“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'” – Ezekiel 33:11
During the time of the prophet Ezekiel, God’s frustration with the people of Israel had grown to a great crescendo. The Babylonians had already carried away many of them to Babylon and yet the people were still rebellious. They still disobeyed the word of the Lord. They still thought that they could fend away the Babylonians in their own strength, unwilling to accept that they were the sword of God. Yet even in judgment, God had been very merciful. Anyone who would defect to Babylon would have lived, but they chose pride rather than life.
In the midst of this, God set Ezekiel as a watchman for the house of Israel. He faithfully proclaimed God’s word to a people who loved to hear but not to do (Ezekiel 33:31). He cried to them the word of the Lord: “Turn, turn from your evil ways! Why should you die of House of Israel?”
If sending His prophets was not enough proof of His fervent desire to forgive their sins and grant them life, He made it abundantly clear by His words that He has no other pleasure. Condemning the wicked gives God no joy. He takes no pleasure in that. He says this emphatically: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live.”
But mankind forces His hand! How much more would God love to pardon, to forgive, to cleanse, to redeem. It would give Him great joy to do so! It would give Him great joy to restore, to bind up the wound He had inflicted, to restore prosperity, to lavish gifts abundantly. But His people resisted Him (Acts 7:51). They hindered the Holy One of Israel from doing that which brings Him joy. He would much rather rejoice with the angels over the repentance of one, but, O, how men force His hand!
It grieves the heart of God to judge the creation He has made, but he will do it. His anger over His displeasure of it will make it that much worse. His anger over the repeated stubbornness of man, whom He warns time and again, will make it that much worse. Indeed, who can stand in the day of His wrath?
Yet God’s displeasure in judgment affords mankind with a great opportunity for amendment. God’s simple conditions are often extended well beyond what is sufficient. And not only that, but His requirements are not grievous. He only commands that we turn from our ways. Even the man who has done evil all of his life may turn and live. If he does, if he turns to God, embraces the cross of Jesus Christ, then his sins will be forgotten. He will live because Jesus lives.
“Why should you die, O House of Israel?”
Is there any good reason to continue in sin? Is there any good reason to walk in darkness? Have the pleasures of this world really brought any true satisfaction? Are they not like buckets with holes in them? Is the flesh not like a bottomless pit? Nothing you put there will ever fulfill it. Yet even if it did, is it worth it in the end? When you stand before God, will there be anything you can say in defense of it? Will there be even one good reason that you did not immediately throw off your sin and cling to the Savior? There won’t be. All earthly gains will be lost. All earthly hopes will be dashed against the rocks of eternal justice. You will have nothing, not even your own soul.
“Why should you die, O House of Israel?”
Jesus fully paid the price of sin. He suffered, agonized, bled, and died so you could live. The wicked pierced His hands and feet. They struck His brow. They mocked Him, spit on Him, and pulled out His beard. They made Him carry His cross. In His death every sin was paid for; all transgression atoned for; Jesus took it upon Himself. His body still bears its marks in His hands and His feet and His side. Those who reject Him reject their own mercy, but to those who receive Him, to them He gives the power to become sons of God, even to those who believe in His name.
What a great salvation that has been accomplished on our behalf! Woe to any that rejects it or neglects it! No one shall escape. No person shall slide by, no life shall go unexamined. Everyone will stand before his Maker. Each one will be examined thoroughly. Each one shall give an account. No excuses will stand. Life and death are set before us all right now. To reject is death; to neglect is death.
The narrow gate must be thoughtfully entered. The straight path must be carefully trodden. The un-careful, the un-watchful, and the unthoughtful will not be able to endure. They will be snatched away, or withered away, or choked. Only those who set their face like flint, who prepare for battle as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, who fully arm themselves with the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, who reject their own will, who take up their cross, who embrace their baptism, who are ready to drink the cup–only they will inherit eternal life. The rest abide in death. They are dead while they live. They are lost now and forever–unless they repent.
The Bible says that the things that happened in the days when Israel rebelled against God were written down for our sakes. They were written as examples, examples of what we should not do. We see that they would not listen. We see that they would not heed. We don’t have to be like them. We don’t have to perish like they did. Indeed, if they could speak to us from the grave they would cry out, “Don’t be so foolish as we were! We were afforded every opportunity, but our pride and our love for sin blinded our eyes! We thought ourselves so wise, but we were fools! We thought ourselves so strong, but we were weak! We thought ourselves so righteous, but we were evil… Don’t come to this place of torment! Turn away and live!”
There is a day afforded us so graciously by God to make things right. That day is called ‘Today.’ It’s not tomorrow. It’s not someday off in the future. It’s today. Today God is speaking, He may not be speaking tomorrow. Today God is calling, today His Holy Spirit is drawing. You don’t know about tomorrow; you don’t know what a day may bring. Turn to God today. He is waiting for you with arms stretched out. He has a full pardon in His hand. He has a clean robe for you to wear, a ring for your hand, and sandals for your feet. He has a place prepared for you in heaven, pleasures at His right hand forevermore. He won’t turn you away, He turns no one away. It’s as simple as calling upon His name, for ‘whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Call upon Him today!