Before the captivity that would dispossess the Israelites of Judah, the Lord made a solemn, blessed, reassuring promise to His chosen people through the prophet Ezekiel:
"And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19)
The "spirit" here mentioned is the Holy Spirit, who would be poured out on all flesh (cf Joel) on the day of Pentecost (cf Acts 2)
As for the stony heart, this speaks to the condemnation wrought by the law in the flesh of mankind.
Stones speak of the law, as testified in Deuteronomy:
"And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly." (Deuteronomy 9:10)
The Law was never intended to make mankind good, but to expose his inherent rebellious sinful nature:
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Romans 3:19)
"The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Corinthians 15:56)
We are condemned by nature through Adam' fall, and the heart of man is bent toward nothing but wickedness:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
There is only one solution for mankind, therefore, and this heart transformation, not behavior modification.
How does God propose to accomplish this? By replacing our stony hearts with a heart of flesh.
"Stony" renders the word eben אָ֫בֶן , which speaks of death and also weight, a heart weighed down with self-induced condemnation.
Now, to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh may surprise believers, who are accustomed to interpreting "the flesh" as man's self-effort or sinful desires:
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16)
Yet in Ezekiel, "flesh" does not render a word testifying to man's frailty, but God's infinity favor:
Original Word: בָּשָׂר
The word "basar" carries another array of meaning:
news, or more specifically, to bear good tidings, or to receive good tidings.
Another word for "good news" is: The Gospel!
This interpretation is justified in light of the fact that the revealed word of God in the original Hebrew did not include the tittles and jots to signify vowels.
The same Hebrew letters for "basar" contain a divine play on words, to say the least.
"Basar" is also used by other Old Testament prophets to testify to the gospel:
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings ("basar") that publisheth peace that bringeth good tidings of good that publisheth salvation that saith unto Zion Thy God reigneth." (Isaiah 52:7)
So, a more fruitful interpretation, manifesting the Finished work of Christ revealed through one of God's prophets, speaks not just to replacing the hard, inflexible, judgmental, self-condemning hearts of his people, but replacing this judgmental self-condeming nature with the glad tidings of the gospel. Instead of brooding and breeding forth death and judgment and demand, by the power of the Holy Spirit every regenerated believer enjoys a blessed heart transformatin, and rests in the promises of no condemnation, of complete and unassailable acceptance with God through His Son Jesus Christ's death on the Cross.
In effect, God promises through Ezekiel to take away our heart weighed down with consciousness of law, sin, and judgment, and He replaces it with a heart full of his gospel goodness and grace!
This grace is given to us, for grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14)
Hundreds of years before His Son came to Earth to die for our sins and reconcile us to the Father, God Himself made clear that our hearts would be transformed by His tender love, released to us through the Good News, the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.