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.
Many years ago I wrote a novel for children called Beyond the Door. As soon as I finished it I began writing a sequel which I slogged over for many months. After a while, though, I gave up because my heart wasn’t in it.
It’s a strange expression that, isn’t it, “my heart wasn’t in it.” It means that you’re not interested in or enthusiastic about something, and it’s a surprisingly common phrase. You often hear people talking about a task they had to do, or even a job they once had, which they stopped doing because their heart wasn’t in it. It suggests that there is connection between enthusiasm and passion and our heart, as if in order to find something worth doing there needs to be some deep and unseen connection with our heart.
The heart is often referenced in scripture; the verses from Ezekiel above are certainly not exceptional in this respect. In these verses, God gives Ezekiel a message for the Israelites. God tells Ezekiel to tell the Israelites that he will “give them a new heart” to follow him. God will give them a new passion for him and a new desire to follow his teachings. He will replace their hearts of stone which were closed to his word and instead give them hearts of flesh so that they will be receptive to all that he says to them. God also promises the Israelites that he will put his Holy Spirit in them and through the Spirit he will give them new enthusiasm for following his teachings and living to serve, honour and glorify him.
We find here, in the Old Testament, an indication of how we might “walk by the Spirit,” as Paul urged us to do in Galatians 5:16-17. Let us pray to God and ask that, as he promised the Israelites, he will take away our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh, so that we might be willing to listen and receptive to the teachings of his word. Let us thank him for sending us the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and ask that the Spirit will move us to live according to God’s plans for us. Let’s pray that our hearts would be in following God, and that we would do so with passion an enthusiasm.