Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives.
Jeremiah 21:9 (NIV)
I have been listening to the audiobook Surrender, the autobiography of the rock band U2’s lead singer, Bono. If you’re interested, I’d recommend listening to the audiobook rather than reading it. Bono reads it himself complete with song snippets and sound effects. There’s something even more personal about listening to him tell me his stories.
Bono’s life journey has been pretty amazing, and not just because of being a rock star. He is also a follower of Jesus, and it’s obvious that his faith has compelled him to use his status to do big things and make the world a better place just like Paul used his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar so as to share his faith story in successive trials before increasingly more powerful political figures of his day. Bono’s journey has, likewise, brought him into conversations of the most powerful political figures on earth. He even got Pope John Paul II to try on his blue sunglasses.
As I listen, and I’m almost finished, my mind keeps going back to the title of his book, Surrender. It’s really the thread of the whole story. It would be easy to read his story as the simple charmed life of a rock star, but underneath the story line is his faith-fueled motivation rooted in a young teenager’s passionate surrender to Jesus. The passion appears to have never waned despite his critics, many of them self-proclaimed Christians wearing their bright and shiny Junior Holy Spirit badges.
I thought about this as I read this morning’s chapter and meditated on the prophet Jeremiah, who had an unwavering faith-fueled passion of his own. In yesterday’s chapter he said:
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
In today’s chapter, King Zedekiah sends a messenger pleading for Jerry to seek God’s mercy and deliverance. What’s crazy about this is that King Z was personally responsible for the Babylonian army knocking at the gates of Jerusalem. It was King Z who broke his allegiance with Babylon and made an alliance with Babylon’s enemy: Egypt. King Z and his administration have done nothing but mock and try to violently silence Jerry’s prophetic messages. Now that the fecal matter is striking the electric, rotary oscillator with great velocity, King Z suddenly wants to make an alliance with Jerry. It seems Z will make an alliance with anyone who might benefit him in the moment.
I found Jeremiah’s response fascinating. At the very beginning of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people, He said, “I’m setting before you life and death. Choose life.” (Deut 30:19). In this moment of terror as the Babylonians threaten to destroy Jerusalem, God through Jerry tells them that the same choice is yet before them: life and death. If they want death, they can stay in the city and hold out against the Babylonian siege. If they want life, all they have to do is surrender.
In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded that this faith journey is one of perpetual surrender.
Then [Jesus] told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? Luke 9:23 (MSG)
Or, as Bono sings it:
It’s in the street gettin’ under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere I look for you
It’s in the things that I do and say
And if I wanna live I gotta die to myself someday
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.
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