I was recently reminded of the prophecy in Ezekiel and was moved by this passage yet again.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from 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 be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 25-27
In context, Jerusalem is in peril. It is to be judged. Filthiness. Impurities. Idols. God is going to sweep away a city that has taken its eyes off the prize.
“You are about to be destroyed, O Israel–yes, by me, your only helper.” Hosea 13:9
If I just pause here—I can’t help but to wonder how God must have felt to utter these words. To know that He must destroy His people, to sweep away a nation because they took their eyes away from Him—I can only imagine what God must have had to feel in order to declare this.
God had to do something to Ezekiel in order to parallel the wake of Israel’s destruction—God took away his wife.
“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners.”
So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.” Ezekiel 24:16-18
Has God ever taken something away from you that you held so dear, in order to awake something inside of you?
God does it to those he cares about. To those He loves.
Israel’s heart—Jerusalem—ended up being destroyed twice.
After the city has been broken and annihilated, this is where I stop in my tracks. I almost feel like Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams” and can hear God whisper—I came to rebuild. Just as He said He would.
Like His Son, God is also a builder. Aside from building us and creation, He built cities in glorification of Himself. This is where Jerusalem walks in. A beloved city. A holy city. A city of peace.
But, God had to destroy His beloved and holy city before He could rebuild it. There would be nothing to rebuild if He didn’t. What was the purpose? Was it much like Noah and the flood?
I can almost hear God whispering: May they be restored. May they know that I Am who I say I Am. A God of restoration. A God of my Word.
In parallel and in the main point of this post—we are Jerusalem.
Has God had to destroy you time and time again, before He could rebuild you? Have you felt yourself wrestling with God?
If we take for instance the rendering story of Jacob when he had to wrestle with the angel overnight:
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Genesis 32:20
He wrestled with God. He wrestled with the transition—the change. Now Jacob is Israel.
In Ezekiel and Jacob—God either took something or someone away or changed their identity. And for a greater, heavenly minded purpose.
How is God revealing Himself to you in your own life? If you’ve found yourself being broken before Him—amid pain and suffering—know He is about to do something extraordinary within you. He is going to rebuild you. To become stronger. To become mightier. To become braver.
Purified. Faithful. Wiser. Humbler.
I think it’s imperative that we as a people after God understand that it’s OK to suffer. It’s OK to weep—and to weep hard. It’s OK to be broken or half-broken. Naked. Vulnerable. It’s OK that we are undone before God. All the more for Him to show us just how gracious He is to us. But—we have to do our part. We must be obedient to His call. We must heed His Word. We must stop walking to listen.
What is God literally trying to speak to you about? Our God is not trying to tell you anything—He is declaring something mighty—words that you will either embrace or ignore. Words that could bring hardship and strife. Words that will change your life. Will you choose to honor the change God is doing in you?
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
Accept the beauty of being destroyed. God is going to rebuild you and give you a new heart. There is nothing more sacred—more tender and intimate—than someone surrendering to a God who is ferocious in love and colossal in power. God knows you. He also knows how broken you are. To give someone a new heart is no ordinary act; it is not something to be taken lightly. When God says…Beloved, I am giving you a new heart…He is declaring something. Something heavenly. I am giving you My heart, beloved. Walk with Me. Keep your eyes on Me. It is going to be a long road ahead, and I will be with you through every hardship and every blessing. .
People who are given a new heart are essentially left for dead. They are wasting away. Dry. In retrospect, they are losing a hold of the good and the grace in their lives. They are losing the will to even love God. It’s become mundane. Faith is a factor—grace abused.
The holy news is this: God only desires good for you. Only blessing. But we can’t be naïve to imagine a God who desires to make us wiser, stronger, mightier, and closer to give us only roses upon roses. He’s not a vending machine.
The beautiful exchange is that God gives us roses because He is gracious. He gives us thorns because He is even more gracious; for someone to care enough, to break us? Only a God who loves in ways that we can’t comprehend is able to do this.
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” Hebrews 12:4-7
We may in the moments of heartache and pain not quite understand His ways—but in time, in reflection, and in prayer—we will.
That is the moment God steps back from us to observe what He has rebuilt—either we accept the change or we rebuke the change. What will you look like after God has rebuilt you? What will change in your daily life?
‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken and will do it.” Ezekiel 36:33-36
This is the kind of rebuilding that God does. He begins with our hearts and works His way out to our bodies. It’s powerful. It’s not just a little nail here and a little nail there—be prepared for destruction, like Jerusalem. Be willing to build with God. Be willing to see with your own opened eyes what God tore down. But, brace yourself for the pain. Brace yourself for the harshness. Don’t fear the suffering. Imagine His face as He is rebuilding you.
God is rebuilding your character. He is rebuilding your hope. He is rebuilding your faith. Most importantly, He is rebuilding your love for Him. This is the only structure that will sustain your earthly life.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5
After God has rebuilt you. Restored you. Redeemed you—expect the beauty of His grace. What does that look like? You’ll know it when you walk across it. Brace yourself for the healing and inner growth. Brace yourself for the blessings. Smile to the future. The Lord, believe it or begin to, actually delights in you and desires the change in you so much more than you desire the change in yourself.
Brace yourself for His work inside of you. Be grateful for the people God has either allowed to walk across your path and those He has taken away. Imagine how Ezekiel felt. Be grateful for the moments you’ve wrestled with your faith and the moments God has quieted you by His love. Remember the story of Jacob.
Be grateful for the change. Be grateful He calls you His.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17