Soon after the Babylonians took young King Jehoiachin and many of the leading citizens of Jerusalem into exile, God gave Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs. This exile had been smaller than the first exile of 605 BC.  This exile took place in 597 BC, nearly ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.  Those left behind believed they had been favored over those in Babylon. “They could not imagine that Babylon would be the place where the true faith would survive and thrive.  But what the people viewed as a disaster could work for good” (Grace and Truth Bible). 

In the vision Jeremiah saw, “one basket had very good figs” while “the other basket had very bad figs” (Jer. 24:2).  God provided a prophetic meaning to the visual metaphor. “The message turns popular assumptions upside down; if the people thought that those who were carried off to exile were the ones who were headed for extinction like rotten fruit, while those who remained were in for a happier future, they were completely wrong” (Bible Speaks Today). 

The Lord gives this surprising interpretation to the vision: “Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians” (Jer. 24:5).  “The Lord was announcing a remarkable theological concept.  His evaluations are not based on people’s goodness but on his sovereign grace” (Jeremiah – Huey). Those left behind believed they would be blessed by remaining in the land.  But God intended blessing and refinement for those in captivity.

God promised protection and prosperity for those in exile.  He would bring them back after 70 years in captivity. “My eyes will watch over them for their 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 uproot them” (Jer. 24:6).

Even more than prospering, God would give them a heart to know him: “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” (Jer. 24:7 – Message). The people would choose God, while God remained in sovereign control.  “God requires his people to turn but they can no longer turn; but what they can no longer do he will do for them by giving them a new heart which can turn.  His sovereign grace will create a new reality that breaks out of the prison of human failure and inability” (Bible Speaks Today). 

In my opinion, there is an important lesson for us as we navigate the spiritual bareness of our day.  We are in many ways a people going into exile. We will be like strangers in a foreign land.  That time is coming quickly.

There are two major takeaways from this vision, as we will need to faithfully endure what will be happening.  First, we need to believe that we will prosper in exile.  How God accomplishes that is up to Him.  I cling to this promise: “I’ll build them up, not tear them down: I’ll plant them, not uproot them” (Jer. 24:6 – Message). 

Further, and more incredibly, God will give us a heart to know God even better and return to Him with all our hearts.  In words that come close to the “new creation” language of II Cor. 5:17, God promises “a heart to know me.” 

Men: be a man (and seek men) with a heart for God – open and responsive to Him.