Say unto them: ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?’
This passage is often presented by non-Calvinists of various hues and stripes to try and prove that Calvinism is all wet with its affirmation of God’s total Sovereignty. The idea as presented by the Arminian is that here in Ezekiel we find God wanting something (the wicked turning) that He can’t get. Poor God, frustrated by the sovereign will of the Arminian and Molinist wicked.
However when we read this text as against other passages we know that a frustrated God, who can’t get the wicked to turn, is not an option.
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.
Psalm 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Daniel 4:35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
So, how do we read this Ezekiel 33:11 so as to eliminate the idea that there is a contradiction here while at the same time frustrating Arminian and Molinist misconstructions?
The answer is to read the Ezekiel text in light of another text that explicitly says that there are some deaths of some people over which God does delight,
Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones.
God does not delight in the death of the wicked. God does delight in the death of His saints. It would seem what we must conclude is that whether or not God delights in the death of someone is determined by their covenant standing with Jehovah. If one is part of the covenant community then God delights (and ordains) their death. If one is not part of the covenant community God does not delight (but does ordain) their death. So, God not delighting in the death of the wicked does not speak to a frustrated God but does speak to a God who delights in His people’s deaths because they are covenantally related to Him, but who does not delight in the deaths of those not His people because they are not covenantally related to Him and His wrath lies upon them. God not delighting in the death of the wicked then is a covenantal pejorative. It is as if God says to the wicked dying, “You’re outside the covenant. I could care less about your death.”
This would be consistent with God’s character we find elsewhere in Scripture. God is the one whom wicked men are to fear,
Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!
He (God) has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The Lord our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:23)
So, we see here that essential to God’s character marker of being Just is His absolute delight in defending His name against rebels by exercising Justice and Vengeance against the wicked. He does not delight in the death of the wicked because in the death of the wicked His disposition is Wrath against them as not being covenantally united to Christ.
So, what the Arminian has done with this text is to make it teach the opposite of what it does teach. The Arminian has a nasty habit of this kind of “exegesis.” The Arminian or the Molinist has to overturn the perspicuous plain teaching of countless Scripture in order to read this passage the way they do and they are perfectly willing to do so in order to get a frustrated God who wants to save the wicked but can’t and then loses sleep over their loss.
Of course, this text is good news to the wicked because it reminds them again that there is only one solution to God’s lack of delight in their death and that is for them to repent and trust Christ who is the assuagement of God’s just anger against the wickedness.
Hat Tip Dan Brannan for putting me on this.