"The iron gate leading into the city...opened for them of its own accord."
In Greek, "of its own accord" is one-word automatos from which we get the English automatic. The gate opened without apparent cause, just like the walls of Jericho collapsed.
Automatos is used only one other time in the NT and is translated as "by itself" Mark 4:28. In this verse, automatos explains the growth of the Kingdom of God. In Mark 4:26-28, Jesus tells a parable of a farmer scattering seeds, which previously in Mark 4:14, is the Word of God. The man's responsibility is to scatter seed, after which whether he sleeps or is awake, the seed grows without apparent cause. So just as this gate opened by itself, the kingdom of God grows by itself. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth".
Sovereign Lord, there is so much in my world that seems to happen automatically, without cause. Holy Spirit, thank You for insight into the One who is in control. He is the force that would cause the gate of Peter's freedom to open, the walls of Jericho to fall, and the seed to sprout, grow and produce grain. But more importantly, the Sovereign Lord is the One who is the cause for His Kingdom's expansion. May I faithfully scatter His Word, trusting Him to cause the growth.
"Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death."
The setting in which the LORD gives Israel the choice of life or death is a period of great distress for Jerusalem. The city was under siege by the Babylonians and Chaldeans. The situation is Jerusalem is so desperate King Zedekiah sent Pashhur, the priest, to inquire of Jeremiah if God would save Israel. Pashhur is the chief officer of the Temple who beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks in Jeremiah 20:1-2. Zedekiah's statement is "Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and make him (the Babylonians and Chaldeans) withdraw from us." God's response through Jeremiah is not what the King wanted. Instead of delivering the Israelites from the hand of their enemies, God tells Zedekiah "I will fight against you...in anger and in fury and in great wrath."
At that point, God gives them the option of surrender or destruction. Doesn't that remind you of the choice Moses placed before Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19-20? "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days."
Isn't God keeping this choice continually before mankind? He made a similar plea to Cain in Genesis 4:4-7. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul says, "Behold, now is the day of salvation." Hebrews 3:13 says "Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
LORD God, You are long suffering. You continually set before Your creation life and death, with the plea to choose life. Teach Your children to proclaim Your gracious offer faithfully.