READ: Ezekiel 10-12
BACKGROUND: (Feel free, as always, to ask in the Comments. I will respond as quickly as possible)
THINK: In The Godfather: Part III there is a fascinating scene where the main character, Don Michael Corleone, is meeting with Cardinal Lamberto, who would soon become Pope, to report some fraud that is going on within the Vatican Bank. Cardinal Lamberto, upon considering the fact that this scheme is being perpetrated by mafia men who have grown up in the church and by some officials within the Catholic church including an Archbishop, walks over to a fountain. He reaches inside and picks up a rock from the bottom and holds it up. “Look at this stone,” he says to Michael, “It has been lying in the water for a very long time but the water has not penetrated it.” He then breaks the stone in two, shows Michael the inside, and continues “Look. Perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated. Christ doesn’t breathe within them.”
The profound truth of that statement applies to the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day as well. They had been surrounded by truth and they had participated in the rituals and the rites of their religion all their lives, but their hearts were made of stone. They were shut off to the God who was at the center of it all – the God who desired relationship with them far more than he desired religiosity from them. But they missed it. And their hearts drifted and were tempted away by other things. And even when the prophets called them back and warned them that God would not be ignored forever their hearts remained hard and they chose to believe that, though the warnings may have truly been from God, they certainly weren’t coming true any time soon. And then God took his glory from the Temple, assured his judgment on Jerusalem, and said, “none of my words will be delayed any longer.” And that didn’t work out well for the Israelite people. At all.
I think that many of us are in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of both the nation of Israel and those men of Europe in our own lives today. We have been saturated with Christianity to the point that we’re very good at “doing faith” but our hearts are tempted towards the things of this world. And hearts that are divided or hearts that are chasing worldly things turn to stone and leave no room for God to penetrate. And our hearts of stone are compounded further when we believe that the action of God and the consequences of our sin are in the future. We sometimes act as though God acted a long time ago and God will act someday in the distant future but God doesn’t really act now – as though Heaven only intersects earth upon the horizon.
God wants something better and something more. He wants to give us undivided hearts and he promises to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh where his love and his grace and his truth can penetrate to the very core! I am so thankful for that. Though he has every right to simply punish us and leave us with the consequences for our sin, instead he promises in these chapters of Ezekiel to always be a sanctuary for his people – even when they’re suffering the consequences they deserve – and to bring them back to himself and give them new hearts. He promises that he will be our God and we can be his people. Hallelujah!
PRAY: Ask God to show you where your heart is divided – the things that pull it away from a singular devotion to him. Ask him to penetrate your heart completely. Thank him for his love and for pursuing a relationship with you when you didn’t deserve it!