Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional thoughtfully penned by leaders in DUMC arising from their daily devotions. The devotional’s title, “Our Best Thought” is taken from the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” as a reference to God: “Thou my best thought, by day or by night.” Publishes on Sundays.
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
Ezekiel 36:22-28 (NIV)
Earlier in Ezekiel 36:17-19, we learn that God had scattered and dispersed the Israelites among the nations because of their evil conduct and actions. He poured out His wrath on them because they had ‘shed blood in the land… and defiled it with their idols’.
God appointed Ezekiel to tell these scattered people of Israel that He will cleanse them from their sins, resettle them in their towns and rebuild the ruins; He will bless them again! He resolved to do all these despite the evil hearts of His people, because the surrounding nations were mocking God on account of the sorry state of the Israelites (see Ezekiel 36:20-21).
Through Ezekiel, God promised to:
1. Give a new heart and a new spirit (vv. 26-27)
God would give Israel a new heart and put a new spirit in them, replacing the hardened, calloused hearts dulled by sin.
This reminds me of what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, that
“... no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."
John 3:5-6 (NIV)
Unless we, like the Israelites are born again by the Holy Spirit, we have no hope of being saved.
2. Put His Spirit in them (vv. 27, 31-32)
More than cleansing and restoring the Israelites, He wanted them to live a changed and transformed life
This meant realising the gravity of their evil ways and wicked deeds, and turning from it in true repentance towards the one true God. Like the Israelites, as a professing Christian, our faith in Christ Jesus must result in a changed and transformed life made plainly evident in the way we live our daily lives.
1. God desires the nations to know Him
I was, at first, taken aback by the many references God made of Himself, His holy name and His sake e.g. ‘then they will know that I am the LORD’. If anyone else were to say this, it would come across as self-righteous and conceited.
But God, being perfectly just and righteous, is right to say this, for He defines the very meaning of righteousness and goodness. To know God, therefore, would be the greatest blessing and honour.
He desires a deep relationship with all nations by setting Israel apart as a beacon that points to Him.
2. God desires us to know Him relationally
It also dawned on me that the term ‘knowing’ referred to not just head knowledge of who He is and what He is capable of. It is not even intellectually accepting Gospel truths.
It is that we would fully surrender our minds, wills and hearts to know and trust this God of the Bible. It is a call to love God with reverential awe and worship for who He is.
3. God is compassionate and gracious.
Although, like the Israelites, all of us deserve death and His wrath for our sins, God shows compassion and grace. For Christians today, the Holy Spirit dwells inside us, and will completely change our hearts to despise sin and live a life that seeks to please God. We can never completely love God if not for His Spirit at work in us.
I often berate myself for repeatedly failing God. It is comforting to know that despite our repeated failure to uphold God’s laws, Jesus would still put His hand around us and say “Hey, let’s start over”. It is comforting to know that each day, we are not alone. God has lovingly and graciously chosen to live within us through His Spirit and to fight victoriously alongside us.
We are humbled by the love, grace and mercy you have shown us. We are humbled that though we did not deserve it, you saved us from our hopeless condition and called us your children. We know that we can never completely come to know, accept, love and worship you if not for the daily saving work being done within us by the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, thank you for preserving, nurturing, guiding and comforting us.
Come complete the work Christ began in us.
Darren Lim writes for Ignite.
Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional that follows DUMC's Bible Reading Plan. Posts on Sundays.