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The Two Baskets of Figs

RETURN TO SYLLABUS

JEREMIAH 24
Lesson #25
THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS

  • Memory Verse: Jam 2:18
  • Jeremiah chapter 24 relates to the time after the evil king Jeconiah was taken captive to Babylon.
    • You will remember that this is the king over which God pronounced a curse that none of his children would sit on the throne after him.
    • God would consider him childless even though he had children, but all died before he did .(Jer 22:30)
  • Read Jer 24:1-10 The two baskets of figs
    • This is a vision that God gave to Jeremiah.
    • Background:
      • Before we can understand the meaning of this vision that God gave to Jeremiah, we must first understand the meaning of the fig tree in the Bible. In fact Jesus gives us a good lesson about the fig tree.
      • Read Mar 11:15-20
        • The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel.
          • It was a symbol of fertility, peace, and prosperity for the nation of Israel in the Promised Land that God either blesses or destroys. (1Kin 4:25 Mic 4:4 Zec 3:10 Psa 105:33 Hos 2:12)
          • The shade of the tree was often a man’s private place for meditation, prayer, and scripture reading. (Joh 1:48)
        • We must know the growing and fruit-bearing habits of fig trees to understand Jesus’ actions:
          • The fig tree grows from 15-20 feet tall. Its branches spread 25-30 feet.
          • It was valued for its shade as well as its fruit and oil.
          • The fig tree bears 2 crops a year. The first crop bears fruit on the old wood.

Early in the year, little green knobs appear at the end of the branches. They become the figs. These fruit buds come in April, but they cannot be eaten. Gradually the leaves and flowers open so that the tree is in full fruit, full leaf, and full flower all at the same time. This happens in June.

No fig tree ever bore edible fruit in April.

This process is repeated for the second crop in September when fruit grows on new wood.

        • The strange fig tree that Jesus cursed:
          • The timing:

It is the time of the Passover, 15th of Nisan, which is about the middle of April.

Notice that the fig tree is in full leaf in April.

Notice that Jesus looked for figs from a tree that never had figs in April. (Mar 11:13)

          • Therefore, Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not perform an impossible task.
          • Jesus’ dramatic lesson and why he cursed the tree:

Prophets often made use of symbolic actions to call attention to an important truth. Jesus uses this off-season tree to teach us two things:

=1= A lesson about the nation of Israel:

Uselessness or fruitlessness INVITES DISASTER!

Read Isa 29:13

The tree was useless because it produced no fruit, only leaves.

The religious system of Judaism was useless.

It looked like a godly organization but there was no spiritual fruit.

They were supposed to welcome the Messiah into the world, but they failed.

Failure to fulfill God’s purpose brings judgment. God condemns profession without practice.

The tree had leaves. If a fig tree had leaves, it was a claim that there was fruit present as well. Its claim was false.

The religious system of Judaism claimed to have faith in God, but they only wanted to kill God’s son.

God judges false claims.

In Mat 23:13-36 Jesus pronounces curses on the scribes and Pharisees for having leaves but no spiritual fruit.

=2= A lesson about true faith and prayer

God desires Christians who will produce fruit for the kingdom of God.

God condemns profession without practice.

Read Jam 2:17-18

The fruit of the Holy Spirit must accompany our outward profession of faith. (Gal 5:22-23)

Fruitfulness comes from an inner faith.

Fruitfulness brings power in answered prayer.

What kind of power?

Power to do mighty things for God.

Power to accept God’s will in your life.

Power to bear the unbearable, to pass the breaking point and not break.

        • The evidence of the cursed fig tree
          • Jesus cursed the tree publically in the morning of the second day.

Jesus and his disciples walked by that tree on the evening of the second day as they left the city to spend the night in Bethany.

However, the tree evidently still lived for the disciples did not call attention to it then.

          • It is the morning of the third day when the disciples notice that the tree is dead.

The important thing to notice here is the lapse of time between the spoken curse and the fulfillment of it.

They are amazed and Jesus uses their amazement to teach about prayer and the basic nature of faith.

        • The cursed fig tree is about a spiritually fruitless nation.
          • Since the fig tree represents Israel and their lack of spiritual fruitfulness, Jesus’ actions in cursing the fig tree represent a curse upon Judaism which did not immediately become evident.
          • Jesus cursed the fig tree (Israel) about 32 AD but the tree (Israel) did not actually wither until 70 AD when the Romans attacked and destroyed the temple and the nation.
    • Now let us return to Jeremiah’s vision of the two baskets of figs.
      • What do the good figs represent?
        • They represent the faithful believers in Israel that God had already permitted to be carried away into captivity in Babylon.
          • Remember that two groups had already been taken captive that included Daniel and Ezequiel.
          • Notice that God says he did that for their good. (5) How can captivity, loss of freedom, loss of home and homeland be a good thing?

They did not have to experience the terrible death and destruction of the final Babylonian attack in 586 BC.

While they were in captivity in Babylon, it was not an oppressive captivity for they thrived as a people. More people returned to the Promised Land than left it.

        • What promises are given to the good figs?
          • God promises to return them to the Promised Land.
          • However, the promised return to the Promised Land is not the return after 70 years of the Babylonian captivity.

Verse 6 tells us that they will return and not be removed from the land again.

The return that this promise speaks of is the return in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

In the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus Christ reigns for 1000 years, the Jews will know Jesus Christ with their whole heart. (7)

      • What do the bad figs represent?
        • The bad figs represent the Israelites that still remained in the land of Judah at the time of Jeremiah.
          • They were the evil, disbelieving people that persecuted Jeremiah.
          • They were the false prophets and corrupt priests that took advantage of the poor people.
          • They were the evil kings that did not follow God’s instruction.

Jeremiah specifically refers to king Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. (8)

King Zedekiah (2Kin 24:17-25:21 2Chr 36:11-21) was Jeconiah’s uncle.

He was the third son of good King Josiah.

He was put on the throne by King Nebuchadnezzar after Jeconiah was taken captive to Babylon. Because of that the people of Judah never really accepted him as their king.

His original name was Mattaniah but was changed to Zedekiah by King Nebuchadnezzar.

King Zedekiah followed his bad advisor’s advice and went to Egypt to seek help in a rebellion against Babylon. (2Kin 24:20 2Chr 36:13) Why was this so bad?

God had told them to surrender to Babylon and not fight this monstrous empire.

A new coalition was being formed to fight Babylon.

This coalition included the geographic areas of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Phoenicia. (Jer 27:1-3)

The false prophets had urged King Zedekiah to join this political alliance with the enemy nations against God’s instruction.

God had told them not to seek help from their enemy Egypt or from these other geographic areas that were Israel’s constant enemies.

        • What promises are given to the bad figs?
          • God promised to remove them and scatter them through all the other nations of the world.
          • Incidentally, the separate nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Phoenicia, and Israel ceased to exist after the final destruction of Israel in 586 BC.
  • Application:
    • What is the relationship between Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree (Mat 21:18-21) and Jer 24?
    • God looked for spiritual fruit from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. This small nation was Israel’s last chance to be on God’s side: to acknowledge Jehovah as their God, and to serve Jehovah the way God wanted. Instead, they became like rotten, useless fruit that cannot be eaten.
    • There are two things we must remember as believers in Jesus Christ:
      • =1= Obedience to God comes first.
      • =2= Serving God to produce fruit for God’s kingdom comes next.
        • Notice that you cannot serve God to produce spiritual fruit in your life if you do not first obey God.
        • In Jesus’ miracle of the cursing of the fig tree, He wanted His disciples to have faith to trust God in their obedience. In time they would see the results of their faith just as the disciples saw the fig tree wither days later.
          • Empty words of faith without the works of faith that follow are useless in the kingdom of God. (Jam 2:18)
          • The only way to serve God is by faith and obedience that produces good fruit in time.
      • Israel did not do either of these two points. Israel is God’s model for us.
        • Because of Israel’s failure on these two points, uselessness or fruitlessness INVITES DISASTER!
        • Jeremiah’s message of the baskets of figs shows us how a believer can survive even the bad times, for God will work for the believer’s good through all things in the same way that He turned the captivity for good. (5) (Rom 8:28)

HOMEWORK
Jeremiah 25

  • Application of Jer 24:
    • How do you rate on obedience to God?
    • How do you rate on serving God?
    • Can you point to spiritual fruit in your life that are the evidence of faith and obedience? List the spiritual fruit here.
  • Preparation for Jer 25:
    • Read Jer 25:1-38
      • Why do you think God calls Nebuchadnezzar His servant? (9)
  • Memory Verse: Jer 25:11
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