29 May 2010Ezekiel 36:22-28
"A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." (v.26-27)
The prophet Ezekiel was speaking to the people of Israel who
were living in exile in Babylon at the time. He offers a message of
hope in which restoration of good fortune is promised on the basis
of God's holy name - not on the people's obedience.
The people might be discouraged in their hopes of a restoration by the sense of their unworthiness of such a favour, knowing that they are still corrupt and sinful. But the prophet answers their worries with a promise that God would, by God's grace, prepare and qualify them for mercy and then bestow it on them. God promised to work a good work in them; to qualify them for the good work which would be brought about for them.
God promised to give the Israelites a new heart: a disposition of mind excellent in itself and vastly different from what it was before. Here, God promised to make a covenant with the people - they would belong to God, and they would worship God alone. The condition is of grace, not of merit or works: "You shall be my people; I will make you so; I will give you the nature and spirit of my people, and then I will be your God." Only then they shall return to their land.
This passage, therefore, is about the graciousness and grace of God. As we consider the descending Spirit we acknowledge the free grace that comes with it; we receive the life-changing, kingdom-changing power; we recall the nourishment of the living God and we give thanks, because God, in graciousness, has said that it will be so.
Throughout this week we have considered the descending of the Spirit at Pentecost. We have considered the Spirit as the bringer of life and hope. We have recognised the Spirit's gracious, all-embracing nature. What aspect of the Holy Spirit most appeals to you? What does that particular emphasis mean for you if you seek to live a Christian life?
The prophet spoke of hope in an apparently hopeless situation. What apparently hopeless situation do you think the modern Church should be speaking hope into? What are you going to do about it?