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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 21:8-10

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 4, 2015

8 Say to this people: The LORD says, “Consider: I set before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever remains in this city will die by the sword, famine and plague, but whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will escape with their lives. 10 For I have set my face against this city for evil and not for good, says the LORD. It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will completely destroy it with fire.”

Jeremiah has been speaking to King Zedekiah, but now God tells him to address the people of Jerusalem. The context is still the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and his army of Babylonian and Chaldean warriors. The king’s political and military policy was to resist the Babylonians and play a losing end game. Maybe the Babylonians would leave because of some rumor like the Arameans did in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 7:5-7). Maybe he could bribe them like Hezekiah had (2 Kings 18:15-16), or maybe an enemy would attack Babylon and draw the army way, which had happened when Sennacherib threatened the city (2 Kings 19:9). Maybe God would send a destroying angel to wipe the Babylonians out (2 Kings 19:35-36), or maybe some rival would murder Nebuchadnezzar, which had also happened to Sennacherib (2 Kings 20:37).

While the unbelieving king wished for a miracle, Jeremiah told the people to accept defeat. The only way to survive would be to accept the Lord’s punishment and not fight against it. Anyone who resisted Babylon would die. But the people who accepted what was happening would have taken the first step toward repentance. Exile meant life.

These were Jeremiah’s two ways, the way of life and the way of death: Life meant exile, defeat, and long years of suffering and grief in Babylon. But it would be life, and there would one day be a return to Jerusalem. Anything else would mean death. Any resistance to Babylon would fail in death, whether political, military, or some sneaking attempt at escape.

In Proverbs 11:19, Solomon stated this matter in simpler terms: “The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.” Both Solomon and Jeremiah focus our attention on the First Commandment. Who is God in your life? The devil wants us to follow anyone but God, and in our generation he compels us to listen to our own hearts. Perhaps there was a time when all Satan could do was whisper, but today he talks to us from every speaker and every screen: “Do whatever you want! What YOU want is more important than what God wants.” The devil knows that he can’t quite say that God doesn’t matter at all. People would balk, at least in our country, if the devil pushed too hard. But he knows he doesn’t have to. We’ll fall into sin all the same if he tones down his language just a little and says “You’re more important than God.”

The way of life is the way through Jesus Christ. His death means our forgiveness. His resurrection means we will rise, too. His place in heaven assures us that we have a place in heaven. It’s there waiting for us. Trust in Jesus—Jesus and only Jesus. It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That’s an invitation for all of us: Jesus is the way.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.