“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Hearing these words from the exilic prophet Ezekiel we might recall the lines from Psalm 51:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51—bear with me here—is notable for its casual attitude toward chronology. On the one hand, the superscript links it to David’s life: “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” On the other hand, its final verses imply the post-exilic devastation:
“Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
The psalmist knows Ezekiel’s words. But rather than consign them to sometime in the future the psalmist prays: what you promised to do for the nation do for me now: a clean heart, a new and right spirit. And do we think that God turned a deaf ear to this prayer?
This does put Pentecost in a different light. For generations—for centuries—the Jews have been praying “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” And God has been answering. And as part of that answer, the dramatic coming of the Spirit which we remember tomorrow.