Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jeremiah 24 on Trials and Disaster

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.

This is an interesting chapter. In it the Lord shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs – one good, one bad. The Lord tells Jeremiah the good figs represent the Jews who had been carried captive to Babylon, that the Lord did it for their good, and that He would build them and gather them, give them a heart to know the Lord, and make them His people.

On the other hand, the Lord tells Jeremiah the bad figs represent those who remained in the land of Jerusalem or Egypt, who the Lord will remove into all kingdoms of the earth to their hurt, to be a reproach and a curse, to suffer famine pestilence, and so on until they are consumed.

This would be a very unusual message to the Jews of Jeremiah’s day. They probably looked on those who had been carried away captive to Babylon as the cursed and unfortunate ones and looked on those who had stayed in the land as the blessed and lucky ones.

But the Lord wanted to teach the people that, contrary to what they thought, the Lord could make physical calamity into a blessing, and that avoiding disaster could be made a curse.

The question that arises then should be, “What makes disaster into a blessing?” and “How can the Lord make a tragic event good for me?”  (I think the Lord wanted the Jews to think about this.)  The answer is, if we turn to the Lord and repent and keep the commandments, He can make good things come out of disaster.

That doesn’t mean it is easy, of course.

It is neat to me that at the bottom of this odd story about baskets of good and bad figs is a lesson that is still applicable today.