The word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel during the first wave of Babylonian captivity.
… “Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the HEART OF STONE from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God. (Ezek 11:17–21; emphasis mine)
Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came…. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the HEART OF STONE from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek 36:22, 24–28; emphasis mine)
A heart of stone. What is that? I think I know. I think I have experienced at least a little bit of what it is like to have a heart made of stone. A heart unresponsive to God's word, to His patience, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. Knowing and believing that something is wrong but doing it anyway. Instead of praying for strength or escape from temptation, allowing myself to go numb and give in.
Ezekiel prophesied during the reign of Zedekiah. Not much is recorded of Zedekiah in the Chronicles, but enough is said to give us a picture of this man. He was young by our standards. Only 21 when his reign began. Only about 32 when his reign ended in his capture. He rebelled against the King of Babylon though he swore by God he would remain subject to Babylonian authority. Because he swore by God, he rebelled against God in doing this. Despite the prophet Jeremiah's numerous warnings and prophecies, Zedekiah remained unmoved: “He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord” (2 Chron 36:11–14).
Ezekiel's prophecies and Zedekiah's example were written for my benefit, for everyone's benefit. Here is a snapshot of my life: I am a young female, 27 years old. I have been struggling with a secret sin on and off for several years but regularly for the past several months. Because of my deliberate and repetitious rebellion against God, I am now captive to this sin, ensnared by it. Not wholly unmoved, but not turning to God, I have grown addicted. I harden my heart when I give in. I harden my heart against God. Once I become numb I am powerless to stop myself.
And yet, God is still God. And He has unfathomable power. John the Baptist proclaimed to the multitudes that came to be baptized, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8). If God can change stones into living descendants of Abraham, He most certainly can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
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