“‘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… 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.” Ezekiel 11:16-20
The Lord does not dismiss or cancel His own when we wander. He has His eye on us when we suffer exile as a consequence of sin. He remains our sanctuary in every place we are scattered, His door open to our seeking, return, and trust. He is present in our inward prisons. He is the great Rescuer, Remaker, and Redeemer.
If God’s mercy is withholding what we do deserve, and His grace is giving us what we do not deserve, then these benevolent attributes are best seen, understood, and experienced when we go astray. To pray for loved ones to comprehend God’s grace is to ask for the bittersweet- a heart in the far country stricken by its own unworthiness, yet captivated by the worthiness and lavish love of Christ. It is the prodigal who is irresistibly drawn by his Savior, the unfaithful bride who tastes the sweetness of reconciliation with her bridegroom. It is God’s nature to visit us in our ruin and do what He does best. (Hosea 3; Luke 15:11-24; John 1:14,16)
When God in His mercy turns stone hearts to flesh, He revolutionizes us all inside and over. He kneads out impurities in our impulses, intensions, and desires. He softens us toward the unlovable, dissolves long-held bitterness, and transforms destructive habits. We want to put away detestable reading material and entertainment, to get rid of divisiveness and empty distractions, to remove false lovers from our affections. The Lord strives with His people with holy purpose and faithfulness.
Where have I wandered in rebellion, shrugged off discipline, or ignored biblical instruction? Has my heart grown cold and calloused with impatience, rudeness, pride, boasting, resentment? Where do I need fresh vitality in my spiritual life? Am I in a rut of habit, with no depth, no real scrabble of application, no wrestling in prayer for God to convict and change me? When the Lord changes us, He supplies what we need to walk with Him. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8)
Father, gather me daily to You, and conform my heart to Yours. May I serve and obey in Your Spirit, so all may know I am Your child.