understand what God is doing in our lives we will have to withhold judgments based on our own perceptions and simply wait on God to see what He has in store, trusting that it is good. Otherwise we can miss out on what He has for us.