Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ezekiel 36: A Heart of Stone

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. (Ezekiel 36:26-29 ESV)
The recent chapters of Ezekiel have been a delight to read; they really highlight God's sovereignty and mercy. We see how despite Israel's disobedience and broken covenant God moves to fulfill his plan. Though, it's not as if God had to route around the damage done by Israel to create or discover a better plan, he was actively working through Israel's apostasy and his judgment to bring redemption and consummation. God's covenant was a good one, though his people trashed it pursuing everything except God, and so we see that this covenant was incomplete. There have been some hints to what God might be up to, not the least was a restoration of the nation. But chapter 36 shows that God is going to usher in a different kind of relationship with his people. God will restore Israel, but he will not leave them to abandon the covenant again. The exiles should hear the drumbeat of a new covenant in what Ezekiel has been saying. Perhaps they cannot identify it, but the prophet is certainly speaking of hope greater than Israel had seen to that point. This chapter shows a key ingredient of the new covenant: the new heart and spirit.

The Heart

The first miracle God performs is a heart transplant. When God shows grace to his people, he first gives them a warm-blooded, beating heart. Before implanting that, however, he must remove the cold, dead heart of stone. That is the spiritual default of every person who has ever existed--we are spiritually dead. How can a stony heart be made alive? No amount of CPR, defibrillation (or religion) can give that dead heart life. The harder we try to give ourselves life the more we reveal the deadness of our hearts.

When God gives a heart of flesh, new life is created! The result of God's work is repentance: instead of cold rejection of God's rule, we have a warm, intimate relationship with our creator. The first possibility of loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as our self becomes reality. Instead of selfishly sucking life out of our environment, life can flow from us to those around us.

The Spirit

The gift of a new heart is already grace far more abundant than we can ask or think, but God does not leave that new heart isolated to simply die once more. God protects that heart and gives the assurance of life by putting his Spirit within us. The result of this work is that God will cause us to walk in his statutes and be careful to obey his rules. We do not and cannot walk in his statutes before we are given the heart of flesh and his Spirit, and those things do not give us new life. But once God puts his Spirit within us (what an incredible thought), the seal of salvation is walking under the authority and rules of the Lord.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 ESV)


The results are staggering. We can be God's people, and he will be our God. We will live in a relationship with the Sovereign of the Universe--he is not an impersonal abstraction or unapproachable monarch. And the good news is that we are saved. God says he will deliver us from our "uncleannesses." God takes a dead, dirty, stony, void heart and makes it fit to be in the presence of pure holiness. What news could possibly trump that?


The fulfillment of the new covenant is in Christ. He is our good news. Through our belief in his death and resurrection, we receive the gift of a new heart and the Holy Spirit, and God delivers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of light.

   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
   And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
(Colossians 1:15-23 ESV)

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