TD: So, let just talk about what that looks like circumstantially. Jeremiah was faithful all the way through, wasn’t he?
TD: And, as best we can tell, so as Ezekiel and so was Daniel. And they were all contemporaries.
Well, Daniel got deported; probably made a eunuch. Had his life threatened a number of times. Got thrown in the lions’ den. I mean, he was faithful, but he went through a lot of trouble.
Jeremiah—nobody would listen to him. He was asked—he and Ezekiel were both asked—to do all these completely unreasonable things, as we went through in one of our sessions. He was thrown in a well. They tried to kill him. A guy rescued him. He kind of got kidnapped and taken to Egypt, as I recall.
So, you know, it wasn’t that they lived all that comfortably. It’s not like, okay, things will be happy if you do obey. If you do walk in obedience, there’s a lot of persecution that goes with it.
And all of Jesus’ disciples were martyrs. John was a martyr by exile instead of being a martyr who was executed, but still martyrdom.
So, what’s the difference? You’re going to end up suffering either way. Why not just, you know, eat, drink, and be merry and enjoy what you can? Because it’s going to be tough either way. What about taking that view?
BS: Well, that’s certainly a perspective you can have. And it makes a lot of sense if we are trusting in ourselves and what we can see and what’s around us. But if we trust God, that his way is better and that there’s a much greater reward, then we’re foregoing that by choosing what’s comfortable and convenient now.
TD: A reward when—now or later?
BS: There is a future reward later that isn’t super specific as to what it is; but all of the New Testament says that’s the thing you want to go for.
TD: Actually the Old Testament does too.
BS: But there is a present reward now of knowing God now and in the moment, of walking with Jesus and encountering those trials with Christ, together. And that brings us sweetness of fellowship with him and if there are other believers that that we’re walking through this with, that brings that fellowship as well.
TD: So there’s a spiritual reward that transcends the physical circumstances. You’re going to have difficult circumstances either way, is kind of the point.
BS: You can’t avoid the difficult circumstances. You might have some influence on which kind you get.
TD: You can avoid self-inflicted negative circumstances.
TD: And many of our circumstances that are bad are self-inflicted. But, yeah, you’re going to have difficulty either way. The question is, are you going to have joy and growth and actually a spiritual reward in those difficulties, or is it just going to be despair? That’s really your main choice. Which is not a particularly happy way of looking at life, but it’s a fallen world, and we’re all going to die. I mean, the mortality rate is still a hundred percent.
You were talking about some takeaways from this thing. So people got plenty of warning.
TD: They were told exactly what was going to happen; and, yet, they didn’t believe. They chose to listen to the false prophets instead.
So what do you what do take from that?
BS: That it can be difficult to trust God when everybody’s telling us not to. That our culture—and even our Christian culture, sometimes—can say, “These things are okay,” or “God doesn’t really mean that part of the Bible.” And we can bury our heads in the sand, and you have proclamations of, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace, be said all the time, and we can ignore the warnings that God has because we just want to enjoy the comfort of the moment. And we do so at our detriment.
God really means what he says, and he really will reward us greatly if we are faithful; and there will be very real and catastrophic consequences if we don’t obey. But losing our salvation and being sent to an eternity in hell is not among those consequences.
And, so, what Lamentations is or what it looks like in a lot of ways, is Judah’s national Bema moment where they came up wanting.
TD: What do you mean by Bema?
BS: Bema is the Greek word for the judgment seat of Christ.
TD: Or judgment seat.
BS: Yeah, judgment seat.
TD: Which in the Greek culture, the judge would sit there and pronounce guilty or innocent.
BS: Yeah, the verdict. And, so, Paul tells us that we all will stand before the Bema of Christ. We’ll all stand before the judgment of Christ. And “all of us,” he’s talking about believers. “To give an account for the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.” And if we have done well, if we’ve lived a life of faith that’s pleasing unto God, then we receive reward and Christ’s approval. And if we have not lived a life that pleases God, we’ve not lived by faith, we’ve just done things in our own strength, or maybe just flat out ignored what God told us to do, then that’s going to get burned up and go away. And, then, we have no reward. And the Bible says that we’ll suffer loss in that circumstance; but we, ourselves, will still be saved, so as through fire. Again, just reaffirming that the gift of salvation is permanent. It’s irrevocable, but the reward of it is—
TD: It’s a choice.
BS: —it’s largely dependent on whether we choose to live by faith now or not.
TD: So Israel had this national moment where they knew the right thing to do. They were told very overtly. They were told they were messing up. They were given plenty of opportunities, and they just persisted. And, so, they had this massive destruction come on them.
So is there a parallel in the New Testament that tells us similarly—You pointed out that Moses told them 800 years earlier, “This is what’s going to happen if you disobey.” So it was right there in the Bible. And then Jeremiah told them, contemporaneously, “Here’s what’s about to happen, but you can repent. If you’ll repent, God will relent,” right? And they still didn’t listen.
What’s the what’s the New Testament parallel to that that comes to your mind?
BS: I think there are a lot of them. In the Sermon the Mount you have enter by the narrow gate versus the wide gate. You have build your house upon the rock as opposed to build your house upon the sand. You have Peter, who says that our faith is very precious. It’s more precious than gold because this is our one moment to live by faith and please God. Paul says in Romans 8 that we will be co-heirs with Christ if we suffer and endure with him like Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Daniel did in their circumstances.
TD: And implied, it is not if you don’t [suffer with Christ].
BS: Yeah, the inference is if you don’t obey, then you miss out on that reward.
And so there are a lot of those patterns in the New Testament.
Hebrews 11 says that God rewards those who live by faith. That he who believes in God—
TD: And diligently seek him.
BS: —and diligently seek him—and then they give all sorts of Old Testament examples of the winners, those that chose to suffer and endure.
TD: An interesting thing: Some of those characters in Hebrews 11 would offend the moral sensibilities of modern Christians, right?
BS: Yes. They weren’t perfect people.
TD: Far from it. But they did what God asked them to do.
TD: And, so, that’s actually incredibly encouraging because, I mean, even in Jeremiah, at some points, God says through Jeremiah, “If you’ll just start keeping the Sabbath—how about we just start with that? —I’ll relent. How ’bout that?” He just keeps, like, “Will you do anything?”
And the answer is always, “No. We won’t do anything.”
You know another one that occurs to me is the whole Romans sequence where Paul is saying, “Look. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”
And that was the big controversy between him and these competing Jewish authorities who were saying, “No, no, no! You have to keep all these religious rules.”
And Paul was adamant that, “Nope, that has nothing to do with it. It’s just faith. You believe in Jesus, and that does it.”
TD: In terms of justification, being justified in the sight of God.
And, so, their argument against Paul was, “Well, then, we should do evil that good may come. We should sin all the more so that grace abounds all the more. So if you’re sinning, you do God a favor. That’s what you’re arguing, Paul.”
And Paul’s comeback was, “Well, you certainly can do that. God gave you the choice to do that. And you’ll still go to heaven, right? But here’s the problem: You’re going back into slavery, from which you’ve been delivered. And slavery’s an evil, bad thing. You’re going back into death from which you were delivered. Why would you want to do that? You’re going back into condemnation, the kind of negative consequences that sin brings.”
And he kind of summed it up right up front when he says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and all ungodliness of all men,” including believers, right? And how does that wrath look? It looks like giving us what we desired. Giving us what we seek. Giving us what we choose.
And the wrath is executed in three steps. He gave them over to their lust. He gave them over to their passions. He gave them over to a debased mind.
And the example that comes to my mind that illustrates this is, like, some kind of addiction. You have a passion for something, and you say, “I want more of it. I want more of it.” It could be gaming or a hobby or some kind of substance. It could be anything.
And then pretty soon, you’re addicted to it. And pretty soon you can’t even think straight. You’ve lost total perspective because all you can think about is more of that thing, whatever it is.
And this is God’s judgment most of the time, to give you what you asked for.
In Ezekiel 16, he described Judah is an unfaithful wife. And he described this judgment as, “I’m going to give you over to your boyfriends. You can go live with them, and watch what happens. They’re going to abuse you and mistreat you. I’m going to give you what you wanted.”
So, it’s pretty sobering.
TD: All sin is self-destructive, and if we want to pursue self-destruction, God will hold us back from it and protect us from ourselves for a while; but, then, eventually, he’ll relent and give us over to what we want. And this is a picture of what that looks like
BS: In my mind, it’s the worst picture in all the Bible of what that looks like.
TD: Of the hell on earth.
BS: Of the hell on earth because of the passages that we talked about earlier. And that picture is consistent throughout scripture. And, again, the danger is we believe that for everybody else; we just don’t believe it for ourselves. I mean Adam and Eve, they’re like, “God’s not really going to let us die. We’re made in his image!”
The children of Israel: “God rescued us out of Egypt. He’s going to give us the Promised Land. Let’s go!” After they chickened out earlier.
And they wander around in the wilderness for 40 years.
Now Adam and Eve didn’t cease being made in God’s image. The children of Israel didn’t cease being part of God’s family. The children of Israel here in Jerusalem at this siege didn’t cease being part of God’s children, just like we, as believers, don’t cease being part of God’s family because we sin or we disobey; but the consequences are real and they’re very high. And so it is important for us to remember to walk by faith and trust God in our daily lives because how we live really matters.
TD: We might just close this part of it thinking about Mark 9 again where Jesus talks about hell, but it’s actually Gehenna, this Valley of Hinnom or Valley of Slaughter from Jeremiah 19, and says it’s better to lose a hand than lose your whole body in Gehenna. That passage starts off with the disciples arguing about who’s the greatest, and it ends with Jesus saying, “Have salt in yourselves,” which is a picture of—he says every sacrifice is seasoned with fire. So the idea is to be a pleasing sacrifice, a living sacrifice.
The sacrifice was the lamb being cooked and eaten. So it’s the idea of us being pleasing to God when he “eats us,” so to speak, when he sees our lives as a living sacrifice, that our lives are pleasing him. Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another.
So, in many respects, this hell on earth really comes about because of selfishness. I want me over you. I want me to ascend over you. And a lot of what you see talked about by the various prophets in this exile time period is injustice against the widow, injustice against the orphan. Habakkuk complains to God and says, “Why are you letting injustice go unpunished? There’s total injustice here!”
The disobedience in many respects looks like taking advantage of people who are innocent, taking advantage of people who are vulnerable. I think of, in our day and age, abortion, human trafficking, the sex trade that’s going on. You know, those are some examples of things where if we’re not working to try to provide alternatives and contend for those people, then we’re just turning and looking the other way. And, you know, there’s going to be a consequence to that.
Any final word on this segment before we go to the next one?
BS: Trust God. Trust and obey and walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord, knowing that these consequences are real, but God’s grace still abounds. We will not lose our salvation if we disobey, but everything else is contingent upon our faithful obedience.
TD: Okay. That’s great, Brandon. Thank you for that.