“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, NKJV)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27, NKJV)
As I write this, my current car is a 2008 Ford Taurus X. It’s a rather nifty vehicle, and I’m very attached to it. My Taurus X is an SUV that seats six people, has lots of storage, and has a totally awesome sound system.
It’s also fifteen years old with over 250,000 miles on it. As Darth Vader would say, “Impressive. Most impressive.” (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)
I like to listen to music as I drive. The music gets especially loud when I have my windows down because the roar of the wind competes with Beethoven, Oscar Peterson, or Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. (Yes, they’re a real group. See discogs.com/artist/88534-Dr-Buzzards-Original-Savannah-Band. Their debut album is excellent!)
Sometimes when I’m sitting at a stoplight poppin’ and groovin’ to my tunes, some knucklehead with a trunk-thumper blasting out rap music (can we really call it music?) pulls up next to me. He turns, up nods, and guns his engine. The gauntlet has been thrown. I coolly up nod back, and gun my engine. The ol’ Taurus is ready to sprint the moment the light greens up.
And then it happens. With the flash of green, the left-lane bane of music’s existence leaps into the intersection with tires spinning and engine grinding with a roar. Me? I putt-putt forward with the rest of the asphalt lemmings. Why? Because I know my Taurus wants to smoke the show-off, but it’s the Little Engine That Can’t.
But that doesn’t stop the Subdue and Rule Warrior ahead of me, whose roadway-into-speedway antics are meant to intimidate all other drivers into submission in a bid for respect. Oh, he gets respect, alright. Especially from the highway patrol car I spotted sitting in the median about a half mile up the road. As I drive by, I triumphantly wave at the offender.
I win. I’ve subdued and ruled my competition.
It’s a cute scenario, but it has a point. I want to go fast. I want to show off my race car prowess. But my Ford Taurus X just doesn’t have the oomph for it. Even in its prime, my beloved vehicle couldn’t match the road warriors because it wasn’t equipped to do what the driver, me, wanted.
To get the speed I want, Kevin (yes, that’s what my wife and I named the car) would need a whole new powerhouse under the hood. And tranny. And wheels. And, well, everything.
The same is true for us humans. We should cooperate with our Heavenly Father and King and exercise our Subdue and Rule Mandate righteously and correctly, but in our fallen state, we just don’t have it “under the hood.” Besides, who wants to do things God’s way? It’s too much fun trying to control everything and everyone around us. Who cares if it annoys, tramples, or hurts them?
God cares. And we should, too.
Our King knew this would happen, and He planned for it even before this whole debacle started. God knew He would have to correct the sin issue and straighten out His warped people so we could be the way we were at our perfect beginning. Like Kevin, we need a complete overhaul within to make us the turbo-charged, high-class vehicles our Divine Driver desires.
This overhaul is called the New Covenant. Not only do we get increased horsepower, suspension, transmission, and everything else, we get an innovative, state-of-the-heart GPS installed. And then the Holy Spirit hops in to ride shotgun and help us navigate.
So, let’s look at the upgrades the New Covenant installs, and in the next part, we’ll explore why the New Covenant can do what all the other covenants couldn’t to correct our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s corrupted dominion drive.
A New Heart
Here is the core purpose of the New Covenant that deals directly with our out-of-control Subdue and Rule Mandate’s dominion drive. “I will… cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). To obey God’s statutes and keep His judgments, we need to know them first, but more importantly, we have to want to obey. The New Covenant solves that problem by taking our King’s Law and installing it inside of us (internalizing the Law).
According to Ezekiel’s version of the New Covenant, internalizing God’s Law requires a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:24) and a purified heart (with Ezekiel 36:25-26 linking purification and new heart as opposed to those with impure, corrupted hearts, Ezekiel 11:21). It’s upon this new heart that the Law-giver writes His Law (Torah, Jeremiah 31:33). To internalize something means “to take in and make an integral part of one’s attitudes or beliefs” (American Heritage Dictionary). Let’s face facts. It’s much easier to follow the law when it’s part of our attitudes and agrees with our beliefs.
For example, how often have parents heard their children proclaim in a whiny voice, “I’m doing this because I have to and not because I want to”? Such a defiant declaration shows that the parents’ command to the child has not been internalized. If the parents’ household laws demand the bed must be made upon rising and the child has not internalized that law, then the child must be externally motivated to obey. You know what I’m talking about. However, if the bed-making law has been internalized, the child will make the bed as a matter of course, or at least, the child will need a simple reminder of their familial obligation.
This scenario is the way it is with us and God’s commands. If we haven’t internalized God’s law, we find it difficult to obey Him as our desire-driven hearts fight against His will. As far as God is concerned, our rebellious hearts are as unresponsive as a stone. “They made their hearts like a rock so as not to obey the law or the words that the Lord of Armies had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. Therefore intense anger came from the Lord of Armies” (Zechariah 7:12). See the connection? Rebellious hearts = God’s intense anger. Not good.
It’s possible for an unresponsive heart can obey God’s Law/Torah, but it’s easier for an unresponsive heart to violate it. God strongly condemns unresponsive hearts. “The Lord said: These people approach me with their speeches to honor me with lip-service— yet their hearts are far from me, and human rules direct their worship of me” (Isaiah 29:13).
When we ignore God’s commands, our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s dominion drive asserts itself through human-created rules. Remember, after the Fall, people were doomed to sustain themselves by the “sweat of your brow,” which means “with fear and anxiety” because the cursed ground would resist human efforts, creating danger and insecurity. By rejecting God’s rules, our dominion drive moves us to create our own rules in an attempt to gain safety and security in a volatile and uncertain world.
From the start, our Subdue and Rule Mandate was inseparably linked to God’s directive, the tree prohibition. To paraphrase Genesis 2:16-17, “Adam, as My viceregent, you don’t have the option of deciding the right and wrong way to live your life or perform your duties. That’s My prerogative and domain. On the day you do so, you’ll have walked away from Me and die.” That one prohibition set the ground rules for humanity’s “reproduce and rule” functions given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1.
Because of this connection between God’s rules and mandate, we’re still compelled to use our dominion drive according to God’s or our self-determined rules. Often, our fallen state causes us to determine our own rules rather than follow God’s laws; therefore, we exercise our dominion drive as we see fit. Thus, Isaiah’s prophetic assessment, “their hearts are far from me, and human rules direct their worship of me,” is right on target.
The opposite of the unresponsive “stony heart” in the New Covenant is the “heart of flesh.” The new heart is described as “flesh,” reflecting a new state of responsiveness. In the Fall, God’s commands became “external” because the human heart became unresponsive and unwilling to follow God’s commands, much like the inner workings of my car when I wanted to race. In our fallen state, our hearts and spirits fight against God’s desire and Spirit as we read in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.” This state was not and could not be corrected through the Noahic, Abrahamic, or Sinai/Moses covenants. All three provided parameters to restrain and contain our drive to Subdue and Rule/Conquer and Dominate, but they didn’t fix the core problem of the unresponsive stony human heart.
Hahn points out that Joshua renewed the Sinai/Moses covenant at Shechem near the end of his life (Joshua 24) because of his awareness of Israel’s hard-heartedness, just as his mentor, Moses, had been. “The same hard-hearted condition that made the Deuteronomic covenant necessary in the first place is the reason it must now be renewed under Joshua” (Hahn). God knew there had to be a radical transformation of our human hearts (our inner self) to neutralize the effects of the Fall for us to be restored to our original relationship with Him and our proper function.
The New Covenant’s “new heart” requirement sets the condition for internalizing the Law (the ability to receive God’s Law) and making God’s way to live an integral part of our attitudes and beliefs. How we receive a new heart under the New Covenant is linked to receiving another crucial upgrade – a new spirit.
A New Spirit
Internalizing God’s law under the New Covenant requires a new spirit as well as a new heart. Ezekiel speaks of God giving us a new spirit and His Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26, 36:27). Are these verses saying the same thing? King David answers this powerfully in his psalm of repentance, Psalm 51.
David speaks of both the human spirit (Psalm 51:10, 12) and God’s Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11) in the context of his repentance of sin, his desire to return to God, and his yearning to restore his relationship with God as before. This scripture resonates with Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s New Covenant promise with its necessary repentance to return to God (Jeremiah 31:18-19; Ezekiel 11:18). David’s plea is, “God, create a clean (tahor, ritually or morally pure) heart for me and renew a steadfast (Heb. kun, established, firm, prepared) spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10) and “sustain me by giving me a willing (Heb. nedivah, from nadav, to incite or impel) spirit” (Psalm 51:12) (Kohler and Mounce).
David recognized that his sin had come from a spirit that hadn’t stayed firm regarding God’s standards and wasn’t motivated to follow God’s Law. He correctly identified the cause of his wayward spirit as a morally impure heart (tamei; unclean, defiled, impure; ceremonial impurity or active immorality) (Kohler and Mounce). To successfully return to God, David knew he had to begin with repentance from a changed heart that only God could create.
John J. Parsons excellently observes, “When King David cried out to the Lord, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God,’ he did not use the Hebrew word yetzer which means to ‘fashion’ or ‘form’ something from pre-existing material, but instead used the word bara, a verb exclusively used to God’s creation of the cosmos (Genesis 1:1). David understood that no amount of reformation of his character would be enough, and instead appealed to the very power of God that alone could create ‘out of nothing.’ Such was the remedy required” (Parsons).
Pause for a moment and consider that.
For David, a “new” heart was something God-created, not merely a renovation. David knew his need for such a heart but couldn’t experience it fully. Why? Because that kind of recreated heart is only possible under the New Covenant, not the Sinai/Moses covenant.
The bara-type of heart creation was revealed through the promise of the New Covenant (c. 590 B.C.) but wouldn’t be available until Jesus died and was raised to initiate the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit arrived to activate it (c. A.D. 30). The bara-heart is a wholly new creation by God, not simply a renovation, i.e., a “creation from pre-existing material.” The re-created heart of the New Covenant is foundational to bringing forth a human spirit that is both able (kun) and motivated (nevidah, willing; nadav, incited/impelled) to follow God’s ways as David desired.
Under the New Covenant, this recreated/clean heart and willing/motivated spirit is inseparably linked to God’s Holy Spirit, whose presence David knew, but not as intimately as people would under the New Covenant. Furthermore, Psalm 51:11 is a Hebrew parallelism through which David declares his experience with God’s Spirit as God’s immediate presence. David knew God’s presence came from God’s Spirit who was upon him (1 Samuel 16:13). However, under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit would live within God’s covenant people, not just with them, as was David’s case.
The Indwelling Holy Spirit
The finale of the New Covenant process is “I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27, italics author). The Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Ezekiel 36), linked to Jeremiah’s New Covenant, reveals the Holy Spirit as God’s agent of the process. Through God’s power, the Spirit transforms us. Through the imparting of the Holy Spirit, we receive a brand-new-created-by-God “heart” (our new core nature) and spirit (our reestablished connection/interface with God), which can now willingly respond to God. Our new spirit not only starts to respond willingly to God’s Law but is moved by God’s Spirit to faithfully “walk in My statutes” and “keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27).
Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit inspires and motivates us, and our obedience becomes a matter of “want to” (internalized Law), not “have to” (external Law). As for the question, “Are the new spirit and the Holy Spirit the same?” the answer is no. For God to initiate the New Covenant with His wayward people, He must first change their hearts and spirits through His Spirit and then for His Spirit and Law to be internalized so that we’re motivated toward the kind of faithful obedience God wanted from the beginning.
The New Covenant transformation is essential for restoring our original Subdue and Rule Mandate as God intended so we could govern His creation on His behalf and as He would, and not other people. The New Covenant transformation is also critical to prevent us from exercising dominion via a perverted Conquer and Dominate urge that drives us toward ungodly and sinful control over our personal world, even at someone else’s expense or harm.
In other words, our Divine Mechanic upgrades us with brand new parts that turbo charges our engine and drive train so we can be the high-performance vehicles He designed initially. The best part is when we realize we can stay in our lane and no longer have to compete with each other.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition
Hahn, Scott W. Kinship By Covenant, A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s
Kohler and Mounce Parsons, John J., hebrew4christians.com/Meditations/Lev_Tahor/lev_tahor.html
Pastor Jay Christianson
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