[Optional reading: Jer. 24:1–25:38]
The Babylonian exile of Judah occurred in waves. The first wave started in 597 B.C. with Jehoiachin and some leading officials of Judah going into captivity, while others remained behind until a later exile in 587 B.C.
Today’s reading marks the beginning of the exile. But what does it mean? Perhaps the opposite of what was thought. Jeremiah was given a vision of two baskets of figs. One basket contains very high-quality figs and represents those first exiles who would find God’s favor. God’s promises to them are summarized in our key verse today, which concludes: “They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” They might experience the pain of God’s discipline, but God would not forget His covenant relationship, and He would give them a heart to return to God and to know Him. The poor figs, so rotten they cannot be eaten, represent (somewhat ironically) those who were not taken into exile in that first wave. They might have been tempted to think they were safe because they were spared exile, but Jeremiah’s vision explained otherwise. They were the bad figs. They would be “a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule,
wherever I banish them” (v. 9).
Here is an important lesson about God’s discipline. On the one hand, just because we don’t experience any immediate consequences because of our sin does not mean that God takes no notice or that we have gotten away with something. On the other hand, even when God does discipline us, His discipline does not mean abandonment.
Even in discipline, He has in mind our good and our restoration.
Apply the Word
You can create your own object lesson about the idea that God disciplines us for our good. Gather a small bowl of ripe, healthy-looking fruit and place it in a prominent place this week as a visual reminder that even when we sin, God can make us whole and well if we will only respond to His Spirit in us and return to Him.