“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)
The above passage in Ezekiel is often compared to Jeremiah’s “new covenant” text “…this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 ESV)
God’s intent of the New Covenant prophesied was to magnify His glory
In context, the fundamental reason given for God’s acting on Israel’s behalf was to uphold the sanctity, greatness, and glory of His name and reputation: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (verse 22)
The next verse indicates that the outcome of giving men and women a new heart and placing His Spirit within them, was that others would recognize that we are indeed children of God the father: “And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes” (verse 23)
To vindicate the holiness of God’s great name means to “hallow his great name” as Jesus taught (see Matthew 6:9) and is contrasted to “profaning his name” which many do, simply by ignoring Him — by treating God as if He does not exist, never worshipping Him nor speaking of Him, and so treating Him as not holy.
Jesus taught that His sacrifice on the cross would usher in the New Covenant. Just prior to the the Lord facing His arrest, and movements leading up to His crucifixion, during the last Passover meal with the disciples, “He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood”. (Luke 22:2 NASB) Here we see an echo of Jeremiah’s prophecy that a new covenant was coming unlike the one given to the fathers of Israel: “the covenant that I will make…after those days” (Jeremiah 31: 33)
Our response to Christ’s death on the cross is to respectfully obey
We see that the cross has affected the hearts of millions of people in all countries for many generations. The influence of the love of Jesus was to engage the affection of our hearts with our minds, to accept His work of redemption on the cross, accept and follow Him, and allow the laws of God to be written on our hearts.
The Father, whose name (which is Yahweh as told to Moses) was to be vindicated after the new covenant would be introduced (see v 36:22). God was certainly vindicated in the death of Christ when he shows both His holiness and justice in punishing sins, and His mercy in saving the sinner (see Romans 3:23–26).
Jesus’ words in John 3:5 resonate with Ezekiel’s text, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)
Jesus said “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. Note the mention of “I will put my Spirit within you” in verse 36:27 of Ezekiel’s prophecy referring to inward, spiritual cleansing. “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”. The cause of our desire to obey is the indwelling Holy Spirit of God who calls the Spirit “my Spirit”, the same Spirit Jesus said you must have to be born again!
Further study indicates that inner cleansing of the heart and mind from sins is accomplished in Christ (see Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:23–28). God’s initiative moves from external in the old covenant to internal with the gift of a new heart and new spirit in the new covenant (Ezekiel 36:26–27; see 11:19; cf. 18:31). This indicated that any outer purification via the old Jewish rituals will be no use without the inner disposition to live rightly before God (36:27). Comparing the old covenant, the writer of Hebrews noted: “According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Hebrews 9:9 ESV)
The connection of “water” (v. 25) and “Spirit” (v. 27) lies behind the words of Christ spoken to Nicodemus in John 3:5. “I will put my Spirit within you” predicts an effective inward work of God in the “new covenant.”
The promise of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36:27 was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–21) and in the giving of the Spirit to those who believe in Christ:
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9 NASB)
Jesus made a great emphasis on the inner work of the Holy Spirit as He taught His disciples. He taught them that it was to their advantage that He go away. This is because while Jesus was on earth he could be in only one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit would carry on Jesus’ ministry over the entire world at all times. In addition, in God’s sovereign plan for the unfolding of history, when introducing the New Covenant, it was only to become operative when the Holy Spirit would come in new covenant power and fullness when Jesus returned to heaven (see John 7:39; 14:16–17; 15:26).
Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit would guide them, as He discloses Himself to them. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:13–15 NASB)
The Spirit’s ministry of guiding Jesus’ followers into all the truth was a promise especially directed toward His 11 disciples, and was fulfilled in the subsequent work of these disciples in personally writing or overseeing the writing of the books of the New Testament. A broader application to all believers is noted as the Holy Spirit does lead and guide all believers (see Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).
The apostles agree with Ezekiel and Jesus on the New Covenant
Referring to Ezekiel 31:32, the New testament writer of Hebrews indicates that the new covenant is not a continuation of, or side-bar add-on to the old covenant but puts an absolute end to it: “not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:9 ESV) And those who would entwine the old and the new covenant obviously need to study this carefully. Look for these truths clearly stated, 1) Christ mediates an entirely new covenant that is better; 2) it is enacted on better promises; 3) God found fault with the first covenant given to the Jews due to their disobedience; 4) there was coming a day in the future – not during Ezekiel’s lifetime, when God promised to establish His new covenant; and 4) it will not resemble the old covenant made at Mount Sinai with Moses on behalf of the Jews after the Exodus.
“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. (Hebrews 8:6-9 ESV)
As in Jeremiah, God again outlines His new covenant in Ezekiel: “And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.” In contrast with the old covenant in which there was no power to keep God’s law, the new covenant promises a divine power which enables us to keep His laws. Obeying God’s law is now possible because He has cleansed our hearts from sin and, by His Spirit, has given us new hearts.
This is exactly what Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV). It’s also what Jesus again stated through John in the book of Revelation: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12 ESV)
And the apostle Paul wrote similar recognition of the importance of the New Covenant work of the Holy Spirit within our minds: “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4 ESV) “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14 ESV)
Let us pray, “Heavenly Father, You have made Your great promises dependent on my faith. May Your cleansing work in my heart make it possible for me to obey Your spiritual laws by the power of your indwelling Holy Spirit, which reflect your love to mankind”.
Let’s accept the truth of the new covenant as the Word of God makes if clear.
“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6 NIV).