Honestly, I never understood the idea that we're responsible for things done before we were even born until I read this passage.
The people recount God's goodness to their ancestors, the way he continually forgave them and then gave them this land.
One by one they list the blessings:
- You didn't abandon them in the desert.
- You guided them.
- You fed them and gave them water.
- You gave them kingdoms and nations.
- You made their sons as numerous as the stars.
- You gave them houses and vineyards and fruit trees.
And then they recount the rebellion and the exile.
And the way God delivered them once again when they cried out in repentance.
These people, these people received the inheritance of their forefathers. They didn't do anything to deserve it, but they received the blessings promised to their ancestors.
Why shouldn't they also take responsibility for the sin?
Their ancestors, most of them, are long gone and cannot repent.
But God has a long view of history, he sees it less in segments, the way we do, and more of a continuous line. And these people, who didn't actually rebel, mourn and repent for the sins of their forefathers.
And God forgives them.
And I think of the blessings we receive as Americans.
They fought for independence.
They struggled in the wilderness.
And then I think of the sins of our forefathers.
Slavery. Racism. Murder.
It seems very un-American to think we are responsible for whatever went before us. We're more individualistic. And yet, I wonder.
Is there anything we need to mourn?
Is there anything we need to repent of?