When our grandkids were younger, we loved to go a wonderful orchard in September to fill baskets with all kinds of varieties of apples. This farm was meticulous and scientific at growing trees that produced beautiful, picture-perfect apples. We tramped through rows and rows to spot and pick the best. Of course, the best ones were higher in the tree and took more work to reach and grab. Our grandson looked at the apples that had fallen from the tree to the ground by the elements of weather or other pickers. As a little boy at the time, his first thought was “this is easier, I’ll just get the ones on the ground.” Until, he picked one up and saw that it was rotten to the core. It looked good on one side but the other side was caved in with smelly rot. His reaction was normal, “Yucky, we don’t want those in our baskets!” “Gross!”
Yeah, no one likes rotten apples.
Jeremiah 24, The Message
Two Baskets of Figs
24 1-2 God showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the Temple of God. This was after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem into exile in Babylon, along with the leaders of Judah, the craftsmen, and the skilled laborers. In one basket the figs were of the finest quality, ripe and ready to eat. In the other basket the figs were rotten, so rotten they couldn’t be eaten.
3 God said to me, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”
“Figs,” I said. “Excellent figs of the finest quality, and also rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten.”
4-6 Then God told me, “This is the Message from the God of Israel: The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment. I’ll keep my eye on them so that their lives are good, and I’ll bring them back to this land. I’ll build them up, not tear them down; I’ll plant them, not uproot them.
7 “And I’ll give them a heart to know me, God. They’ll be my people and I’ll be their God, for they’ll have returned to me with all their hearts.
8-10 “But like the rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs—that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt. I’ll make them something that the whole world will look on as disgusting—repugnant outcasts, their names used as curse words wherever in the world I drive them. And I’ll make sure they die like flies—from war, starvation, disease, whatever—until the land I once gave to them and their ancestors is completely rid of them.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
According to Warren Wiersbe, Bible Scholar, and Commentator:
“In 597 B.C., the Babylonians deported King Jehoiachin along with many of the nobles and key citizens, leaving only the poorer people to work the land (2 Kin. 24:14–16). This signaled the beginning of the end for Judah, so, no doubt, Jeremiah was greatly distressed.”
What do you do with rotten figs? You reject them and throw them away! What do you do with tasty, good figs? You preserve them and enjoy them! God promised to care for the exiles, work in their hearts, and one day bring them back to their land. Jeremiah even wrote a letter to the exiles, telling them to live peaceably in the land and seek the Lord with all their hearts. (See Jeremiah 29, our favorite passage of all time!.)
In times of captivity, no matter how discouraging the circumstances may be, God doesn’t desert His faithful remnant. Rotten to the core “figs” are scattered and destroyed, but true believers find God faithful to meet their needs and accomplish His great plans.
Just like we didn’t fill our baskets with rotten apples, mixing them in with the good apples to stink up our homes, God didn’t allow the rotten to the core leaders to continue bringing decay to His people. The people (good figs) who returned to the land after the captivity were by no means perfect, but they had learned to trust the true and living God and not to worship idols. If the captivity did nothing else, it purged the Jewish people of idolatry caused by the rot of sin.
“The destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Judah were not accidents; they were appointments, for God was in control. Now the land would enjoy its Sabbaths, and the people exiled in Babylon would have time to repent and seek the Lord. In far off Babylon, God the Potter would remake His people, and they would return to the land chastened and cleansed.” –Warren Wierbe
What are we filling our souls with today? What do we see? Rotting fruit or good fruit? (Galatians 5)
ONE LAST THOUGHT…
Can one bad apple spoil the whole bunch? Why, yes it can! No one knows for sure how or when this phrase got its start. It does have some basis in science, though. When apples begin to decay, they emit gases. If the rotting apple is mixed in with a group of other apples, the good apples can absorb these gases and begin to rot, too.
How do our behaviors influence others seeking something better for their lives?
How do we help others find and follow Jesus while following Him ourselves?
You came to earth to seek and to save lost people. While here on earth you taught us who God is and how to please God, the Father. God is love. We cannot really love without knowing you. This love drives all other behaviors stemming from your grow character in us. Begin with your love. Help us to know you more so we love more deeply like you love us. You are the Potter; I am the clay. Remold and shape me into all you want me to be.
In Jesus Name, Amen