Friday 28 September 2012

Bible Book:

"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." (vv. 26-27)

Ezekiel 36:24-28 Friday 28 September 2012


The prophet Ezekiel was taken into exile during the deportationthat happened ten years before the final sacking of Jerusalem byBabylon. His earlier prophecies were addressed to his fellow-exilesduring that decade, when many of them had failed to accept that Goddeemed such judgement necessary. But from chapter 34 onwards, withJerusalem in ruins, Ezekiel presents a vision of a restored future.He offers many pictures of a new leadership, a renewed land and arenewed people.

The emphasis in these verses is on the spiritual renewal of thepeople, but having their "own land" (v. 24) and living in "the landthat I gave to your ancestors" (v. 28) is an important aspect. Itremains so for many Jewish people today, and if we think that thisgives too much of a material focus, and a local one at that, to auniversal hope, then we need to recognise that Old Testamenttheology identifies one parcel of land as God's special place as asign that the whole earth is the Lord's. In a similar way, onesabbath day in seven is a sign that all days are God's, and onetithe or tenth given signifies that all one possesses is God's.

The first picture of the people being renewed involves cleansingwater (verse 25). This is more than a symbol of forgiveness; itcalls to mind the ritual washings that remove ceremonial defilementor make priests fit to perform their duties (eg Exodus30:17-21; Leviticus 14:52; Numbers 19:17-19). Here it is involvement inidolatry that requires deep cleansing.

The "heart" (v. 26), when used metaphorically rather than of theblood-pumping organ, was understood by the Jews as being the sourceof mind and will as well as the emotions which we associate withit. In the same verse, the "spirit" is the driving force of ourdesires and motivations. A heart of stone is one that is stubbornand insensitive to God's impulse, and the same goes for the spiritwhich needs replacing.

Jeremiah uses somewhat similar language of God writing his lawdirectly on human hearts in a passage which promises a new covenant(Jeremiah 31:31-34). Ezekiel likewise here usesthe 'covenant formula' from of old: "you shall be my people, and Iwill be your God" (v. 28) to convey the end result of this heartand spirit transplant.

To Ponder

  • What importance do you attach to land or a place? Is theresomewhere that for you is an important location in making you awarethat everywhere is God's place? Where is it and what is itsimportance?
  • What is there in your life that may be properly considered tobe contamination from idolatry from which you need deepcleansing?
  • What would you like to change about your heart - either the wayyour mind operates, or the way your emotions function, or thethings that seem to motivate you or fail to do so? Could you askGod to give you a new heart?
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