The Heart – Ezekiel 11:17-21
When I read the old testament and I hear the decrees God spoke against Israel and the promises He made to them through the prophets I try to keep in mind; that was then; this is now. Israel was living under the auspices of a different covenant than we do. But, even though these words were not spoken to us directly, we can glean much about God’s great heart through His dealings with His initial chosen people.
The scene is familiar, Israel has played the harlot by abandoning her part of that old covenant. She has partaken in the idolatry of foreign peoples. Under that covenant, in this circumstance, God is obligated to fulfill His promise to judge them. This judgement, in part, has caused Israel to be exhiled to Babylon where they will serve as slaves. Yet Ezekiel prophecies some encouraging news to the judged nation. Thus says the Lord God…
“I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God.”
When God is represented by those filled with the guilt and shame of religion, He is portrayed as angry, poised to judge. But there is something crucial we must learn about God’s heart – in the way it was disposed, even to those who had suffered His wrath…
Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.
Even to those whom He had judged He had positioned Himself as their sanctuary! Is God’s heart as fundamentally angry and poised to judge as we have been told? This is a glimpse of His heart in the days of the old covenant. Even then, it seems as though He is at least as ready to restore as He is to express His anger. And, if this was so then what do we have now? So, what do you think? ……
With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? Romans 8:32 MSG
I believe the Jews were hamstrung by not having the promised new and softer heart that Ezekiel refers to. Were the ancient Jews even capable of compliance, shackled with hearts of stone as they were? The more important question is really, “Are we capable of living in harmony with God as members of a new covenant?” Being in Christ, having Christ as our life, is the essence of the new hearts He has freely and gladly given us. So I must answer with a grateful and enthusiastic, “Yes! God Himself, in-Christ, is our sanctuary and astonishingly, we are His.”
A friend, just this morning, has given me the perfect adjective to describe the covenant we enjoy. It’s “apocalyptic.” Here is his offering:
“Apocolyptic” is used to describe a certain genre of literature (and also by some to mean an end times catastrophe). What the word really means is; the revealing of something that was previously not known. Jesus’ life, death & resurrection was apocalyptic, not because it signaled the end of the world, but because it revealed things which the Old Testament only hinted of. It is the key that unlocked the Old Testament prophecies. The Gospel is not only good news. The gospel is apocalyptic good news’!
Oh Lord, how majestic are your ways in all the earth! May the heights and depths of what you have done register in us. Continue to reveal to our new hearts the breadth and the length of your astonishing love until they are filled up to the fulness of You. Now to You who are able to do exceedingly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to You be the glory in Your Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.