Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ezekiel's Heart of Stone to a Heart of Flesh

I stood at the front of the altar call. A little nervous and feeling a little vulnerable. The year was 2001, and I was at a Young Adults Retreat with The Salvation Army. A man in his 30s came up to me, and began to pray for me. Most of the words I can't remember, but his said this sentence, which is still etched on my heart all these years later. He said, 'God wants to turn your heart of stone, into a heart of flesh...' I went away knowing God had spoken to me this day and had done something within me.

Some ten years later I find myself reflecting on these words, that find themselves buried in the book of Ezekiel. Maybe you have heard this expression, or maybe you have even prayed those words from Ezekiel. Let's have a look at a few verses of the biblical text:

Ezekiel 36:25-27:
Eze 36:25 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.
Eze 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.
Eze 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

When you think of the stone mentioned in Ezekiel 36:26 you might think of a person that is characterised by hard heartedness and stubbornness or someone who lacks emotion, or is 'hard' to get along with, or lacks compassion and so the list goes on. The contrasting picture in Eze 36:26 is of flesh, which conjures up images of compassion, respectful, loving, vulnerable, emotional (but stable), and of vitality and humanness.

You might be thinking now of all your all coworkers, distant relatives and friends who have what you perceive to be a heart of stone. Go on, I know that's what you're thinking!

The prayer that was can derive from these words of Ezekiel 36:26 is the following and we can pray this for others, but we must pray it for ourselves:

"Lord, help me to have a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone. Through your Spirit do a work in me, that replaces the cold, hard heartedness in me, and replace it with a heart that honours you. In Jesus' name".

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