October 1, 2023
Text: Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25-32
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
What’s God’s good pleasure? Whenever bad things happen in our lives, people tend to blame God. So much so that I even heard some one say to me, “Sometimes, I think God plays me like playing a game. It seems like it’s His pleasure to see us suffer and then save us if it delights Him.” However, in the last two verses of today’s Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel 18:31-32, God says, “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have No pleasure in the death of Anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” This doesn’t sound like God is playing any games for his pleasure. It doesn’t sound like He enjoys our sufferings At All. Especially, in the last verse, God says SO plainly and clearly: “I have No pleasure in the death of ANYONE.” In some way, I think the whole Bible is a straight shooter, very straight forward, telling us the same thing over and over again. Just like it says here: “Turn and Live.” The law and the Gospel. Repent, and trust in God in Christ Jesus for eternal life. So, what’s God’s good pleasure? That you live!
In fact, from the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (This is Genesis chapter 2, verse 7. We see God creating life in the first two chapters of the Bible). And this Same “God So loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” “Jesus came that you may have Life and have it Abundantly.” Then all the way, when you come to the very end of the Bible, its last two chapters, Revelation chapter 21 and 22, you will read the description of the new heaven and the new earth. There will be the river of the water of Life running through the middle of the street in the New Jerusalem, also, on either side of the river, the tree of Life. Thus, from the Beginning and to the end of the human history, we can see God’s good pleasure – He created human beings to live, to live forever with Him. “The dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Even today, the living Word of God is in action. At the baptismal font, the Holy Spirit pours out Life for you. At the Lord’s table, the resurrected Jesus feeds us with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the life eternal. At this pulpit, God the Father speaks into your heart a new life through His servants proclaiming the Word. What’s God’s good pleasure? That you live!
But, why do people die? You may ask. Why sometimes do I feel dead inside? Why do some people go down to eternal damnation? Does death give God any pleasure? Never! It’s Not God. It’s the people. People chase their own pleasure; that’s the killer! Don’t blame God as they Did in the time of Ezekiel by saying, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ The proverb at the beginning of our text was apparently a popular excuse among the people of Judah, because God heard them repeatedly saying ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’. The first wave of Judah’s exile to Babylon began around 606 BC, with more, including King Jehoiachin, being deported around 597 BC. Ezekiel 18 records what the prophet preached to those exiles probably around 592 BC. Jerusalem’s final fall is still yet to come in 587 BC when many of the rest of the Jews will be exiled. So, by the proverb, they blamed their ancestors for not obeying God. They blamed their grandfathers for following the wicked King Manasseh and worshiping idols by shedding innocent blood of their own children in child sacrifice. They blamed their parents for following other evil kings, yet their fathers and grandfathers enjoyed peaceful times. It’s like the fathers enjoyed the grapes, but now, the children’s teeth are set on edge. They blamed God for being unfair that They had to bear burdens of the consequence of their fathers. Isn’t that what we always do as a sinful human being? The blame games. We tend to blame God and all other people but ourselves. We blame generations before us for the evils we are having right now, like blaming sexual liberation and higher criticism of the Bible in the sixties for the sex change surgeries on children today even without parental consent. However, in today’s text, God reminds us that each and everyone of us is responsible for our own sins. “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.” No excuses. The injustice that he has done – his sin– will kill him; not somebody else. “Therefore, repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin,” says the LORD. In the new testament, St. James describes the twisted details of living a self-pleasing life. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Selfish desire impregnates us with the killer. Sin gives birth to death!
Still, God says in our text, “Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.” God is ever eager to forgive, to give life. Here, “what is just and right” is not some kind of work-righteousness. It’s action out of faith. It’s followed in verse 30 and 31, “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” “Turn and Live.” Law and Gospel. Repent and trust in God, just as Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Finally, the last verse of our text concludes, “Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have No pleasure in the death of ANYONE, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” This is the answer to our question, “what’s God’s good pleasure”. Human being’s pursuing of sinful and selfish pleasure brings death, God’s good pleasure is that you live in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, let us beseech God the Father in His Son, Jesus Christ to forgive us all the sins and iniquities that we have committed, and ask God the Holy Spirit to move us and lead us, that we always heed God’s warnings through the prophet Ezekiel and that by living in Christ Jesus and His Word, Law and Gospel, we turn from our sins everyday to God, trusting Him and His good pleasure that we will live and live abundantly. Thank you, LORD! Amen!
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!