Again Jeremiah's ungrateful task is to take up an attitude of direct opposition to the king (comp. Jeremiah 22:13-30), though, indeed, Zedekiah personally is so weak and dependent on others that he neither deserves nor receives a special rebuke. He and all the people that are left are likened to very bad figs, the good figs—the exiles—having been picked out and sent to Babylon, whence they will one day be restored. The vision is purely an interior process. This is indicated, not only by the phrase, "Jehovah showed me" (comp. Amos 7:1, Amos 7:4, Amos 7:7; Amos 8:1), but by the contents of the vision.
Two baskets of figs were set before, etc. (comp. Amos 8:1-3). The description is apparently based on the law of firstfruits (comp. Deuteronomy 26:2), where the "basket" is mentioned, though not the word here used. The baskets were set down in readiness to be examined by the priests, who rigorously rejected all fruit that was not sound. The princes of Judah. A short phrase for all the leading men, whether members of the royal family or heads of the principal families (comp. Jeremiah 27:20). The carpenters and smiths; rather, the craftsmen and smiths ("craftsmen" includes workers in stone and metal as well as wood; the Hebrew word is rendered "smith" in 1 Samuel 13:19).
Like the figs that are first ripe. The early spring fig was considered a special delicacy (comp. Isaiah 27:4; Hosea 9:10); "ficus praecox," Pliny calls it ('Hist. Nat.,' 15.19, quoted by Trench). Tristram suggests that the "bad figs" were those of a sycamore tree.
Acknowledge them; or, rather knowledge (notice) of them (as Ruth 2:10, Ruth 2:19).
I will build them, etc. (comp. Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 12:16). As the next verse shows. it is not merely outward prosperity that is meant, but spiritual regeneration.
And as the evil figs. (So Jeremiah 29:16.) That dwell in the land of Egypt. Those who had fled thither during the war (comp. Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13.); hardly those who had been carried captive to Egypt with Jehoahaz, who would presumably have been of the better sort, such as are symbolized by the good figs.
And I will deliver them, etc. (see on Jeremiah 15:4, and comp. Jeremiah 29:1-32.; Deuteronomy 28:37).
Two baskets of figs.
I. MORALLY MEN ARE DIVISIBLE INTO TWO DISTINCT CLASSES. The two baskets of figs represent two classes of Jews: the basket of good figs, Jeconiah and his followers; the basket of bad figs, Zedekiah and his party. The great distinction between these was moral. There were princes in both classes; yet the one stood far higher in the sight of God than the other.
1. The deepest line of cleavage which runs down through all sections of mankind is moral; all other separating marks are more superficial.
2. There are in the main but two classes—the good and the bad—though, of course, within each of these great varieties occur.
3. Both of these classes tend to grow extreme. The good figs are very good, the bad are very bad. Character is tendency. As character develops it moves further on along the lines on which it is founded. Good men incline to grow better and bad men worse. Like the rivers which flow down the two sides of a great watercourse, lives that begin in similar circumstances and are near together for a season, if they once diverge, are likely to separate more widely as the years pass.
II. THE REST MEN MAY BE THE GREATEST SUFFERERS. The good figs represent the Jews who suffered most severely from the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, who were torn from their homes, robbed of their property, driven into captivity; the bad figs represent the seemingly more fortunate Jews over whose head the tide of invasion passes, leaving them still in their homes and in quiet, and also those who escaped from it entirely by a flight into Egypt. We may often notice that very good people are not only not spared, but suffer the most severe calamities. The sinless One was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." No greater mistake can be made than that of the three friends of Job. Great misfortunes are certainly not indications of great guilt; often of the reverse.
1. High character may directly invoke trouble. It rouses the opposition of the wicked; it feels called to dangerous tasks and to a mission which excites enmity; it maintains a fidelity that excludes many avenues of escape which would be open to men of lower moral principles.
2. God may bless and honor his better children by sending to them the severer trials. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. Therefore chastisement is an evidence of God's love. Good men should understand this, and not be surprised at the advent of trouble, but expect it; not be dismayed at the incongruity of it, but recognize its fitness; not despair of themselves, and think that they must be hypocrites after all, nor doubt and distrust God, but submit to what is clearly foretold and wisely arranged.
III. GOD LOOKS FAVORABLY ON THOSE WHO SUBMIT TO HIS CHASTISEMENTS. The good figs represent those Jews who obey the message of Jeremiah and submit to the invasion of the Chaldeans as to a Divine chastisement; the bad figs stand for those Jews who resist. It requires faith to recognize the wisdom and duty of submission. On the face of it such conduct would appear unpatriotic and cowardly, while resistance would seem noble and brave. It may take more courage, however, to submit than to resist. There is a yielding which is calm and reasonable and really brave, since it involves the curbing of instinctive combativeness and the pursuit of an unpopular course-one sure to be misunderstood and to provoke calumny. The sole guide must be sought in the question of what is right, what is God's will. We are not called to a fatalistic passiveness. There are circumstances in which self-defense or flight may be evidently right. What we are to submit to is not all opposition, all possible trouble, but God's will, the trouble which we know he has sanctioned. All the good fruit of chastisement will be lost if we rebel against it. No greater proof of faith in the goodness of God and loyalty to the majesty of God can be found than a quiet, unmurmuring acceptance of his harder requirements.
IV. THE HARDEST SUFFERING MAY LEAD TO THE HAPPIEST RESULTS. The captives are to be restored. Those Jews who remain in the land are ultimately to be driven forth as "a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse." The short, sharp suffering will end in ultimate good. The temporary escape will be followed by final ruin.
1. God's chastisements are temporary; they will give place to lasting blessedness. The present affliction is light just because it endures "but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Even if they outlast the present life, what is this brief span of earthly trial compared with the blessedness of an eternity?
2. God's chastisements work our good. They directly tend to produce the happier future. The tearful sowing is the cause of the joyful harvest. The spiritual improvement wrought in the soul by the discipline of sorrow is at once a source of future blessedness and a justification for it. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."
3. A culpable avoidance of Divine chastisement is highly dangerous. The escape from temporary trouble must incur greater future trouble; for
Jeremiah 24:6, Jeremiah 24:7
I. AFTER CHASTISEMENT HAS BEEN RIGHTLY RECEIVED, GOD LOOKS FAVORABLY ON HIS CHILDREN. He sets his "eyes upon them for good." Men shrink from the eyes of God as from a keen and fatal scrutiny. But God is not always looking as the Judge. He beholds his children with love. There is a wonderful tenderness in this gaze, like that of a mother fondly watching over her suffering infant—a deep pity for sorrow, an earnest care to ward off harm, a kindly will to bestow all real good. It is blessed indeed to be so beheld by God. There are men possessed of such great power and influence that some consider a favorable look from them sufficient to make their fortune. What must be the effect of God setting eyes on a man for good?
II. WHEN GOD LOOKS FAVORABLY ON HIS CHILDREN HE MAY SECURE THEIR TEMPORAL PROSPERITY. This will not always happen, for it will not always be for the real good of men. Still, it does often occur. We are too ready to confine the recognition of God's action in our lives to the sterner sides of it. God sends prosperity as well as adversity. If he banishes, he restores; if he pulls down, he builds up again. And the joy of the restoration and the glory of the latter building exceed those of earlier times. If earthly prosperity comes from God it is real and solid. God can maintain it after he has bestowed it. He will build so that none shall pull down. The man who is innocently enjoying a prosperity sent by God need have no superstitious fears of a jealous Nemesis. He is not secure from trouble; but he has no special ground for apprehending it simply because he is happy at present.
III. WHEN GOD LOOKS FAVORABLY ON HIS CHILDREN HE WILL CERTAINLY SECURE THEIR SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY. This is seen in a restoration of a true knowledge of God.
1. It is good for us to know God. The knowledge of God is here represented not so much as a subject of duty as in the light of a form of spiritual blessedness. The loss of this knowledge leads to the darkness of a godless life. The enjoyment of this knowledge is eternal life (John 17:3).
2. A true knowledge of God is the recognition of God as he is—quite another thing from our common conception of his nature. Then we see and feel the grandeur, the mystery, the glory of "the eternal."
3. This knowledge of God depends on the condition of our hearts. The "heart" represents the whole inner life. When this is rightly disposed we can know God, and only then. What we need, therefore, is not a new revelation, but a change of heart. When our soul is in sympathy with God, when our spiritual vision is open, we can see indications of God's presence and character which would otherwise be obscure.
4. The right condition of heart for knowing God must be produced by God. God promises to give them a heart to know him. He only can create the heart anew. The greatest blessing of redemption is that he will do this.
IV. THE WELFARE OF GOD'S CHILDREN IS RESTORED BY THE RESTORATION OF THE CLOSE RELATIONS BETWEEN HIM AND THEM. "They shall be my people, and I will be their God." This relation is twofold. God exercises paternal influences, they engage in filial duties.
1. God takes them under his care. They are his people, to be guarded and blessed by him. So Christians are God's peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9).
2. They take God for their portion. He is their God—theirs to worship, serve, love, rejoice in.
V. THE RESTORATION OF TRUE PROSPERITY DEPENDS ON THE GENUINE RETURN OF GOD'S PEOPLE TO THEIR FIDELITY TO HIM. The restoration was not a mere compensation for the troubles of the exile. Happiness does not necessarily follow trouble. The father runs to meet the prodigal son when he returns, but cannot regard him favor-ably before this.
1. This return must be with the heart. Repentance, of all acts, must be genuine and heartfelt. A formal acknowledgment of God without a change of heart is a mockery and an insult to him, which can bring us no good.
2. This return must be with the whole heart. A partial return to God is no true return. He claims the whole heart or none of it.
Sword, famine, and pestilence.
I. TROUBLE BEGETS TROUBLE. War devastating the fields, checking industry, robbing stores, etc; leads to famine; famine and war create horrible causes of pestilence. Trouble does not tend to relieve itself, but the reverse. The poor become poorer, the wretched more miserable. Hence the need of a salvation outside ourselves.
II. TROUBLE IS CUMULATIVE. The full force is not often felt at first. One by one the blows fell upon Job. Thus each is felt most acutely. Though we can bear present calamities unaided, we still need a refuge for the future.
III. TROUBLE IS VARIOUS IN FORM—sword, famine, pestilence. If we are not touched by one kind of trouble, we may fall under another. Of what avail is it to escape the sword, only to perish of the pangs of hunger or to fall a victim to the ravages of pestilence? Future punishment will probably be various in kind, yet so adapted to all varieties of character and condition that none of the impenitent will be able to escape.
IV. TROUBLE MUST BE CONQUERED BY REDEMPTION, NOT EVADED BY FLIGHT, We may flee from some trouble, but cannot from all. When this is judicial it is searching and penetrating, so that none can elude it. It is vain to rest in the assurance that we have been able to devise means for resisting many troubles. The army of them is so vast that no victory over scattered detachments can affect our ultimate condition. This fact should not induce despair, but urge us to turn to the full deliverance of Christ's redemption (Romans 8:1).
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
The two baskets of figs; or, predetermining influences.
These are not to be understood of the opposite development of character in two sets of persons in slightly differing circumstances, but rather of the primary influence of Divine faith as contrasted with the want of it amidst the trials of life. The people left behind were disposed to felicitate themselves over their brethren who had been carried off into Chaldea, but this impression is corrected by Jeremiah. The exiles were the true people of God, and were to be under his constant supervision and loving care; the others were to be cast off, to become a prey to inner corruption and the unchecked destructive influences of the world.
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE DIVINE ELECTION. From comparatively similar circumstances to evolve distinct types of character and destiny. Out of the same clay to mold the saint and the sinner. It is the old lesson of the potter in another form. There is nothing in a man himself to account for God's favor. He chooseth whom he will and rejecteth whom he will. Yet is it true that he willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that all should come unto him and live.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH ELECTIVE GRACE MANIFESTS ITSELF.
1. Recalling. (Verse 6.) How unlikely under the circumstances! Yet rendered credible by the remarkable individuality of the Jewish people from age to age. Reconstituting. (Verse 6.) The figure is twofold—building and life-growth (cf. Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22). Spiritually recreating. (Verse 7.) The aim of the previous discipline; but the beginning of great national glory and blessedness. For connection of these processes, cf. Romans 8:28-30.
2. Circumstances are made to subserve a merciful purpose. The immediate condition of the Chaldean exiles might appear a harder one than that of their compatriots at home; but in the end this would turn to their salvation. Not only will God overrule all things for the good of his people, but he will use them for their spiritual education. The influence of circumstances is thus shown to depend for the most part upon the spiritual state of those who are surrounded by them.
3. Circumstances are appointed for the destruction of the obstinately impenitent. Moral reprobation and political annihilation were to come upon these. There would be no swerving or slackening in the execution of their sentence. This is agreeable with the character of him who hates sin with an eternal hatred. The climax of misery here indicated is but a faint suggestion of that which will follow upon rejection of the gospel. And yet how simple are the elements of such a punishment! God has but to withdraw his grace, and the inner depravity of nature will work unchecked its fearful consequences, accelerating and directing the external circumstances of life. And all this has another aspect, which is full of comfort to those who are spiritually inclined. The faintest dawn of repentance is the opening of the "door of hope;" and when the heart is changed the tendency of untoward circumstance at once is altered, and the positive blessings of God again return.—M.
Calamity with God and without him.
I. To THE CHILD OF GRACE.
1. It is a chastening.
2. A restoration.
II. To THE UNGODLY.
1. The influence depreciating character.
2. A source of restlessness and fresh transgression.
3. An ever-increasing evil.
4. An ultimate destruction.—M.
Punished for salvation; left alone for destruction.
A general principle of God's moral government. The flower of Judah, about to be deported to Babylon, are followed by the prophet with wistful gaze. They are the seed of the true Israel; whereas those who are allowed to remain quietly at home are to be of no account in God's purpose.
I. HOW DIFFERENT OFTEN ARE THE EXTERNAL FROM THE SPIRITUAL PROSPECTS OF MEN! Jeconiah and his companions might have been pitied by their friends left behind. The outward position of any one is no index of his relations with God.
II. PRESENT TRIAL MAY BE A PROOF OF DIVINE LOVE, AND PRESENT IMMUNITY FROM MISFORTUNE IS NOT ALWAYS TO BE TAKEN AS AN EVIDENCE OF DIVINE FAVOR. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Punishment was needed to atone for the past and purify for the future. The exile in Babylon, with its deprivation of political and religious privilege, was a new point of view for the captives. It is a familiar experience to hear men who have done well in the world, or who have had a comparatively smooth life, say, "God has blessed us." This statement is often open to question. God may simply let alone those whom he has given up. The lethargy induced in many by good fortune is to be guarded against. Count them happy that "endure, as seeing him who is invisible." Inward depravity will soon work the destruction of those in whom it remains.
III. THE GLORY OF THE DIVINE IN MAN IS EVOLVED FROM THE HUMILIATION OF THE HUMAN. A mere remnant. How few of those who went forth would return! Children's children might be blessed, but not they themselves. And even then it would require not only reorganization, but rebirth in spirituality. It is ever so. A profound and radical change is needed ere any one can become a member of the true eternal Israel. Israel after the flesh is sentenced to death, that Israel after the Spirit may live forever.—M.
I will set mine eyes upon them for good.
The distressed and afflicted for his sake he ever regards with special attention and interest. "The captives are dearest to God." Banished from Palestine, they are still "his banished ones," and he will make them to return. Those who are undergoing severe trials, in circumstances, in faith, etc; but who are truly seeking after God, are to be comforted with this word. It is a promise that has been gloriously fulfilled. It pledges—
I. GOD'S CARE.
2. Provision, temporal and spiritual.
Although we see him not, he ever sees us and regards us with complacency and love.
II. GOD'S FAVOR. This indicates interest, but because of something evoking it—the first germs of faith and repentance. When others see them not, he sees the longings of the soul and its efforts after better things; and he will further them.
III. GOD'S GUIDANCE. Although they were led away into a strange land and amidst an alien people, he would never lose sight of them; but, directing their footsteps, would bring them back again to the land they had left and to himself. It was a strange way, but it was God's way, and his influence would be continually in them and upon them for good. It is the surest proof that God's eye is upon us for good when his Spirit is within us. As many as are led of the Spirit are the children of God.—M.
The conditions and relations of salvation.
I. THE ABILITY TO KNOW GOD IS THE GIFT OF GOD. Not more facts, external, historical, etc; are required. Not a new Bible—the letter of the Bible is probably completed already. Nor even a new mode of spiritual demonstration. But a new heart. We cannot make a new heart. God will save us by renewing:
1. The moral nature.
2. The whole life through it.
II. THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION CAN ONLY BE SECURED IN ABSOLUTE CONSECRATION. "They shall return unto me with their whole heart." Complete salvation is impossible without complete faith. To believe—to believe simply, to believe wholly,—this is the condition of perfect salvation.
III. THE IDEAL ISRAEL MUST EVER BE A THEOCRACY. In the obedience of faith they shall be God's people, and he will be their God. That upon which we depend in faith is that which we observe and respect in practice; it is the law and inspiration of life. Christ leads us to the Father that he and we may be one in God; not merged, confounded with Deity, but in eternal and ever-blessed subordination to him.—M.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The two baskets of figs; or, our character and destiny independent of our circumstances.
I. THE SYMBOLS EMPLOYED. The two baskets of figs—one very good, the other very evil. But:
1. They had each the same advantages and disadvantages. The same seed, soil, training, climate, sunshine, and other influences teeming on them.
2. They were of directly opposite character. (Jeremiah 24:2.)
II. THE PEOPLE REPRESENTED BY THEM. The men of Judah and Jerusalem. Now:
1. The circumstances of all these were the same. Parentage, religion, teachers, disciplines, privileges, opportunities.
2. But some of these people were symbolized by the good figs, and the other by the evil. Those who had been carried off to Babylon were the good; those who remained still in Jerusalem were the evil.
3. The reverse results might have been looked for. For the good had been dealt with more sternly than the evil. How terrible and sad their lot appeared! Torn away from all their wonted privileges; made to endure a fate which others deserved far more than they; surrounded with idolaters and blasphemers of God. But the evil continued in the possession of all those aids to religion and piety of which those others were deprived. So that the circumstances of the good were less favorable, and those of the evil far more so. Exile, which might have been thought to injure the captives, had done them good; whilst exemption from it, which might have been thought to benefit the evil, had wrought them harm. "With the exiles were some of the choicest spirits of the nation. Ezekiel, second only to Jeremiah himself in the prophets of this epoch; and, probably, the ancestor of Mordecai; and Daniel, with his three companions." "The exiles became humble, repentant, reformed. The resident Jews became insolent, self-secure, defiant. The former became worthy of comparison with the first ripe figs; the latter as the 'naughty figs, which could not be eaten.'"
III. THE LESSONS TAUGHT THEREBY. That character and destiny do not depend on circumstances. We should have thought that either all would be alike, or else that the characters and destinies would have been the reverse of what they were.
1. Let the good who may be placed in adverse circumstances take encouragement from this fact. They can surmount and triumph over all the evil influences which surround and oppose them (cf. verse 7.)
2. And the evil are to take warning. Prolonged privilege and opportunity have no necessary saving power. Such advantages may leave them worse than before. It was so here.
IV. OBSERVE THE GREAT ILLUSTRATION OF THE TRUTH TAUGHT HERE IN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH.
1. Christ was "as a root out of a dry ground." How utterly opposed to all prospect of his becoming great, and his Name above every name, were the early circumstances in his history! And yet he has triumphed over all.
2. And so with the history of the Church. It was small as "a grain of mustard seed," feeble as "sheep amidst wolves," was as a thing of naught and despised. And yet what has it not become, what will it not become? And what is true of Christ and his Church shall be true likewise of all that are his. "Fear not, little flock," said our Lord; "it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."—C.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
A heart to know the Lord.
It was "for good" that God sent the captive portion of his people "into the land of the Chaldeans" (Jeremiah 24:5.) The germs of the better life of the future were preserved in them, and their very tribulations were the instruments of his gracious purpose and blessings in disguise. In the "evil figs"—the refuse left behind—there was nothing worth preserving (Jeremiah 24:8). Of all the beneficent Divine purposes, this had in it the promise of highest good—"I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord."
I. A TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD HAS ITS SEAT IN THE HEART. Intellect cannot solve the mystery of his being. Reason alone cannot even demonstrate his existence. "Who by searching can find out God?" "The world by wisdom knew not God." It is a matter of pure spiritual sensibility. Moral sympathy is the true key to this knowledge. Reverence, humility, love, trust, submission, affections of the heart, are its conditions. Even right ideas of God depend very materially on the state of the heart towards him. The exhalations of a vain, frivolous, corrupt, or carnal heart pervert the soul's vision and obscure his glory. Only as our hearts are purged from every form of earthly defilement can we behold him as he is. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
II. GOD HIMSELF CAN ALONE IMPART THIS KNOWLEDGE. "I will give them," etc. It is a matter of direct Divine revelation; a Divine science in which mere human teaching is of little avail. A secret, silent, gracious power above all natural influences can alone awaken in us those moral affections which lie at the root of it. A true knowledge, like a true Christian faith, must stand "not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." The blindness of the man of science to the deeper meaning of nature, and of the skeptical philosopher to the manifestation of God in Christ, and of the worldling to the Divine presence in his own life, does but indicate the lack of this power. God must unveil himself to us, by drawing our hearts into lowly and loving fellowship with himself, before we can truly know him.—W.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The good and bad figs.
I. CONSIDER THE FIGS GENERALLY. We cannot, of course, say why figs should be chosen rather than another fruit, though the choice can hardly be a mere accident. Some reason probably appeared to the observant of that time which we are without sufficient information to discover. Possibly the goodness of good fruits was more obvious against the badness of bad ones, in the case of the fig than in the case of other fruits. It is to be noticed also that the figure chosen to set forth the difference between the good and the bad in Israel is taken from fruit. It was something presented as the result of growth and in connection with culture. The question was suggested how such a difference should come between the good and the bad. For if trees of the same sort grow in the same soil and have the same attention, and the same external influences, how comes some of the fruit to be very good and some very bad? Notice also the sharpness of the distinction. These fruits were either good or bad. To be excluded from one is to be included in the other. There is no third, no medium class. This exactly agrees with the way of speaking in the New Testament, especially by Jesus himself: e.g. the seed in the good and bad ground, the sheep and goats, the good kinds of fish and the bad ones, the five wise and the five foolish virgins. It is of the first importance to bear in mind that the imperceptible gradations, as we reckon them, count for nothing with God. There are only two kinds of hearts, the good and the bad.
II. CONSIDER THE BLESSINGS ON THAT CLASS IN ISRAEL SET FORTH BY THE GOOD FIGS. Painful external experiences cannot destroy the blessing coming from satisfactory internal character. These people represented by the good figs might say, "If we are indeed as good figs, why make us pass through such pains?" To this it might be answered, in the first place, that it was because of this very goodness that God thus treated them. They were being pruned and cleansed that they might bring forth more fruit. Secondly, when they looked on the fate of those represented by the bad figs, even captivity in a distant land would be seen as a blessing. God bends every word that he here speaks through his prophet so as to form a total of strong consolation and hope.
1. Though these people are called captives of Judah, yet this is only the conventional mode of description. In reality, Jehovah himself sends them into the land of the Chaldeans. So Joseph was made to feel that it was God who had brought him into Egypt.
2. God's eye is upon his people for good. That which God sees to be good he always regards for good. Whosoever has, to him is given more. Note, too, that the people were not merely remembered, as if God had stayed behind in the land of Israel. He was equally in Israel watching over it against the day of his people's return, and in the land of the Chaldeans watching over his faithful ones there.
3. There is to be in due time a restoration. He who sends away can also bring back. The external circumstances of his people are completely under his control. He was speaking to those in whose history was written down all the marvelous things of the Exodus from Egypt.
4. There is to be a Divine building and planting. What others had built God had pulled down, what others had planted he had uprooted. Every plant not of the heavenly Father's planting must be rooted up. All this was done, not for any delight God took in the ruin and the wilderness, but that a nation might be built up in righteousness, and bring forth only good fruit.
5. The giving of a true knowledge of God. God must give this knowledge, for it can only come to a renewed heart. The mere exhibition of God's name and person to the natural man is not enough. There may be very elaborate intellectual conceptions of Deity without the slightest profit or comfort. When the renewed heart begins to know, then God begins to be truly known. His love must not only be set before us, but must be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.
III. THE CURSE ON THOSE SET FORTH BY THE BAD FIGS. There is the greatest possible contrast between the treatment of good fruit and bad fruit. And so there was the greatest possible contrast between the treatment of the people taken to Babylon and the treatment of those remaining at home and nearer home. Upon the surface and at the first aspect it might seem as if these latter had the best of it. And, indeed, there might be no immediate way of making clear the difference. But a difference there assuredly was, and every succeeding year would manifest and emphasize it the more. In the mean time here stood the contrast between the good and bad figs, which would be quite enough for the eye of faith. How the history of the Jewish people justifies the bitter words of Jeremiah 24:9 and Jeremiah 24:10! Again and again the Gentile has treated the Jew according to the words of this prophecy, and found in them and similar words a justification of his treatment, not, of course, that the prophecy did really justify the treatment, but God could speak beforehand of the way in which human passions would assuredly work.—Y.