Today's Old Testament lesson is Ezekiel 11.14-25. As we read it, we doubtless focus on the most well-known verses in the passage, verses 19-20:
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
-- Ezekiel 11.19-20 NKJV
This is a great promise, don't get me wrong! But when it's understood in its context, it is an even more amazing testimony to the love and grace of God, even in the midst of disciplining his wayward people.
In this section of the book, Ezekiel is prophesying to a nation that is wrecked: leadership has been removed, people have been deported, the Babylonians are threatening Jerusalem again, the nation is living in defiance and sin...all of this as a response to the their rejection of God and his gracious covenant with them. In other words, God is disciplining Israel exactly as he promised he would if they decided to reject him and his covenant.
...God is not doing these things simply to punish them or to vent his wrath on his disobedient children. Far from it. In his heart, he not only still loves for them and promises to restore them (that is part of the promise in verses 19 and 20), but in the midst of their chastisement and discipline, he is still their refuge, hope, and rest:
Therefore say, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: Though I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
--Ezekiel 11.16 CSB
Even while they are suffering the consequences of their rejection of God--and hopefully learning from it--He remains their sanctuary (literally, holy place) and promises to restore everything to them that he has taken away.
This is the behavior and motivation of a loving parent. This is far from the incorrect stereotype of God in the Old Testament as simply vengeful and wrathful. This is a God who cares about his people as a loving parent cares about their children--loving them enough to discipline them for a time but ultimately focused on blessing them. Thanks be to God!