Ezekiel 18 :: The Soul Who Sins Shall Die (and it does not please God)

I was doing some Bible reading this morning, and I came upon Ezekiel 18. This passage has caused me some discomfort because of the way it, at first glance, seems to cast God in the light of having to do something He doesn’t want to do; and it doesn’t jive with my knowledge of God’s sovereign will (His Will of Decree; not His Will of Command). Let me quote you the part of it I am talking about.

The subtitle of this chapter in my Bible (ESV) is “The Soul Who Sins Shall Die.” It (as you might expect) is a message from the LORD through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel about how God will punish people individually for their sins and reward people individually for righteousness. This is opposed to the current thought of the time that a Father’s sins would cause punishment to come upon his son; and a son’s sin would cause punishment to come upon the Father. God says, no, I will deal with each one individually.

And then there is this part, which was at the source of my conflict: (verses 31-32) “Cast away from you all transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

And so you see what appears to be God having to do something he doesn’t desire to do. It seems that if God sovereignly caused it to happen, it doesn’t make sense that He would say it doesn’t bring Him pleasure.

I asked God to help me understand it. Do you ever do that with certain Scripture passages or ideas? I do. I hate apparent inconsistencies. They bother me. And since I know God is always consistent – I ask for help to reconcile things I don’t understand. I believe when we pray and ask God for wisdom in regards to His Word, He is faithful to help us; insomuch as our finite minds can be helped.

So I went to the computer to try to look up some commentary for this struggle. I felt like I was being led to specifically check John Piper’s resources. So I went to http://www.desiringgod.org, searched for Ezekiel 18; and of course, was taken to a sermon of his from 1987 on this very subject (and yes it had audio AND text; so I got to listen to it.) It dealt with this very issue.

And so, if you also would wonder how a God who is infinitely free, can never be backed into a corner, and does ALL things according to the pleasure of His will, could say that He does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, then I invite you to see the same resource I have.

Before I give the link, let me also throw out there this verse which seems opposite, but as we find out is not. Deuteronomy 28:63, “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good, and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.”

Here is the link, but let me give you a bit of advice before you check it out. The text of the sermon that is given is an abbreviated version edited for reading. The audio sermon is MUCH better, especially with the final explanation. So, what I would suggest is opening up the “listen” link (NOT THE EXCERPT, BUT THE REGULAR SERMON) and then skip the marker (there is no time marker) ahead to the final quarter of the sermon. Listen to the final 1/4 of the audio sermon. The whole sermon is good, but if you want to get right to the answer, check out the final 1/4 of it. The verbal answer is more elaborate and passionate than the written text answer on the page, although they are equally true.

Are you ok with having a God who can be backed into a corner and be dependent on men? If you are, then maybe Ezekiel 18 doesn’t bother you. If you know that is not the nature of God, and therefore it does bother you – you will enjoy this.


[Originally written March 3, 2008.]

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 8:44 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Nice one charlie…..strike one more up for Piper.

  2. The audio response is great. Did you hear it?

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