Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…
I. THE DECLARATION.
1. The import of the declaration.
(1) He tells us, in what He hath not pleasure. "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." And yet the wicked dies. In full view of this awful fact, Jehovah asserts His benevolence. If a stranger, visiting this country, looked in on the homes made wretched by vice, some of which are not very far removed from the palace; or into the cells of our prisons, which are so prominent and so costly as government institutions, throughout our land; or on the sad scene of an execution. at which agents of the crown were present; — would he be justified in coming to the conclusion that our sovereign was not benevolent — that such a state of things under her government was an evidence of our queen's lack of clemency? The mercy that winked at crime would produce more calamitous results than the sternest tyranny. Even goodness demands a restraint on crime, and punishment for the convicted criminal. And let it never be forgotten that the death we are now considering, in relation to the government and character of God, is "the death of the wicked." We must think of his having resisted the will, disowned the authority, dishonoured the name, hated the being, and defied the power of God. Can we think of God as infinite in His being, glory, and goodness, without being constrained to conclude that eternal death is the wages due to all who thus sin against Him? Could we worship a God who, in the full knowledge of what He was, would award a punishment less than this? The one pregnant difficulty is the existence of wickedness. While this fact must be assumed, it points to what must, to us, forever remain an insoluble mystery in its relation to the will of God. But it is due to God, because of His infinite love of righteousness, that His relation to the origin of sin should be regarded without any suspicion; and it is also due to Him, as Supreme Governor, that to His mind alone the perfect rectitude of this relation should appear. If the existence of sin forms a dark background before which the glory of Him who alone is immutable all the more brightly appears, let our thoughts regarding its relation to Jehovah's sovereign will, produce the calmness of adoring silence behind the awe which overwhelms us as we think of its moral hideousness and of its everlasting results. But there is more than this. Such is the character of God, as revealed in the Gospel, that it is impossible for Him to find pleasure in the death of the wicked. The fullest exhibition of His character, and the overwhelming proof of His having no pleasure in the death of the wicked, are given to us in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever be His purpose, it is abundantly evident that "God is love." That is the character of Him to whom you are called to return. You are called to meet that love in the Son as Jesus the Christ, and to present yourself on His blood as a suppliant for all the blessings of the covenant of grace. What more can you desiderate?
2. He tells us in what He hath pleasure — "that the wicked turn from his way and live." The repentance of the wicked is an occasion of delight to God; for it is the first acknowledgment of His being "the true God"; the first tribute to His Godhead from the creature of His hand; the first movement of a lost one from "the wrath to come"; the first rupture between Him and that abominable thing which God hateth; the first act of homage to His Anointed, who is also His Son; the first fruit of the Spirit's work of grace — it is grace returning to the fountain whence it came, and bringing a "wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" sinner back to be "filled" with "all the fulness of God." As our greatest pains and pleasures reach our hearts through their love, the measure of love must indicate the capacity for joy. But who can conceive what must be the gladness resulting from the gratification of infinite love! And there is a three-fold love of God, through the gratification of which He receives pleasure from the penitence and life of the wicked.
(1) His infinite love to His people. Oh, think of joy in heaven over one whose sins made the Son of God "a Man of Sorrows"!
(2) His infinite love to His Anointed One. Each case of conversion is an instalment of reward to Hint for doing the will, and glorifying the name, of Him who sent Him.
(3) His infinite love to Himself, and to righteousness. "God is love." He is so when contemplated in the unity of the eternal Godhead. Oh, infinitely holy sphere! Oh, sphere of infinite loving — the unapproachable sphere of the interrelations and fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! And "God is love" to righteousness in His relation to His moral government. And when He makes manifest that He is love to His people, He does so in such a way as to secure that in their salvation there shall appear to His view, to His infinite delight, all to which He is love, — as to afford an opportunity of expressing what He is as love to Himself, what the mutual love of the Trinity is, and how He loveth righteousness.
3. The declaration is in the form of an oath — As I live, saith the Lord. It is meet that such a declaration should have such a form, for thus only could earnestness, springing from infinite love, express itself fitly in words. Is this Divine earnestness to be met by indifference? Oh, yield not to the unbelief that would dare to prefer a charge of perjury against Him for whom it is impossible to lie!
II. THE CALL. From out of the midst of Divine glory, from off the Divine throne of grace, and intense with Divine earnestness, comes the call to the house of Israel — "Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways."
1. Whence? "From your evil ways." Every way in which you depart from the fellowship and service of God is evil. Burdened and filled with sin, having no righteousness to cover your persons, and no excuse to hide your guilt, and while there is nothing in all your consciousness but sin, all over and all through, — with no ability yours but the fell power to transgress, — you are called to receive all the pardoning mercy and all the saving grace you need.
2. Whither? To Himself God calls you. To Himself as revealed in the declaration going before — to Himself as on His throne of grace — to Himself through Jesus Christ.
3. How? In willingness to accept the terms proposed by God, as terms of salvation and of service. Turning thus, you will verily be debtors to His grace for all you need. And you may be hoping debtors, for He raiseth the poor from the dust, He bringeth the fallen from out of the horrible pit, and He gathereth, as He calleth, outcasts from the very ends of the earth.
(John Kennedy, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?
WEB: Tell them, As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, house of Israel?