“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.” ~ W. F. Adeney, 1950
I was so glad to be invited to teach Jack Roseberry’s Bible class yesterday morning on Jeremiah 21. What a wonderful group of older and wiser Christian brothers and sisters! And what a rich passage of Scripture!
Jeremiah 21 contains God’s answers to King Zedekiah’s request for information about whether or not God will deliver Judah from the Babylonians the same way he had delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. The connection is unmistakable. The prophet uses the exact same language in the response as is found throughout the Exodus narrative that had forever identified God’s people. Zedekiah asks if God will perform “niplaot,” mighty works, the same word that is used throughout the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy to describe how God delivered his people from slavery. Read Exodus chapters 3-6 and notice how many times God uses “I” in describing the salvation acts — I will, I am, I have, etc., — and see how Jeremiah uses them in his response. What a powerful message that must have been to the people living in Jerusalem, especially to the King and his court, that the very God who delivers his people with mighty works, with an “outstretched hand and a mighty arm,” will use that outstretched hand and mighty arm to perform those mighty works against his people! What a shocking realization! What a complete turning of the tables!
The city is going down. The monarchy is going down. The priests and prophets who had become an abomination before the Lord are going down. But the people don’t have to go down with “this city.” The people are given a choice.
“I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 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” (Jeremiah 21:8-9).
The Hebrew word for “goes out” is yatsa, the same word used in the Exodus and Deuteronomy stories for “exodus.” The irony is that instead of going out of the bondage of Egypt to find life in Israel, they must leave the slavery of Israel to find life and freedom in the bondage of Babylon. It’s backwards.
The way of life is always backwards.
Lose your life for my sake and I’ll find it. Throw away your life and I’ll give it to you. Be last and I’ll make you first. Suffer and serve and sacrifice and I’ll give you eternal glory.
God tells his people in Jeremiah 21, just like Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 30 and Jesus told the people in Matthew 7, there are two paths. You can stay in “this city,” this world, with all of its trappings and pleasures and influences, and be led to death. Or you can leave “this city,” this world, this culture, this way of looking at things and this way of believing, and submit completely to God, and be led to eternal life.
The same choice is ours every day. As Moses said, “choose life.”
It’s a little quieter in the Stanglin house today. Whitney and Valerie are at Three Mountain for a week of summer church camp with Jason and Lance and a whole bunch of Legacy 3rd – 8th graders. So it’s just us and the Bear. Carley, undoubtedly our most sensitive child, was already feeling lonely last night. She gets along with Whitney and Valerie equally well. And she’s already counting down the hours until they return Friday.
45 days until football season begins. And #45 in our countdown is probably the greatest quarterback in the history of the Southwest Conference: TCU’s Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. Baugh was THE passing pioneer who truly revolutionized the game. A two-time All-America with the Frogs from 1934-1936, he made passing glamorous. Nobody passed the football until Baugh. Before him, passing was only a last ditch effort on 3rd and 16, down by two scores, in the 4th Quarter. It was never part of a serious gameplan. But Baugh was so good at it and so successful — TCU won the National Championship in 1935 with a 12-1 record (the lone loss was to SMU in the only game Baugh missed that year with injury) — that everyone else in the nation began imitating it.
Baugh was the Washington Redskins’ #1 pick in 1937. And when he retired in 1952, he held every single NFL passing record. All of them. Single season. Single game. Career. Every single record. He was, and still is, the best punter in NFL history with a career 45.1 yards per kick average. As a two-way player in 1943, Baugh led the NFL in passing, punting, and interceptions as a defensive back.
Baugh is in the College Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. He was born in Temple, Texas in 1914 and, at 93 years of age, he’s still going strong at his ranch in Rotan.
A couple of years ago I had scheduled a telephone interview with Sammy during a talk show. My producer, Eric Gray, got Sammy on the phone at his house during the commercial break, and when I punched him up on the air, the only thing I could hear was The Who’s “Don’t Get Fooled Again.” I could barely hear Baugh in the background. Barely. We were completely unable to communicate. It was like he was speaking over his own “hold” button. It was definitely on his end. I kept asking him about The Who. And he kept responding with “Who?!?”
It was like a horrible Abbot and Costello routine. And Eric made sure it wound up as the number one moment on my show during our year end top ten moments countdown. I still listen to that segment today, every now and then, and I laugh so hard I cry.
Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffen deserves a high honorable mention. But every single quarterback who’s ever had any success in the college and / or pro game owes everything to Slingin’ Sammy Baugh.
Getting caught up from the weekend, #46 is the very first ever black consensus All-America and the first black superstar at Texas. Roosevelt Leaks finished third in the Heisman voting as a Longhorns running back in 1973, the same year he was the MVP of the SWC. That year Leaks rushed for 342 yards at SMU — a Longhorns road record that still stands — despite fumbling four times! He led UT in all purpose yards his junior and senior seasons. He had two 200 yards games. And he played for nine years in the NFL with the Colts and Bills. Leaks was born in Brenham, Texas. He’s in the UT Hall of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame. And he currently works in Austin as a home appraiser.
One more week of reading your Bible out loud. I’m anxious to hear next week how that’s impacted your study of Scripture and your listening to our God.