Prepare to Listen. Light the four colored candles as these words prepare your heart: A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.
Prayerfully Read Ezekiel 36:22-28
22Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. 24I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
It would be easy to read these words of judgment and deem them irrelevant today. After all, Ezekiel addressed Israel and their problem, not us. But these words got me thinking about so-called ‘Christian’ nationalism. It’s popular today to assume that ‘my nation’ is God’s chosen nation, to the exclusion of all other nations. Ezekiel’s message, it seems, is timeless, as relevant today as it was then. We’re the ones who must ask whether we’re in danger of profaning the name of Jesus by our behavior. God will act, not for our sake, not for our pet causes, no matter how righteous we think them. God says to us, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.”
Despite our allegiance to Jesus, we often end up behaving like ancient Israel. We too need to be made clean so that we can be a light to the nations, not for our sake, but for the sake of God’s holy name. Just because we’re Christians, with a new heart, doesn’t mean we can be smug. We too need God to put a new spirit within; remove the heart of stone that makes us indifferent, lacking compassion for the poor, the alien, the widow, the orphan. We need a heart of flesh to live for the sake of God’s holy name as Jesus commanded, “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36 REB).
What can you do today for the sake of God’s holy name?
Respond to Jesus
Lord, give me a new heart of flesh so that I live in ways that don’t profane your holy name before the world. Amen.
Live obediently. Display God’s holy name to the nations.