<< THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS. >>
Jehovah showed me, and behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of Jehovah. . . . One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. JEREMIAH xxiv. 1, 2.
THOSE who are inwardly good, meet and bear the trials of natural life, and the temptations of the spirit, and are thereby reformed, regenerated, and developed in heavenly character, and in happiness; while those who avoid and resist the Lord's training, die in their evils, and fix themselves in conditions of sorrow, which they supposed they had escaped.
THE LITERAL STORY.
About six hundred years before the Christian era, the great king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, besieged Jerusalem.
Zedekiah, the king of Judah, sent messages to the prophet Jeremiah, to inquire whether Jehovah would save the holy city from the enemy. But Jererniah prophesied, " Unto this people thou shalt say, thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you; he shall live."
Thus the people of Jerusalem were divided into two classes, those who accepted the Lord's Word, and surrendered to the Chaldeans, and those who rejected the prophecy, and remained in Jerusalem. And Jeremiah,the prophet, saw that the better class of the people would be carried away, as captives, while the worst class would remain, for a worse destiny. Those who escaped captivity naturally supposed that they were more fortunate than those who were made captives. But Jeremiah showed them, by the Divine Word of prophecy, that, on the contrary, the captives should finally return to Jerusalem, and to prosperity; while those who persisted in remaining at the present time, would be scattered abroad, and lose their homes permanently, besides having to meet further and greater trials, by war, famine, and pestilence.
And these things were represented in the parable of our text and its context: "Jehovah showed me, and behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of Jehovah. . . . One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.. . . Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so will I. acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place, into the land of the Chaldeans, for their good. For I will set Mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pull them up. And I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am Jehovah: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me, with their whole heart. And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil, surely thus saith Jehovah, So will I give Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalern, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt; and I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence all long them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them arid to their fathers."
In the literal sense, there does not seem to be any special connection between the figs in the parable, and the conditions of the two classes of the Jews. But the connection appears in the spiritual meaning. Figs represent natural goodness, goodness in the conduct, in obedience to the Divine law. A good man will live a good practical life, from inward love of good principles.
The fig is often mentioned in the Scriptures, and always as representing the quality of the conduct, which is good with a good man, and bad with a bad man. The more spiritual intelligence in truth is represented by the grape; and the more celestial love of God is represented by the olive. Figs, thus relating to conduct, that is, to natural goodness in the life, refer to the state of the man's will, or the heart. "A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things." Therefore it is with men as with trees, "By their fruits ye shall know them."
In the parable, the two baskets of figs represented the two opposite kinds of men, the good and the evil, when developed in character. It is said that the good figs were very good, like the figs that are first ripe. The figs of the first crop, or early figs, were regarded as great dainties, because of their very fine flavor.
On account of their excellence, as well as their early ripening, these first-ripe figs were used in making offerings to the Lord, upon the altar, in the temple. And thus we can understand why these figs were set before the door of the temple. By Divine direction, in Israel, the first-fruits of the corn, the oil, the wine, and of the fruits, were offered to the Lord, in worship, in the ternple service. And hence these things were regarded as holy. And when the first fruits were gathered, there was also a great feast, to enjoy, and to acknowledge, these blessings from the Lord. Hence, the first-fruits of the figs, being especially devoted to the Lord, represented a state of goodness in the daily life, in. which the man acts from love to the Lord, and in devotion of his life to the Lord's principles. And, in the parable in our text, the good figs were like such first-ripe figs, that is, of the some good quality. Representatively, we all set the practical doings of our daily life before the temple of the Lord; because the real character, or quality, of our life, is within our actions; and so by our actions we show the quality of our love, and of our worship.
In one sense, the temple of our Lord is His Divine Humanity, in which He dwells with us, and in which we understand Him and worship Him.
The good figs represent those who love the Lord, and who approach Him in the temple of His Humanity. And of such heaven is formed. Like the Jews In captivity, they may have much to go through, in discipline; but, finally, they are led into heaven, that is into full regeneration. Their hearts and lives have the spiritual flavor of the first-ripe figs. But the bad figs are those who are evil and who fix themselves in the love and practice of evil and who will not follow the teachings and leadings of the Lord. Spiritually and representatively, they can not be eaten; that is, they are without any goodness, being corrupt, and having nothing in their character which can be appropriated, or assimilated, by a regenerate mind.
The separation of the two classes of the Jews, represents the separation of the evil and the good, in the judgrnent, Such a separation occurs anlong men, collectively; and also in each human mind, individually, when its good is separated from its natural evil tendencies, and protected and developed.
In this mental separation, the good principles, which, to the natural thought, seem to be persecuted, are finally brought to excellence in the heavenly condition, which is the spiritual birthplace and home of the regenerate man. But the natural tendencies to evil, which would not follow the Lord's teachings, and which sought to remain in the mind, in spite of the Lord's prophecies, are finally scattered from the regenerating mind, permanently and fully. And when the mind grows strong in its regenerate character, these tendencies to evil become, to such a mind, "a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse." And, spiritually, they meet with the sword, and the famine, and the pestilence, until they are consumed from off the land; i.e., they are utterly destroyed by their own false doctrine and their evil; in which there is no life; and by the infesting of evil influences, in their practical ways of life. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" with heavenly life. But "Evil shall slay the wicked," in spiritual death.
As Jehovah sent the Jews into the land of the Chaldeans, for their good, so our Lord, in His wise and loving providence over us, allows us to fall into many experiences which seem very hard for us to bear, but which are for our good, in the end. Therefore, it is always wise for us to accept the leadings and permissions of the Divine Providence, and to secure from them the good which they are intended to afford us.
Those who are most experienced In obedient trust In the Lord, most clearly recognize that "It is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps," but that" The steps of a good man are ordered by Jehovah," and that "though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down, for Jehovah upholdeth his hand." Knowing this, the good man, looking back upon his experience, exclaims " Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept Thy Word. . . . It is good for rne that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes."
In each of us there are two men, or two women, one good and one bad, represented by the two baskets of figs in our text. And, between these two men in us, there is an irrepressible conflict, until we decide, permanently, which shall rule. They cannot remain together permanently, and they cannot co-operate: one must gain the mastery, And each of us must decide this question, for himself. And when we make the choice we decide our character and our destiny. Our regeneration makes a great commotion in our mental Israel, a great crisis in our life. It frees the things of the spirit which had been in captivity to our sensuous life; and, at the same time, it scatters and drives out our evil tendencies. Regeneration is the greatest question of our life.
Naturally, we ask ourselves, What shall we eat? And what shall we drink? and wherewith shall we be clothed? What shall we do, to make a worldly living? Where shall we live? And what can we afford to have? But, high above all these, rise the greater questions, What am I? Why am I here? What are the possibilities of my manhood ? Hold before your mental eyes the vision in the parable, of the two baskets of figs, And ask yourself, which of these practically represents your real life, the quality of your manhood, and the trend of your destiny. "One basket had very good figs; ... and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903