“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. 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.’” Jeremiah 21:8-10 ESV
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 ESV
Genghis Khan was a Mongolian conqueror and ruler who unified the tribes of Mongolia and then extended his rule all across Asia. He strictly disciplined his soldiers and ruled his empire as a military state, and people were very afraid of him and his armies. He could be cruel and ruthless in attacking cities and settlements, and he often gave them one choice: “Surrender or die.” If a group of people surrendered to him, they would usually be brought peacefully under his rule, but if they tried to fight him, they would be slaughtered as a lesson to others. The terror he brought caused many people to surrender to him without a fight.
When the Babylonians surrounded Jerusalem, God told the people of the city the same thing, “Surrender or die!” The Lord had said that he was going to fight for the Babylonians, and to resist them was to resist God himself. If the people were wise, they would leave the city and give themselves up to the Babylonian army. If they did that, they would save their lives, but if they resisted and tried to defend their city, they would die. God had decided that Jerusalem would be set on fire and burned down, and that anyone who didn’t flee the city would die by famine or disease or in battle. The people’s chance to save themselves was to listen to the Lord’s warning through Jeremiah and surrender.
We also were under the power of sin and death, and part of the enemy forces against God. But the Lord wanted to save us and make us become part of his people and join his side. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven. Our sinful hearts want to cling to our own ways and fight against God, but Jesus calls us to follow him away from the enemies that hurt us. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us trust him and follow him. He helps us give up on doing things our own way and on trying to win God’s favor through our own efforts. Instead we surrender and let go of ourselves and let Jesus forgive us and help us to follow his ways, now and always.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving your life so that our sins could be forgiven. Help us to surrender to you and follow you always. Amen.