A NEW HEART
EZEKIEL 36:26-30 NET
26 I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative, and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and multiply it; I will not bring a famine on you. 30 I will multiply the fruit of the trees and the produce of the fields, so that you will never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.
We have been studying what the Bible teaches about being born again. Last week, we saw that God predicted through Jeremiah that he was going to initiate a new covenant, and that – unlike the old covenant – he would write his teachings on the hearts of his people. In today’s text from Ezekiel, we have more information about just exactly what God promises to do.
God promises to change his people internally
God promises that he “will give (them) a new heart” (26a). He promises to change them internally. It will be the same people, but they will be changed from the inside out. This is what God wants for his people of any age. Paul encouraged the Roman Christians not to be conformed to this present world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they may test and approve God’s will in their lives (Romans 12:2). The picture is God changing them from the inside out. That is the picture here in Ezekiel.
This is a process that begins at conversion. Paul told the Corinthians that all believers are being transformed into people who reflect the Lord’s image, and that the process happens in stages “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We start with a new heart.
If a person has a heart transplant, you don’t see the difference externally at once. But as the body adjusts to its new heart, over time it becomes healthier and stronger. The old heart was giving out, and could only make the body sicker and weaker. The new heart takes over and restores health and vitality.
God also said “(he) will put a new spirit within (them)” (26b). The spirit is the breath that is inside a breathing body. The Hebrews used this breath as a metaphor for the internal life. As such, a good breath inside a person suggested health, vitality and a good attitude. An evil breath (not to be confused with bad breath) meant that the body was unhealthy, dying and full of hate and bitterness.
So, when God said that he was going to put a new spirit in his people, he was talking about restoring their relationship with him through forgiveness, and that would result in health and wholeness.
He also said “(he) will remove the heart of stone from (their) body and give (them) a heart of flesh” (26c). If you have a heart of stone, you are not alive. God created us with hearts of flesh, and those hearts of flesh beat within our chests, and pump blood throughout our bodies, keeping us alive.
But the Israelites had suffered from hardening of their hearts. Their inner selves had become so hard toward God that they were living dead people – a zombie nation. God was going to do something about that. He was going to give them a heart transplant.
God promises to share his Holy Spirit with them
He also said “(he) will put (his) Spirit within (them); (he) will take the initiative” (27a).
Later, he said through the same prophet “I will no longer hide my face from them, when I pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 39:29). This is our first clue as to when God was going to fulfill his promise.
The prophet Joel also predicted the same event. He said “I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions. Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29).
Fast forward to the New Testament and we see Peter quoting the text in Joel to explain the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. About 120 people had gathered at the temple and were waiting for the power that Jesus had promised.
• First, there was the sound of a violent wind blowing. • Then, there were visible tongues of fire that rested on each of the 120 believers. • Then thousands of Jews visiting from every nation under heaven – there to participate in the Jewish holiday – heard and watched the display of power, and heard the gospel being proclaimed in the languages of the places where they lived. • 3000 of those Jewish visitors responded to the gospel message that day and became believers in Jesus Christ. Within a few days, the number had grown to 5000.
God had promised to pour out his Spirit on his people, and he did. The result was that his Spirit empowered them to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and grow his church.
Now, some of you have watched the video which I posted on our church Facebook site last Monday. In that video, I asked you to read today’s text and respond to three questions.
• The first question was “Is this promise conditional or unconditional?” In was kind of both. What God promised he was going to do, he did. God did not say that if Israel smartened up he would send his Holy Spirit to them. But there were lots more people than just those 3000 who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. But only those 3000 responded to the miracle with repentance and faith.
Here’s what God promised the Israelites who repented.
If Israel accepts the Holy Spirit, there will be evident blessings:
• The first evident blessing will be OBEDIENCE.
He said “(they) will obey (his) statutes and carefully observe (his) regulations” (27b). The Jews who repented at Pentecost would learn how to obey God. The generations who came before them had struggled with idolatry, paganism and lack of faith. But after Pentecost, these believers would be blessed with the ability to obey the law of God and the commands of Christ.
• The second evident blessing will be WITNESS.
God said “they will live in the land (God) gave to (their) fathers; (they) will be (his) people, and (he) will be (their) God” (28). God enabled these Jewish believers to first represent his kingdom in the land he promised their ancestors. Eventually, he would send them back to the lands they had migrated to. They would “be (his) witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
• The third evident blessing will be SANCTIFICATION.
God said “(he) will save (them) from all (their) uncleanness” (29a). Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that God had chosen them “from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). One of the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to sanctify us. He saves us from our uncleanness. He does this by cleaning us from the inside out. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, he began cleaning up the world.
That reminds me. Another of those questions I had introduced in the video was “Does this promise apply to Christians or only to the Jews?” The Thessalonians were Gentiles. The same Holy Spirit who God promised to give to the Jews at Pentecost will do the same thing for us Gentiles. Paul tells the Galatians that there “is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
• The fourth evident blessing will be PROSPERITY.
God said “(he) will call for the grain and multiply it; (He) will not bring a famine on (them). (He) will multiply the fruit of the trees and the produce of the fields, so that (they) will never again suffer the disgrace of famine” (29b-30a). He wanted to bless them so that other people would notice the blessing, and as about the reason for the blessing. If people just come to God for a blessing, they probably wont get one. God is not obligated to bless anyone just because they want to be blessed. His obligations are always tied to his mission. This brings me to my last point.
God had a missional reason for promising this
Note the last three words of today’s text: “among the nations” (30b). God’s purpose for promising to regenerate his people – giving them a new heart and pouring out his Holy spirit on them – was in keeping with his purpose for blessing their ancestor – Abraham.
God had told Abraham…
• “"Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name"” (Genesis 12:1-3).
It was God’s intention that Abraham and all his descendants would be a conduit for him to bless all the nations on the planet. They were supposed to spread God’s blessing, not hoard it for themselves.
Why did God promise to give the Israelites a new heart? Let’s back up a few verses:
• “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake that I am about to act, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy reputation, which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will magnify my great name that has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I magnify myself among you in their sight” (22-23).
Now, we know the rest of the story. God’s people had gone out into the nations and profaned his name among the Gentiles. God promised to convert them – to give them a new heart and empower them with his Holy Spirit. This would result in his glory being spread by them to all the nations.
Now, for the final question I had asked on the video.
“If we received what God promised here, what would the results be? What would it look like?”
This is a helpful question, because if our conversion is genuine, it should have certain results, and today’s text points out what some of those results should be.
• First, people who are really born again want to obey Jesus Christ in everything. We have a new heart, and that heart beats for our master. • Second, people who are really born again want to share this experience with others all over the world. The Holy Spirit within us not only empowers us to witness, he makes evangelism our passion. • Third, people who are really born again want to clean up. They are tired of living sinful lives and cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s sanctification. • Fourth, people who are really born again are going to prosper in some way. No, I am not teaching the prosperity gospel, but I am saying that people who are truly born again are going to evidence some kind of prosperity for the gospel’s sake. It may not be financial prosperity. Remember, Peter told the crippled beggar “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). If we are truly born again, God is going to bless us with blessings that other people are going to want. When they come to us for answers, we need to make sure that we tell them that Jesus Christ is the answer.
God wants people with new hearts to draw the nations to him. Do you have a new heart? If you don’t, you can get one at Calvary.