I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36: 26

 

God wants every person to know Him at a level that changes the way that we interact with the world and the way that we view ourselves. The Lord desires for our thinking and acting to be reshaped into one that reflects a perspective that is like His. This is the sort of change that comes from the heart out, and it is something that will never be accomplished on our own. We are born with hearts that are already on the road to being hardened by the effects of the evil that surrounds us and by our very natures which are infected with and are under the control of those same forces of evil.

 

When we try to change the way that we deal with others by embracing any of the systems and approaches that people have developed on their own and when we seek change by looking to our own resources, we are doomed to failure, for we are trying to operate on the most complex organism in the world while using tools and knowledge that are far short of the true state of the art. On the other hand, when we yield our wills to God and allow His Spirit the opportunity to start working in and on us, we will be profoundly changed, and we will continue to grow in our application of God’s grace, compassion, and love.

 

The hardness of our natural hearts is incompatible with the deep desires of our beings; we were created to be people who are spiritually alive with the closely bonded relationship to Christ that brings about that reality. It is this hardened heart that is the foreign body within our chests; so, the Lord’s transplantation of a new heart of flesh is, in fact, an act of restoration. We are changed from a person whose body is continually at war with itself and with the God whose image we were created in; thus, in Christ, we are transformed into people who have the heart of God beating within us so that His heart is the one that guides us into loving others and seeking to do His will in all things.

 

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.

Ezra 7: 10

 

Ezra was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to serve Him among a people who were living in confused and trying times. Their identity as God’s people had been seriously diluted during the seventy or so years when many of them had been held captive in Babylon. Government had become a worldly process in which God’s Law was given little to no prominence. People were living as they thought best. They were adrift in the moral and the ethical sea of human wisdom and false survival mode convenience. This was an age that clearly fit the description of the times in the middle. That is these days between humanity’s rebellion against God and God’s final restoration of His Creation to its sinless state of being.

 

The first thing that Ezra set his mind on doing in response to the lack of righteousness that he encountered in his world was very personal. He determined that if he was to respond to God’s calling upon him to speak and to teach the truth about God and His Law then Ezra must truly know the Lord.  In order to do this Ezra set out to give his undivided attention to God’s Law, that is, to His Word. He became a dedicated student of its every detail and nuance. He also spent time in listening to God’s voice as He revealed His character and nature and His heart’s intent to Ezra’s open and yielded heart and mind. It was only after he had thoroughly read God’s Word, meditated on it, and contemplated the truths that were revealed by God in this process of study that he set out to teach these truths to the people.

 

Even before Ezra uttered one word of instruction he knew that his credibility as God’s prophet depended upon his own lived out righteousness. For a person who is all lofty words and pronouncements of moral necessity but whose own conduct of life is self-determined and contrary to God’s expressed will lacks credibility and is, in fact, a tool of Satan. Then, with his own life carefully examined and his sinfulness exposed and yielded to the Lord, Ezra was prepared to proclaim God’s Law to others. It is my suspicion that this process of study, contemplation, confession, and taking action upon God’s revealed will was an on-going, probably daily, component of Ezra’s life. He sets out a very sound approach for each of us to take in responding to Christ’s calling. A regular discipline of study, prayer, meditation, confession, and response to God’s calling is transformative in the life of Christ’s followers, and it provides a sound basis for us in living and speaking God’s truth into these middle times where we live.