Ezekiel 36:26 – 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. (NIV)
Do you ever find yourself awed by how relevant the ancient biblical texts can be to our own lives? I do. For example, several years ago, I experienced a personal application of today's promise in Ezekiel. It began with a vision in which I found myself looking down a long tunnel. At the far end, I saw a bright light. As my focus drew towards the light, I could see a stony surface at the bottom. Somehow, I knew that this represented the light of God shining on the stones in my heart. That is exactly what God would be doing over the next few years.
My life did indeed move in a downward direction — or so it felt. Through many downturns, I came to see "stones" in my character which I had never seen before. These were hard spots which kept God's good seeds of grace from flourishing in my life. The stones included flawed assumptions about God, salvation, church, and so forth. They included faulty ways of thinking about myself and about the meaning and purpose of the Christian life. Those stones had made me resistant to God's Spirit — much like stony ground is inhospitable to good seeds. As the stones became exposed and dislodged, I grew freer to recognize and accept God's grace. God was shaping my heart — my ways of thinking and doing — for His new and better way for me.
Sometime later, I again saw that vision of the tunnel. Only this time, I could see mostly soft soil — with a few stones scattered around. I considered this to be God's report card. It was encouraging to know that, although I didn't feel particularly more spiritual, I was moving in the right direction. I had no idea what those remaining stones signified. There was no need to know right then. After all, God's Spirit could manage my life quite well. In fact, that is God's covenant promise, as foreshadowed in today's Ezekiel verse.
Farmers know they must pick up the stones in their fields. Farmers also realize that over time, more stones will rise up to the surface and will need to be removed. It's a never-ending job. It's like that with "stones" in our hearts. Through salvation, God replaces the "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh" — that is, a capacity to be sensitive and pliable to His Spirit. Yet stone removal is also an ongoing process. Over time, other stones creep to the surface. We cannot see them while they are submerged beneath the surface. But when, through life circumstances, they rise and are exposed to the light of God, then we can see them for ourselves. We are often troubled by them and deeply humbled. We do not like seeing our sinfulness exposed. Yet this is an important aspect of the Christian journey. In fact, seeing the stones and desiring their removal is an indication that we truly belong to God and that His Spirit is working in us — just as promised in the ancient prophesies of Scripture.
May this be your prayer:
Prayer: Lord, I desire that my heart be pliable and sensitive to Your Spirit. Reveal to me any stones that are in the way, and give me the courage to accept Your transformative work in me, that I may grow increasingly tender towards You. Amen.