URC Daily Devotion Thursday, 11 January 2024

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Thursday, 11 January 2024
I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh

Ezekiel 11: 14 – 21
Then the word of the Lord came to me:  Mortal, your kinsfolk, your own kin, your fellow exiles, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘They have gone far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’  Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone. Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.  When they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations.  I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,  so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord God

In this first month of a new year we look again at our own hopes and fears for the future – the future of our nation in the lead up to a General Election, the future of Europe, troubled by warfare in Ukraine and mass migration, the future of the Holy Land with a just and comprehensive peace for Israelis and Palestinians still a distant dream, the future of the planet and its diverse life, in the face of climate and many other environmental crises.  When Ezekiel spoke of ‘detestable things and abominations’ we find many echoes in the corruption, lies, acts of violence and injustices of today.
Ezekiel heard God speaking out to the exiles of his own times – the prophet’s own people who feel that God is so distant.  They are so removed from their homeland, so far from Jerusalem and its temple – the holy dwelling place of God – that they assume God is far away too.  The temple and city have been destroyed and occupied by a powerful and brutal empire and Ezekiel and his fellow exiles feel helpless and powerless.
Yet God has not abandoned his people – God (rather than a building or a city or a nation) is their sanctuary and has always been, through the grim experience of destruction and brokenness.  More than that, God promises a future filled with hope and promise, one that is not imposed from outside or above, but grows up within the community and its people.  Alongside the promise of return to the land is the more vital promise of renewed hearts and spirits.  The transplant operation, replacing the heart of stone with a heart of flesh that feels and beats and lives, is about to take place.  Will the people hold onto the stone – the thing they can possess – or will they allow God to begin the operation?

Lead us to the operating table,
Lord Jesus Christ,
to remove the heart of stone
and place that beating heart of love and truth
you want for all.
Feed us at the table with your body and blood,
that we may live anew,
in the power of your vibrant and vitalising Spirit. Amen. 


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Terry Hinks, Minister of Trinity High Wycombe and Cores End United Reformed Churches

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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