The Way of Death Was to Stay in Jerusalem?

As I’ve been reading Jeremiah the last few days, it seems so relevant to our time today.

In short, Jerusalem and Judah were in full rebellion against God. The leaders, the shepherds, were not feeding and protecting the people. Instead, they were enriching themselves through injustice and oppression. So, God was going to bring Babylon against them and send them into exile.

They came to Jeremiah, asking him to inquire of the Lord for them. In Jeremiah 21:8-10, Jeremiah says, “And to this people you shall say: Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set you before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’”

What!?!? The way of death was to stay in Jerusalem? This was the city where God had caused his name to dwell. This was his holy city. Shouldn’t the people fight to stay in God’s city, where he dwelt, where the temple was? Shouldn’t they defend it against the king of Babylon? No, because God had set his face against it. He had seen its wickedness and corruption. God saw the city and that it was full of evil. So, God was going to put an end to that. To stay in the city, to defend the wickedness, the evil, and the oppression would be to go against God. Therefore, to go with God would be to flee the city. To go with God was the way of life.

Our government, political system, and rich leaders are full of corruption, evil, and wickedness. It is a continual oppression to people in this country and around the world. God’s people should not be a part of that. It seems to me in Jeremiah that God isn’t saying that you should stay in it, try and fix it up, and fight for it. Because God’s kingdom will consume every kingdom of man in the end. All the nations are but dust before him.

Instead of staying to defend and fight for the city that had become corrupt, God tells his people what to do in the next chapter. Jeremiah 22:3-5, “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.” Don’t fight against the king of Babylon who God sent to destroy Jerusalem. Instead do justice, righteousness, and no wrong to those who have been taken advantage of or are helpless.

What’s a possible application for us?

There is no need for American Christians to lend their support to our corrupt government. There is no need to defend it, to fight against God ending its wickedness. Simply come out from it and do justice, righteousness and mercy. God’s kingdom is completely different than the kingdoms of this world. As Christians, we have transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We are strangers and sojourners in the earth. Like Jesus, we are without a home, a place to lay our head. We are ambassadors in a foreign land, representing our Lord whose kingdom is completely different than the one we are currently sent to.

Later in chapter 24, Jeremiah has a vision of very good figs and very bad figs. The very good figs were the ones that went with God, that left the city, that became exiles. The very bad figs were the ones that stayed and tried to defend what Jerusalem had become and what God wanted to destroy.

Jeremiah 24:4-10 says, “Then the word of the Lord came to me: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for 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 pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall by me people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. But thus says the Lord: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.”

Let us be the very good figs that go with God.

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