Ezekiel 36: 25-37 NKJV. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
We all love to “claim” certain promises of God, often as means to deny what we’d rather not experience, due to the misunderstanding of grace as only what feels good. But there are a lot of promises for divine dealing with sin. 2 Peter 1:2-4, which reveals that God has given to us “… exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
But, full stop! There’s more! There are some “conditions” to be met – not aside from grace, but that we need to see grace in a fuller way, in all the Lord’s dealings with us. What is perceived as a threat or “negative” can actually be part of His promises.
But have we made idols out of emotional highs and feeling good?
The entirety of Ezekiel 36 gives us a rundown on all aspects of God’s grace, as He brings it into our lives in an up close and personal way. Let’s recall that those Old Testament events were given for examples to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (See 1 Corinthians 10:10-12.)
So, what may be a little difficult to swallow and digest is that grace is not just about those Holy Ghost hallelujahs, highs, and happiness, what we call “positive” experiences. It’s about the “negative” aspects of life that we often find ourselves praying will be taken away.
But consider Job. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Ezekiel 36 more than hints that it is often through the oppression God allows by the disagreeable nations of the world to whom God gives political, social, and religious hegemony – that the prosperity and privileges enjoyed as one aspect of God’s grace disappear from what we perceive as our right, what we think we “deserve.”
God uses what works to cleanse hearts. He does not need our opinions as an advisory capacity. This can be said of personal circumstances as well as political and social forces.
We have to let that sink in, acknowledging that it is all allowed by God’s hand.
His people go into captivity, or are overtaken, because their hearts are turned away from Him and become filled with impurities – of the ways, religions, and priorities of the world, of the nations surrounding them. This can happen on a personal to political scale!
And then, when those nations – those adversarial forces – become joyful, of a spiteful mind, plundering and pillaging, God begins to deal with them also, for overstepping their bounds. He pours out His fury on them, when they go beyond what He sent them to do (which is to cause His people to turn toward Him when in captivity, to surrender themselves to Him in full). Then He sets the captives free.
Thus Ezekiel 36 is well worth contemplating in its entirety, so as to notice the pattern of God’s modus operandi.
It is because we do not acknowledge this pattern, that we are prone to stumble, wrongfully concluding – because of “negative” experiences – that our prayers are not being answered according to His will. The truth is, we do not see what time it is, according to His dealings with humanity generally and His own people specifically. Our prayers are being answered, but do we have the eyes to see that His ways are not our ways?
God’s grace governs all, for God IS love! If a nation is in the midst of tribulation, it is by God’s grace, expressed as the “tough love” aspect of the Father of all things. It is expressed in judgment, as the human children step out of bounds with sins of omission and commission of thought, word, and deed. of not being of one mind with our Lord.
If we experience blessing and abundance, it is likewise because of His love. If we can look at our “good” times and our “bad” times as coming from the all powerful hand of a righteous, loving Father, life makes much more sense, and all things carry meaning, not hopelessness.
Thus we are to encourage one another according to His wisdom, not according to what we “feel.” This is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn in a culture that is soft with good times and prosperity. But learn it we will. When it’s not soft and to our liking.
It is not because of resting on the laurels of the past, regarding ourselves as a “Christian” nation, or even a “true” church, that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name. Our Father’s business is the business of creating clean hearts and steadfast spirits, according to His truth and wisdom. He is bringing many sons in Christ Jesus to glory.
It may also disrupt our me centered self absorption somewhat to begin to comprehend that He does all things for the sake of His name! (See Ezekiel 36:21-23). That name is above every name – the name of Jesus! – and stands for what has been given to Him: all authority in heaven and on earth.
So often His name has been profaned by His own people in the midst of the nations! Could this be why we are instructed to pray, in the first words of the prayer He taught us, “Hallowed be Thy name”?
He does not exist for our glory, but we exist for His. Yet He is always bringing about our good for His glory. Not according to our understanding or our timetable. The entire prayer He taught is about the “process” of His grace, as it works both divine justice and mercy, which purify the heart and bring glory to His name. All of that is grace. All of it is good.
May we view life through the lens of His understanding, acknowledging our Lord as omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient – in all events of life. This will not happen without a pure heart which is fully His and holding back nothing. And it is He Who creates this through all His dealings with us.
We do not get to pick and choose which of His promises apply to us. They all do. Sometimes – as needed – we are promised judgment and justice. At other times we will find ourselves in a place of blessing and mercy. Or moving from one to the other. Ezekiel 36 gives us the picture of this process.
The key is to be of one mind with Him, so that we know “what time it is,” and to comprehend Him in the midst of all of it!
“All to Jesus I surrender; I surrender all.” This is expressed in prayer, the sacrifice of praise, and the giving of thanks in all times and places – the expressions of faith.
We do well to come to a place where we can see that being filled with the Holy Spirit is not always about feeling good and jumping up and down with a Holy Ghost happy dance. Often it is about the strength – in His power – to endure to the end and be saved. In everyday life as it unfolds.
It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of heaven. See Acts 14:22.
Soli Deo Gloria! Amen.