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Jeremiah 21:8-10 - Homiletics

The choice between life and death.

I. THE CHOICE WAS FREE . It was left to the Jews to choose which course they would take. God has endowed every man with freedom of will, opening up to him a vast range of possibilities. All of us have opportunities for choosing life and blessedness if only we will seek them. A Divine vocation marks out for us a course which we ought to follow in preference to the fancies of our own inclination, and a Divine destiny sots us down in a certain sphere bounded by definite limitations beyond which we cannot go; but within these limits we are free from compulsion, and even in regard to the vocation no force is exerted to make us follow it. We are under moral obligation to do so, but we are left to freely acknowledge or reject the claims of that obligation.

II. THE CHOICE WAS MOMENTOUS . It was between life and death. These were the great alternatives of the Deuteronomic covenant ( Deuteronomy 30:19 ). The same alternatives are set before us spiritually ( Romans 6:23 ). Life is not to be played with; tremendous issues depend on the manner in which it is conducted. Religion is no mere topic of abstract speculation for learned leisure, no empty toy for idle sentiment; it is of vast practical moment, for it deals with the choice of the greatest possible alternatives—life and death.

III. THE CHOICE WAS LIMITED . The choice which was set before the Jews by Jeremiah was gloomy enough. The best prospect offered to them was escape from massacre indeed, but escape to exile and captivity. We may come to such a condition that no effort will restore the lost possessions and gladness of the past. Even though there is no ground for despair, though the worst may be avoided, our conduct may bear such inevitable fruits in poverty, loss of position, alienation of friends, sickness, etc; that our best prospects may be far from satisfactory. This is necessary, for moral choice cannot undo past facts nor overleap the barriers of physical law. It is wise, for the disagreeable fruits of sin may be useful medicines in the form of chastisement. Yet the New Testament offers us a freer choice for the ultimate future; as the alternative of death not captivity and a life of sorrow, but eternal life and liberty, the full restoration to the blessings of God's favor ( 1 John 5:11 , 1 John 5:12 ).

IV. THE CHOICE OF LIFE INVOLVED SAFETY WITH SUBMISSION . Jeremiah said that death would await those who stayed in Jerusalem to resist the invader from behind the city walls, while they who went out to the field to yield themselves up without fighting would be spared. For this advice the prophet was regarded as a traitor. It was justified, because

It is never dishonorable to submit to the will of God. True patriotism will seek the good of the nation rather than its transient glory. The method of escape offered to the Jews illustrates the Christian method of salvation. The Jews were to escape by leaving their ramparts and meeting their foes defenseless in the open field. We are to save our life by losing it. The Jews found safety in submission. The Christian salvation is secured, not by fighting and grasping at our rights, but by yielding to the will of God in Christ, and submitting to this even when it brings chastisement.

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