And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go 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 off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a 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.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And 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, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 11:14-21 ESV
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 ESV
My grandmother was born in Germany, but when she was nine years old her mother sent her to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle. My grandmother learned a new language and was able to get an education, but she always felt as if her mother had sent her away because she didn’t love her. She missed her mother and her sister and brothers that had stayed in Germany. It was only many, many years later that she was able to travel back to Germany and see her mother and sister and brothers again. When she saw her family after such a long time, she learned that her mother loved her very much and had wanted her to have a better life. She hadn’t sent her away because she loved her sister and her brothers more than her. Her brothers and sister had always thought that she was the lucky one, because she had been able to come to America.
There were some similar feelings happening among God’s people during Ezekiel’s time. The Babylonians had taken many people away from their homeland and into exile, but some of the poorest people had been left behind in their own country. The people who had been left behind felt that they were God’s favorites and that the Lord didn’t care about the exiles at all. The exiles might have felt the same way, but God spoke through Ezekiel to reassure the exiles of his love for them. He said that even though they had been forced to come to a foreign country to live, God was a sanctuary to them. The Lord himself was with his people in exile, keeping them safe. He promised that some day they would return to their home, and that when they came home they would get rid of all the idols that had ruined their country. God would give his people a new heart and a new spirit so that they would want to obey him and follow his ways. But people who were stubborn and refused to turn back to God, but instead kept on worshiping false gods and goddesses, would be punished for their sins.
We also turn away from God and go our own way when we sin. But no matter how far away from God we go, he loves us and wants to bring us home to him. He came to us in Jesus to die for us and win us back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, we are never far away from God. He is always ready to forgive our sins and give us new hearts and new spirits so that we want to obey him and follow his ways. Someday he will bring us to our home in heaven, where we will be with him forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and bringing us home to you through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.