Today’s readings: Ezekiel 33:1-34:31, Hebrews 13:1-25, Psalm 115:1-18, Proverbs 27:21-22
I remember reading Ezekiel 33-34 as a graduate student, on my first journey through the Bible. These verses in chapter 33 jumped out and grabbed me.
10 “Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’ 11 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
In verse 11 God promises, based on His own existence, that He has no desire to punish people for wickedness. The later in the same verse, He urgently appeals to all of the people of Israel to turn from their wickedness and thereby escape death.
I had grown up living mostly in fear of God, thanks to many preachers who warned of eternal punishment and separation from God. There were also the horrible images on the covers of books from classical literature, such as Dante’s Inferno. This passage from Ezekiel taught me clearly for the first time that God has no desire or pleasure in punishing the wicked. The remaining writing of Ezekiel (and the entire Hebrew Bible) clearly points out that God also cannot stand wicked behavior. So there is tension. I must run, but I will continue on this theme tomorrow.