Ripe or Rotten?

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 24; 29; 27; 28 - Listen

In a vision, the Lord showed Jeremiah "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" (24:1-2).

The "very good figs" represented those who had been captured in Judah and exiled to Babylon. Having suffered terror and hardship, they repented of their sin and turned their hearts back to God, yielding to his refining work. The "good figs" allowed God to ripen them to maturity.

The "very poor figs" represented those who remained in Judah or ran away to Egypt. Having been spared the horror of captivity, at least for the time being, they continued in their sin, trusting in lies and rationalizing away their guilt. The "poor figs" allowed sin to spoil and rot their lives. Though initially they seemed to have escaped the consequences, their fate would be much worse than the fate of the exiles. God promised, "I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing..." (24:9).

The future of the "good figs" looked pretty bleak at first, but God assured them of his presence and gave them hope. It would be 70 years before he would bring them back home, so God told them to settle in and make the most of things. With God as their source of strength, they could be content in any setting. He encouraged them to pray for the peace and prosperity of the city in which they were exiled, "for if it prospers, you too will prosper" (29:7). In those days, fig trees were a sign of peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4). The "good figs" would ripen and mature on the very fig tree they were told to pray for! God had plans to prosper them in the land of their exile! If we will seek God with all our heart, we, too, can claim the promises God made to them:

"My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back.... 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" (24:6-7).

"'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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord" (29:11-14).

Sometimes we falsely equate God's blessing with good times and God's curse with bad times. Trouble can be a blessing if it leads us to God and yields godly fruit; comfort can be a curse if it lulls us into sin and yields decay. If we will let Christ be our source of strength for all things, we can learn to be content whatever the circumstances (Philip. 4:11-13). If we pray for those who oppress us, perhaps God's work in their lives will benefit us too. God may be using them to ripen us to maturity.

His eyes are watching over us for our good (24:6). "All that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans" (Rm. 8:28 LB). Even when others intended us harm, we will one day look back and realize that "God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done" (Gen. 50:20). In his own good time, he will make us "a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor" (Is. 61:3). Whether in times of plenty or in want, let us be "good figs" who seek the Lord.