This is a powerful image of the new life that God gives to his people when they come to him in faith. What is needed is not simply a new ethical direction or a decision to live a better life. What is needed is “a new heart, and a new spirit”—and not a new heart created in some self-generated way, but one given by God: “I will give you a new heart” (v. 26).
We are people whose hearts are naturally made of stony rebellion toward God. None are exempt from this. Our only hope of salvation is for God, by the power of his Holy Spirit, to perform the miracle of removing those stony hearts and giving us “hearts of flesh” instead (v. 26)—that is, hearts that respond to him and love him and desire to know him. We are dead in our transgressions, and we need to be brought from death to life (Eph. 2:1-7). As Jesus said, we need to be born again (John 3:1-8).
The new life that the gospel brings is not a new set of clever strategies, or spiritual rehabilitation, or fresh resolve to live in a new way out of our old resources. It is an utterly new and foreign importation of divine power that changes us at the very core of who we are. We are changed from the inside out. It is a transformation so profound that even our very desires are changed. The Bible calls this regeneration, or new birth (Titus 3:5). Here in Ezekiel 36 we see one of the Old Testament’s most beautiful and clearest anticipations of this inside-out change.
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible.