Sunday, November 06, 2022

“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” [Matt's Messages]

“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 6, 2022 :: Jeremiah 24:1-25:38

We’ve pretty much reached the halfway mark in this book, and the second half is going to be mostly similar but a little different than the first. If anything, it’s going to get both darker and brighter at the same time.

It’s been a few weeks, so you may not remember what Jeremiah has been saying, and so thankfully these two chapters are great ones for review. They are almost like one of those “recaps” at the midpoint of a television season, right before or after a break.

And, as usual, Jeremiah is a broken record so he will remind us what he’s been saying all along. In chapter 25, he says that he’s been saying the same thing already for 23 years.

And, also as usual, Jeremiah has some object lessons for us. Two very strong images. One in chapter 24 and one in chapter 25.

And the first image is that of a couple baskets of figs.

Have you ever noticed that the best of things often come from the worst of things?

The very best of things often come from the very worst things.

Life is full of surprises, and life with God is even more full of things you might never expect.

That’s the situation here in Jeremiah 24.

The year is 597 B.C. That’s the year that is dated in verse 1. 

“After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the craftsmen and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the LORD showed me [Jeremiah] two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD.”

That’s 597 BC. Jeremiah has been prophesying for about 30 years. He’s on his fourth king (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoichin. He went through some of them almost as fast as the UK went through their last prime minister.)! And Nebuchadnezzar has shown up on the scene and carted off 10,000 citizens of Judah including a young prophet named Ezekiel. 597 BC. The exile has begun.

It’s a slow start, not so violent, but many of the leaders have been taken away.

And in 597 BC, the LORD shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs in front of the temple. I'm not sure if that’s a prophetic vision in his mind or if they are real figs and the LORD just uses them as a prophetic object lesson. If they were real figs, there was a real problem if they were supposed to be a firstfruits offering at the temple. Look at verse 2.

“One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very poor figs, so bad they could not be eaten. Then the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘Figs,’ I answered. ‘The good ones are very good, but the poor ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.’”

Do you get the picture in your mind? Two baskets, both full of figs. Good ones that are really good. Juicy, delicious, a delicacy. Mmm. Yum! And then a basket of bad ones that look like they belong in the compost bucket.

So what does that mean? 

Don’t tell me you don’t give a fig...It will make me a basket case.

Okay. I’ll try not to make any more fig jokes! Because what the LORD has to say through these figs is no joke. V.4

“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘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. 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. 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.”

Oh, man, that sounds good, doesn’t it?!

The strange thing is that it’s the exact opposite of what the citizens of Judah might have thought.

Okay, we might have guessed that the two kinds of figs stand for two kinds of people.

And, we might have even guessed that the two kinds of people are those carted off into exile and those who have remained in the land.

But I don’t think anybody would have guessed which was which!

I mean, Jeremiah is preaching to the people in Jerusalem. And they were not in exile. It seemed like they might be safe. They might escape the exile. The judgment that he’s been talking about has come, and the bad figs have been drug off into the judgment of exile, right? 

Right! This was punishment. This was discipline. This was judgment on the nation.

But God often uses the worst of things to bring out the best.

Notice that He doesn’t actually say that those in exile were good and that’s why they were going to exile. He actually says (v.5), “I regard as good the exiles from Judah.” “I count them that way.” It’s like He’s choosing to see them that way. He’s set His goodness upon them. It’s not so much that He sees them as good, but that He has planned goodness for them. 

That’s why I took the first words of verse 6 to be our title for today, “My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good.” Their “tov.” The Lord has set His goodness on these exiles so that they are like a basket of good figs in His sight. They have a future, and it’s a good one.

Verses 6 and 7 are a lot like the most famous verse in all of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11. It’s right around the corner. Just a few more weeks, and we’ll get to study it in depth. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11).

Do you know whom He is talking to there? The exiles! Read chapter 29 to see what I’m talking about. He’s not talking to people whose lives are going smoothly with no bumps in their roads. He’s actually talking to people whose lives have been uprooted! And He’s talking to people who certainly don’t deserve anything good! And yet, He has good planned for them.

I have three points of personal application to suggest from these two chapters this morning, and here’s number one:


It’s all of grace. This is all of grace. They do not deserve this goodness, but it is certainly coming to them.

I love all of the “I wills” in verses 6 and 7. Did you feel them when I read it to you? “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. 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.”

How sweet and strong are those promises?! First off, He’s going to bring them back to the land. They can count on that. The exile, as awful as it will be (and it will be truly awful!) is not the end. There’s a future after the exile.

And do you see how he uses the language we first saw back in chapter 1 (v.10)? I just taught on this to the students at Miracle Mountain Ranch on Wednesday.

When He called Jeremiah to be a prophet, the LORD told Jeremiah that he was going to prophesy so that the nations were six things:

torn down
and replanted.

And most of the book so far has been about the first four.

But now we get the promises of the last two: rebuilt and replanted! Back in the land. Back to the blessings.

But it gets even better than that!  God promises to give the people a new heart and a deep knowledge of Him. Look at verse 7 one more time.

“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.”

And not on their own strength. This is something God will do! All by His grace.

There is no greater blessing than to know God. This is personal knowledge. This is the language of relationship. This is the language of spiritual intimacy. This is the language of covenant.

In fact, it will take a New Covenant for these promises to be fully realized. Just wait till we get to chapters 31 and 33! God is promising transformation and unimaginable blessing. “My eyes will watch over them for their good.” And not because they deserve it. And, in fact, during the darkest time they could ever imagine.

Often the best of things come out of the worst of things.

The people you might think are cursed are actually the ones to receive the most blessing. And the ones you might think were getting away with something most definitely will not. That’s the bad figs of verse 8.

“'But like the poor figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,' says the LORD, 'so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. [Had run away.] I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their fathers.'”

They are not getting away with anything. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and all those with him who thought they were lucking out, are actually headed for the compost pile.

Here’s the truth though, for you and me who belong to Jesus, the LORD is watching over us for our good.

Do you believe that?  

It might not seem like it. For one, we don’t deserve it, and for two, it sometimes feels like we’re in exile.  Some of you are experiencing very dark days. But the light shines brighter in the dark, right?

Tuesday is Election Day, and half of our nation thinks if one party wins, it will get darker and if the other party wins it will get brighter. And the other half of the nation thinks the exact same thing but just switches which party is which. Who are the good figs and who are the bad?

But the message I have this morning for us is that no matter how dark it gets--and it probably will get darker regardless of the party that wins--the Lord has His eye on us for our good.

Because He has given us new hearts to know Him. Trust in the Lord’s gracious plan. It might not be anything like you would expect, but it will be good.

Now, in chapter 25, Jeremiah jumps back about 7 years before the vision of chapter 24. Two kings earlier. And he reminds the people of Judah how they got to this terrible point.

It was by tuning him out. Look at verse 1.

“The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”

This is 605 BC, a pivotal year in ancient near eastern history.

This was the year of the Battle of Carchemish where the Egyptians and what was left of Assyria took on Babylon whose great general was a “Nebuchadnezzar” who then became king. And also that year, Jeremiah delivered this prophecy. V.2

“So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years–from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day–the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.”

Twenty-three years. I have been preaching here for 24 and half. But you have (for most the part, I hope) been listening to me. Jeremiah was a broken record about a broken covenant. But the people of Judah had tuned him out. “You have not listened.” Verse 4.

“And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, ‘Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.’

‘But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.’ Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: ‘Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

That’s what Jeremiah has been saying for 23 years in a row, and it began 7 years later but then took another 10 more than that until it really came to its awful fulfillment.


It might have been too late for Judah, but this book is here now for us to learn from their mistakes.

What has the Lord been trying to tell you to change? Maybe for 23 years?

Part of this is saying that the LORD is amazing patient. He’s not just amazing gracious (watching over those figs for good), but He’s amazing patient (sending message after message to urge His people to repent). God often keeps sending us the same message over and over again in the hopes that we will tune it IN and take it to heart. 

What has the Lord been trying to tell you to change? When you slow down and take a good look at your life, your habits, your relationships, your choices, what are the things that the Holy Spirit puts His finger on and says, “This here needs work. This needs to change”?

I know some of mine. Do you know yours?

Judah did not want to hear about theirs. They put on their noise-canceling headphones and turned up the volume on their streaming service. Anything to keep from listening to the word of the LORD calling them to repent. And, though the LORD is amazing gracious and amazing patient, He is also unerringly just. He is righteous and holy and is full of righteous wrath against sin. So He promises through Jeremiah to bring judgment that will last for 70 years.

Keep that number in mind. It will become important. It stands for a whole lifetime and covers two full generations. None of those who are being carted off into exile will return unless they were too young to remember it.

Seventy years is a long time. But it is also a limited time. As awful as the exile will be (and it was truly awful), it will one day be over.  And those whom God used to inflict the punishment will then be punished themselves. 

Did you notice what the LORD called Nebuchadnezzar in verse 9? It would have shocked the socks off the Israelites. He called him, “my servant Nebuchadnezzar.” He doesn’t normally talk that way about pagans! He doesn’t normally talk that way about just any Israelite! And He doesn’t mean that Nebuchadnezzar was a believer or a follower of Yahweh. He was not, at this time. And what He was doing was wrong and bad–attacking God’s people like that. 

But at the very same time the LORD was using Nebuchadnezzar to effect His will! The LORD has a way of bringing out the best of things from the worst of things–including people’s very own sin! Nebuchadnezzar was the LORD’s servant. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be judged, as well. Look at verse 12.

“‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will make it desolate forever. I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands’” (vv.12-15).

Babylon is not getting away with anything either. Remember, Jeremiah is a prophet to the nations. Not just to Judah. We’re going to see that especially when we get to chapters 46 through 51. Some ancient translations actually move up chapters 46 to 51 to this point in the book of Jeremiah!

Yes, the LORD is going to use the nations to bring judgment on Judah. But, no, they are not going to get away with anything and will one day reap that judgment themselves.

And that brings us the second strong image of these two chapters. The image of a cup of God’s holy wrath. Look with me at verse 15.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’” (vv.15-16).

This cup or a cup like this shows up again and again in our Bibles. God prepares the cup and it is the wine of His wrath against sin. The one who drinks it, receives the wrath of God. In verse 16, it says that they stagger and go mad, and I think that means that they are then defenseless against the sword that comes to kill them.

In verse 15, the LORD tells Jeremiah to take the this cup and make all the nations to whom he sends him to drink it.

I don’t think it’s a literal cup. I think it’s metaphorical, and the call here is for Jeremiah to prophetically pronounce judgment on these nations. To “make them drink it.” So he does. Verse 17.

“So I took the cup from the LORD's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn and cursing, as they are today [at the time of the writing of Jeremiah]; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod); Edom, Moab and Ammon; all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other–all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshach will drink it too” (vv.17-26).

“Sheshach” is a codename for Babylon. The one who brought the judgment to begin with will not escape it in the end. “Drink from this cup!”  Verse 27.

“‘Then tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.' But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it!

See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword upon all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.' (vv.27-29).

Drink! And then he unleashes a torrent of words and images to describe this punishment. V.30

“‘Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them: ‘ 'The LORD will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgment on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,' ‘ declares the LORD. [This is getting much bigger than just the middle east. This is getting eschatological.] This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.’ 

At that time those slain by the LORD will be everywhere–from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground. Weep and wail, you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery. The shepherds will have nowhere to flee, the leaders of the flock no place to escape. Hear the cry of the shepherds, the wailing of the leaders of the flock, for the LORD is destroying their pasture. The peaceful meadows will be laid waste because of the fierce anger of the LORD. Like a lion he will leave his lair, and their land will become desolate because of the sword of the oppressor and because of the LORD's fierce anger” (vv.30-38).

Make no mistake–the LORD is holy. The guilty will not go unpunished. Justice will be done and will be seen to be done. In all the earth.

I’m sure there were true fulfillments of these promises in the Old Testament, but as I read it, it seems to go bigger and envelop all the judgment of all time.

One day the cup filled with the wine of God’s wrath will be drunk by all the nations. And it can’t be refused.


Except if someone else drinks the cup of God’s wrath for us. As much as this passage should chill our bones and move us to tune our hearts to repent before God’s unerring justice while there is still time, it also should warm our hearts as we think about what Jesus did for us at the Cross. When He drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place. 

Remember what Jesus prayed in the Garden? “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42). And He drank the cup for us.


The Father said (v.28), to save them, “You must drink it!” And the Son said, “Not my will but yours be done.” And He went to the Cross absorbed the just wrath of God for our sins.

One of my kids said they had an encounter with a Muslim at work this week. And this man was trying to convince my kid that Christianity didn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense, he said, that Jesus would be punished for our sins. Why would you punish someone else and not the one who did the thing?

It’s a good question. And I’m not saying that I would do it like the Lord did, but I sure am glad He did! It may not make sense, but it sure is good news. Because God brings the best things out of the worst things!

And because Jesus drank from that terrible cup, we can drink from this wonderful one. Remember what happened in the Upper Room the night that Jesus was betrayed?

The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matt. 26:27-28).

This first Sunday of November, let us thank our Lord for drinking from our cup by drinking from His.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8