Ancient Israel was predominantly a wicked, stiff-necked people who fell far short of God’s holy standards. And if they needed any reminders of their insufficiency, a massive curtain in the tabernacle/temple separated everyone from the most holy place, where God’s presence dwelt. Only the high priest could enter the most holy place—and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.
The original tabernacle curtain featured images of cherubim, the powerful angels who barred reentry into the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s banishment (Genesis 3:24). By the first century A.D., the temple curtain had grown to a daunting 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. Clearly, the message was: restricted entry only…stay out!
But when Jesus died on the cross, God Himself tore the curtain in half (Matthew 27:51). This shocking miracle symbolized a beautiful spiritual truth: Jesus’s sacrifice provides repentant sinners unrestricted access to a holy God. Now, the message is: all who believe…enter in!
Thankfully, in addition to removing restrictive curtains, God is also in the business of replacing stubborn, sin-stained hearts. In Ezekiel 36:26–27, God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”
Minor heart surgery, like repairing a valve or inserting a stent, just won’t do. The language of Ezekiel 36 reflects a complete spiritual transplant. So God, the great surgeon, replaces our old, sinful hearts with new ones sensitive to His will. Out with the “heart of stone,” in with the “heart of flesh”! Only through this miraculous regenerating work of God’s Spirit are we saved and prepared to follow Him.
Yet vestiges of our sinful nature remain. Sanctification is a lifelong process. But the Lord is faithful. His Spirit guides us day by day. Our job is to strive after godliness with transplanted hearts that beat with adoration, humility, and obedience (Hebrews 10:19–22).
What a privilege to draw near to the God who transforms human hearts!