The purpose of God’s chastisement is correction and restoration. When any of His people have gotten off track, and are living in habitual sin, they should expect God to act – His chastisement will be forthcoming! On the other hand, God does not punish His children when correction is not needed. So, He takes care that His wrath shall not be imposed on those living righteously.
Ezekiel 14:12-16 The word of the LORD came again to me, saying: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. 14 “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord GOD. 15 “If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, 16 “even though these three men were in it, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate.
“Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.” First, they would deliver themselves by their righteousness.
Proverbs 26:2 Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, when God pours out His wrath on sin, the righteous will be spared and delivered from that wrath, even in the midst of those on whom wrath rests heavily. Like Joshua and Caleb, those who are faithful to the Lord do not share in the punishment of the land – God will deliver them.
Second, however, those righteous men can deliver only themselves. Several more times in this passage, God reiterates that their righteousness would avail only for themselves.
Righteousness is not communicable! Those who persist in living an ungodly lifestyle cannot be protected by their godly loved ones. So, the focus of the godly must be on helping the ungodly ones to change – only true repentance and a new lifestyle will rescue them from “the wrath to come.”
And only becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) can bring about true change.