God was very clear with His people: if you want to live, surrender to Babylon. If you try to stay in Jerusalem, you will die. But not all of His people were convinced.
Neither are we.
Most of us would think ourselves holier if we were to die in God's holy city than if we were to follow Him to profane Babylon. So...we die. And as we saw yesterday, it is not credited to our righteousness - the city we're clinging to is often not the city that we think that it is. It has become the profane city by our sinfulness and unfaithfulness. We are clinging to an illusion.
But that's just the thing - it's the illusion that we love. God's people thought that since they were living in the shadow of His temple, there was something still holy about that place. They thought they were good, that His protection was always going to be over them there. That as long as that temple was still standing, there was nothing that could take them away from their Lord.
The truth is that they were comfortable there. They had this hedge of protection around them. At least, they believed that they did, and that made them comfortable living their lives the way that they wanted to. They were completely content to go on sinning because they were in what they believed was a holy place. They didn't worry about their own righteousness because they believed they were covered. There was no motivation to examine their actual lives because the temple was still there; they could see it.
There's something human in all of us that likes that kind of life, that life without accountability. We would love to be in a place where we don't have to examine ourselves, where we don't have to think too hard about the kind of life that we're living. In fact, most of us spend our whole lives trying to construct exactly that kind of place. And many of us succeed.
We surround ourselves with those who already agree with us, creating echo chambers in which we are never challenged. We decorate our homes with affirmations of those things that we already hold dear, never looking to see if they are legitimately worth loving or not. We buy into all of these ideas about who we are supposed to be because of what they make us seem to be and we say that it is good because we are told that it is good. We love the illusion.
The problem is that God came along and shattered that illusion for His people, as He so often does for us. He told them in no uncertain terms that if they really loved their lives, they ought to be willing to live them in another place. If their lives really were glorious for Him, they would be so beautiful in Babylon.
But the people knew what we know, even if we aren't willing to confess it: without our hedges of protection, most of our lives don't work. They aren't beautiful, and they certainly aren't holy. Lived anywhere but here, in the shadow of the temple, in the shadow of the illusion that we've set up to guard ourselves, our lives aren't actually livable. Or rather, we can't lie to ourselves about them any more.
We say that we would rather die in God's holy city than to live for Him in a profane one, but the truth is really that we aren't willing to do the hard work it takes to look at our own lives if we surrender to Babylon. We'd rather die believing we are righteous than live knowing that we are not.
That's why we cling to Jerusalem.