Bad Figs

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Bad Figs

Jeremiah 24:1–10 (NRSV)

The LORD showed me two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the LORD. This was after King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the artisans, and the smiths, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. And the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “Figs, the good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the LORD came to me: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 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.

But thus says the LORD: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who live in the land of Egypt. I will make them a horror, an evil thing, to all the kingdoms of the earth—a disgrace, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they are utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their ancestors.

While volunteering at our local food pantry, I got a little more insight into how wasteful we can be in our
American culture. Especially regarding food. We fortunately have a decent amount of food that is either given away or sold at a very discounted rate once it passes the “sell by” date. I just finished a bowl of melon and mixed fruit yesterday that had a sell by date of about 2 weeks ago and it was still good.

We are wasteful because we give up on things too easily, do not have the skill to fix them or adapt them to good use. So we end up throwing things away and buying new all the time. It has grown bad enough with home appliances that most of the time it is actually cheaper to buy new than to buy parts to fix something that is not working right. Sometimes we do that with our relationships – something breaks so we throw it away and go looking for a new one. Some of us have done that with God as well. Someday, someone may do it to us.

Israel was broken, many of them were taken away to Babylon, and only a few were left in the land. Those who were left may have seen themselves as the faithful, fortunate ones… but God apparently thought otherwise. He compared them to two baskets of fruit and said that the good fruit represented the future of those in exile, and the bad fruit – spoiled beyond use, represented those left behind.

You see, there is a flip side to this culture of wastefulness. We are also a culture of health. While we may throw out a lot of food, you are far less likely to catch food poisoning from our grocery stores than in other countries with little food regulation. In fact, the majority of our food issues tend to either come from a bad batch, which may have been shipped in from another country, or from mishandling of the food – not from the food itself. We are not perfect, but we set high standards for the quality of food we choose to sell.

So does God. Rather, He has high standards for the type of people He chooses to work with. We may come from bad seeds, and God will continue to work in us to redeem us, but He will not tolerate bad fruit, bad deeds among His people for long before making and intervention – either pruning us and nurturing our roots, or by cutting us down and forcing us to start over again.

What kind of fruit are you today?

How can you encourage those around you to bear good fruit as well?

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