TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 18-20
“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 20:44
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” – Ezekiel 18:23
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” – Ezekiel 18:32
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” – Ezekiel 33:11
In a previous post on Ezekiel, we saw that the purpose of his ministry was that people should “know that I am the Lord.” In Ezekiel 18:23, we are told that we will know that God is Lord when he deals with us for his name’s sake.
What does it mean for God to deal with us for his name’s sake?
In the Hebrew culture, one’s name was synonymous with one’s character. For God to deal with us for his name’s sake is for God to deal with us for his character’s sake. That is, we will know that God is Lord as he deals with us according to his character, his being, who God is?
How do we know God’s character?
Colossians 1:15, 19 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
God is exactly like Jesus. Therefore, when we see and know the character of Jesus, we will see and know the character of God.
What is the character of Jesus? What is the nature of Jesus? What is the being of Jesus?
1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Jesus is the light of the world. He told the disciples that God is light. Because God is light, there is no darkness at all in God. So, we will know that God is Lord when we see he acts in light and light alone.
1 John 4:8-10 says, “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that the loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Jesus fully displayed the perfection of God’s love when he suffered and died for us on the cross so that we might know love and live. So, we will know that God is Lord when we see he acts in love and love alone, which means that God suffers and dies rather tortures and kills.
1 John 5:10-11 says, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
Jesus fully displayed the life of God. The fullness of the Godhead was in him. God was able to give us this eternal life because God is life.
So, we see that the character, that nature, the being, the name, of God is light, love, life. We will know that God is Lord when we see him act for the sake of his name.
But, what does the word sake mean?
According to Wester’s, sake means:
- end, purpose
- the good, advantage, or enhancement of some entity (as an ideal)
- personal or social welfare, safety, or benefit
The Hebrew word for sake is lama’an (I’m sure I spelled that completely wrong). It means purpose, intent, for the sake of, on account of, to the intent, in order that.
When God is acting for the sake of his name, he is acting for the end, the purpose, the intent, of his name, his character. God is acting for the sake of his name when he is acting to bring about the end, the purpose, the intent of his character, which is light, love, and life.
So, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God?”
The Hebrew word for pleasure in Ezekiel 18:23 also means desire, to be willing, inclined, purpose. We could understand this verse as God asking, “Do I desire the death of the wicked? Do I will, intend, or purpose the death of the wicked?”
If we have come to know that the Lord is God by seeing God act for the sake of his name, then surely the answer to that question is no. Because God is light, love and life, he cannot take pleasure in, desire, will, intend, or purpose the death of the wicked.
In John 14:6-7, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you have known my Father also.”
Jesus is the way, truth, and life. Jesus could just as have easily said, “I am the light, and the love, and the life.” This is the nature, the being of Jesus. And, you can only come to the Father in his being and nature. You can’t get to the Father outside of his being and nature. But, if we see Jesus in his being of light, love, and life, then we see the Father too.
When God asked the question “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?”, he answered by saying “not rather that he should turn from his way and live.” God also said, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
Turn and live.
What is it to turn and live?
To turn is to repent. It is to turn from our evil and wicked ways. To turn from death.
To turn, to repent, is to be resurrected.
Here God is saying that he does will or intend the death of the wicked. Rather his purpose and his will is that we would turn and live, that we would be resurrected and have life.
But, this is exactly what Jesus said is the nature of God.
In John 11, Martha said that believed in the resurrection that would take place on the last day. She believed in the resurrection as an event. But, in John 11:25, Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
The resurrection is not just an event. Jesus, God, is the resurrection and the life. Resurrection and life is God’s nature, God’s being, God’s character, God’s name. Resurrection and life is the purpose and end that God is working toward so that when he does this we will know that he is Lord.
Therefore, if God is resurrection and life, turning and living, then how could it ever be that in this age or the ages to come he would will, intend, purpose, desire, take pleasure in, the death of the wicked, the death of anyone.
Look at how God says it again in Ezekiel.
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
“As I live.”
God is life. Because he is life, he does not have pleasure, will, intend, or purpose death for the wicked, or anyone else. Rather, his end and purpose is that we turn and live, that we are in his resurrection and life.