“It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone… I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:22, 25–27)
We might think that the Holy Spirit is absent in the Old Testament, but he is alive – if sometimes hidden. Here God says that he will give the Holy Spirit to his people, to live and move amongst them and to lead them to holiness.
In Ezekiel’s words we see turning from the old self to the new as a process of conversion. First is an outward cleansing (purification); second is a heart transplant (renovation); third is a filling with the Holy Spirit and the right living that results (sanctification). Of course people will have different experiences of coming to faith in the triune God, but these steps reveal the total level of transformation it entails. God changes our hearts and our spirits, which in the Hebrew understanding meant not just our emotions but also our wills.
And why does God go to these lengths to restore his fallen people? For his glory, for his name was being profaned as they lived outside of the Promised Land. As the neighboring nations witness God saving his people, they will realize his power and grace.
A heart of stone is a cold, lifeless, often bitter thing. The Lord would remove any pebbles or rocks that lodge in our hearts, that his Spirit might flow through us. Heart surgery is painful, but as God unclogs our arteries and cleans out any built-up muck, we reap physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards.
For reflection: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).