The Way of Life is Surrender

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 18-21

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set 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.” – Jeremiah 21:8-9

Jeremiah prophesies that there are two ways we can go – the way of life or the way of death. These two ways are polar opposites. They have nothing to do with each other.

The way of death is to stay in the city and die by the sword, by famine, or by pestilence.

The way of life is to go out of the city, surrender to the enemy who is persecuting you, and gain your life as a prize of war.

These are the words of Jesus!

How so?

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In this verse, Jesus presents to the two ways. One is the way of Satan, which is to kill and destroy and is therefore the way of death. The other is the way of Jesus, which is to give life and is therefore the way of life.

In John 10:17-18, Jesus elaborated on what the way of life looks like, saying, “For this reason the Father loves me, because i lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus presented us with the choice of the way of life or the way of death. He said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Looking back to Jeremiah, to save your life was to stay in the city, in Jerusalem, to fight for your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. But, to stay in the city and fight, which is what the Jews wanted to Jesus to do, is to die at the hand of the enemy by the sword, famine, and pestilence. If you try to save your life by fighting, by war, by the way of the world, then you lose your life. You will die spiritually.

But, if you lose your, then you will find it. Based on what Jesus said in John 10:17-18, to lose life is to voluntarily lay it down. Losing your life means you give up your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. You voluntarily lay it all down. But, in this case, you spiritually come to life.

In Jeremiah, losing your life is going out of the city and surrendering to the enemy. Therefore, notice what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Where was Jesus crucified?

Outside the city. Jesus went outside the city and laid down his life. He surrendered to the enemy. But, this was the victory of Jesus because he had both the authority to lay down his life and pick it up again.

And, Jesus asked us to follow him. He asked us to follow him outside the city and take up our own cross. Jesus asked us to voluntarily surrender to the enemy and lay down our lives.

How else can we love our enemies but by surrendering our lives to them?

Why don’t we do this?

Because we fear that by surrendering our lives – our pride, our will, our kingdom, our rights, our possessions – we will die. We fear we will end up with nothing.

Paul explained clearly that there is no need for this fear that if we voluntarily surrender to the enemy that we will die. In fact, Paul said it was just the opposite.

“For if we have been united with him in a death life his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus did not crucify himself. He surrendered, willingly, to his enemies, and was crucified by them. But, he was resurrected.

We are to do the same. We are to follow Jesus and be united with him in his death. We are to lay down our lives, to surrender to the enemy. We don’t crucify ourselves, but we are crucified with Jesus. And, if we die a death like Jesus’, then we will certainly be raised in a resurrection like his too.

In Jeremiah, it says that those who outside the city and surrender will gain their life as a prize of war. In the Hebrew, “a prize of war” is just one word. It means booty, spoil, goods that have been plundered.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:29, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus, has fought the strong man, the enemy, the Sata. Jesus won that war on the cross. By winning the war, Jesus freed us from our bondage to Satan. And, Jesus plundered the goods, our very lives, that were in Satan’s house, Satan’s kingdom.

So, there is the way of death, the way of killing, which is the way of Satan. This is the way of fighting for what is ours. This way leads to death.

And, there is the way of life, the way of dying, the way of surrendering, which is the way of Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life. This is way of voluntarily surrendering everything we have to be united in the death of Jesus so that we can live a resurrected life like he lives.

This is when the last enemy, death, has been truly been defeated.

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.