God promises us new hearts at the moment of salvation as He replaces a heart of stone and sin with a heart of flesh. But what about our hearts AFTER that precious moment? How do we maintain and nurture those new hearts?
Consider these two parallel verses:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 18:31)
I was fascinated by the seeming contradiction of the two passages.
In Psalm 51, the word “Create” is the same word used in Genesis 1 – God creating something from nothing bringing order out of chaos.
Thus David, seeing the chaos created by his sin, asks what only the Lord can do – bring order out of the chaos of his heart. The Hebrew for “clean” heart is pure, spotless.
Let’s go on. The word translated as “renew” is actually the Hebrew word for “new”. Thus David isn’t really asking for a renewal of his spirit, but again, something new.
But what does “right” mean in relation to his spirit? Here is a precious jewel. The word here means “to be firm, stable.”
In other words after confessing his sins, David looks to the Lord to bring his entire spiritual and physical being into peace and purity. It is only then that we can be firmly established.
It’s comforting to know that we can ask God to do what we cannot do. But then look at the passage in Ezekiel.
Here the prophet is telling Israel that they are responsible for making themselves a new heart and a new spirit. The Hebrew word means, “to procure, to make, to work, to act with affect.”
The problem was that Israel continued in the sins of rebellion which separated them from the love, grace and peace of God. Through the prophet, God is pleading with Israel to recognize their impossible and fatal situation.
It is only when we face eternal death that we will turn to Jesus, and cry out as David did. Jesus alone can give us a new heart and a “right spirit.”