Two Baskets of Figs
Monday, November 17, 2008
So I was at Bible study tonight, puzzling over a passage from Jeremiah, when I had a light bulb go on. This is not a terribly 'preachable' text because of all the history, so I will try to get through this quickly. The setting is back in the days after the Israelites had split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south, and the message is to Judah. Judah was being threatened by the expanding empire of Babylon, and the kings had tried everything they could to avoid the destruction of their kingdom, including appealing to Egypt as an ally to protect them.
Jeremiah is using an image to try to get God's message across to the kingdom of Judah: there is a basket of good figs that are very good, and a basket of bad figs that are very bad. Then God reveals what the image means. Judah will be destroyed and all the people taken into exile. The good figs are those who have been taken by the Babylonians into their land. The bad figs are the ones who are associated with the king and those who fled to Egypt.
So I got to puzzling.... It's made pretty clear that God wanted them to submit to Babylon... but why? Either way they go, submitting to expanding power Babylon or running to bigger Egypt for protection, they will be subjecting themselves to another nation and things will not end well. That was not part of God's original plan for them, so why is it more honorable or faithful to submit to Babylon than to Egypt?
The, boom, thanks to Corbett's meditation on the exile being the consequences of Judah's sins, it clicked. Judah had had corrupt kings (minus one really good, short-lived one) and had done really horrible things (child sacrifices and the like). The exile was the consequences of those sins. Running to Egypt was Judah's way of trying to avoid the consequences of its actions. But submitting to the Babylonians, while awful, had a better outcome than subjecting themselves to the Egyptians, who had held the Israelites as slaves.
So, what does this have to do with me? It points towards the basic flaw in my human nature that keeps me from admitting that I am helpless and flawed. Instead of acknowledging that I am in need of a higher power to save me and give me strength, I continue to hold on to the lie that I am perfect. I try to get off the hook for the horrible things I've done and play my part as an emotionally mature and uber-responsible citizen. But hiding from these flaws is actually harder on me. I live with shame that I display on my body with excess fat. I stuff down my confessions with food and walk proudly like the emperor with no clothes, pretending that nobody knows that my nearly 100 pounds of excess weight points to a spiritual problem and unresolved guilt.
I want to do the twelve steps to be released from my addiction to overeating. But I can't get past step one because I know what steps come next, and I can't face it. Food is my Egypt. The twelve steps are my painful, but ultimately healing, exile to Babylon, with a beacon of hope shining for the future of my renewed and strengthened covenant with God.