A few summers ago a young cousin stopped by. She and my daughter Annie had been good friends in childhood. I love this young woman, but rarely see her as she lives in Hawaii, and I’d never met her husband. We sat on the porch with iced teas and I asked her husband about his intriguing name: Ezekiel.
“Ezekiel, you are the first man I’ve ever met with that name. Is there a story? How did your parents choose that name?”
“My mother saw a book called Ezekiel in a bookstore and just liked the name.”
“Well, perhaps God inspired her! Did you know that Ezekiel was a prophet, and a book in the Bible is named after him?”
“Yes, I did. But I don’t know what that book is about.”
My cousin said, “Dee knows the Bible! Tell us about the book of Ezekiel.” (My cousin is spiritual, but not Christian.)
Help, Lord! I laughed and threw up my hands. “Well, don’t be so sure. Ezekiel is about the hardest book in the Bible. God gives him wonderful but wild visions. I don’t understand a lot of it. But there is one part in it that has really grabbed me, and that is where the prophet is given a metaphor about what the Spirit of God does in the life of someone who is converted. Ezekiel says God takes a heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh. I never thought of myself as having a heart of stone until I came to God and He showed me how selfish I really was, how I so often harden my heart to others. And He has been changing me — chipping away at that stone. So when I think of Ezekiel I think of turning a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.”
My young cousin said: “That’s a good name then, because my husband has a tender heart.”
I smiled and nodded. That was like her, but I didn’t think she had gotten my point. I am praying that God might woo them.
We had great pondering going on here last week on Ezekiel. I want to continue — for I love this group where iron sharpens iron.
For those who have just joined us, we were pondering what the water from this verse represented, for Jesus uses this passage when He talks to Nicodemus and tells him unless he is born of water and the spirit, he will not see the Kingdom of God.
Here were some of your good thoughts:
- The water represents the cleansing that comes through the blood.
- The water represents the cleansing that comes when the Word of God convicts us of our sin.
- The water represents the Spirit of God awakening us to our need for repentance
There were other good thoughts too. And this is a good time to talk about the metaphors God uses. It is important to look for the main idea, whether it is “being under the shadow of His wings,” or “His being our bridegroom.” Getting too literal can get us in trouble, for metaphors give us an earthly picture to illuminate a spiritual truth about God. If you look at the water in the context above, you can see that God is saying: “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses and from your idols. I will cleanse you.” The important thing to see is the “I” — God will cleanse us. We do not cleanse ourselves. How does God cleanse us? If you look at the above three responses from our group — they are all right: Through His blood, through His Word, and through His Spirit. We respond with repentance — but it initiates with God. We could not do it ourselves. We were dead in our sins. His Spirit has to awaken us, and He awakens through His Word, which is the Sword of the Spirit cutting our hearts, and indeed, it is the blood that washes us and makes us whiter than snow. All these seem part of the meaning in Ezekiel’s metaphor concerning our heart transplant.
I also loved how Nanci pointed out that she wasn’t going to start eating right until she had a heart change. That’s the same thing — we can try a dozen diets, but until God gives us the desire to walk in the light in regard to whatever it is, we are only attacking the symptom. So we need to pray for God to give us a heart change. Cyndi remembered our study on the Stonecutter (I still like that name, even though the publisher changed the book to Idol Lies) and how it impacted her. I feel the main message here is this dependency we need on God to change our hearts. THIS IS SO APPLICABLE. Right now I am babysitting my grand-daughters, and because one is particularly strong-willed, I tend to lose my temper with her when she loses hers! I realized what I really need is a heart change toward her, and then I can respond well. This is helping me!
How does this relate to Psalm 16? In the second part of the psalm, it becomes clear this is no longer about David, but about Jesus. And this is the portion of Scripture that Peter and Paul quoted in their first sermons. When I asked Dr. Darrell Bock which portions of Scripture he thought Jesus talked about on the road to Emmaus, he said, “Look at the first sermons — I think the passages the apostles went to were probably the ones He surely taught them about.” When Peter quoted Psalm 16, we are told the people were “cut to the heart.” How that sounds like the Stonecutter of Ezekiel! That day three thousand souls were saved.
Unless we are cut to the heart, we cannot be born again.
Unless we are cut to the heart, we cannot change.
We need the Stonecutter to come.
We need Jesus, The Word of God, to bring us to our senses.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Watch the following and explain how Jean Valjean revealed he had a heart of flesh. (In context, he had an opportunity to allow a man he hated to be accused for his past crime, and was wrestling with that choice.)
God Hunt this week: Watch for a heart of flesh — note times when you have compassion toward others, when you are convicted by sin, when you feel deeply either sorrow or joy — for that is a heart of flesh! That comes only through the power of God changing you. Also, ask God for a heart change in an area where you tend to fall — let’s see what He will do!
Monday: Psalm 16
3. Read Psalm 16 in its entirety. Where does it start to become clear this is no longer talking about David? Name the verses and why they couldn’t have been about David.
4. How have you seen a heart of flesh in yourself in the last 24 hours?
Tuesday: Acts 2:1-21
4. What miraculous event did the crowd witness before Peter gave his first sermon? (Acts 2:1-13)
5. How might this have softened their hearts before the first sermon?
6. How did Peter explain this miraculous event and back it up with a quote from Joel? (Acts 2:14-21)
6. How do you think you might have felt if you were there, witnessing and hearing these things?
7. God woos us in many ways before He convicts us with His Word and His Spirit at conversion. What are some ways God wooed you or softened your heart toward Him?
8. How have you seen a heart of flesh in yourself in the last 24 hours?
Wednesday: Acts 2:22-36.
9. Peter here quotes from several Psalms, closing with a quote from Psalm 16 in Acts 2:27-28. What is it?
10. What does Peter say this had to be about Christ and not David? (Acts 2:29-35)
11. What does Peter tell them in verse 36?
Tim Keller points out that while this was probably not the group that actually crucified him or were even there, still, their sin causes the crucifixion. For that reason, Peter could say the same to you and me.
12. How does the knowledge that you are so bad it caused the crucifixion help you to overcome denial about your depravity?
13. How have you seen evidence of a heart of flesh in the last 24 hours?
Thursday: Cut to the Heart
14. How did the people respond in Acts 2:37?
15. How is this reminiscent of the passage in Ezekiel?
16. Why is it a good thing to be cut to the heart?
17. What are some ways they evidenced a heart of flesh according to Acts 2:42-47?
Friday: Keller Sermon
This is not free, but excellent:
18. Share your notes and comments on the above.
19. What is your take-a-way and why?