“‘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’” (Jeremiah 24:5).
About halfway through Jeremiah’s ministry, the Babylonian Empire marched against the kingdom of Judah and defeated it, taking many of its people away into captivity. They did this in three phases, beginning with the nobility and other influential persons and working their way down until only the poorest were left in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah was one of the ones left behind. But that didn’t mean his ministry was at an end. God still had messages to deliver, both to the people still in Jerusalem and to those who had been carried away into exile.
The exiles almost certainly thought they were the ones upon whom misfortune had fallen. They had been forcibly removed from their homes and taken to a foreign land. It wasn’t fair that they received this treatment while others were able to remain in their homeland. Why had God allowed this to come upon them?
God’s answer was a surprise to them. He gave Jeremiah a vision of two baskets filled with figs. One basket contained good figs, but the figs in the other basket were rotten. God explained that He viewed the exiles as the good basket. Those left in Judah appeared to have the better end of the deal, but in time, the true misfortune would come upon them. Like rotten fruit, they would be swept away, never to be heard from again.
But the exiles, on the other hand, would come home. Their captivity would not last forever. God still had plans for them, a great purpose that He would see through to the end. From their standpoint, things couldn’t have been worse. But God, the one who knows the future, promised them great things. They were mourning in exile now, but one day soon they would return with great joy.