The vision comes at the time when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has hauled away into exile all the officials and professional craftsmen of Judah. You will recall that God has instructed the Jews to leave Jerusalem because it is about to be destroyed by him, and that anyone who obeys this command to surrender will save his life as a “prize of war.”
But others refuse to leave in disobedience and end up paying the ultimate price.
What does it look like to God when some of his children obey immediately, while others dawdle and assume there is plenty of time to change their ways, especially when to change now would be politically incorrect?
We need not wonder. God gives Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs sitting at the entrance to the house of the Lord:
“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” (24:2, ESV).
God then tells Jeremiah that those who trusted God, even though he has ripped them out of their homes and sent them into slavery, are like the good figs, because they recognize God’s command and urgency to get them to a safe place before his judgment was to decimate Jerusalem. To them he promises nothing short of restoration:
“I will set my eyes on 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” (24:6-7).
But to those who defied his command, his decree of judgment is chillingly final. Read it in 24:8-10.
What these rebellious children do not know is revealed in all of Chapter 25, where God commands Jeremiah to make all the nations who have oppressed his children, starting with the rulers of Judah (!), drink the wine of God’s wrath. This includes a very long list of nations, likely all of the Middle East as we know it today, and beyond. It is all to be destroyed and laid waste by Babylon, at the behest of God.
We don’t have prophets like Jeremiah today, but we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us if we will just listen. Whether it is world affairs or personal holiness, we must pray and listen and perceive whether the cup of God’s wrath has been given to our leaders. This is what the Book of Revelation is all about, though we know neither the day nor the hour.
I continue to wonder if Jesus is waiting for us to answer his prayer for perfect unity before he returns to bring judgment on the whole world.
Do we think Jesus was kidding when he prayed that prayer in John 17? Do we think he was impotent to bring it about? Many Christians feel that way when the subject of our lack of unity comes up.
I believe the time is coming when we will need to decide as a nation and as children of the family of God.
Will we be like sweet, juicy, first ripe fruit to him, or like an over-ripe, yucky turkey carcass rotting in the garbage can?