1 The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.
2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.
3 Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
4 ¶Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
5 Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.
6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.
7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
8 ¶And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the Lord, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.
10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers. (Jeremiah 24)
This is an interesting chapter. In it Jeremiah tells of how the Lord showed him two baskets of figs, one good and one bad. The Lord told him the good basket represented the Israelites who were carried away captive to Babylon for their good, and who would eventually be brought back to Israel and who would have a heart to follow the Lord and be his people.
The bad basket of figs represented those who were still in Jerusalem and who would be scattered to all the kingdoms of the earth to their hurt. They would be destroyed with the sword, famine, and pestilence.
So what is this really saying? I think first of all it is telling us that in the Lord’s economy, sometimes the things that look like disasters—such as being carried away captive to Babylon would have seemed to the Israelites still in Jerusalem—can turn out to be good, and the things that look good—like being left alone in Jerusalem—can turn out to be bad. At that point in time the Israelites were so wicked that captivity, which looked terrible, became a chastising agent which would be good for them.
Notice that both groups would removed from their land, but that for one group it would turn to their good because they would develop a heart to follow the Lord, but the other group wouldn’t, so it would be to their hurt.
I think the question Jeremiah hoped his listeners (and readers) would ask is, “Which group am I in?” and then think about whether they were someone who was humbled by difficult events or someone who was hardened by them. He wanted the people to prepare themselves to be humbled by the captivity and scattering they would undergo so that they would receive the benefit from it which the Lord intended.
I think this message is just as applicable today. Though we may not face captivity, there are still different challenges that can come without warning. If we humble ourselves and let it impel us closer to God, the difficult events can be for our good, rather than for our hurt.
I can think of a few challenges I'm having that may not look like much to others, but which certainly try my patience and stretch my diligence muscle. Many times in the past I have gotten discouraged, but ultimately that never did any good. So I'm going to face them with trust that Heavenly Father will help me and that I will grow from it.
Today let’s see our challenges (large or small) as opportunities to humble ourselves and turn to the Lord.