Heart of Flesh
I’m currently reading through Ezekiel in my Bible reading plan, and let me tell you, it’s been tough. Ezekiel isn’t exactly the cheeriest of books in the Bible. The main theme of the book is God’s judgment on Israel because of their sinfulness. It is full of descriptions of the impending wrath that God will pour out on Israel because they have been unfaithful. Take these verses for example, “Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; a third part I will scatter to all the winds and unsheathe the sword after them” (Ezekiel 5: 11-12). Not exactly something to put on a greeting card, is it?
Spending days reading about God’s judgment can make a person feel kind of down, and as I was reflecting on that heaviness I felt, I decided to look at my reading plan to see how long it would be until I got to the New Testament– the part of the story where Jesus comes as Immanuel, God with us. I was reminded that much like I am currently in the “boggy” part of the story of scripture, you and I are as well. We know the story, that Jesus has already come to save His people from their sins, and yet, we’re still waiting for the fulfillment of His promise to come again and make all things new. This waiting is hard. We can look around at the world we live in and see all the brokenness, all the ways that sin has corrupted what God intended to be good, and it can cause us to despair if we forget the ending of the story.
The good news is that we already know the ending. We know that Christ will return and make all things new. God even gives us a glimpse of this in the book of Ezekiel, right in the middle of all the bad news is the best news: “...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.” (11:17-20).
I now have a different perspective about the book of Ezekiel. While it is essential that we understand God’s judgment (because if we don’t understand that, we can’t understand his grace), we don’t have to be stuck there. Knowing that the judgment that I should receive because of my sin was poured out on Jesus instead causes me to rejoice. Maybe we should start putting verses from Ezekiel on greeting cards after all.