Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1962
NUMBER 32, PAGE 3,10b

God Pleads With Sinners

Brooks C. Webb

Ezekiel 33 very beautifully demonstrates the love of God for man, and the fact that God is anxious for the conversion and salvation of every sinner. He points out in verse 11, "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, 0 house of Israel?"

Man's excuses for trying to justify his obstinate and rebellious ways are generally directed toward God. Such excuses as, "Obedience and service in God's kingdom are unnecessary," or "It is not necessary or not practical to serve Jehovah in the church of the Lord," or "I can do nothing until God, in his own appointed time, sends some act of grace and operates directly upon my heart first." These are simply puny efforts to excuse oneself, and they cast reflection upon God and his divine ways.

But this attitude is not new. It was the same with the rebellious Jews addressed by Ezekiel. They were pining away in their sins, feeling sorry for themselves, but trying to place all the blame on Jehovah, and in effect accusing Jehovah of harboring a desire to destroy them, by saying, "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" (v. 10) They proceeded to accuse God of being unjust by saying, "The way of the Lord Is not equal." (v. 17) But God vindicated himself by declaring to them through Ezekiel, in verse 11, "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' " He goes even further than this and pleads with them, "turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?" He vindicates himself today by pointing out that He "so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

There are two things we want to notice about this reasoning and pleading with Israel. The first is that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner. He is not a vicious, vengeful taskmaster who is lurking in the shadows awaiting the opportunity to pounce upon man the instant he errs and fling him out into torment. He has no pleasure at all in sentencing any to eternal damnation. If we will take a moment to reflect upon the recent events of our lives, we will realize however, that we desire nothing better than complete exile from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power as a result of our many transgressions. If God took pleasure in our death, he would not have been so longsuffering, but rather long ago, would have abandoned us to the depths of the eternal abyss. He would not have allowed his son to suffer the temptations and persecutions through which he passed. He would not have entreated us so wonderfully and tenderly. Jesus would not have wept over Jerusalem and affirmed his willingness to gather the Inhabitants thereof as a hen gathers her chickens. He would not have declared that he is not willing that any "should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (1 Peter 3:9) The occasion of this oath through Ezekiel is not any uncertainty of the great truth, but the reluctance of Israel to believe it. The same holds true in this space age.

The second item we notice is that God has pleasure in the conversion and salvation of sinners. Every affirmation regarding the first item holds true in this case. But to carry the case just a bit farther, we call your attention to the abominable atrocious guilt of King David as he lusted after, and committed adultery with Bathsheba, finally to actually be guilty of murder. All of this was aggravated a hundred fold by his previous knowledge and experience with Jehovah. And yet, upon a genuine repentance, God put away his sin. (II Sam. 12:13) And need we remind you of the same outstanding lessons demonstrated for us in the story of the prodigal son?

The testimony of God in Ezekiel 33:11 is further enforced by an affectionate exhortation. Jehovah, the great judge, condescends to plead with erring sinners. He does not simply command, as he certainly has the prerogative to do. But he urges and entreats with the tenderness and fervor of a solicitous and concerned parent. He looks down and sees his sheep as they have harkened to the beck and call of false shepherds, as they have everyone gone astray and are now grazing on the mountainside of sin. One to infidelity, one to sensuality, another to covetousness. and still others to innumerable works of the flesh. His desire is not to abandon them to the wolves that wish to devour them, but he beckons and pleads with them to return to the fold.

The prophet continues to give enforcement to this tender plea by pointing out that the ones who will hear and return shall live. But he in no uncertain terms gives sobering assurance that the wicked would "surely die." Or in terminology frequently heard "turn or burn." Jesus put it in these words, "Except ye repent, ye shall perish." (Lk. 13:3) God asks the soul-searching question, "why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?" Friend, did you ever stop to grapple with this question? You perhaps realize that in your rebellious and obstinate condition you are certain to be lost. But now stop and ask yourself, "Why will I die?" Is eternal death so trivial that you will risk it for a few moments of reckless folly? Or is life with Christ so painful that a home in the New Jerusalem is not worth the fleeting moments of cross bearing in this life? If you are unable to answer this question now, then how much more speechless will you be when you stand in judgment? Will you turn, or will Jehovah plead with you in vain?

There are possibly those who shall read these lines who desire to return to Christ. In coming to him, it is not only from immorality to a life of morality; nor is it merely from immorality to a superficial, outward observance of some religious duties and performance of ritualistic worship that you are to turn. But it is a genuine, sincere conversion to Christ and obedience to His doctrine, from the depths of our heart, crowning him as king of our heart and making him Lord of our soul. Since your eternal destiny is at stake — whether you die or live — you must make every effort to determine that you do not err in your quest for life. You must be reconciled unto God in his appointed way.

There will be those, however, who are determined to remain in sin. If you are one of these, then go your way, wallow in the gutters of iniquity. But when the trumpet shall sound and the glorious resurrection day shall dawn, when the great calamities shall befall you, and you begin to cry for the mountains to hide you from the face of the Lord, you will not be able then to cast blame on the Lord. Neither will you point the accusing finger at the "watchman." Faithful servants have tried to warn you. Often you have heard loyal "watchmen" tell you words of inspiration that "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Rom. 8:13) "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16) But you refused, and thus "died in you iniquity." Now your blood is upon your own hands. Now how bitter is the reflection, "God called, Christ invited, but I refused." You, but only you, can prevent this by heeding Jehovah's pleadings and accepting Christ's invitation!

— Box 264, Lewisburg, Tennessee