Thursday

19 May 2016

“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.” (vv. 26-27)

Psalm: Psalm 36


Background

The prophet Ezekiel has the task of conveying God's word to a people who see their land and lives devastated by invading armies. In chapter 36 the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains; and so the prophet speaks. The words are meant for both the land and the nation. Ezekiel conveys God's promise to restore and sanctify the house of Israel. The memorable imagery of the valley of dry bones, a metaphor of restoration and resurrection, follows in chapter 37.

Ezekiel's prophesies resonate with themes one finds in the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The nation is destroyed and her people scattered in exile by conquering armies. The cause of this devastation is not only the worldly ambition of powerful rulers in nearby kingdoms, but the attitudes and actions of God's people. They have not honoured the Lord's name; they have worshiped idols; and, as a result of their unfaithfulness, they are unclean.

With sentiments reminiscent of Moses' pleading with God on behalf of the Israelites in Exodus 32:11-14, the Lord promises to make the restoration of the people a means of communicating God's power and glory. If God's people remain devastated, then the nations will think that God is not the true God. The restoration of the people will be a witness to the whole world, as well as to the house of Israel, of God's great power.

The spirit comes in this case as the one who restores the people. The people will receive a new spirit within them to purify their heart and flesh. The spirit ('ru'ach') will re-energise the people. Further, the text seems to echo that of Jeremiah 31:33 in the promise that the people will internalise God's law and be obedient to it. Ezekiel says they will receive God's Spirit within them, which will empower them to live faithfully. The overall sense of the passage is that God's Spirit does the work of restoration and renewal of God's people. This restoration is not for their sake alone, but so that the Lord will be glorified through them as a witness to all the nations.


To Ponder

  • The emphasis of the passage is clearly on God's spirit restoring a community. What is the relationship between personal spirituality and being rooted in a community of faith?
  • To what extent do faithful people understand themselves as a means through which God's glory is represented in the world?


Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Cindy Wesley 

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