GOD CANNOT BE ACCUSED OF INJUSTICE BECAUSE HE HOLDS EACH INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABLE FOR HIS OWN CONDUCT
Amidst the blame shifting and complaining of the exiles in Babylon who refused to take responsibility for sin, Ezekiel delivers a clear proclamation of the principle of individual accountability for conduct. The soul who sins will die. You cannot speak the authoritative word of God with more clarity than that simple declaration. You can’t base your hopes on the righteousness of a previous generation (an important less for children from Christian homes) or call God out for a lack of fairness when you find yourself experiencing His chastening. But equally important, you are not obligated to repeat the unrighteous conduct of your parents. There is opportunity to repent and convert and enter into the blessing of life. But you also must take responsibility for persevering in the course of righteousness (even though other Scriptures make plain that the grace of God is the determining factor).
MacArthur: One of the foundational principles of Scripture is presented in this chapter (also taught in Dt 24:16; 2Ki 14:6): Judgment is according to individual faith and conduct. He had foretold national punishment, but the reason was individual sin (cf. 3:16-21; 14:12-20; 33:1-20).
Feinberg: The judgments Ezekiel introduces here are temporal judgments, and the death dealt with is physical death. . . The subject of justification by faith should not be pressed into this chapter; it is not under discussion.
Leslie Allen: The tenor of the chapter suggests that the slogan gave expression to practical nihilism. The exiles saw the present through the prism of the past. The slogan occasioned by Judah’s downfall turned into a generalization. Overwhelmed by that recent catastrophe, they saw their whole lives doomed and devoid of purpose. Life was like that, and nothing they did could alter it. Elements in Ezekiel’s prophesying might have played a part in encouraging this sentiment. Yahweh’s punishment was not only to consist of national defeat but would chase its victims into exile, where he would continue to plague them (5:12). Life would be a misery spent in preoccupation with the past (6:9). That was to view the exile from the pre-587 perspective of judgment. After the watershed of 587, exile looked more rosy. It provided an opportunity to enjoy the limited presence of God (11:16). It was a typological Egypt from which Yahweh would lead his people to the promised land (20:33–42). The different perspectives of judgment and salvation were in line with an already established prophetic tradition and doubtless took their cue from it. In the present oracle the exiles are urged to share such optimism and to view their present and future as time to be lived in relation to God.
Douglas Stuart: Three facts needed careful explanation:
(1) God judges the lives of individuals according to their own obedience to Him;
(2) God is little concerned with what an individual was before his or her con version and greatly concerned with what an individual has become after conversion; and
(3) that it is possible to convert either from sin to righteousness or from righteousness to sin.
To teach this to the Israelites in exile and, by extension, to all who would later hear or read these words, God adopts a dialogical teaching style in which He both asks and answers questions about individual responsibility and conversion.
Lamar Cooper: There are two main emphases and thus two divisions in 18:1–32. First, individuals were not guilty for sins committed by others or by their families (18:1–20). The thesis is stated in vv. 1–4, then illustrated with three examples. Verse 20 summarizes the first division and previews the second. The point of the second division (18:21–32) is that individuals were not bound by former sins, their own or others, but could alter the situation through repentance and faith. The proposition is stated in vv. 21–24. Then there is a response to charges of divine injustice in vv. 25–29. The chapter concludes with a call to repentance in vv. 30–32.
I. (:1-9) ADVOCATING FOR THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE =
THE SOUL WHO SINS WILL DIE
A. (:1-4a) Denying the Principle of Family Guilt for Sin
“Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
1. (:2-3) Dismissing the False Proverb Promoting Family Culpability
a. (:2) Questioning the Use of the Proverb
“What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge?’”
MacArthur: The people of Judah would not acknowledge their guilt worthy of judgment. Though they were themselves wicked and idolatrous, they blamed their forefathers for their state (cf. 2Ki 21:15). The rationalizing is expressed in a current proverb (cf. Jer 31:29) which means, in effect, “They sinned (eat the sour grapes), we inherit the bitterness” (teeth set on edge).
Douglas Stuart: It wasn’t easy to be defeated, in exile from one’s homeland at the whim of a great military power, impoverished, and looking forward to one’s remaining years eking out a hardscrabble existence on foreign soil in what amounted to a resettlement camp. Ezekiel and his contemporaries had endured humiliation and discouragement, and many of them undoubtedly took psychological refuge in the popular little epigram quoted in verse 2. . .
It was an appealing saying, since its subtle message was that the present generation was not responsible for all the disasters that had come upon it but had merely inherited conditions and problems that previous generations had set in motion. The attitude expressed in the saying, then, was one of both fatalism (“you can’t do anything about the way things are”) and irresponsibility (“you don’t have to do anything about your own situation since it isn’t your fault”).
Wiersbe: Where did Ezekiel’s listeners get the idea that God punished the children for the sins of their fathers? This philosophy came from two sources:
(1) a misinterpretation of what the Lord had said in His law, that He visited the sins of the fathers upon the children (Ex. 20:5; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 7:9-10), and
(2) the Jewish idea of the oneness of the nation.
Constable: It is true that the sins of parents result in consequences for their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren that we might call the “fallout” of the parents’ sins. But it is not correct to say that God “punishes” children because their parents have sinned. This is the conclusion that the Israelites in exile had drawn and that this chapter refutes (cf. Jer. 31:27- 30; Lam. 5:7).
Peter Pett: The coming lesson on individual responsibility is opened by taking a popular proverb and rebutting it. Like all proverbs it contained truth when taken rightly, but was misleading when take wrongly. It is always true that our children to a certain extent suffer for our failures, as well as benefiting from our successes, that we are all to a certain extent what we are because of our backgrounds. But when this becomes fatalism, suggesting that we cannot escape the round of fate, it becomes dangerously misleading. In the end we are what we choose to be.
Daniel Block: The problem that the proverb poses for Ezekiel is not with punishment that children are bearing for the sins of the fathers, or even the issue of theodicy. On the contrary, it reflects a materialistic fatalism, a resignation to immutable cosmic rules of cause and effect, an embittered paralysis of the soul, that has left the exiles without hope and without God. To the extent that the charge concerns God at all, it accuses him of disinterest or impotence in the face of the exiles’ current crisis. All these years they have put their trust in their divine patron, only to discover that they are victims of an immutable law of the universe: the fate of one generation is inexorably determined by the actions of the previous. Their theology and their God have betrayed them.
b. (:3) Quitting the Use of the Proverb
“’As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore.’”
MacArthur: God rejected their blame shifting and evasion of responsibility.
Feinberg: With a strong oath the Lord declared that the practice of using the proverb must stop at once because its use implied God was unjust.
Lamar Cooper: Ezekiel was not contradicting the biblical concept of corporate solidarity that was an essential part of Hebrew thought; nor was he introducing a new doctrine. G. H. Matties argues that whereas H. W. Robinson felt that Ezek 18:4 was “untrue to the facts of life,” Ezek 18 combines corporate and individual dimensions of personality in a way that is not contradictory. Ezekiel’s goal was to reconstruct Israel as the holy people of God. Such a community would have to be created on the basis of individual choice. So it is through the commitment of the individual that the social and religious orders are to be saved.
2. (:4a) Declaring God’s Lordship over Each Individual Soul
“Behold, all souls are Mine;
the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine.”
Feinberg: all souls belong equally to God. God as Creator loves all the creatures He has made, so what possible objective could He have besides absolute equity in every case? Individual responsibility is the only explanation of the dealings of God. If they complained of suffering for their fathers’ sins, they should have been ready to suffer for their own. The soul (the person) who sins must die. This does not contradict the principle in Exodus 20:5 because it is well known that children have a tendency to repeat the sins of their fathers (see Matt. 23:32, 34-36).
Daniel Block: First, one cannot achieve a true understanding of human experience without a recognition of the divine claims to one’s life. The opening statement is unequivocal and forthright: Every living person belongs to me. . . Although the form of this statement is unparalleled in the OT, the idea of Yahweh’s lordship over all human life is ancient. After all, he is the source and creator of all, and he sustains life with his own breath. With this opening statement Ezekiel repudiates the fatalism of his peers and announces his own radically theocentric view of the universe. He challenges his audience to abandon their materialistic worldview. They are not victims of immutable cosmic laws; their fate is in the hands of God.
B. (:4b-9) Asserting the Principle of Individual Accountability for Sin
1. (:4b) Statement of the Principle
“The soul who sins will die.”
Daniel Block: The form in which Ezekiel develops his thesis is impressive. On the one hand, the presentation of three cases to prove his point may have been influenced by the Deuteronomic requirement of two or three witnesses to prove a criminal case. On the other hand, he employs a repetitive style with great rhetorical effect to affirm that all three generations are judged by the same standards, while highlighting the real possibility of any generation breaking out of the patterns of behavior that have characterized the parents.
John Taylor: Everyone will be responsible to God for his own conduct. To this Ezekiel would surely add that, so far from their having cause to blame their sinful forbears for their present sufferings, the exiles were more guilty than their fathers because they had sinned more and their idolatries were greater (cf. chapter 8). It could not all be blamed on Manasseh and his reign of wickedness.
2. (:5-9a) Characterization of the Righteous
a. (:5) Opening General Summary
“But if a man is righteous,
and practices justice and righteousness,”
b. (:6-8) List of Specific Sins to Avoid
1) (:6a) Idolatry
“and does not eat at the mountain shrines
or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,”
Peter Pett: To ‘eat on the mountains’ referred to participating in festivals connected with idols in the high places (see Deuteronomy 12:2). These festivals in Canaan were orgies of sexual perversion (Ezekiel 22:9) and involved mystical association with the gods in all their lax ways. Combined with this was the submission to, and worship of, these idols, bowing down to wood and stone in direct contravention of God’s demands (Exodus 20:5). As Paul would demonstrate, this would lead to corrupt living (Romans 1:18-32).
2) (:6b) Defiling a Woman
“or defile his neighbor’s wife,
or approach a woman during her menstrual period—“
Constable: The prohibition against having intercourse with one’s wife during her period was clear in the Mosaic Law, but when Jesus terminated that code as the basis for believers’ conduct this law no longer remained binding on believers (Heb. 7:11-12). The New Covenant teaching of believers’ present duties says nothing about this practice. It is now a matter of choice (liberty) for believers.
3) (:7) Oppression
“if a man does not oppress anyone,
but restores to the debtor his pledge,”
does not commit robbery,
but gives his bread to the hungry,
and covers the naked with clothing,”
4) (:8a) Usury
“if he does not lend money on interest or take increase,”
Daniel Block: Fifth, a person’s character is reflected in the way he or she handles financial matters, particularly in relation to the economically disadvantaged. Ezekiel’s conviction that the righteous person refuses to exploit the poor for personal gain is based on the legislation in Lev. 25:35–37.
5) (:8b) Iniquity and Injustice
“if he keeps his hand from iniquity,
and executes true justice between man and man,”
c. (:9a) Closing General Summary
“if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances
so as to deal faithfully—“
Constable: In sum, the Israelite who lived by the Mosaic standards was righteous in behavior and could anticipate a long life of blessing from God (Lev. 18:1-5; Deut. 11; 26:16-19; 30:15-20; cf. Phil. 3:6). Clearly one’s attitudes and actions toward other people demonstrate his or her attitudes and actions toward God.
3. (:9b) Verdict Regarding the Righteous
“’he is righteous and will surely live,’ declares the Lord God.”
Leslie Allen: Life was the intended consequence of observing the divine revelation of the Torah according to Lev 18:5, where it means that “Israel will have a secure, healthy life with sufficient goods in the promised land as God’s people” (J. E. Hartley, Leviticus, WBC 4 [Dallas: Word, 1992] 293). Ezekiel cites Lev 18:5 in 20:13, 21, and he will echo it in 18:19. In chap. 20 the wilderness generation is portrayed as turning their backs on such life and meriting destruction. By implication, the promise of qualified restoration in 20:32–44 represents enjoyment of the promised life.
II. (:10-20) APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE — TRACKING SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS
A. (:10-13) Case of the Unrighteous Son of a Righteous Father = He Will Die
1. (:10-11a) Introducing the Case
“Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood,
and who does any of these things to a brother
(though he himself did not do any of these things),”
Peter Pett: The purpose of the comparison is to refute the idea that a man suffers or benefits as far as God is concerned because of his family connections. A man may naturally benefit, or otherwise, as a result of his family environment, behaviour and wealth, but in the end God’s dealings with him will be solely on the basis of his own moral behaviour and attitude towards God.
2. (:11b-13a) Unrighteous Lifestyle
“that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines,
and defiles his neighbor’s wife,
12 oppresses the poor and needy,
does not restore a pledge,
but lifts up his eyes to the idols, and commits abomination,
13 he lends money on interest and takes increase;”
Peter Pett: Note the close connection between eating on the mountains and defiling the neighbour’s wife. The two were regularly connected as men and women got drunk and behaved licentiously in fertility rites under the guise of religious activity. Note also ‘all these abominations’. Idolatry was ‘abominable’ because of the attitudes it encouraged and the fruit that it produced. Almost any evil behaviour could be justified from the behaviour of the gods. So when God condemned ‘abominations’ it included all these things.
3. (:13b) Verdict = Death
“Will he live?
He will not live! He has committed all these abominations,
he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.”
B. (:14-18) Case of the Righteous Grandson of an Unrighteous Father = He Will Live
1. (:14) Introducing the Case
“Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father’s sins
which he committed, and observing does not do likewise.”
Wiersbe: How strange that the godly man of verses 5-9 should raise an ungodly son who himself had a godly son! The grandson followed the righteous example of his grandfather and not the evil example of his father. King Hezekiah was a godly father whose son Manasseh was evil, although late in life he did repent. Manasseh’s son Amon was evil, but he fathered godly King Josiah! (See Matt. 1:10-11). The ways of the Lord are sometimes strange, and “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20, NIV).
2. (:15-17a) Righteous Lifestyle
“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
or defile his neighbor’s wife,
16 or oppress anyone, or retain a pledge, or commit robbery,
but he gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with clothing, 17 he keeps his hand from the poor, does not take interest or increase, but executes My ordinances, and walks in My statutes;”
3. (:17b-18) Verdict = Life
“he will not die for his father’s iniquity, he will surely live.”
Leslie Allen: The summary in vv 17b–18 shows that the slogan is under attack. It was wrong to extrapolate from the deferred punishment of the recent calamity and a (doubtful) claim of contemporary innocence a nihilistic application to the present and future. Overall, Ezekiel seems to imply that the downfall of Judah, with its strong element of deferment, was a special case in God’s purposes. That judgment was now over, and one could look forward to salvation, yet not with presumption. The old divine standards for each generation of Israelites would still apply, not only back in the promised land (11:20; cf. Jer 31:33) but even now as a crucial pledge of good faith.
4. (:18) Addendum
“As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother,
and did what was not good among his people,
behold, he will die for his iniquity.”
C. (:19-20) Answering Objections
1. (:19a) Complaint
“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment
for the father’s iniquity?’”
2. (:19b-20) Refutation
a. (:19b) Righteousness Deserves Life
“When the son has practiced justice and righteousness, and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.”
b. (:20a) Sin Deserves Death
“The person who sins will die.”
c. (:20b) Principle of Individual Accountability for Conduct
“The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
III. (:21-29) APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE – AN INDIVIDUAL CAN CHANGE HIS OWN STATUS – YOU ARE NOT LOCKED IN TO YOUR INTIAL STATE
A. (:21-22) Repentance Changes Your Status to Life
1. (:21) Conversion to Righteousness
“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness,
he shall surely live; he shall not die.”
2. (:22) Deserving of Life
“All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced,
he will live.”
B. (:23) Preference of the Lord
“’Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord God, ‘rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?’”
Daniel Block: Ezekiel reinforces his rejection of cosmic determinism by opening the door to new possibilities and offering life to those in despair. The style and content of Ezekiel’s argumentation in vv. 21–24 create the impression of a self-conscious donning of the mantle of Moses (cf. Deut. 18:15). Many centuries earlier, as the nation of Israel had stood on the border of the promised land, Moses had concluded his final address with a challenge to shun the way of apostasy and death, and to choose the way of life and blessing. This way was open to all who would express their covenant commitment to Yahweh by “walking in his ways,” and “keeping his commandments, decrees, and laws.” Ezekiel casts his offer in the form of an inclusio:
The way of life (vv. 21–22)
The basis of hope (v. 23)
The way of death (v. 24)
C. (:24) Backsliding Changes Your Status to Death
1. Conversion to Sin
“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live?”
2. Deserving of Death
“All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.”
Wiersbe: In Ezekiel 18:24, Ezekiel isn’t dealing with what theologians call “the security of the believer,” because the issue is physical life or death, as stated in God’s covenant (Deut. 30:15-20; Jer. 21:8). The righteous man who adopted a sinful lifestyle in defiance of God’s law would suffer for that decision.
Lamar Cooper: Judgment that must be executed on a true believer is called chastening (see Heb 12:1–29). Believers are warned of God’s chastening. Aside from its corrective purpose, chastening is an evidence of true faith (Heb 12:8). If a person sins and is not chastened, that person is illegitimate and not a genuine believer (Heb 12:8). If salvation could be lost, as some argue, “chastening” as a category of divine punishment has no meaning. A believer who sinned would be lost and simply once again would be in need of being saved. Consequently, Ezekiel was not discussing the issue of being lost or saved but how all people, lost and saved alike, can avert the judgment of God for sin.
John Taylor: The charge of injustice which is levelled against the Lord (25, 29) is turned back upon the accusers. It is they whose ways are not just (rsv; equal, av, rv). The law of individual responsibility which Ezekiel has been expounding is supremely fair, for every man has his own personal choice and the chance to live. God will judge every one according to his ways (30). It is the combination of this fact and the knowledge that God has no pleasure in the death of any one (32) that leads Ezekiel to appeal to the people in God’s name to repent and turn to him. As a people they may be rebellious and idolatrous, but as individuals they can be appealed to and, through their repentance, can be saved.
D. (:25-29) Answering Objections
1. (:25a) Complaint
“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’”
Daniel Block: It is obvious from the hearers’ second protest that they reject not only Ezekiel’s offer but also his view of God. The response to Ezekiel’s foregoing appeal to choose life instead of death demonstrates that the people’s problem was not primarily cosmological but theological. While they claim to be victims of an immutable universal law that locks their fate to the conduct of their parents, they really perceive themselves to be at the mercy of a capricious God, whose actions are unpredictable and arbitrary.
2. (:25b-28) Refutation
a. (:25b) Turning the Tables
“Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right?
Is it not your ways that are not right?”
b. (:26) Sin Deserves Death
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies because of it,
for his iniquity which he has committed he will die.”
c. (:27-28) Righteousness Deserves Life
“Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”
3. (:29) Restatement
“But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’”
b. Turning the Tables
“Are My ways not right, O house of Israel?
Is it not your ways that are not right?”
Wiersbe: Ezekiel pointed out that it was the people who weren’t being fair with God! When they obeyed the Lord, they wanted Him to keep the terms of the covenant that promised blessing, but when they disobeyed, they didn’t want Him to keep the terms of the covenant that brought chastening. They wanted God to act contrary to His own Word and His own holy nature.
IV. (:30-32) URGENT CALL FOR REPENTANCE
A. (:30a) Reality of Individual Judgment
“’Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God.”
MacArthur: The conclusion is that the jut God must judge each person for his own life. But He invites repentance, so that hope may replace ruin (cf. 33:10, 11).
B. (:30b-32) Repentance Essential for Spiritual Life
1. (:30b) Call for Repentance so that Sin Does Not Trip You Up
“Repent and turn away from all your transgressions,
so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.”
Derek Thomas: There is a sense in which it is right to let passages such as these speak for themselves, without the encumbrance of other passages which might seem to convey another point of view. Certainly, we must not allow other considerations to dilute the force of what is being said here. Equally, however, the fact that we believe the entire Scriptures to be inerrant means that we must not interpret one passage so as contradict another. What is said here may well appear to be at odds with sovereign election; but it only appears to be so. There are doctrines in the Scripture which cannot be reconciled by a finite mind: God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility being two such truths. No amount of reasoning can fully understand how both can be true; and yet both are true. Like the twin tracks of a railway line, they lie alongside each other, stretching out into the foreseeable distance. We tamper with either one at our peril.
2. (:31a) Repentance Essential for Regeneration
“Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”
Here the ambiguity over whether the judgment refers to just physical life and death or eternal life and death seems to be resolved more on the side of the eternal consequences.
A. H. Strong: Since the relation between the divine and the human activity is not one of chronological succession, man is never to wait for God’s working. If he is ever regenerated, it must be in and through a movement of his own will, in which he turns to God as unconstrainedly and with as little consciousness of God’s operation upon him, as if no such operation of God were involved in the change. And in preaching, we are to press upon men the claims of God and their duty of immediate submission to Christ, with the certainty that they who do so submit will subsequently recognize this new and holy activity of their own wills as due to a working within them of divine power.
Daniel Block: The prophet’s appeal is dominated by three imperatives, which when taken together provide another picture of the biblical understanding of repentance.
– First, reiterating a notion expressed earlier, repentance involves “turning away” from rebellious behavior against the divine overlord. This is the only way in which the stumbling block of iniquity can be avoided.
– Second, repentance involves casting off (hišlîk mēʿālêkem) all rebellious actions, presumably because they contribute to the guilt that a person carries.
– Third, repentance involves a mind/heart transplant. Shifting from a negative to a positive mode, Ezekiel calls on his people to make for themselves (waʿăśû lākem) a new heart and a new spirit.
As in 11:19 and 36:26, the use of lēb and rûaḥ highlights the fundamental nature of Israel’s problem. However, this text is unique in that it calls on the wicked to take initiative in making their own hearts and spirits new. What is promised elsewhere as a divine act and as a gift (36:26–27) is now recast as a command. The use of the imperative mood does not mean that Ezekiel believes his audience capable of moral and spiritual self-transformation. The command create a new heart and a new spirit for yourselves is a rhetorical device, highlighting the responsibility of the nation for their present crisis and pointing the way to the future. The prerequisites for positive divine intervention are a wholesale reorientation of life and an internal change in disposition. The former will not happen without the latter.
3. (:31b) Stubborn Persistence in Path of Death Makes No Sense
“For why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Daniel Block: The second purpose in this call for repentance is to highlight Yahweh’s burden for his people and his yearning for their obedience, evident in his passionate outburst, Why should you die, O house of Israel? Repeating an earlier statement, Ezekiel declares that Yahweh takes no delight in anyone’s death. He longs to bestow life on his people, if only they will repent and receive it. Sin and judgment need not have the last word; the door is wide open even now for Israel (the exiles) to return to him. The sentence of death may yet be lifted.
Yahweh’s offer of life is gracious in the extreme, but it is both principled and contingent. Among the laws by which his justice is administered is the law of human freedom. Yahweh will not impose his grace on a rebellious people. They must accept responsibility for both the course of their lives and their destiny. Without repentance God cannot forgive and the death sentence remains inevitable. But where repentance occurs, grace triumphs and the sinner is granted life, full and abundant.
4. (:32a) Judgment of Death Not God’s Desire
“’For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’
declares the Lord God.”
MacArthur: The death of His saints is precious to God (Ps 116:15). By contrast, He has no such pleasure when a person dies without repentance. While God is sovereign in salvation, man is responsible for his own sin, repent and live.
5. (:32b) Call for Repentance in Order to Live
“Therefore, repent and live.”