“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”
“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?”
Ezekiel 18:4, 23
There is, I have noticed, a false dichotomy presented when it comes to God. Some folks think He can only be righteous; only be just. These folks are stuck on the first in the pair of verses that caught my attention this morning. They see God as a Judge — and He is — but they never see past the Judge’s robes and realize Who it is wearing them.
There are other folks who get stuck in the first part of the second verse, thinking that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked — and He does not — but they stop short of realizing that eternal life requires temporal repentance. To live forever with God, I must turn away from transgression in the here and now.
So, what is secreted away in this morning’s verses? No secrets. Just attributes of God that are often overlooked or seen through tunnel vision.
Verse four states that all souls belong to God. This is the starting point. I need to understand that my soul belongs to God. As the Creator of that soul, He has every legal right to it. For reasons, God gives me the ability to dispose of my soul as I see fit. But the thing I need to realize; the place I need to begin in order to really understand God’s justice and to even begin to wrap my mind around His grace is that He made my soul and my soul therefore belongs to Him. This is also true of my wife and children. Their souls belong to Him on the same grounds. He has entrusted me with the care and upbringing of my children. He and my wife have entrusted me with loving and caring for her. Not one of those whom I often think of as mine — my wife, my daughter, my son — actually belongs to me. All of them belong to God.
Most of chapter eighteen is a set of examples; of If-Then statements. If this guy does these things then his son does these other things then his grandson does these things, then this one lives and this one dies and this other one lives. It is all straightforward. God wraps up His statements on each of us being punished for our own sins or rewarded for our own righteous actions with a statement that is too often overlooked — particularly by anyone who waves a sign that says “God hates ______.” and fill in the blank with a kind of person. Aside from the obvious effect of turning people off on a God Who loves them — He hates the sin that separates us from Him, but that is another topic for another time — it also misrepresents God. God asks a perfectly valid question in verse twenty-three: Does God take pleasure in sinful people dying or would He rather they repent and live? He actually answers the question at the tail end of verse thirty-two (I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies. Therefore, repent and live.). The Bible makes clear, in multiple places, that God does not want anyone to die (i.e. end up in Hell) but for everyone to come to repentance.
How can I apply this today? First, I need to be mindful that all souls belong to God. This includes the best person I can think of and the worst. God made all those souls and He wants them to come back to Him. And He even gives the how: repentance. If we refuse to repent, then we will die. If we submit and repent, then we will live. It is that simple. If I have been misrepresenting God (possible), then I need to stop and to repent of that and represent Him as He is: a God Who does not want anyone to go to Hell, but wants everyone to repent and spend eternity with Him. We have to choose. And I need to be certain that I am not hindering anyone in coming to repentance because I misrepresent the God Who loves them deep as nails through flesh and a spear into His own side; a God Whose love is as wide as arms spread out and nailed to the beam of a cross; the God Who quite literally poured out His heart out of love for us. He wants to stand between each of us and the punishment we justly deserve. Let me not hinder anyone from coming to those wide open arms by misrepresenting Him.