I was spending time in Ezekiel this morning when I came across verses 18-20 in Chapter 11:
When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.
As I read deeper into my notes, I came across this: “The external change in the fortunes of God’s people would be matched by an internal change; their singleness of heart would mark undivided loyalty to the Lord and replace their wayward affections of the past. A tender, responsive heart would replace their stony, stubborn heart, and in place of the old idolatrous spirit they would receive a new spirit. Their changed hearts and spirits would enable the Lord’s people to obey his decrees and regulations so that the goal of the covenant relationship – people living with their God in their midst – might at last be achieved. The new heart and new spirit promised here to God’s people has become a reality. Through the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, God’s people have become a new creation.”
The people of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped idols – and yet He purposed to completely change their hearts in order to lead them back to Him. This isn’t just some ancient story from long ago. It still happens today! We serve a God who is more than able to change hearts…..to take the heart of someone who has worshipped idols and false Gods…..a heart that is hardened and stubborn……and soften it and make it tender and responsive to Him. We serve a jealous God who is able to win the hearts of His wayward children and transform them from idolaters into people who obey His decrees and regulations…….people who are able to experience the fullness of a living relationship with the One True God who is alive and in our midst. He did it for Israel, and He can do it for Jahar.
Dear Father, I thank You that there is nothing too hard for You. You can take the hardest hearts and soften them Lord. Jahar thinks that he is worshipping and serving God, but he is so lost – and he doesn’t even realize it. He thinks that his killing pleased Allah, when in reality it broke Your heart. His heart is so hardened against You because he doesn’t realize that You are what is real….that You are the One True God. He has no idea that You are his Father and that You desire an intimate relationship with him. Lord, would You please soften his heart? As You did for the Israelites, replace his stony, stubborn heart with one that is tender and responsive so that when You call his name…..he listens…..so that when You reveal Yourself to him….he sees. Soften his heart so that, even if he is unsure at first and dismisses You, he won’t be able to forget about You. Jesus, create in him a new heart and a new spirit – one that is determined to obey You and follow You wholeheartedly. Make him into a new creation, Father, until he is almost unrecognizable to those who knew him before. Transform him with Your Holy Spirit from an idolatrous terrorist into Your precious and beloved son, living every day to serve You and build Your kingdom. God, I thank You that You are in the business of changing hearts, and I lift Jahar’s up to You tonight. In Your holy, powerful, matchless name-above-all-names I pray, Amen.