Sovereignty of God

The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 3

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An Impassioned Entreaty

Having provided an oath-bound affirmation of his preference for mercy over judgment, God now turns to the wicked and entreats them: “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11b, ESV).

1. We should view this entire response as an entreaty.

Some commentators and preachers divided the second half of Ezekiel 33:11 into two parts: an entreaty and a question. Syntactically, that’s correct. First, God gives a double imperative: “turn back, turn back from your evil ways.” Then, God asks a question, “For why will you die, O house of Israel?”

However, the question in this case is rhetorical. When God says, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” he is using a question to tell them quite emphatically, “I do not want you to die!”

This kind of rhetorical question is found elsewhere in Scripture. In Numbers 32 Moses urges the Reubenites and the Gadites to help their brothers take the land west of the Jordan. He uses two rhetorical questions:

But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them?” (Numbers 32:6–7, ESV)

The question “Why will you discourage the heart of the people” is equivalent to “Don’t do that! Don’t discourage their hearts!”

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 2

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God instructs Ezekiel to respond to the people’s complaint, and the Lord’s response has two parts: first, God makes an oath-bound affirmation; second, he issues an impassioned entreaty. Let’s consider each of those in turn.

An Oath-bound Affirmation

Yahweh begins his response to the people’s complaint by swearing an oath. In the ancient Near East, people would sometimes swear by the life of their deity or by the life of the king to add solemnity to what they were about to say. They also did it to underscore the absolute truthfulness of their affirmation. It was roughly equivalent to the modern practice of placing one’s hand on the Bible and saying, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We would think it sufficient to say, “I will tell the truth.” How in the world is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” more truthful than just the “truth”?! It’s like saying, “I promise to be completely honest” instead of saying, “I promise to be honest.”

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 1

The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

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The setting of Ezekiel’s prophecy in general and of our text in particular is the exile. The first phase of the exile took place around 605 B.C. The second phase of the exile took place about 7 or 8 years later, around 597 B.C. And the final stage of the exile took place in 586 B.C. This is when the Babylonians destroyed the walls and temple of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel was part of the group of people who were deported in the second phase of the exile, and God called him to the prophetic ministry in the fifth year of that second phase, which puts the beginning of his ministry at somewhere around 593 B.C. The specific prophecy that we’re going to examine was given sometime during the siege of Jerusalem, which began in 588 B.C. (see 24:1-2), and just prior to the third and final deportation in 586 B.C. (see 26:1; 33:21-22). So the nation of Israel has already experienced God’s judgment, and they are about to experience another phase of God’s judgment.

Into that context, God calls Ezekiel to serve as a “watchman” (33:1-9).

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Is Middle Knowledge Biblical? An Explanation

"Among the more academic and influential contemporary advocates of Molinism are Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig (who has proposed that Molinism is the key to a Calvinist-Arminian rapprochement)....If you have not yet encountered it, there is a good chance that either you or one of the members of your church will. " - Ref21

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“As a Calvinist, I can’t help but cringe whenever fellow Calvinists declare that humans do not have free will.”

"By God’s grace, my prayer is that my current attempt at taking on the topic of free will is characterized by far more humility than it has been in the past. Similarly, my objective with this article isn’t to win a debate nor to provide anyone with talking points to help them win debates.

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The Well-Meant Offer: God May Desire What He Doesn’t Decree (Deut 5:29), Part 3

Detail from The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

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Several rejoinders may be offered to the “anthropopathic” interpretations represented above.

1. God is Not Pretending

One may affirm that the text has a rhetorical function while also insisting that the human behavior enjoined is predicated on the divine disposition described. In other words, the inferred imperative (“you people should fear God always”) is based on an implied indicative (“God wants you to fear him always”).

When my wife says, “Honey, I wish you’d take me out for a date tonight,” she does not intend for me to interpret her expressed wish as “feigned” or “pretended.” Nor is her aim simply to define my duty. Instead, she expects me to infer (rightly) that she really wants me to do what she has expressed in the form of a wish. Similarly, God is not “faking it.” Every Israelite in covenant with God should obey him because he genuinely wants them to obey.

Ironically, after affirming Calvin’s depiction of God’s wish as “feigned” or “pretended,” Matthew Winzer goes on to affirm it as a real desire by narrowing the scope of the text to elect Israel:

The divine expression of desire for His commandments to be obeyed and for His promises to come to fruition [in Deut 5:29] is not an unfulfilled desire at all. For God undertakes on behalf of elect Israel to put His laws into their minds and to write them in their hearts, so that the promise to be their God and to bless them as His people comes to fruition (Heb. 8:10).

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