For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!
From the perspective of the Hebrew prophets, the only true redemption for humanity can come through the total renewal of the human heart.
From Moses, they hold to the hope that “The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!"
When Ezekiel writes the words above, the reality of a heart transplant is a few years away from being a reality.
In biblical Hebrew, the heart is where we feel feelings, think thoughts, and make choices motivated by our desires.
This aspect of humanity was corrupted from the moment that the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. In so doing, humanity gained knowledge of that which was a) unknown and b) asked of us by God to be left to Him.
Interestingly, the serpent has been variously represented throughout mythology, and in a couple of instances - The Medusa and The Basilisk - those who engage with the snake are turned to stone. This turning to stone was analogous to "freezing" as in the "Fight, Flight or Freeze" reflex
When presented with knowledge of the unknown, humans tend to fight, flight, but most commonly, freeze. In gaining the knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity (amongst other things) learns about this place called "Tomorrow".
And Tomorrow is a scary place. Who knows what Tomorrow looks like. And so we get anxious. Anxiety concerns what might happen, not reality. And so we freeze. We turn to stone. We become unable to move or think.
When we turn to stone, we can't feel feelings, we can't think thoughts, we can't dream dreams, and we can't make any choices motivated by our desires. These are all issues of "the heart".
And so the intention of Yahweh as expressed by the array of authors throughout the Old Testament scriptures is an issue of the heart.
A heart transplant.
Stone for flesh.
As Paul writes "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
And when the heart of stone is replaced, tomorrow does not need to be scary. Anxiety no longer has a home. Trust is restored.
Jesus unpacks this for us in his sermon on the mount. I'll leave it to him to wrap this up.
"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
Fire is inevitable. Fire is terrifying. Fire is awful. Fire is necessary. Fire is refining. Fire is renewing. Fire is energy.
At some stage in our lives, we seem to inevitably experience circumstances that feel like fire, like our whole world may burn to the ground.
We do everything we can to control the flames.
To put them out.
To extinguish them.
To prevent them from ever coming.
I was recently watching a YouTube video from Dr Jordan Peterson, and in it, he shared that in the areas of the US that were prone to forest fires, efforts and strategies were put in place to prevent them.
However, when trees die, they leave deadwood.
Forest fires "clean house" by burning up the deadwood, and allowing for regeneration.
In our efforts to totally prevent forest fires, deadwood was allowed to accumulate.
Eventually, in spite of man's best efforts, lightning strikes and a fire rages.
Because so much deadwood had been allowed to accumulate, the fire raged with such intensity that it scorched the earth down below the topsoil, and as a result, nothing was able to re-grow. That which could have been a forest fire bringing renewal turned into a fire that completely consumed the forest.
He posited that, in avoiding life's fires, we allow so much deadwood to accumulate in ourselves that eventually, when the inevitable fire hits, it completely consumes us. As such, it may be that we are better off embracing smaller fires every so often, whereby the deadwood in our lives can be burned away and renewal can take place.
What is the deadwood in our hearts that we could allow to be burned away?
There are pictures here of the phoenix. Pictures of resurrection. Pictures of Christ.
Throughout scripture (both Old testament and New), we see that the fire that the Almighty brings to our lives is not a forest fire, but a Refiner's fire.
Proverbs 17:3 says "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts."
We see that He is a refiner's fire, and that makes a huge difference. A refiner's fire does not destroy everything in it's path like a forest fire. A refiner's fire does not consume everything entirely like the fire of an incinerator.
A refiner's fire refines.
It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact.
And yet, in 1 Corinthians we read (3:12-15) "The quality of materials used by anyone building on this foundation (Jesus) will soon be made apparent, whether it has been built with gold, silver, and costly stones, or wood, hay, and straw. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by blazing fire! And the fire will test and prove the workmanship of each builder. If his work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded. If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house.
What are you building with?
Has the deadwood cluttered up?
Maybe a voluntary burn off might be in order. Perhaps a "spring clean", lest the fire consumes completely.
"Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies (myta). Because then it sprouts and produces (mytya) a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died"
Jesus gives us an amazing seed here. A seed that was perhaps known in part, and yet was completely without a frame of reference.
Resurrection. What? I mean sure, it's true for plants but people don't come back to life...
We see in time that the seed is indeed his own life.
The Aramaic that Jesus uses contains an interesting wordplay with “it dies” (myta) and “it produces” (mytya).
When we view death, we often see an end. Final. Done. Over. Dead end.
When Jesus saw death, he saw no dead ends.
He saw new life.
He saw production.
He saw regeneration.
He saw all things being made new.
In Him, we can also see that there are no dead ends.
We can see new life.
We can see production.
We can see regeneration.
We can see all things being made new.
Can you see it?