There is so much good news in this part of Ezekiel, I feel as if my heart is strangely warmed each time I read it.
If you find yourself beat-up, judged and found wanting, isolated, alienated, dislocated, disjointed, out-of-plumb; if you find that the law of God has done its proper work, and you feel fully exposed in your impotence, neediness, and despair; if you recognize powerlessness, and your life has become unmanageable; if you feel trapped in a place that seems “always winter but never Christmas”; if you hear the opening song in Frozen and feel a strange resonance with the warning to “beware the frozen heart,” then read Ezekiel 36:24-28 out loud to yourself, even now.
Seriously. You do not have to read it loudly, as if you were reading from the lectern on Sunday morning. But read it out loud to yourself, so that the spoken word falls on your ear—these particular words, slowing down to allow them space to work:
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from 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. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (NIV)
There is so much good news in this part of Ezekiel, with the great promises of restoration and consolation. You will be my people, and I will be your God.
How often have you felt trapped, in some actual or psychological place, panting for the word I will take you out, I will gather you and bring you back? When you have felt dirty, used, tawdry, second-hand, passed-over, how would the unshakable promise of you will be clean—I will cleanse you turn you toward Another?
When the you that is you becomes intolerable to live with, when the thing you don’t want to do is the very thing you keep doing: the thunderous chorus of God’s gospel speaks, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. When you have felt so alone, or know the unbearable dislocation from others: the good news comes, you will be mine, and I will be your God. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.
Each of our hearts of flesh remain, in so many ways, unchartered territory. They are like the old maps, which had best-guesses as to what lands lay beyond, with serpents and monsters drawn among the seas. And to those unknown and unevangelized continents, which yet ret remain in each of our hearts, there is an active dis-placing and re-placing love that continues to speak. And as that love speaks, that love happens.
There is so much good news in this part of Ezekiel. As this news happens to us, often all that remains is the great confession of Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)