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Figs and Dreams

When I was a child, I thought that the Bible prophets were boring. After all, once Daniel was rescued from the lion's den there really wasn't much more to read. It's taken years for me to fully appreciate the beauty and raw emotion that is conveyed within the prophets. Now as an adult, I find myself returning to the prophets - especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah - again and again. The words that best express my emotions are there within the books of the prophets: the sorrow, the hope, and the joy.

While looking for another quote about dreamers, I found this quote from T. E. Lawrence who is often better known as Lawrence of Arabia. It's an excellent reminder to me that dreamers are often exactly what is needed in this world. Often, though, dreams come with a price ... one that we sometimes wonder if we need.

What do dreams have to do with figs? Easy. Jeremiah, the second book of the prophets, lived from Josiah's reign until the Kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon. His prophetic role lasted around forty years in total. Like many of the Lord's prophets, Jeremiah did not have the easiest of times: exiled, thrown into a pit, books burned, and other items. He was persecuted and slandered, yet he remained true to his Lord.

Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem and captured the best of the people including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. All of Judah mourned the loss of their best for it was not just those four who were carried away, but many others like them. The Lord showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs: one filled with good figs and one filled with bad figs.

In Jeremiah 24, we find the account of this image, as well as God's explanation to Jeremiah. Interestingly, in verse five, God says, "... whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans." God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take the individuals out for their own good! While these good figs were in Babylon, God would "give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart." The bad figs, on the other hand, were too far gone to be anything but destroyed.

After the first captivity, the Jews both in Babylon and in Judah said that they would simply wait out the time for the Lord to rescue them. After all they reasoned that they were the chosen people, and therefore they would soon be rescued as their prophets assured them.

The Lord instructed Jeremiah to write them a letter which is found in Jeremiah 29. It is in this letter to the captives in Babylon that one of the most famous verses in the Bible (Jer. 29:11) is found: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

In the context of the letter, the Lord tells the captives to live: to marry, build houses, raise children and have those children marry and have children. The captives would remain in Babylon for seventy years altogether.

We often look at Jeremiah 29:11 and relax thinking that God has only good in store for us. He does, but we often mistake nice for good, and they are not one in the same. It's good to reset a broken bone, but it isn't always nice.

Dreams can bring about good for us, but the work required to see those dreams fulfilled often requires more than we want to do. It is during that work that many dreamers give up. The Jews captured and taken to Babylon received the letter from Jeremiah, and some probably didn't believe him, but others did. They chose to follow their Lord and live their lives. Seventy years later, some returned to Jerusalem, but many did not, having lived and died in Babylon. Their children and grandchildren were the ones who returned to Jerusalem with Ezra and Nehemiah.

I encourage you to dream, especially if the dream that follow was given to you by the Lord. That dream might be to tell an unreached people group about the Lord and His provisions for us; it might be to see your family healed; it might be seeing a good quality school in a poor neighborhood. Whatever that dream is, follow it, pursue it, don't give up for those who do dream in the day are a dangerous people for we dream with our eyes wide open.

God still gives us dreams to follow, but we can never forget that those dreams sometimes take longer than our lifetime to see them fulfilled, and sometimes a lot of heartache must accompany the dream so that it will bring God glory.


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