"This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life, and the way of death." (21:8)
This passage is specific to the people of Judah--if they get out of the city, the Babylonians will capture them and whisk them away from the promised land. If they stay in the city, trying to avoid capture by the Babylonians, trying to avoid the punishment promised by Jeremiah, they will die. They are, to use a very worn out cliche, between a rock and a hard place.
Neither choice is particularly attractive, but one will lead to life, and one will lead to death "by the sword, famine or plague" (v. 9).
Hard choices. Choose God's discipline, or try to escape it and hope it turns out okay. It's kind of like those wild car chases they show on the news, where the suspect races through residential streets, trying to avoid the 30 police cars chasing him AND the police helicopter tracking him by air. It's not like he's actually going to escape--we all know that eventually the police are going to catch up--but he (or she) is hopeful.
Sometimes we avoid God's discipline. I don't think it's a stretch to make this claim that when do do, we are only delaying the inevitable. To surrender to God is to choose life; to try and escape is to choose death.
I want to choose life. Hopefully I'll remember this lesson.