Many people struggle with this question. Some look at the world and see many people who blaspheme God or covet riches or teach false doctrine or exploit others, accrue wealth, live lives of relative ease, and think, ‘Why are those people so well off?’ For others the thought becomes almost paralyzing. They can’t understand why God would allow such a thing and they, in turn, have a skewed view of who God is in light of what they see. Some, in their misdirected struggle to answer this question, paint with an incredibly broad brush, change the question into a statement and essentially make just about all the prosperous wicked. They say, ‘anyone who is rich is greedy and should [fill in the blank] … give more away or pay more taxes or, once again, [fill in the blank]’. It’s not hard to see how that kind of reasoning not only fails to take into account the godly wealthy of Scripture (i.e. Joseph of Arimethea, Abraham, Lydia, etc.) but it dodges the real issue. The real question is, “Why does God allow the wicked to prosper if He is in sovereign control of all the happenings in this universe?”
Today we have a first – this will be the first devotional that covers an entire chapter in the Book of Jeremiah. But this isn’t the first time the LORD has shown one of His prophets a basket of fruit (cf. Amos 8:1-3). As an aside, if you keep your eyes peeled for all the figs references found in Scripture (cf. Nah. 3:12; Mt. 21:18-20; 24:32; Jas. 3:12; etc.), it may change the way you look at a trip to grocery store. Maybe not. But let’s first see what Jeremiah saw; namely, “two baskets of figs set before the temple of the LORD” (vs.1b).
In the previous chapter we saw the freedom of God demonstrated by what Jeremiah saw and heard at the potter’s house. God could take a nation formerly appointed for blessing and judge it if it turned to wickedness, and God could bless a nation formerly appointed for judgment and bless it if it turned from its wickedness. Sadly, Judah did not turn to God in repentance. The clay had settled. Opportunities for reprieve were rejected. The disposition of the people was fixed. And as a result, God was going to use pottery once again to make His point. So, the LORD said to Jeremiah (vs.1a):
When reading through the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah you can feel like you’ve unknowingly started to read the opening chapter of the psalter. There we also read of the blessed man whose leaf will be green because it does not wither. God apparently did not relegate that imagery to one book of Scripture; rather, He developed it further by contrasting the blessed man with the cursed man, as we see it here in Jeremiah.
The contrasts in themselves are striking: the cursed man trusts in man (Jer. 17:5a); the blessed man trusts in the LORD (vs.7a). The cursed man makes flesh his strength (vs.5a); the blessed man makes the LORD His hope (vs.7b). The cursed man shall be like a shrub in the desert (vs.6a); the blessed man shall be like a tree planted by the waters (vs.8a). The cursed man shall not see when good comes (vs.6b); the blessed man shall not fear when heat (i.e. trouble) comes (vs.8b). The cursed man shall inhabit parched places (vs.6c); the blessed man will not cease from yielding fruit (vs.8c).
“Even if you gave me a million dollars I still wouldn’t [fill in the blank]” – that’s an expression that people use to stress how definite their “no” is. It might be surprising to learn that God had an expression of His own to stress how definite the coming judgment on Judah was. To be sure, there’s more to this statement than simply an affirmation of the unrelenting nature of God’s promised wrath on the southern kingdom, but before we see what’s implicit lets understand what’s explicit.