Thursday, August 24th, 2023.
I have been reading out of the book of Ezekiel lately. I came across one phrase that is repeated three times throughout the book’s 48 chapters. The word of God is always important and beneficial, but when God highlights a point more than once it stirs up something in me to try to discover the added significance. In Ezekiel 11:19 we see the first of the three occurrences:
19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,
This scripture has always been near and dear to me. As someone who is in the process of walking out of a life controlled by fear and anxiety, this is one that I have declared on many occasions. When I was in a place of deep angst or the enemy was firing lies about the state of my body and my mind I would say over and over, “Thank you Lord that you are taking out my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh.” The second reference to this phrase is found in Ezekiel 18:31:
31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
This is the one that I had just come across recently. We see in chapter 11 that God is the one performing the exchange. However, in chapter 18, the prophet Ezekiel is telling the Israelites that they have to make a new heart and a new spirit. We know from other books of the Bible that the Israelites have been on a downward spiral of mixing in with other nations and following after other gods for quite some time now. As they have been warned on numerous occasions, if they do not amend their ways and come back to God, they will face destruction. While we would like to think that we have never lived like “those Israelites”, I am fairly sure we have all had at least a season or two of walking in their sandals. Perhaps we didn’t worship a golden calf or murmur about the lack of water, but there was probably a time when we put something above God or looked with discontent at what we had or didn’t have. There comes a point in all of our Christian walks that we trip and fall and need to come back in repentance to the loving, open arms of our heavenly Father. We have a part to play in continuing a make a new heart and a new spirit within us. Growing closer to God and living out the book He has written for us extends way beyond asking Jesus into or heart. I am reminded of the scripture in Philippians 2:12 that says:
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
The third occurrence of this phrase is in Ezekiel 36:26:
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I find it interesting that we now go back to something God is doing for us. Besides showing us that we have a part to play in our sanctification, I get a sense that these three references provide a picture of our life as a child of the King. When we first get saved, He provides us a new heart. In that moment we are asking Jesus to reside in our hearts and God creates in us a new heart that is fit for the King of Kings. Then as we go about our Christian walk on this earth it is us seeking out and following the path that God has for us so that we can (in partnership with Him) continue to renew that new heart and new spirit each day. Then on that day that is the fulfillment of all of our days on earth we will experience the final exchange. The limitations of our heart and soul will cease to exist and we will become a fully spirit, fully eternal being.
Oh Lord, we thank you for this exchange you have provided. We thank you that you have taken our stony heart and given us a heart of flesh. Help us to see the part we play in renewing that heart of flesh day by day so that we don’t miss one page of the book you have written for us. Show us how to go about this life at your pace, not too fast and not too slow. Teach us how to hear your leading and filter out the voices that try to derail us onto another path. When our hearts start to stiffen up a little, draw us into your patient presence and let your love wash us anew. Let our hearts beat to your rhythm. Let your blood cover and flow through every part of our being. You gave us this heart and we give it back to you.