“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.” - Ezekiel 36:25-27
There’s a big difference between character and reputation. Character is what you are, reputation is what people believe you are. Reputation is less important than character, but it is important. What people believe about you might be totally false, but it can be damaging nevertheless.
God’s character is beyond reproach. But in Ezekiel’s time, God’s reputation was being impugned among the nations, owing to what his people, Israel, had done (36:16 20)—they had soiled his reputation by their evil behavior. In keeping with his promise, God had “scattered them to many lands to punish them for the evil way they had lived” (36:19). But the surrounding nations had interpreted this as a sign of weakness on God’s part. God’s reputation was suffering, so he told his people, “I am bringing you back again . . . to protect my holy name, which you dishonored” (36:22).
But God would not just bring Israel back to return to their old ways. He would change their hearts. “When I reveal my holiness through you . . . , then the nations will know that I am the Lord” (36:23). But how would God effect such a drastic change? God would carry out his program of restoration, which included washing their “filth” away, imparting to them a “new heart with new and right desires,” taking away their “stony heart of sin,” and promising them, “I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command” (36:25-30).
Ever since the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, he has been doing this work in people’s lives. God “[washes] away our sins and [gives] us a new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). As we trust God to save us from our sins “because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did,” God “generously [pours] out the Spirit upon us” (Titus 3:6). He gives us a new heart and a new Spirit so we can obey him and do his will (see Rom. 8:1-17; 12:2). God does all of this for us, not because we “deserve it” (Ezek. 36:32), but to demonstrate his holiness, power, and mercy.
If God’s reputation is to remain untarnished among the nations, his people need to live in accord with his character. This can happen when they have been transformed through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence in the inner recesses of their spirits and enlivens, enraptures, energizes, and empowers them. Their lives then give them delight and bring the Lord honor.
For Further Study: Ezekiel 36:16-38