“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
This is a view of God’s heart. But it is not how most people think about God. He is viewed as the opposite, as One Who supposedly delights in judgment, awaiting each and every opportunity to hand it out. He is seen as One Who watches each person carefully, looking for the slightest slip. And then applies judgment. But He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Since every sin is against God, every disobedience of His commandments is an afront to Him. He made us and He has given us His commands to follow. He surely knows what is best for us. The idea that God judges sin is not mistaken. He surely will. He promises. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. But that is not what He desires; He doesn’t take pleasure in that.
We might view a movie, for example, in which is an unsavory character. As time passes through the movie, we may even become anxious to see this character get what is coming to him or her. And when it comes, we have a sense of relief. But this verse shows us how the LORD views it. No matter how vile a man or woman may be, in this verse stands a clear statement: God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
But, here also is stated what does please God. Many scriptures speak of things that please God. Jesus said, “I do always the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) On at least two occasions, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5) And, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The verse above tells us that God is pleased when the wicked turn from their way. And He promises that having turned, they would live.
God went beyond what we can imagine to reconcile mankind to Himself. Romans 5:8-10 tells is, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The death of Jesus is how and why the wicked can turn and live. And, He rose again! And God is pleased!
In Ezekiel 33:11, God goes on to warn Israel about their idolatry. At the time Ezekiel wrote, Jerusalem was still standing. Years later, Jeremiah wrote about God’s judgment on Jerusalem by siege by the Chaldeans. In the above verse, God warns Israel, “Why will ye die?” It was not what He wanted, but His justice required that judgment should fall for their idolatry, ignoring Him. Their death would not be pleasing to God. What He wanted was for them to turn from their wicked ways, and live. This is the reason for the warning He gave them. “Why will you die?” And the promise He gave was that they would live if they would turn.
“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Does our heart beat like this? How does the death of the wicked affect us? God desires that they turn from their wickedness, and live, through Jesus Christ.
Sinner, hear the Savior’s call,
He now is passing by;
He has seen thy grievous thrall,
And heard thy mournful cry.
He has pardons to impart,
Grace to save thee from thy fears;
See the love that fills His heart,
And wipe away thy tears.
Why art thou afraid to come
And tell Him all thy case?
He will not pronounce thy doom,
Nor frown thee from His face:
Wilt thou fear Emmanuel?
Wilt thou dread the Lamb of God,
Who, to save thy soul from hell,
Has shed His precious blood?
Think, how on the cross He hung
Pierced with a thousand wounds!
Hark, from each as with a tongue
The voice of pardon sounds!
See, from all His bursting veins,
Blood, of wondrous virtue, flow!
Shed to wash away thy stains,
And ransom thee from woe.
Though His majesty be great,
His mercy is no less;
Though He thy transgressions hate,
He feels for thy distress:
By Himself the Lord has sworn,
He delights not in thy death;
But invites thee to return,
That thou mayst live by faith.
Raise thy downcast eyes, and see
What throngs His throne surround!
These, though sinners once like thee,
Have full salvation found:
Yield not then to unbelief!
While He says, There yet is room;
Though of sinners thou art chief,
Since Jesus calls thee, come. (John Newton)