Daily Reflections July 28, 2017
In Jeremiah 24, the prophet is given a vision of two baskets. They are both laid before the temple but one was filled with good figs and the other with bad figs. We are given the context of this vision to help us understand its meaning: Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to Judah in 597, took king Jeconiah along with many of the leaders of Judah prisoner, and set up Zedekiah as a puppet-king of the remaining people of Judah. The king and others who were exiled to Babylon were under the punishment of God for sin. The curse of Jeconiah in Jeremiah 22 is being brought about. But the Jews left behind were optimistic when compared to the others. Many claimed that there would be a fast return of the exiles and they even began conspiring for more rebellion against Babylon.
It is quite interesting that the good figs are revealed to be those who are in exile and the bad figs are those who are free at home. One would naturally think that this would be the reversed. However, God is showing his plan of salvation through judgment as he shows these things to Jeremiah. The remaining Jews have a sense of superiority because God had spared them and left them in the land that he had promised. But this sense of security, based on the forbearance of God, caused them to be complacent in their sin and resist the warnings of future judgement on them. They confused delay with escape. The lack of judgment caused them to be short-sighted and therefore grow more and more rotten over time. Those take into exile, on the other hand, were exceedingly grieved over the harsh punishment. They were banished from the inheritance of promise and oppressively ruled by their enemy with no hope of escape. It would appear that they are the ones rejected by God. But God indicates that they are the good figs. They, too, have been short sighted and failed to recognize that God chastises for the intent to restore – like a child who cannot see past the current condition of “time-out”. God was for them even though it seemed as if he had abandoned them. Not only did he intend to return them to the temporary blessing of land that the remaining Jews had but he promises something far more profound: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7). They would be made good!
This illustration could speak into our lives in a myriad of ways but I think that it should clearly give us pause to re-evaluate our current condition with God. Perhaps we think we are rotten figs when we are actually good figs; perhaps we think we are good figs when we are actually rotten. So, we may be helped to be reminded of a few things from this passage. We should not evaluate our condition with God based on a short time frame of a day, month, or even a few years. God’s redemptive time frame extends past what most of us assume. Further, we should not presume that if God has delayed judgment then we are blessed and better for it. We ought to quickly heed warnings of judgment and, when chastisement comes, see the firm hand of God as an instrument of sanctification that he will use to create in use a pure heart.
Which fig are you: good or bad?
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
One of the most fascinating stories from the 10th chapter of Mark’s gospel is Jesus’ interaction with the rich young man. When we read Jesus’ instructions to “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor” many of us, I imagine, are struck with fear and immediately begin to look for a way out of this challenging command. One of the most popular excuses for not allowing this text to truly wrestle with our hearts is that Jesus did not give this command to everyone. We are quick to remind ourselves that wealthy men and women throughout history have loved and served Jesus faithfully, and that Jesus was actually speaking to the rich young man about a heart problem. Therefore we tell ourselves that this text does not actually address a problem that we have.
While there is validity in many of these excuses, I think the whole of this story suggests that those who are quick to find an escape route away from this text are exactly the type of people to whom Jesus would issue this command. We live in an age of extraordinary material prosperity, and in many ways this is a great blessing given to us by God. Misused, however, this blessing can quickly become a curse. Listen to Jesus’ words in verses 23-25. He begins by stating that it will be “difficult” for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (v. 23), and then continues on to suggest that it is even impossible. When Jesus talks about the camel going through the eye of the needle he is not referring to a rope or a gate in a wall (as some people have suggested), but is speaking in wildly hyperbolic language to suggest that it is impossible! We need to sit under these words and allow them to sink into our hearts. Good news is coming in verse 27, but Jesus still had a purpose in all that was previously spoken.
The good news of verse 27 is that Jesus answered the question about who can be saved by stating, “With man it impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Hallelujah! There is hope for the salvation of both the rich and the poor. Nevertheless, these words come at the end of a story where a man walked away from Jesus sorrowful because his great wealth came into conflict with the call of Jesus.
Have you allowed this text to challenge your own affluence? Are you willing to live a life of sacrificial giving out of obedient love to Christ? This truly is the call of the text, and it is to our own detriment that we skirt around it.