Sunday, May 08, 2011

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?

Over the past few days I have heard exaltations of many Christians for the death of Osama Bin Laden, but I have also noticed many comments lamenting any rejoicing. What says the Bible of the wicked?

In Ezekiel 33:11, the Lord plainly declares: “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?” God clearly calls on all to repent, even the wicked whom He knows will not heed His cry. Jesus makes that plain in the gospel of John when it says that Jesus did not commit himself to them, for he knew all men. He needs no one to testify about men, for He knows all men.

This then is the first principle I would notice: God desires to show mercy upon all mankind, including Bin Laden. At the same time He knows our destiny before we ourselves know it. He is all sovereign. Bin Laden chose his own course; now like all men he must appear before God to be judged. His trail of wickedness is apparent to all men and that is perhaps why people wish to rejoice over his death. I think we as Christians should certainly not lament his death. If we lament anything about his passing, it should be that which we would lament over the passing of any person without Christ. The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. As long as Bin Laden lived, there was (albeit small) a hope that he might yet find repentance.

But I think that we have indeed lost perspective if we do not remember the great evil for which this man was responsible. Not the least wicked act he did was sending young men to their deaths, promising them much glory in the hereafter, while refusing to do the same thing himself. He led a despicably wicked life and was responsible for terminating the lives of many thousands of people, many of whom were in need of redemption themselves but now no longer have that opportunity. One day we saints will stand behind Christ as Bin Laden receives his judgment; in that day we will rejoice in the righteousness of God. We will shed no tears for his just judgment on that day. The Bible says, “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4)

But I think in this day, while we still are hoping and praying for the living that they should turn from their wickedness and live, that it is understandable that Christians would want others also to find the mercy and forgiveness of God that is in Christ. And we do rightly divine that once we were caught in unrighteousness also, and that we, finding grace, naturally wish others to find it too. And such is the spirit of my brothers and sisters who commented on Facebook recently; it is always proper to lament the passing of an unregenerate soul, wishing that it could be otherwise. We reflect the image of our Creator when we, like him, say, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”

I close with a favorite passage from A. W. Tozer on the same subject:

“We hear of rapists, murderers, and all the rest. Yet that rapist who rapes and kills in the dark of the night is no further off from God than that proud businessman surrounded by his adoring family, who reads Shakespeare and listens to Beethoven. All are sinners, and all have come short of the glory of God, (see Rom. 3:23). We are all without hope in God, and without God in the world. Yet there is hope in God, if we will believe.”

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