Reader: “I will give you a new heart,”
Response: “and I will put a new spirit in you.”
Scripture: Ezekiel 36:24-28
For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
“And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
People have said that the First Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New is the First revealed. I would suggest the First is also a shadow of the eternal. This passage is an example of what I mean. As we have said frequently, the beginning theme of Advent is about the end of time, when Jesus returns to bring final judgment and establish his eternal Kingdom. In many ways our present world is very much like the days of Israel’s exile. God’s people were in a full on rebellion when they were crushed and sent into captivity by various powers, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. They suffered the consequences of their actions experiencing war and conflict, not unlike today’s world. In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rejected God, what happened? They had been in perfect communion with God, body, soul, and spirit. But when sin entered, their spirits died. The spiritual relationship with God died. Eventually, they died physically as well, but the spiritual communion was severed. And, as a result, it was gone from the human race as well. We became a “fallen people.” When King David writes, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” That is what he is referring to. We are born being separated from God from birth. When we become a Christian, we are born of the Holy Spirit and the spirit part of us that died with the sinning of Adam and Eve, has been reborn, “born again” in our lives. Having said that, the battle between self and the Holy Spirit continues. The self (soul) still wants to be in charge. Now to our passage. Ezekiel is speaking at one level of his immediate circumstances in Israel, but on another, he is describing what is yet to be for Israel. God is going to ultimately bring his people back from exile to the land of Israel for his own name’s sake, not because they deserve it. He is painting a picture not only of Israel’s restoration, but demonstrating the truth of God’s ability to restore any peoples. Paul writes in II Cor. 5:27, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone and the battle between self and the Spirit will be over. At the Second Coming and final judgment we will receive our glorified resurrection bodies like Jesus’. Our hearts will be tender and responsive praising and glorifying our Lord. No more battles between our stubborn will and the Spirit. We will willingly and joyously always follow the Lord’s leading in his glorious kingdom.
Music: “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” Geneva International Christian Choir and Orchestra
Sever me from myself that I may be grateful to you;
May I perish to self that I may be safe in you;
May I die to myself that I may live in you;
May I wither to myself that I may blossom in you;
May I be emptied of myself that I may abound in you;
May I be nothing to myself that I may be all to you.
―Erasmus, 1466-1536, The Book of Uncommon Prayer, p.66