And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh:
That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
— Ezekiel 11:19-20, King James Version
The prophet Ezekiel had a responsibility to be God’s spokesman when the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon. In the midst of suffering, and as people drifted further away from God, Ezekiel uttered prophecy that brought hope. In that prophecy, God promised to change the people’s stone-hardened hearts to hearts capable of feeling the immense love God was willing to give them.
This contrast was what Ezekiel’s prophecy was about. A heart of stone — or a stubborn heart, as the Good News Translation calls it — is one that has no mercy, that does not discern between what is good and what is bad, that does not mind mistreating or even killing a neighbor. In short, a man with a heart of stone is one far from God.
On the contrary, a heart of flesh — or an obedient heart according to the Good News Translation — in the context of Ezekiel, is capable of feeling compassion and solidarity with the needy. It is capable of loving and giving thanks for the goodness of God. A heart of flesh has recognized God and accepted His unconditional love.
As in the time of Ezekiel, we are certainly living in times of suffering. Sadly, that leads many people to reflect attitudes found in a heart of stone. At times, when we examine our own actions and look deep within ourselves, we likely see residues of a heart of stone as well.
In this Lenten period, when we contemplate deeply the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are reminded that Jesus’ suffering was to demonstrate His immense love for us. Therefore, we are to reflect the heart of flesh that God has placed in each of us. At Habitat for Humanity, we often talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus. We are privileged to show others a heart filled with God’s amazing love.
During this season, we also are to reflect on whether we have hurt or mistreated someone. If so, we must ask for forgiveness. We must think of those to whom we must demonstrate compassion. How can we share a heart capable of feeling God’s love with others?
O Almighty God, what amazing love You show to us! Thank You for taking away our heart of stone, rebellious and far from You. We are grateful that You have given us a heart of flesh so that we can feel Your love and the joy that it means to be Your children. Help us every day in this Lenten period to understand and recognize that You are our protective God and that You are attentive to us. Remove from us any residue of a stony heart. Allow us to show to others an obedient heart by loving You more and more every day, seeking to be more in Your image. In the glorious name of Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen!
- What are the residues of a stony heart that you can identify in your life?
- How can we put into practice the heart of flesh that God has given us?
- What individual commitment can we make to put this reflection into practice?
- With whom do you need to share God’s love and your heart of flesh?
Juan de Dios Valdez is the director of internal audit for the Latin America and Caribbean area of Habitat for Humanity International. He is based in Orlando, Florida, in the U.S.