"I will give you a new heart—and put a new spirit within you . . . . I will bring you home again to Israel, and rebuild the ruins." - Ezekiel 36:26-33
After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the prophet, Ezekiel issued a clarion call for the return to Israel of the Jewish exiles, who had been captive in ancient Babylon for some 70 years. You can imagine the great anticipation and the great relief that consumed the Jews as they prepared to go back home after decades of displacement in foreign lands.
But to be sure, the Israelites would not be going back home the same as they were when they left. Ezekiel prophesied that they would be going back home as a much different people. The long and arduous exile had forged new hearts within them. They no longer took the blessings of life and liberty in their native land for granted. And no longer were they neglectful of the deep bonds of their covenanted relationship with God and with one another.
They were going back home, but they were going back home with different hearts.
George Bailey didn't realize how blessed he was in Bedford Falls, NY, but when he got back home, he was never more grateful for his "wonderful life" in that little hick town. The prodigal son left his home with a haughty sense of entitlement, but he came back with a profound respect for grace and mercy. Dorothy journeyed all the way to the land of Oz, only to discover that all she could ever dream of was right there at home.
Home is much more than an address. It's a habitation of the heart.
Lord, this Advent Season, make our hearts new so that our homes may be revived with gratitude and sustained in grace. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.