Choosing Death Over Life
We say that a person is a “glutton for punishment” when they seem to consistently choose painful or difficult tasks or situations over more pleasant circumstances. This type of behavior strikes us as strange, because we naturally shy away from these things and a person who would willingly turn toward these things must either: 1. Have a really good reason for doing so, or 2. Have something wrong with their decision-making process. More often than not this phrase is used as a joke or a jab at another person, rather than in a serious context. If someone, or a group of people, were to willingly choose pain and even death rather than peace and life, we would apply the above reasoning to their decision. They must either have a good reason, or they aren’t making a good decision.
In Ezekiel 33, the nation of Judah has been in Babylonian captivity for some time, and the situation has become so bleak that the Israelites have begun to believe that there is no hope left at all. Via the prophet Ezekiel, God addresses this mindset in Ezekiel 33.10: “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have said: Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’” The Israelites have said to themselves: We have sinned so much, and we perish because of our sins. We cannot go on, there is no way back. Our only option is to give up. They have chosen to abandon all hope and resign themselves to perish forever in Babylon, far from home and forever separated from God. What God says to them next is absolutely staggering.
“Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ez. 33.11)
In one fell swoop, God sets the record straight and shows the foolishness of the Israelites’ thinking. God takes no pleasure in executing His justice upon the wicked, which His nature demands that He do. Rather, He takes pleasure only when the wicked turns from their evil ways to live! You can now see that the decision to quit, to abandon hope, to resign oneself to punishment due to sins is not a decision made with a good reason! God here begs the Israelites to turn back not once, but twice, imploring them to turn back to Him rather than choose death! “For why will you die, O house of Israel” is one of the saddest phrases found throughout the books of the prophets, because it shows the Israelites pitifully choosing to die rather than turn back and obey God!
There is no benefit to choosing to die this death. God experiences no happiness, no pleasure, no satisfaction in watching one of His beloved children choose a life of sin and death, which can only be rewarded by eternal punishment in hellfire. The hand of God extends from above, waiting for you to grasp it by belief in and obedience to the gospel. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3.9) Why would anyone, looking up at God’s outstretched hand from Heaven and down into the pit of eternal darkness, not fight and claw and strain to grasp His hand? The reasons are manifold, but the outcomes are two-fold. Either the right hand or the left, the sheep or the goats, the light or the darkness.
In Ezekiel 33, the LORD goes on to reassure those who have lived their lives in wickedness that He would indeed reward those who turned back to Him, no matter their crime. “Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.” (Ez. 33.14-16) Three times in this chapter God reassures the Israelites of this fact: that if they turn back to them, they shall live! “And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.” (Ez. 33.19)
God already knows what you have done in your life. If you read through the Bible, you can’t help but realize that God has seen it all before in one way or another. And yet, having seen all, still chose to send His Son to die for you, so that you do not have to. Do not let His sacrifice be in vain. Turn in God in obedience to the Gospel message. Believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. (John 8.24) Repent of your sins. (Acts 17.30) Confess Jesus as the Christ. (Romans 10.9) Be Baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2.38) Live in faithful obedience to God. (Rev. 2.10)