At first glance, this seems to be a very reassuring and easy to understand verse. It seems to mean that the Lord will remove our stony hearts, the hearts that have little compassion, empathy, forgiveness or love, and replace them with hearts of flesh that can feel the best human emotions and respond with love. Too often we actually do seem to have hearts of stone. We seem to be uncaring and unfeeling. We tend to isolate ourselves and disregard or even criticize those who are not like we are. But there is much more to understand and much more to learn about Ezekiel.
Chapter 36, verses 25-27 are actually saying: I will cleanse you. Along with a physical reality of a return to the land, God pledged spiritual renewal that included cleansing from sin, a new heart of the New Covenant, a new heart or a new spirit inclined to worship Him, and His spirit dwelling in them, enabling them to walk in obedience to His word. This has not yet happened, because Israel has not trusted Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior, but it will before the kingdom of Messiah as mentioned in Romans and Revelations.
The gift of the new heart signifies the new birth, which is regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The heart stands for the whole nature. The spirit indicates the governing power of the mind which directs thought and conduct. A stony heart is stubborn and self-willed. A heart of flesh is pliable and responsive. The evil inclination is removed and a new nature replaces it. This is New Covenant character as in Jeremiah.
Now, with a heart of flesh, let us go forth to live our lives to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, May our hearts be responsive and pliable and may our spirits be renewed with a new nature. Help us, O Lord, to use our hearts and our minds to the glory of Your holy name and to the service of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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