Saturday

18 February 2017

“I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 107:33-43


Background

It seems that the role of a prophet in the Old Testament often has two aspects. The first is to make warnings of judgements if things carry on as they are; the second is to offer hope and new life coming out of the midst of the judgements. In this passage we clearly see Ezekiel's message moving towards hope and new life.

However, these verses start with Ezekiel responding to the accusation that those who have been taken into exile are no longer God's people and that only those who remain in the holy city are God's people. Ezekiel denies this saying that God has been a sanctuary and that God would restore them back to the land of Israel (verses 16-17).

This promise of restoration in the land of Israel reminds us of the Exodus story of the Israelites when they were led by Moses. Just as God made a new covenant with the people in the midst of this process, so Ezekiel speaks of a new covenant between God and the people. However, the laws will not be written on stone but instead placed on hearts of flesh.

It would be easy to jump to Christian conclusions about this new covenant before we have considered how Ezekiel's hearers would have heard it and the only similar example is that of Saul when he was anointed as King of Israel (1 Samuel 10:9). At the moment that this happened we are told he was given a new heart and that God's spirit came upon him.

Given what happened to Saul this is perhaps not the best example, but we should notice that according to Ezekiel this new heart and spirit inhabiting God's people is now not just for kings but for all the people (as long as they were not idolaters), including the exiles gathered back into Israel. Ezekiel's vision is limited just to the people of Israel, but for a man in his context and time, his vision was as broad as perhaps it could have been.


To Ponder

  • Ezekiel's vision was very wide for a man of his time in regard to who were God's people. Who do you say are God's people?
  • The Pope recently implied that President Trump is not a Christian because he spoke about building walls. Who do you say are not God's people? And why?


Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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