Replacing Our Stone Hearts with Hearts of Flesh – The Bible in Lent: Days 28 & 29
The Book of Ezekiel has many bizarre and dramatic passages. It opens with a dramatic, hard to grasp vision of the glory of God. After that, God calls Ezekiel to perform a variety of tasks that are very reminiscent of performance art. He calls Ezekiel to speak about the coming exile and the fall of Jerusalem.
But similar to the book of Isaiah, we have passages of hope that point to a future time, a time when the exiles will be brought home and their relationship with God restored.
I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. – Ezekiel 11: 19-20 RSVCE
In Ezekiel, we see that God recognizes our frailty and inability to keep His laws. But we see here something new, God’s promise to give us the spirit and the heart we need to follow Him.
God doesn’t just call us to follow Him, He equips us through the work of Christ to live as a new creation, with new life animating our hearts.
He is giving hope, a promise to those who have been overrun by the sin buried in their hearts that exile and destruction are not the end of the story. There will be reconciliation.
In chapter 37, we see this prophesied again in the Valley of Dry Bones, where God raises up the dead bones in front of Ezekiel, covers them in flesh, and breathes His spirit upon them to give new life. God tells Ezekiel that He will restore the people of Israel and they will be filled with His Spirit.
If God can raise up dead bones and give them new life, surely He can work in our hearts and restore us.
In Christ, we see the fulfillment of the promise to give us new hearts.
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 RSVCE
In Christ, we are a new creation. Because of His work, God forgives and reconciles us to Himself. But He doesn’t stop there – He also equips us to follow His ways through the power of the Holy Spirit so that the cycle of sin may be broken.
Our hope is not in our will-power or self-help techniques, it is in the God who changes our very hearts and minds to align closer to His own.
Not only does He guide us to turn from sin and choose good for our own benefit, but He then gives us all that we need to actually turn from sin and to Him.
Ezekiel was a book full of the extent and consequences of sin. It is hard to see the condemnation of the prophets and easy to want to brush off and minimize sin. But don’t do that. Recognize today but the horror of sin and the freedom bought by Christ.
In Him, we can see the promise of new hearts and minds fulfilled. Because of Christ’s work, we are able to turn from sin and live reconciled to God.