Ezekiel is one of the prophets of the Old Testament, and, as someone whose spiritual gifting includes prophecy and exhortation, let me tell you that it must have been a lonely road for Mr. Ezekiel. Nobody likes the guy with the bad news, the guy that tells everyone to, “Check yourself.” However, we are who God made us to be for the purpose He created us for, and so we must press on.
God picks Israel to be His chosen people, and they go through periods of intense dedication and copious wandering. While it may be easy to shake our heads at the behavior of the Israelites, I would challenge that the lives of many Christians follow this waxing and waning pattern.
Picking back up in Ezekiel, Israel has fallen, and Nebuchadnezzar exiles them to Babylon (all this is prophesied by Jeremiah). Despite their prior mistakes, the Israelites continue to rebel and sidestep God’s commands. It is within this context that God drops a Bible gem into the text, an unexpected verse, for me, that shines like a beacon from the page.
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. (Ezekiel 36:26)
I have pulled this out of my hat countless times, mostly in times of my own failure but also in times of prayer for others. This is the story of the Gospel at its best. God’s own people turn away from Him, are exiled, and continue to be a rebellious house. The new heart and a new spirit bring the promise of redemption, of hope, of a new way of living and being.
Have you ever felt that you could use a spiritual heart transplant?
God tells His people through Ezekiel that by His grace they will be made right. He hasn’t given up on them; they haven’t strayed too far. How many times in my life have I made poor choices, choices that caused me to completely turn away from others or made others turn away from me? Our God is not like that.
When I feel like I’ve drifted too far or that I’ve had a poor reaction, I pray that God would replace my heart of stone for a heart of flesh. This isn’t something that happens one time; it’s a process. In the same way that forgiving someone can take days and multiple attempts in order for it to sink all the way through. Replacing our hearts and bettering who we are as children of God is a process.
But, God promises that it does happen. He will remove my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, full of compassion, love, forgiveness, peace, and encouragement each time I pray through this scripture. Realizing that I need a heart transplant is the first step in the right direction.
Heavenly Father, please help your people to be more loving, more compassionate, more merciful, more forgiving, and more encouraging. Help us to put others before ourselves. Take away our hearts of stone and give us a new spirit, a new heart of love.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.