Then the word of the LORD came to me: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘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. 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. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.Jeremiah 24:4-7 NIV
In this chapter Jeremiah sees a vision of two baskets of figs. One basket has good figs in it while the other basket contains bad figs. After Jeremiah sees the vision, God explains the significance of it to him.
The good figs represent the Israelites who had been taken into exile. God would be working for their good and would eventually return them to their land. The basket of bad figs represented the Jews who remained behind in the land. These Jews were facing destruction.
It might be tempting to think that the first group was better than the second. More godly and devoted to God. But that seems not to be the case. Both groups contained faithful and unfaithful Israelites.
I think, rather, that this is an example of God’s sovereignty at work. He chooses the group that goes to Babylon to continue his redemptive work through Israel. Just like God sovereignly choose Jacob over Esau, so he sovereignly choose the exiles over those who remained. It had nothing to do with the goodness, or badness, of the two groups. Rather it was just who God choose to further his work.
We don’t always understand why God does what he does, or allows what he allows. But God has his purpose. That purpose does not always work out in our lifetime. For the exiles it was 70 years before they returned, and much longer before they were really free. That teaches me that I need to be faithful and patient, even when things look bleak.