At this point, after coming face to face with the severity of Israel’s rebellion, and God’s wrath against them, Ezekiel is concerned that God may actually put an end to Israel and Judah altogether, leaving no one to carry on in the covenant that God made with Abraham. He asks in Chapter 11 verse 13:
“Ah, Lord God! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?”
But God, as we have seen, does not break His covenants, even when His own covenant people are unfaithful. After hearing this question, God responds in this way:
“Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, tand I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh zand give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.”
There is so much grace present in these few verses.
First, God says that the people, the whole house of Israel, have collectively walked away from Him. They abandoned their God. Yet, God did not destroy them. He actually let them go their own way. He did not coerce them into staying or violate their free will. God allowed the people to wander off into the wilderness alone because they wanted to do it. He could have forced them to stay, but He loved them too much to make them do His bidding like puppets, though He certainly could have (and still can).
Second, God never abandoned them. Notice He says, “I have been their sanctuary”. He never left. He was the reason why they were not totally destroyed by opposing nations. He was the reason why there was still food. He was the reason they still had breath. He keeps His covenants.
Third, He not only is still their sustainer, merely keeping them from harm, God is about to do a new thing in their lives. He is about to restore them. He is about to exalt them to a new life. Though they are still in active rebellion, He is so committed to keeping His covenants, so much in love with His people, that He is going to bless them, simply because He is so gracious.
And how does He bless them?
With new hearts and a new Spirit. New hearts that desire the Lord above any idol, and a new Spirit to lead them into all truth. Why?
So that they can follow and treasure Him. Look at the passage again. God says, “I will give the new hearts and a new Spirit, (so) that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” They have not been able to follow God because their hearts were hardened to Him. Their Hearts were dead. But God will make a way.
God has made a way. He has brought His people out of death and into life, out of darkness and into light, even while we were rebelling against Him. This promise of a new heart and a new Spirit is not only for Israel, it is for everyone who puts their trust in Jesus who makes these new things possible. Our new hearts are our new Godward oriented lives empowered by that new Spirit within us, the Spirit of God Himself who draws us ever unto Him so that when we are tempted to stray, we are tethered by the promise that we are truly His people and He is forever our God.