TD:      Now we can go into a segment on this Lamentations series that we we’re ending the Exile and Return series with.  And now we can talk about the part of Laminations that is actually hopeful.  As Brandon has discussed, Lamentations talks about the horrors of the siege, the devastation that takes place in Jeremiah’s beloved city and the people of his city, the total ravaging of the city, even to the point where mothers are eating their own children in the desperate circumstances of deprivation.  It’s just a horrific time period.  We talked about this Hinnom Valley being just completely stacked full of corpses from the siege.  Just a really, really horrific time.  

And, yet, right in the middle of all this are several verses that are quite surprising.  So, what are some things that come out of this, Brandon, that, like, how in the world does this belong in this circumstance?  

BS:      Yeah.  It’s kind of like in a movie.  You get some really horrific, sad moment in a movie; and then the next scene is lighthearted just to try to not be so depressing.  I don’t know if that’s what Jeremiah was going for, but as you said, he puts hope right in the middle of this.  

And, so, you’re reading through Lamentations, and it starts out dark and terrible, and it just gets worse and worse and worse.  And, then, right in the middle of Lamentations 3 is where the hope starts coming.  

In Lamentations 3:18, Jeremiah says,

And I said, “My strength and my hope
Have perished from the Lord.” 
So his hope is gone.

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.

My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.

And, then, here’s where the turn comes, in verse 21.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

TD:      So this is the line from the great hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” right?  

BS:      Which was in my wedding!  That’s what my wife walked down the aisle to, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

TD:      Is that right?

BS:      From Lamentations!

TD:      That seems kind of ominous.  [Laughing]

BS:      Well, our hope’s in the Lord.  We haven’t trusted in Egypt anytime lately.  

TD:      Well, that’s weird that Jeremiah says, “Great is thy faithfulness,” when here you have God turning you over to this horrifically bad thing.  But, as you pointed out, that was the deal.  And God gave them warning after warning after warning and opportunity after opportunity.  But, eventually, he’s faithful to the covenant, too, right?  

BS:      Yes.  

TD:      And, so, this idea that you brought up that there is a judgment, and the judgment’s real, God’s going to be faithful to that reality.  There’s not going to be a, “Oh, never mind.  We’re just going to give everybody a participation trophy,” right?  That’s not the way this is going to work.  

BS:      Yes.  Like it says in 2 Timothy, if we’re faithless, he still remains faithful to the covenant because he cannot deny himself.  

TD:      And that’s the way the covenant with Israel was.  No matter what they did, he was going to fulfill that promise of the land, the seed, the blessing.  But, which generation enjoyed the promise was up to them, in large part.  

BS:      Yes.  And, so, God’s mercy is foundational.  God’s mercy of bringing us back and of the return.  This is Jeremiah anticipating the return that Israel will have, knowing God’s character is full of mercy and is full of compassion.  This isn’t the final end.  As horrific and horrible as this is, God’s not done with Judah yet.  

TD:      It’s interesting this passage you were pointing out it goes on and says,

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.

Waiting is not something that we particularly like these days.  If our phone takes five seconds to boot up or something, we find it—

BS:      It’s irritating.  

TD:      —a great inconvenience, right?  What do you take from that, “to those who wait on him”?

BS:      Well, God doesn’t work on our time.  He’s not according to our schedule.  And what a lot of this life is, is us adopting God’s schedule and God’s timing and choosing to trust his plan rather than demanding that he show up when we want him to show up.  God is God; we’re not.  We are living in his world.  He doesn’t live in ours.  He doesn’t live according to our calendar.  

And, so, really, it’s a matter of, if we’re choosing to wait on God, it’s an active acknowledgement of who he is.  When we demand that God show up and do the thing that we’re asking him to do right now, according to our timeline, what we’re saying is, “God, you’re not God.  You’re my servant, and you’re my tool.  Make me happy.  I’m God.”  

And the practice of patiently waiting in the midst of suffering or heartache and choosing to trust God even in the midst of those things is an act of worship of knowing that God is God, and it’s not us.  

TD:      As you’re saying all this, I’m thinking about the metaphor the Bible uses that we’re children.  I don’t know any children that like to wait and that aren’t trying to turn their parents into servants in one way or another.

BS:      Yes.  

TD:      And a big part of the reason we’re here on earth is to grow up.  And learning to wait is a part of that, isn’t it?  

So I’ve got this this passage, Lamentations 3:61-66 that I want to ask you about.  

Jeremiah is the prophet who’s intervening on behalf of Israel.  He’s warning Israel.  He’s encouraging them to follow the Lord.  He’s their coach.  He’s their intercessor.  And you come to Lamentations 3:59, and Jeremiah says,

O Lord, You have seen how I am wronged;
Judge my case.

Because they didn’t listen to him.  They punished him.  They tried to kill him.  They threw him in the well.  He’s had it.  

You have seen all their vengeance,
All their schemes against me.

You have heard their reproach, O Lord,
All their schemes against me,

The lips of my enemies
And their whispering against me all the day.

Look at their sitting down and their rising up;
I am their taunting song.

Repay them, O Lord,
According to the work of their hands.

Give them a veiled heart;
Your curse be upon them!

In Your anger,
Pursue and destroy them
From under the heavens of the Lord.

So on one hand, this seems a little bit out of sequence with this lamination where he’s lamenting that this has actually happened.  But I just wonder, is this part of the judgment that he prayed this upon them?  This is at the end of the “your mercies are forever and your compassion is forever” and that sort of thing.  

BS:      Apparently Jeremiah’s mercies aren’t forever.

TD:      So what do you make of this?   There are a lot of psalms like this, too, where David is praying things like this.  

BS:      Yes.  Well, this is a really raw moment.  I think this is just a raw moment on Jeremiah’s part.  And it’s a difficult passage to reconcile, but you get this authentic, raw, “I’m hurting, and, God, get them.”  

But something that Jeremiah is doing within this is he’s not the one that’s seeking to repay; he’s still acknowledging that it’s God’s job to bring about vengeance.  It’s not his.  So I don’t know how Jeremiah was treated after the Babylonians came in, if they gave him any sort of exalted position or not.  

TD:      I think that he got left behind with the handful of people.  I think there were some people that fled beforehand, and he might’ve been with them; either that or he stayed, and was with a group, and they ended up going to Egypt somehow to escape all this stuff.  But I’m a little fuzzy on that.  

BS:      Well, the point I was going to make is that Jeremiah is not taking this vengeance into his own hands.  He’s not seeking to be the one that brings about the vengeance and the punishment.  He’s relying on God.

TD:      That seems clear.  But he’s lamenting the things that actually fulfill this, though; it seems like.  Do you think he’s sorry that God did this, or do you think he’s kind of like David, he’s just venting to God knowing that God can take it, and that God’s going to do with it as he sees fit?  

BS:      The way this strikes me is more of the second one, what you just said, of venting and asking God—he’s blowing off steam to God, is how this strikes me.  And he’s definitely sad that this has happened and come upon Jerusalem.  But I read this as Jeremiah asking God to bring vengeance on, is not the people of Babylon, it’s the rulers of Jerusalem that have that have abused and ignored and punished and persecuted him for preaching what’s true.  

TD:      This encourages me that it’s okay to feel betrayed.  We can’t really help our feelings, right?  Feelings happen.  We can’t control emotions.  We can control our choices.  And Jeremiah, here, is expressing his emotions; and he’s praying these things.  But he didn’t take any actions to make any of these things happen himself.  

And that encourages me that this is an open invitation to express to the Lord whatever your emotions are, and then get input from the Lord on what to actually do.

BS:      Yes.  Before you act on them.  

TD:      Before you act on them. You don’t ever want to act on emotions.  You want the emotions to tell you need to do something.  And one of the great things to do is to go to God and say, “Here’s what I’m feeling.  I need your input on what to actually do now.”  

BS:      “Give me clarity.”  

TD:      “Give me clarity, and help me make a good decision that would honor you.”  

And now you’re really doing something positive.  Leaving judgment to God is always a good thing to do.  He says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”  And what he’s saying is, “You leave it to me.”  

And, you know, sometimes he takes that vengeance, and he puts it on the cross.  And that’s a good thing.  We should wish that on everybody because we want it for ourselves.  

BS:      Yes. That’s the that’s the mercy principle.  

TD:      That is the mercy principle.  

BS:      So what other what other lessons do you take from this?  What of this have you applied to your own life?  

BS:      Well, another passage that really stands out to me is Lamentations 3:31-33.  It says,

For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.

So God’s not looking to zap us, and he’s not looking for us to just make a mistake.  

I think I’ve heard you preach before that you grew up with a one foot on a trap door to hell and the other foot on a banana peel.  That’s not the picture of God.  He’s not like, “Okay, I just want them to mess up!”  

Jesus will wipe away every tear.  He loves us, and he grieves with us in our sin, and he will show that compassion.  That is a is a great comfort for me knowing that, no matter what I do, I want to please God.  I want to avoid my Lamentations moment.  But even if I mess up, God is not kicking me out.  And that a huge comfort for me, knowing that truth, I can look forward to life as opposed to always looking in my rearview mirror to see if God still loves me.  

Another verse that really is fascinating to me is 3:39.  It says,

Why should a living man complain,
A man for the punishment of his sins?

We often think and ask this question.  I know I ask this:  “God, why do bad things happen to good people?”  Or, “Why did you allow this thing to happen to me?”  

What this verse does is it just flips that thing on its head.  It says, “Why should a living man—why should anybody alive—complain?  A man for the punishment of his sins?”  Because, the fact of the matter is, we’re all guilty.  We are all sinners.  And really the question we should be asking—the theological disturbance—is why do good things happen to bad people?  

TD:      Which is all of us.

BS:      Which is all of us because we’re all bad, and why does God allow us to experience mercy and grace?  

TD:      Well that’s an interesting flip on perspective, isn’t it?  Because we all tend to think what I have is my right, and now I want to seek more.  And the reality is we don’t have anything we weren’t given, and we don’t deserve what we do have, and we should be incredibly grateful.  

BS:      Yeah.  And I’ve heard this quite a bit, “Mercy is not receiving what you deserve; and grace is receiving what you don’t deserve.”  We’re constantly living in God’s favor, and we’re constantly living in his mercy.  

TD:      Just by virtue of—

BS:      —being alive.  And health and everything else that goes on.  But, yet, we were so quick to say, “Why did this bad thing happened to this good person?”  And, really, there are no good people.  We are all sinners.  

TD:      It makes me think of that parable where the folks who worked all day were complaining that they got paid the same as the ones that came at three o’clock, and the master said, “Why are you mad at me because I want to be generous to somebody?  You got what we agreed to.”  

We’re kind of that way.  “How come you’re not more generous to me?”  

So I did look at this, and here is the deal.  A few people were left behind after the siege, and Jeremiah was one of them.  They took most people.  They left a few people behind just so it wouldn’t go wild, and Jeremiah was one of those people.  

In Jeremiah chapters 42 and 43, they came and said, “Okay, we need to go to Egypt.”  And he’s like, “Seriously?  No.  Don’t go to Egypt!”  They basically kidnapped him and took him down there.

BS:      He couldn’t win in this life.

TD:      So, of course, they went to Egypt, and I think they were abused down there.  So anyway.  

We do insist on self-destruction as humans.  We’re insistent on it, it seems.  

So, regarding exile and return, we are the people living in the exile now.  It applies to all of us.  We’re all in Babylon, metaphorically speaking, because this earth is not our true home.  And the new earth is in our future where God will redeem the earth, and he will come dwell here, and we won’t need a temple because he will be here personally, and he’ll be the temple.  And we’re looking forward to that day.  That’s our homecoming, like Israel had their homecoming, going back to Jerusalem.  

But a lot of bad things are happening now.  I mean, there are a lot of bad things in the world.  There always have been and always will be.  And scripture tells us this is going to get worse.  

But you have this funny verse in the middle of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 29:11-13, that’s kind of a t-shirt verse, and people love this verse.  I love this verse.  

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 

This is spoken in the middle of all these horrible things we’ve been talking about; and God says, I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.

In retrospect, the genius of the Jewish people, in large part, was born in the exile.  They became the scholars and the incredible intellects we know them as because they essentially traded farming for study in many respects.  

So, that’s probably just scratching the surface, but God did redeem those times.  And maybe that’s a picture for us of the redemption for all of us of living in this world, of living by faith, of living in obedience, that there’s this massive—

1 Corinthians 2:9 says,

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

—which means obey me, walk in my ways.  

So there’s something beyond our comprehension and beyond our grasp for being willing to do what God asked us to do, irrespective of physical circumstances.  

BS:      Yes, and that verse is something to really hold onto and cling to.  And I think that’s why it has such a powerful appeal.  Despite everything that’s going on, we know that God does have good plans for us and that we should continue to seek him and that we will find him if we continue to seek him, despite what’s going on, despite what’s happening in our homes or at work, or in our world.  And just having that hope and continuing to live with that perspective and that hope, as opposed to, “Well I just give up and quit because everything’s falling apart, so it doesn’t really matter.”  

TD:      The wonderful thing about all this stuff we’ve been talking about is that these are objectives that each of us can choose that absolutely no one can block because being faithful doesn’t depend on anyone else.  Walking in obedience doesn’t depend on anyone else.  

From a worldly standpoint, or let’s just say, from a human standpoint, everything Jeremiah did was a failure.  No one ever listened to him.  He never convinced anyone to do anything.  It was like he had a complete losing season, but he’s a champion because he did what he was asked to do.  

BS:      Because he knew the game.  

TD:      He knew the game, and it’s a different game.  Obedience is a different game than success when looked at from a human perspective.  And when we look at it from a spiritual perspective, no one can block us from being successful.  No one.  Because success is faithful obedience and running the race that God gave us to run.  And we can’t run anybody else’s race, and we can’t respond to circumstances we don’t have.  We can only engage with circumstances we do have in the present.  

And one of the great, wonderful things is all this horrific past, God redeemed it all.  And like you read from Lamentations 3:23, his mercies renew every morning.  So that means every day’s a new day, and he’s faithful and just to forgive our sins if we confess our sins.  Everything we’ve done in the past can be redeemed.  He promises to take everything and—what is it that Romans 8:28-29 say?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 

So even when we do make bad choices, that’s still going to be redeemed for us to be conformed to his image.  But the question is, when?  And if we will take advantage of now and confessing what we learn and what we know and asking for forgiveness for those things and repenting, changing our minds about things, he will actually redeem that now.  

And you’ve seen that many times with people that live sordid pasts and turn over that and use that as a platform.  But God doesn’t ask us to do bad things on purpose so he can redeem them.  Basically, the better life we live now, the more compounded it will be for the future.  

BS:      Yeah, and will we wait on him to redeem those things, according to his time, as opposed to, “Redeem this now!”?

TD:      And in his way.  

BS:      Yes.  

TD:      You know, if we’re humble, he will he will raise us up, but he resists the proud, 1 Peter 5 says.  Well, in his time.  He resists the proud but he elevates the humble in his time, his way.  

BS:      Yes.  And you mentioned 1 John 1:9.  If we confess our sins he’s faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.  Lamentations 5 is kind of a take on that, where Jeremiah takes a different tone with the final chapter of this book.  

So chapters 1, 2, and 4 are all about the horrors of what’s going on.  Chapter 3 contains a lot of the mercy that’s in there.  And then chapter 5 is really a confession and a prayer.  And I think this is a prayer Jeremiah prays on behalf of the kingdom of Judah because he says,

Remember, O Lord, what has come upon us;
Look, and behold our reproach!

And, so, he starts speaking to God on behalf of Judah, not as separate from Judah, and asking God to bring this redemption, and to bring this restoration, that Jeremiah knows is going to happen; but it’s a Maranatha prayer:  “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Come and redeem us.”  

And it ends, largely, on a question.  Where it says in Lamentations 5:19,

You, O Lord, remain forever;
Your throne from generation to generation.
Why do You forget us forever,
And forsake us for so long a time?
Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,
Unless You have utterly rejected us,
And are very angry with us!

So it kind of ends on that rhetorical statement:  Bring us back into the fold.  Bring us back.  Restore us.  Unless you’re still angry.”  But it’s acknowledging, God, you’re God.  We’re waiting on your time and not demanding it now.  

TD:      That seems kind of ironic given that he prayed for all his enemies to get whacked and then turns around and says—well, maybe that’s the answer to our previous question.  He turns around and says, “Well, I’m one of them.  Let me pray on behalf of all of us.”

BS:      Yeah.  Jeremiah had a perspective change between chapters 3 and 5 perhaps.  

TD:      That kind of reminds me of Daniel’s prayer on behalf of the people.  He said “We sinned,” and, yet, you don’t have any indication that Daniel ever did anything wrong.  But he’s part of Israel.  

You know, one of the most difficult lessons I think I ever learned is that leadership is taking responsibility for choices you can’t make.  So, other people make mistakes; you take responsibility to clean it up and take action from there.  That’s real leadership.  It’s taking responsibility to act instead of assessing blame for who should have or avoiding blame.  It’s just stepping up and taking responsibility.  

And that’s what Daniel and Jeremiah both do in this circumstance.  They just step up and say, “Okay, what can we do next?  Lord, we need your help; and I’m taking responsibility on part of this nation in asking you for reconciliation and restoration.”

That’s sort of what Paul asks us to do in Galatians 6.  He says two very unreasonable things from a human perspective.  He says bear one another’s burdens and carry your own load.  

So, most of us would want to take in, “Well, then, Brandon you should bear my burden.  That’s what the Bible tells you to do.  Here it is.”  And, instead, it’s, “No.  Carry your own load, and bear other people’s burdens.”  

Well, another way to say that is take responsibility, no matter what’s going on.  We see these two great men do this.  

And, interestingly, even though Daniel, I think, from a human perspective was very successful, and Jeremiah very unsuccessful, from God’s perspective they were both equally successful.  

BS:      Yeah.  They both ran the race that God set before them.  And, to your point, Isaiah says the same thing when he comes to the throne room and prays:  “I am a man of unclean lips, and I come from a people of unclean lips.”  And, so, we often identify that we’re on God’s side and look at all the sinners down there.  But the real perspective we ought to have is we want to be on God’s side, but we need to recognize that we, too, are sinners and are in need of God’s mercy and grace.  

TD:      Well that Isaiah 6 might be a throne room, but when he goes to the throne room, it might be a little picture of what the Bema seat of Christ is going to look like because we tend to think of, “Oh, I wish I could go to heaven.  That’d be great.”  

BS:      That’s the ultimate perspective change.  

TD:      Yeah.  And when Isaiah, who—I mean, Isaiah was a prophet, right?  When he gets to the throne room, he says, “Man, I feel really dirty.  My lips are dirty.”

And God says, “Well, here’s a coal.  Burn your lips off, and then they won’t be dirty anymore.”  

I don’t think burning your lips off would feel very good, do you?  You cauterize your lips.  

BS:      No.  That’s “cut your hand off and throw it in the fire.”

TD:      That’s kind of what it is.  And there’s a good picture of what’s ahead for us, and what’s here now.  Get rid of everything now because it’s way less painful than it’s going to be when you get in front of Christ.  

So, that’s a kind of the lesson.  

Are We Responsible For Our Father’s Sins?

TD:      We’ve been talking about Lamentations 5.  In chapter 5, it comes up with this basic proposition that the people have inherited the sins of their parents.  Verse 7,

Our fathers sinned and are no more,
But we bear their iniquities.
Servants rule over us;
There is none to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives,
Because of the sword in the wilderness.

So, the picture here seems to be that they inherited a horrible problem.  They’re now bearing the consequences of this problem, and there’s really nothing they could do about it, is kind of what this sounds like.  

Ezekiel, who is a contemporary, has a completely opposite-sounding scenario when he says in Ezekiel 18:1,

The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 
“What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying:

‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

So, in other words, I eat a sour grape, and my son puckers up.  I chew a lemon; my son puckers up.  Well, no, that’s not the way it works.  When I chew the lemon, I pucker up.  But the proverb was “I chew the lemon, they pucker up.”  

But then God goes on this whole thing:  As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.  Everybody bears the consequences of their own actions.  

So you have Ezekiel 18 where it says everybody bears the consequences of their own actions; and then you have Lamentations 5 that says, “Hey, Our fathers sinned and are no more, But we bear their iniquities.

So how do you reconcile these two things?  

BS:      Yeah, I think they both sound really similar; but what Jeremiah’s saying in Lamentations, I think, is a little different than what Ezekiel is saying.  What Jeremiah’s saying in Lamentations is, “Our father sinned and are no more.  They’re dead and gone.  But we are the ones that are bearing the consequences of their iniquities.”  

Our fathers sinned, and we are suffering for it, is what I think Jeremiah is saying.  

And it says in Deuteronomy that that the consequences of sin go to five generations, but the blessings go to a thousand generations.

TD:      It’s actually a third, a fourth, and a thousand.

BS:      That’s pretty exponential there.  

So if I go home, and I’m angry, and I’m mad at my kids and just kind of discontent at life, I’m the one who’s sinning; but my kids suffer for that when I go home.  And they bear the consequences of my iniquities.  And I may leave out of the house and go to work; and, yet, they’re still at home suffering and wounded from my actions and words.  

But what I think this proverb mentioned in Ezekiel was saying was, “Well, I have to keep doing this sin because my fathers did this sin.  And my fathers ate these sour grapes, so I’m just continuing the same thing.  The reason I mess up is because you did this to me.”  

TD:      “And so I have no choice.”  

BS:      “I have no choice.”  That would be like if I’m a bad father to my kids, my kids are still responsible for their choices when they become fathers, and they can’t just simply say, “Well, my dad did this to me; so, therefore, I’m a bad person, and now I’m excused.”  

TD:      So this Jeremiah passage is a reality that when one person sins, it does affect other people.  

BS:      Yes.  

TD:      But, Ezekiel is like, “That doesn’t mean you’re not still responsible.”  

BS:      Yes.  You still are responsible for your choices.  

TD:      Yeah.  So it may be that your dad was an alcoholic and abused you, and you suffered from that.  And that’s just a reality.  But you have no excuse to, then, repeat that and say, “Well, I can’t help it because that’s what my dad did.”  

BS:      That’s right.  So we are always responsible for our own choices, and the choices that we make and the circumstances in which we make them in are all very different.  And, so, it’s much easier for somebody who didn’t have alcoholic dad to not become an alcoholic than it would be for somebody whose father was an alcoholic because they have that pattern that’s before them.  But we are all still responsible for our own choices.  And, I think, that’s some of why God tells us not to judge others because we don’t know what it is that they’ve gone through; but, yet, at the same time, we can’t ever use somebody else’s actions as an excuse for our disobedience.  

TD:      This is the two circles tool in the servant-leadership program.  Circumstances do impact us.  Everyone engages circumstances, but there are two ways to engage with those circumstances.  One is as a victim and say, “These circumstances compel me to behave a certain way.”  That would be this as Ezekiel 18 proverb.  Like, “I can’t help it.  I’m excused.  I’m not a free agent anymore.  I have no agency.”  

But that’s not that that’s not fulfilling, and it’s not even true.  It’s something we do to ourselves.  The reality is we always have a choice.  Now, our choices will have consequences; but we always have a choice.  And no matter what the circumstances are, we get to choose what our actions are.  

BS:      That’s right.  Our circumstances dictate our behavior, but they don’t determine our behavior.  They can tell us, “Here’s what you should do,” but we still get to choose whether or not we will follow that.  

TD:      So, you wouldn’t say our circumstances dictate our behavior but that they influence our behavior.  

BS:      Yes.  As a voice, they can dictate or chirp into our ears, “Here’s what you ought to do.”  

TD:      But, ultimately, it’s our choice.

BS:      But whose voice are we going to follow, our circumstances’ voice, the pattern of this world, or are we going to be conformed to the image of Christ and follow what Jesus tells us to do?  

TD:      So, the lesson from Ezekiel would be always accept responsibility.  Always take responsibility.  Don’t shirk responsibility.  

But when you marry that with Lamentations, the reality is bad decisions of other people can influence us.  

BS:      We still bear those iniquities and often have the scars from other people’s sins.  

TD:      And, so, that could be part of the circumstances you have to deal with is just embracing the reality that I had this handed down to me in my generation, and so now I can take responsibility to hand the next generation something better.  

BS:      Yes.  

TD:      Okay.  That very powerful and a great way to take these two passages and bring something very powerful out of it.  

Anything else from chapter 5?

BS:      No.  I think that’s the interesting point.  

TD:      I just might say when we talk about that third and fourth generation versus thousands of generations, I find that very fascinating.  The way I take that is that God is going to allow up to three or four generations before the negative influence of a sin that’s passed on basically brings out complete destruction to whatever that line is, line of people, line of organization, whatever it is.  He’s going to give a lot of mercy before the destruction is full.  Because all sin is self-destructive.  

But when you choose something positive, he’s going to see that that gets passed on over and over and over and over and over again.  And there is no cessation of that, essentially, in terms of its positive impact.  

But if you marry that with Ezekiel 18, at any point in time, someone can take that positive thing they inherited and still squander it.  And, at any point in time, somebody can take a bad inheritance and make a good decision from it.  And that’s basically Ezekiel 18.  

And even though that still keeps getting passed down, it doesn’t mean it’s going to benefit anybody.  

So take responsibility I think is an important part of the lesson.  

Okay.  Well, Brandon, thanks for doing this.  I think it’s a great end.  

BS:      Well, thanks for having me.  

More About Exile and Return, Creation and Recreation, and Lost and Found

TD:      I think that’ll fill out the Exile and Return series, which I hope really blesses people.  It explains a lot of the Bible that tends to be a real mystery to people.  

BS:      Yeah.  Exile and return, other than creation itself, and creation and recreation, is probably the clearest picture or theme that runs through the Bible.  God creates and then recreates us in him, and then what is lost is found.  

TD:      When you say, “What is lost is found,” like, the loss of innocence and fellowship with God and harmony with God is lost?

BS:      Yes.  As we’ve been exiled from the Garden or exiled from fellowship with him, where we’re a lost sheep, the shepherd comes out and finds us and brings us back into the flock.  

TD:      Yeah.  There are many exile and return stories in the Bible.  You’ve got Joseph being exiled in Egypt, and that exile ends up saving his whole family from death by famine.  And because they go to Egypt, they become a great nation.  And then they return.  So that that’s a mini exile and return.  

Jesus was exiled to Egypt as a child to save him from Herod, and then he returns.  

David was exiled, basically, from Saul and civilization, and he spent maybe 15 years or something running from him, and then is returned to be the king of Israel.  Even though he was anointed.  

And, of course, I don’t know if you’d think of Jesus going to heaven as an exile, but it’s a sort of exile; and he’s going to return.  I’m sure there are a hundred others.  

Moses was exiled from Egypt by the Pharaoh and then returns back to Egypt and leads the people out.

BS:      Jacob was.  

TD:      Jacob was exiled from his family.  So it’s very much a recurring theme in scripture; and, again, it’s a constant reminder:  This is our life.  We’re in Babylon right now.  We are not in our natural home.