By Chris Martin
I help lead the student ministry at our church, and one of my favorite parts about hanging out with students every week and talking about matters of faith is hearing their questions. Once a semester, we hold a Q&A night during which students can anonymously submit their questions about faith, life, and really anything they want. One of the most common questions we receive at our Q&A nights revolves around God’s relationship with judgment specifically, and evil generally.
One question we’ve received goes something like this, “Does God want to punish sinful people? Does He look forward judgment?” This is a fair question to ask. We see God address this matter in the book of Ezekiel of all places!
In today’s reading, beginning in Ezekiel 33, God turns from addressing the nations to addressing His chosen nation. Again, God speaks through His appointed watchman, Ezekiel. The people are finally concerned about their sins; they are afraid that they will “wast[e] away” because of them (Ezekiel 33:10). God tells Ezekiel to pass along the message that we see in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?”
God is just. But God takes no pleasure in the death and destruction of sinful people. This is important, isn’t it? God wants sinful people to turn from their sin and be saved—we see it in His pleas for His people in today’s reading. But God will not erase the consequences of sin just because they make us uncomfortable—to abandon justice would be to compromise His character, which He cannot do.
Our God is not vengeful. Our God is not spiteful. Our God is saddened at our rejection of Him. He wants to be in a relationship with us. Isn’t it wonderful that this is the God we serve? Those of us who consider ourselves Christians have given our lives to a God who desperately wants us to be saved from our sin and takes no pleasure in the consequences of our rejection of Him. The season of Lent reminds us that in Christ, God has given us our gracious salvation—Jesus paid for our sin.