Life cannot be taken just on face value for the Lord has a deeper and more intricate meaning for our lives.

In Jeremiah 24, God showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs and asked him what he saw. Jeremiah then replied saying from the two baskets, one was very good but the other was so bad that they are no longer edible.

Jeremiah 24 (New International Version)

3 Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Now God had used the figs to show Jeremiah what He meant. The good figs represented the good people that He will protect, nurture and care for. He will teach them to build a relationship with Him. These are the people who will grow to love and worship the Lord.

The second bunch of figs were completely off, so bad that they can’t be eaten. This refers to the people that God had designated to be punished and banished from anywhere and whichever high places they were in. It was also a sign of where tragedy would strike for wherever these people ended up in, God will send the sword, famine and plague. In other words, God will be sending violence, drought and sickness. There will be more terror and lag, not forgetting strange and incurable diseases.

9 I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. 10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’”

But guess where the good figs will be coming from?

In the context of Jeremiah 24, before the good figs were represented by who they were supposed to be, God had first put them into exile. Do you know what being an exile means? Google’s quick definition function tells us this – “the state of being barred from one’s native country, typically for political or punitive reasons”. In other words, these people were thrown out of their country and that they can no longer return until a certain time when the ruler or judge allows them to.

If we frame our minds to the ancient days of the scripture, the lifestyle of the people of Judah and Jerusalem were pretty much the same as today – wild and free. How so? Well, the seemingly God-defying practice of worshipping other gods is no different from today because many have worshipped everything from a symbol to a statue and maybe even an act of god such as the rain and the sun. The non-spiritual side of their lives were also not much different because like the ancient days, they too freely engaged in fulfilling personal desires and this could go to any extremes – from the sexual perversion, deceptions to giving someone dear the shorter end of the stick. 

Truth be told, it was actually not compliant to God’s wishes when the children He brought out of Egypt and away from slavery had over time begun professing their love for such vile and deplorable life practices. It broke God’s heart seeing the precious people He called His own to sway far away from what was originally commissioned to their forefathers, which was to only worship Him as the one true God. This was the most basic prerequisite for one to continue life under His blessings and protection but unfortunately we men had other ideas.

The tragedy that soon visited the survivors of the land, not the exiles, was that they faced hardships of the sword, famine and plagues. On the flip side however, the ones originally thought to be shameful because they were being dragged away embarrassingly as exiles to another kingdom in Babylon were unpredictably given a better shot at life instead. They were able to live under God’s holy covering and to reestablish a relationship with Him. In doing so, they were also on track to multiply and grow to the subsequent generations.

4 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 5 “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.[b] 6 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. 7 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.

Friends, this is a good story for us to reflect upon because our lives are not always determined by the face value of our existing circumstances and what happens today need not necessarily become our destiny. In fact, deep within “questionable” moves like being “exiled” are sometimes buried with God’s wisdom and strategy, and also favour. 

What may seem to be hostile and threatening can turn out to be an opportunity devised by God to preserve you for a greater future and what may seem like a jovial outlook of blessings such as those who were untouched when the exiles were removed from Jerusalem and Judah would also eventually succumb to God’s full measure of His punishment. So who is to say what is destined to happen unless God permits it?

I believe sometimes we are being brought out of certain places in our lives for the sake of protecting us because God has His own way of understanding what our future holds and this usually does not match with what our small minds are capable to grasp and envision.

In today’s climate of Covid-19, fear has enveloped earth. From China taking the lead as the country with the most infected cases, today America has taken over with more than 100,000 cases and Italy risen past China in second rung (article originally written on 28 March 2020). It is difficult not to coincide such a global catastrophe with what my mind was thinking when I wrote this passage.

I believe some of us are purposely brought out as an “exile” for a reason, like when almost the entire world has been asked to stay home to avoid the fearless Covid-19. While admittedly some of us are disciplined enough to follow such orders, others have been more defiant. Then again, those who abide closely may also not have the guarantee of a fully protected life for they too will be exposed when they go out to stock up on groceries or fuel up their cars. This has been a very trying season and the signs are easy to see when world events worth up to the billions have also not been spared in fear of the virus; case in point the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo and the Dubai Expo 2020.

Today, aside from those who are staying home, some of us are also ill and must be admitted to a medical centre to continue treatment. The question is, are they also in “exile” so God can protect them? Maybe, and I hope so too and whilst I write this, I can’t help but to think of a dear friend and brother Mike who has been “quarantined” in his own way because of a strange inflammation to his nerves at the ankles. It has been so since January and this was before all the nationwide lockdowns around the world. 

I do not know what the Lord has in store for Mike but it breaks my heart to know that he is in such a situation with mouths to feed still at home and a set of living parents to watch out for. The tables have turned on him again because after recovering from the same disease some years back, it is hitting him hard during this Covid-19 season. 

Could it be God’s holy intention to purposefully remove him from society at this time?

Is it God’s divine plan to have him placed in a more secured place so he could be nurtured back on his feet?

Would it be too far-fetched to also think that this may be God’s way of shutting Mike’s avenues so he could focus on rebuilding his faith again with God and to re-establish a new covenant with Him? 

Who knows what this bout of pain in his ankles mean and what this whole virus pandemic is about but at this juncture of our time, when history is written at a time when the world is facing its greatest threat of survival in this century, it seriously wouldn’t hurt to quiet down momentarily and do what is right. 

As to what is right, many have had their fair share of shouting and screaming for what they think is the best and most accurate way to live this life but I’d say this, and lifting it from the book of Jeremiah right now, it is the first instruction when God brought the Israelites of out Egypt and into the Promised Land – to worship Him and nobody else. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe wholeheartedly, when we get this right, everything else will fall into place, Covid-19 included. And when we get this right, we stand a chance to be part of the good basket of edible figs, one who will enjoy multiplying into the next generations even if some of us have to be designated to detour or be cast away as exiles because ultimately it is God who holds the key to our destiny. He will and shall have us watched over so long as we remember that He is our one true God, our Abba Father.

I pray that you’re safe under the covering and protection of God and may you join me to also rally for God’s mercy and love upon our brothers and sisters around the world who have been infected with Covid-19 that they may be sustained through Your touch and be healed from this life threatening disease. 

To Mike also, I pray that Lord You will come to his rescue when he screams and aches at night or for that matter any time of the day. May Your mighty healing power come to his aid as You would on others who are also sick in this season. Let Your glory shine upon Mike’s pain and let Your mighty hand remove the inflammation and every other illness that is plaguing our dear friend. Father, restore Mike’s life and his livelihood and also strengthen his family during this very challenging time. Restore Mike to a greater height than he has ever experienced before oh Lord. May your grace and divine purpose be revealed right now so our brothers and sisters all over the world will find You as our one true God and Father, in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!

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