Who is the great Regenerator? Who can make all things new? Who can give us a new heart and a new spirit? Who can make the lion eat straw like an ox, turn swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks?
Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord GOD told the people of Israel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek 36:26-27).
God here promises that he will work a good work in them, to qualify them for the good work he intended to bring about for them (v. 25-27). We had promises to the same purport (ch. 11:18-20). That God would cleanse them from the pollutions of sin (v. 25): I will sprinkle clean water upon you, which signifies both the book of Christ sprinkled upon the conscience to purify that and to take away the sense of guilt (as those that were sprinkled with the water of purification were thereby discharged from their ceremonial uncleanness) and the grace of the Spirit sprinkled on the whole soul to purify it from all corrupt inclinations and dispositions, as Naaman was cleansed from his leprosy by dipping in Jordan. Sin is defiling, idolatry particularly is so; it renders sinners odious to God and burdensome to themselves. When guilt is pardoned, and the corrupt nature sanctified, then we are cleansed from our filthiness, and there is no other way of being saved from it. God promises his people here, in order to his being sanctified in them (v. 23). We cannot sanctify God’s name unless he sanctify our hearts, nor live to his glory, but by his grace. God would give them a new heart, a disposition of mind excellent in itself and vastly different from what it was before. God will work an inward change in order to a universal change. All that have an interest in the new covenant, and a title to the new Jerusalem, have a new heart and a new spirit, and these are necessary in order to their walking in newness of life. This is that divine nature which believers are by the promises made partakers of. Instead of a heart of stone, insensible and inflexible, unapt to receive any divine impressions and to return any devout affections, God would give a heart of flesh, a soft and tender heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, conscious to itself of spiritual pains and pleasures, and complying in everything with the will of God. Renewing grace works as great a change in the soul as the turning of a dead stone into living flesh.
Besides our inclination to sin, we complain of an inability to do our duty, God will cause them to walk in his statutes, will not only show them the way of his statutes, but incline them to walk in it, and thoroughly furnish them with wisdom and will, and active powers, for every good work. In order to do this he will put his Spirit within them, as a teacher, guide, and sanctifier. God does not force men to walk in his statutes by external violence, but causes them to walk in his statutes by an internal principle. And observe what use we ought to make of this gracious power and principle promised us, and put within us: You shall keep my judgments. If God will do his part according to the promise, we must do ours according to the precept. The promise of God’s grace to enable us for our duty should engage and quicken our constant care and endeavour to do our duty. God’s promises must drive us to his precepts as our rule, and then his precepts must send us back to his promises for strength, for without his grace we can do nothing.
The Lord GOD told his people through prophet Isaiah: “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain” (Isa 65:25).
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, as they did in Noah’s ark. God’s people, though they are as sheep in the midst of wolves, shall be safe and unhurt; for God will not so much break the power and tie the hands of their enemies as formerly, but he will turn their hearts, will alter their dispositions by his grace. When Paul, who had been a persecutor of the disciples (and who, being of the tribe of Benjamin, ravened as a wolf, Gen. 49:27) joined himself to them and became one of them, then the wolf and the lamb fed together. So also when the enmity between Jews and Gentiles was slain, all hostilities ceased, and they fed together as one sheepfold under Christ the great Shepherd (cf. Jn. 10:16). The enemies of the church ceased to do the mischief they had done, and its members ceased to be so quarrelsome with and injurious to one another as they had been, so that there was none either from without or from within to hurt or destroy, none to disturb it, much less to ruin it, in all the holy mountain; as was promised, ch. 11:9. Men shall be changed: The lion shall no more be a beast of prey, as perhaps he never would have been if sin had not entered, but shall eat straw like the bullock, shall know his owner, and his master’s crib, as the ox does. When those that lived by spoil and rapine, and coveted to enrich themselves, right or wrong, are brought by the grace of God to accommodate themselves to their condition, to live by honest labour, and to be content with such things as they have—when those that stole steal no more, but work with their hands the thing that is good—then this is fulfilled, that the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. Satan shall be chained, the dragon bound; for dust shall be the serpent’s meat again. That great enemy, when he has been let loose, has glutted and regaled himself with the precious blood of saints, who by his instigation have been persecuted, and with the precious souls of sinners, who by his instigation have become persecutors and have ruined themselves for ever; but now he shall be confined to dust, according to the sentence, On thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat, Gen. 3:14 . All the enemies of God’s church, that are subtle and venomous as serpents, shall be conquered and subdued, and be made to lick the dust, Christ shall reign as Zion’s King till all the enemies of his kingdom be made his footstool, and theirs too. In the holy mountain above, and there only, shall this promise have its full accomplishment, that there shall be none to hurt nor destroy.
Isaiah prophesied: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isa 2:4).
He shall, in wisdom and justice, order and overrule the affairs of the world for the good of his church, and rebuke and restrain those that oppose his interest. By his Spirit working on men’s consciences he shall judge, and rebuke shall try men and check them; his kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world. The great peace which should be the effect of the success of the gospel in the world (v. 4): They shall beat their swords into ploughshares; their instruments of war shall be converted into implements of husbandry; as, on the contrary, when war is proclaimed, ploughshares are beaten into swords (cf. Joel. 3:10). Nations shall then not lift up sword against nation, as they now do, neither shall they learn war any more, for they shall have no more occasion for it. This clearly proves that this prophecy belongs to future times; for this has never yet had its accomplishment in any sense; not in a literal sense; for though there was an universal peace all the world over, at the birth of Christ, in the times of Augustus Caesar, yet there afterwards were, as our Lord foretold there would be, wars, and rumours of wars, and nation should rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and so it has been, more or less, ever since; nor in a spiritual sense, for though Christ has made peace by the blood of his cross, and came and preached it by his ministers, and wherever the Gospel of peace takes place, it makes men of peaceable dispositions, and reconciles them, as to God and Christ, and the way of salvation by him, so to one another; and it is peace saints are called to, and, when grace is in exercise, it rules in their hearts; and yet there have been sad contentions and quarrels among the people of God, and which yet still continue; but in the latter day glory, or spiritual reign of Christ, this prophecy will be fulfilled in every sense; for after the hour of temptation is over, that shall try all the earth, after the slaying of the witnesses and their rising, after the battle at Armageddon, when the beast and false prophet will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire, there will be no more wars in the world, nor any persecution of the saints; and then will the peaceable kingdom of Christ appear, and all his subjects, and the members of his church, will live in the utmost unity and harmony together; they shall no more envy and vex one another; and of this peace there will be no end (cf. Psalm 72:7).
“Behold,” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). What a wonder it is that a man should ever have a new heart! You know if a lobster loses its claw in a fight it can get a new claw, and that is thought to be very marvellous. It would be very wonderful if men should be able to grow new arms and new legs, but who ever heard of a creature who grew a new heart? You may have seen a bough lopped off a tree, and you may have thought that, perhaps, the tree will sprout again, and there will be a new limb, but who ever heard of old trees getting new sap and a new core? But our Lord and Master, the crucified and exalted Saviour, has given new hearts and new cores; he has put the vital substance into man afresh, and made new creatures of them. Now, let us look up to the cross and say: “Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Saviour.
“Behold,” says Christ, “Behold it! Stand and look at it! See how I took the man when he was up to his neck in sin, and made him preach the gospel. Can I not do the same again? Look there and see the dying thief upon the cross, black with a thousand crimes: I washed him and took him to Paradise the same day; what can I not do? Behold I make all things new.” Courage, my brothers and sisters. We will not entertain anymore doubt about Christ’s power to save. Rather, by God’s grace, may we henceforth believe more in him, and, according to our faith, so shall it be done unto us. If we can only trust him for those of our friends whose faults seem to us few and light, our little trust will reap little reward; but if we can go with strong faith in a great God, and bring great sinners in our arms, and put them down before this mighty Regenerator of men, and say, “Lord, if you will you can make them new”; and if we will never cease the pleading till we get the blessing, then we shall see ever-accumulating illustrations of the fact that Jesus makes all things new; and calling up the witnesses of his redeeming power, we shall cry in the ears of a drowsy Church and an incredulous world, “Behold, behold, behold! He makes all things new.” The Lord give us eyes to see it. Amen.
Let us praise God with the song “All Things New”: