Have you ever felt like your effort to do what is right is all in vain? You work hard, pay your taxes, treat others fairly and even give to the church; yet it seems that it is the wicked who prospers. This may be true for now, but never forget that the end of all things is still yet to come. One day the Lord will deal with every man according to his work. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Mt 16:27) Many believe that what men will experience (both in heaven and in hell) will be in accordance to the kind of life they have lived here on this earth.
During the days of Israel’s apostasy there were many who lived righteously. Take for instance Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego.) These four young men loved the LORD; yet, as a result of their nation’s sins, they were carried away into captivity. Jeremiah was also a righteous man and he as well had to suffer. Even today there are many who love the Lord and who try to do what is right, yet they have to suffer because of the foolishness of others. It is because of this that we might be tempted to sometimes think – “What’s the use of trying to do what is right? All my efforts seem to be in vain.” Yet my friend, do not forget – the end is still yet to come.
Apparently Jeremiah struggled with this same issue as well. As he preached of a coming day of judgment, perhaps he questioned in his heart – ‘So what’s the use of trying to do what is right?’ The LORD answered his question with this parable.
Jeremiah 24:1…the LORD showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the LORD. 2 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. 3 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.” 4 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 5 “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. 6 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 uproot them. 7 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. 8 “But thus says the LORD: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. 9 I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. 10 And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.”
The good figs represented those who were living righteously. The bad figs represented those who were living un-righteously. Through this parable God helped Jeremiah to understand that although the unrighteous Jews would be punished, the righteous Jews would be preserved. God is a God of perfect justice.
In closing consider these words from Peter:
“The Lord knows how to save those who serve him when troubles come. He will hold evil people and punish them, while waiting for the Judgment Day.” (2 Peter 2:9 NCV)