Reading through the Bible together

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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We have three fig trees in our yard, and today I picked the first fig of our season! It was perfect!

 

Figs trees were very common in the land of Israel and the people used the fruit in many ways. And like fruit of any kind, there is a time when figs are ready to be picked.  They are firm, but slightly soft, moist, and great tasting! They also have a limited shelf life. If figs are not eaten, dried or otherwise put to use, they start to spoil. Then, they are good for nothing but drawing flies and other insects! You want to dispose of them as quickly as possible.

 

After the direct messages from God that Jeremiah delivered to kings, princes prophets and priests, he now turns his attention to the ordinary people. While it certainly included some royalty and priests, the message of this chapter is also for craftsmen and carpenters.  It is given to the whole nation.

 

God uses two baskets of fruit to illustrate His message. One basket has perfect figs, ripe and ready to eat. The other basket has rotten figs that could not be eaten. Notice that God shows that His people are divided into two groups. In spite of the idolatry and unfaithfulness of the political and religious leadership, there is still a large group of His people whom He portrays as “very good figs!” The other group has obviously followed the popular course of life and through unfaithfulness has become totally and completely corrupted. I’m encouraged that God shows there is faithfulness in some of His people during times of societal and religious corruption. He always has a people who are faithful!

 

But the message must have been disappointing to the good people. While those portrayed by the bad figs were so far gone they could not be saved, the people portrayed by the good figs were to go into Babylonian captivity! And God said this was for their own good! I can only imagine how hard it must have been to accept this message! How could the destruction of their homeland and city, and being carried off into captivity by cruel pagans be for their own good? This brings home the reality that God’s ways are not our ways. I will remember this the next time something happens that seems so hard to understand.

 

It really comes to the point of how we see things.  Our perspective covers the few short days we have on this earth. God’s perspective is a very big picture. He had told their forefathers through Moses what the result would be if the nation was unfaithful and followed other gods and pagan practices. The predictions in Deuteronomy are plain. The time had finally come.

 

This perspective is found in two places. First, verses 8-10. God is going to cleanse the land. The King and the rest of the land and those who have fled to Egypt for safety will experience the sword, famine, and pestilence.  Secondly, in 2 Chronicles 36, the Scripture records that the leaders and the people transgressed more and more. God pleaded with them through His prophets until there was no remedy left. Then, the judgments came in waves. Those who survived the destruction (the good figs) were carried into Babylon as servants. Notice a very important point. His people were to remain in the land of their captivity until the farm land had enjoyed its Sabbaths, to fulfill the 70 years when the land was not allowed to rest.  God had directed His people to let the land rest every seventh year, but the people decided that it was not economically feasible to do so! Now He is going to let the land be cleansed and rest to make up for all those years where his Word had been ignored.

 

But this chapter also has some good news! We all need some good news about now! In verses 5-7, God expresses His big plan for the “good figs” to be taken out of the land to avoid the judgments. He promises to bring them back, restore them, and give them a new heart to know Him even better. He promises that He will be their God and that with their new heart they will turn to Him as never before! 

 

That’s what we need, total commitment, eyes only for Him.  We need a heart that is truly converted from the destructive power of sin. No more lukewarm Laodicea, but completely given over to our Savior.

 

“Oh Lord, let me be found in the basket of good figs! And please, give me a new heart that also will be completely given over to You.  Amen.”

 

Dan Houghton 

Hart Research Center

California