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?
God’s good pleasure!
Most beautiful word in Holy Scriptures designated the counsel of God! O, indeed, there are many other terms Scripture uses when it refers to God’s counsel. It speaks of the will of God, of the decrees of God, of the purpose of God, of the foreknowledge of God, etc. But of all the terms none is more beautiful and so full of meaning as the expression: God’s good pleasure.
Indeed, it is rooted in the firm, unchangeable resolveand expressed determination of God to perform His eternal will; yet it expresses at the same time that that will is motivated by inmost passion of affection and delight. The term “pleasure” as used in the text comes from a word which means “to bend, or curve; to incline toward some one or something in favor.” It implies a bending over with the purpose to reach a certain object in order to show grace or favor to that object because of the special delight one has in that object. God’s good pleasure, as it is revealed outside of Himself, bends down, delights in a certain designated object, and intends to show to that object His grace and favor.
In the text this good pleasure of God is directed to repentant wicked. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,”—that is negative. “But,” (and we may supply: “I have pleasure”) “that the wicked turn from his way and live;”—that is the positive aspect of this pleasure of God. Hence, we call it God’s good pleasure in respect to repentant wicked.
Not all wicked are the intended objects of this good pleasure of God!
How contrary that would be to many other passages of Scripture which teach us that: “God is angry with the wicked every day,” Psalm 7:11; and, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked,” Prov. 3:33; and, “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy,” Psalm 145:20.
The wicked as such are never the objects of God’s perfect delight, but of His holy wrath. They are vessels to be destroyed.
The context makes this very plain. The watchman must tell the wicked that he is to be destroyed if he walks on in his wickedness. There is no hope for a man who does not turn from his sin; whether that man be a man of the world, or whether he be in the church. No matter how nice one may appear to men; no matter if his name be inscribed on the roll of the church, and he be a partaker of the means of grace,—if he walks in sin, he shall die.
This is plain also from experience. God is not pleased with every wicked man. What the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:18 is realized every day: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The judgment of God does not wait for the second coming of Christ, but it is realized every day as far as the wicked is concerned. God never leaves them alone. He continually surrounds the wicked with retribution. Yea, this is true even when He gives to them many good gifts. It is that they may be destroyed forever. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction,” Psalm 73:18.
Only the repentant wicked are the objects of God’s good pleasure! The wicked who, according to verse 10, admit their transgressions, who see their sin and desire to be delivered from it. Thus these wicked speak: “If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” They acknowledge under the indictment of the Word of God that their case was hopeless, that their sin was so great that they feared no mercy of God could reach them. And they ask: “How should we then live?”
It is in answer to such wicked that the Lord instructs the prophet to say: “My good pleasure is that you turn from your wicked way and live.” Not all wicked, you understand, will ask the question which the Lord here answers. Of themselves the wicked never see their sin, much less do they confess it. But repentant wicked, not of themselves, but by the grace of God, acknowledge their sin and depravity that it is so great that they are hopelessly lost, unless God by His sovereign grace delivers them. In them God is well pleased. He has delight only in them in whom He beholds His grace, the grace of repentance; and to them He gives answer: “I have no pleasure in your death, but in that you turn and live.”
God’s good pleasure is two-fold. He delights, first of all, not in their death. Surely, if they remain in sin they would die. There is no other alternative. Death must inevitably swallow them up, if their way of wickedness is not forsaken. But God does not delight in their death. Not at any time did He delight in it. Not in His eternal counsel. Not as they groped in their darkness. And therefore He opened the way for their deliverance. That way centers in the redemption of Christ, realized on the accursed tree of Calvary. Experientially that way is through faith in His sacrifice, and godly sorrow which worketh repentance.
Positively, God’s good pleasure is that they turn and live. Shall they be pleasing to God, they must turn, to be sure. But just as surely it is that shall they live it must also be God’s good pleasure. Of themselves they cannot turn. But if God pleases, He will turn them unto life from death. And He will do that through the way of repentance.
Life, eternal life!
This it is God’s good pleasure to give them, instead of the sentence of death!
God’s good pleasure!
Confirmed by an oath!
“As I live, saith the Lord.”
Not an offer! Into this many would change the words of our text. They make the wicked all wicked men. They make God’s good pleasure contingent on the ability of the wicked to turn and accept the offer of life proffered them in the good pleasure of God. They make God sincerely willing on His part to save all men, but it is up to the sinner to do his part, to turn from his wicked way, and accept the offer of life. But how contrary this is to the very thought of the text!
Rather, God confirms His will and purpose with an oath.
“As I live, saith the Lord.”
There is no more certain truth than this. That the Lord lives, no one would dare to deny. O, indeed, the Psalmist says: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Psalm 53:1. But this is not because he does not believe God is, but rather that he does not want Him. Strictly speaking, there. are no atheists. The reason: God has not left Himself without witness. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:20. “The devils also believe and they tremble,” James 2:19. What do they believe? That God is. That God is dead, is the philosophy of the fool, who desires not to reckon with the living God.
O, surely, God lives!
And as surely as He lives, it is His good pleasure that the repentant wicked should also live!
Because God lives, and from everlasting to everlasting He is the fountain of life, therefore can He be relied upon. He will be able to fulfill all His purpose. And all His promises are yea and amen in Him. Therefore also His good pleasure is sure. It will assuredly be realized. He seeks Himself eternally as the good God, and He seeks His people’s good eternally and in time. Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God lives, and that He has pleasure in the life of the wicked who turn.
That is God’s answer to those who pine away in their sin, but who would hear from the mouth of their God that He will not let them die, but come into the possession of the life that is eternal.
And what does that good pleasure of God demand?
“Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
But how shall they turn? Can an Ethiopian change his skin? Can a leopard change his spots? These are the questions the prophet Jeremiah asked when he contemplated the awful depravity of God’s people who were inclined to all evil and incapable of doing any good, Jeremiah 13:23.
Indeed, they cannot turn of themselves! Unless the Lord turn them, they shall not turn. Such is the tone of all the Scriptures, and the acknowledgment of every child of God that is repentant. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise,” Jer. 17:14. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me . . . . O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise,” Psalm 51:7, 10, 15. “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned,” Lam. 5:21. “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned: for thou art the Lord my God,” Jer. 31:18.
Conversion is that work of grace in the consciousness of the child of God whereby he responds to the call of God to turn from his evil ways, hating his sin, and fleeing from it; and, positively, whereby he loves the Lord his God once more and desires to walk in all good works which were prepared for him in order that he should walk in them.
That is what God demands of them in whom He has good pleasure that they should not die but live before Him. That demand is urgent: Turn ye, turn ye! It is also efficacious. For when He calls, they come; when He commands, they turn. And in their deepest consciousness they taste forgiveness, justification, and eternal life: and out of gratitude they walk in that way that is also pleasing to the God of their salvation. And with the apostle Paul they believe and say: That which He hath begun in me, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.