STONY OR A HEART OF FLESH?
"...being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." II Corinthians 3:3.
When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Hebrew nation stationed in the desert on their way to the Promised Land, He wrote them on two tablets made of stone. Ten rules: the first four dealt with God and how He is to be revered; the last six addressed peoples' relationships with each other.
The Hebrews carried those two tablets of stone with them wherever their journey took them. Once they had the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem, the tablets were kept in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Hollies. They were sacred. From them God gave more extensive directions as the Torah for how to walk.
Jeff Benner, who has done extensive study of the ancient Hebrews and their language, says that the meaning of the word Torah that includes the Ten Commandments is: Instructions for the journey. Yes, God graciously gave His people called by His name the steps to walk in WITH Him as they made their way to Canaan. Unless God had revealed to man how to know and walk in His ways, man was blind and totally unaware that God even existed. The Ten Commandments were God's loving roadmap to knowing Him in fellowship.
In giving the Hebrews commandments to live by, God was not browbeating them as a slave driver would control a servant. He spoke in love, holy love, so that His followers would know how to stay on the path to God's ultimate desire for them: a land flowing with milk and honey! A picture of heaven's delights!
However, it didn't take long in their wandering before the Hebrews grew tired of the prescribed route and murmured against Moses, their leader, and against God...and that became the history of the Hebrew people. No matter what God did to bless and help His people, they tended to fall away from the path and, instead, copied their pagan neighbors.
Finally, when Israel was going into captivity to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah said this: "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the LORD, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.'" Jeremiah 31:33.
God said there would come a day when He would write the 'instructions for the journey' to heaven not on stone, but on the heart. In fact, through Ezekiel, God put it this way: "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within the. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God." Ezekiel 11:19-20.
On their way to the Promised Land and even after God established Israel as a nation, the people grumbled, murmured and complained against God. They were stubborn when it came to serving God and following His ways. They constantly got off the path and God had to send prophets to warn and guide them back into God's directions.
Biblical history bears out the truth that rather than receiving what the prophets said from God, the people tended to persecute and even kill them. The peoples' hearts were stony and not at all receptive to what God said.
Finally, they turned their backs on God and to idolatry so completely that He sent them into Babylon for 70 years of captivity before restoring them to their land. But, 400 years later with that restoration also came the Messiah, Jesus, to preach, heal and teach them---and they still rejected and crucified Him!
However, with Jesus' resurrection and ascension to heaven came the fulfillment of the promises He had made through the prophets.
Paul wrote: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." II Corinthians 5:17. Not the stony heart; in its place comes a heart of openness to God.
A new heart, just as Jesus told Nicodemus: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God...unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:3, 5-6.
Jesus' life, death and resurrection made it possible for the Holy Spirit to bypass our stony heart that resists and rejects God and create a new heart open and tender to God and alive to His will for us. A new birth. Two hearts. He writes the 'instructions for the journey' on our new heart.
Paul then declared: "...being made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh." II Corinthians 3:3.
Before He was crucified, Jesus, at the Last Supper (Passover seder) with His disciples, gave His final instruction to them: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive...he who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." John 14:15-17, 21.
So, Jesus revealed how to know God in intimacy: keep His commandments through our Helper, the Holy Spirit. He is the baptism of love.
Jesus further said of Him, "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." John 15:13/
Being born again is just the beginning of the journey. There remains an absolute transaction that must take place: the surrender of our will to the Holy Spirit. Our stony heart must be crucified, put to death. We must bow in surrender before God and let Him drive the nails until that death is complete. We must abdicate the throne of our heart, so that God and God alone can reign and rule there.
Rees Howells was a product of the Welsh revival and became a powerful intercessor before God in the British Isles. But before He could walk that journey, he had to submit to God, and he was a very proud man. God gave him an ultimatum: By six o'clock that certain evening Howells had to surrender his will or he would forfeit his opportunity. Howells agonized. He wanted to say 'yes' to God, but his will refused. Finally, at about one minute before six, the Holy Spirit asked Howells, "Are you willing to be made willing?" and Howells replied, "Yes."
With his answer fire fell on his heart and the Holy Spirit came in power on his life. Howells was dead! What followed was the rest of Howells' life spent in service to God in supernatural, powerful ways. And, we, too, must follow that route. The Bible calls it dying to self, crucifixion, taking up our cross to follow Jesus. By whatever term you call it, it's the only way to follow Him. The stony heart must die!
It is the Holy Spirit who is the new life within us when we are born again and it is the baptism in the Holy Spirit who teaches us, guides us, empowers us and leads us as we walk with God wherever He takes us. No longer do we walk in our own selfish ways. We submit in love to doing what God purposes for our life.
"Holy Spirit, pow'r divine, dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down ev'ry idol throne, reign supreme and reign alone.
Holy Spirit, fill my heart, cleanse my life in ev'ry part;
Your own temple I would be now and for eternity."