A Spurgeon Snapshot
Through the Bible: Ezekiel 18-20
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
Ezekiel 18:23 ESV
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.””
Ezekiel 18:32 ESV
In the summer of 1665, there was an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in London. Over the course of just three months, over 55,000 people died.
An article on the website Historic UK describes how infected households were required to paint a red cross on the door of their home:
[W]hen the plague appeared in a household, the house was sealed, thus condemning the whole family to death! These houses were distinguished by a painted red cross on the door and the words, ‘Lord have mercy on us’Ben Johnson, “The Black Death of 1665”
In his notes on Ezekiel 16 in the Spurgeon Study Bible, Charles Spurgeon uses this gruesome image to illustrate the the second of the two great lies Satan tells us. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But before I do, let’s talk about the first lie Satan tells us.
The First Lie: God Hates You
The devil (and not a few fire and brimstone preachers, dating all the way back to the Puritans) would love us to believe that God hates sinners. That He’s going to love Judgment Day the way LeBron James loves a slam dunk competition.
But Ezekiel 168makes it clear that lie is a lie. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God even says it twice—verses 23 and 32. And just for good measure, He will say it a third time in Ezekiel 33:11. Ironically, if God takes pleasure in the death of anyone, it is His saints (see Psalm 116:15).
This does not mean that God doesn’t hate sin. He absolutely does (see Day 233: Why Does God Hate Sin So Much?). But He loves sinners. The Pharisees called Jesus a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). What they meant as an insult, Jesus claimed as high praise.
When God looks at a sinner, He doesn’t see an enemy. He sees a captive of the Enemy that God desperately wants to free. Which brings us to Satan’s second great lie.
The Second Lie: Hope Has Left You
Remember the cross painted on the door of an infected house? The family was sealed inside and no one was allowed to go in and offer aid or comfort. The were locked inside to die. Charles Spurgeon referenced this image in his notes on Ezekiel 18:
Even so, the devil writes on a man’s door the words no hope, and then the sick soul determines to die and refuses admission to the physician.
No one sins more unreservedly than he who sins in desperation, believing God has no pardon for him. When a man believes he has no hope in the right way, he determines to get what he can out of the wrong way; and if he cannot please God, he will, at least, please himself. If he must go to hell, he will be as merry as can be on the road.
Do you see how that lie has infected our culture? It’s almost as if Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC, had been reading Spurgeon when he wrote the lyrics to Highway to Hell:
Livin' easy, lovin' free,
season ticket on a one way ride
Askin' nothin', leave me be,
Takin' everythin' in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothin' that I'd rather do
Goin' down, party time,
All my friends are gonna be there too,
I'm on the highway to hell…
Six months after Highway to Hell was released, Bon Scott was dead from acute alcohol poisoning. And he is by no means the only rock and roller or entertainer to die before his time. We have seen time and time again how hedonism and death go hand in hand. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Bonham, Michael Hutchence, Freddie Mercury, River Phoenix, Amy Winehouse, Chris Farley, John Belushi, Heath Ledger… the list is long, and those are just the ones I didn’t have to Google.
Satan knows that if he can get the unredeemed to believe they are unredeemable, that eventually they will be, And this is why, every time God says “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” He follows it up with a call to repent:
- “Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?” (V. 23)
- “So repent and live!” (V. 32)
- “Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)
Spurgeon was spot-on when he wrote, “Sin brings forth falsehood, and then falsehood nourishes sin.” We can’t let a lie obscure people from the truth that God is love.
Beloved, take another look at the door in the drawing of plague houses at the beginning of this post. It is a picture of two truths and a lie.
The words painted on their door—“God have mercy on us” was the truth. God delights to show mercy.
The cross painted on their doors was the truth— mercy and grace is available through the cross of Jesus.
The padlock on the door of the plague victim was the lie. Your sins do not have to condemn you.
You have the key.
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