Flesh and stone

I’ve been thinking about flesh and stone. Take a look at Ezekiel 36:26 (KJV).

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

This verse confused me for a long time. I thought the stone heart represented one that was unfeeling and stoic. I knew that I wasn’t without feeling (at least most of the time, I am a man after all), but I was also familiar enough with my own inconsistency that I knew I needed less flesh, less me, not more.

Let’s take a look at The Message translation to shed some light on the true meaning of this passage.

I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.

Aha. Stone/stony refers to being hard, non-compliant, stubborn. I can relate. It is a daily struggle to replace my stubborn will (stone) with one that is compliant (flesh) and gratefully submits to God’s way. This new heart enables me to be obedient when it was not possible before!

This stone vs. flesh metaphor takes on universal significance if we compare the Old and New Testaments, which represent God’s promises to His people. With the Old Testament, we have the law, our guide and mirror in remaining obedient. In Exodus 24:12 we learn that God wrote His commands on tablets of stone and gave them to Moses.

The New Testament brings the good news of Jesus, God made flesh to serve as a living, complete, once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the path was blazed for our forgiveness and, unbelievably, our righteousness in Him.

I continue daily in this heart transplanting. My experience is that, while it may be a one-time operation, strengthening and learning to use this new heart of flesh, this new obedient heart, is a process. Some days my heart beats strongly, pumping fresh blood of the grace and mercy that I’ve been shown through my veins and into my interactions with God’s children. Other days, my old stony nature erupts into impatience, self-importance, and bitter disappointment.

My continual hope, however, is my trust in a faithful God who tells us that: …he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 1:6)

Take heart, friend. God’s stone-to-flesh transplant is just waiting on your request. Peace!

About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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