‘Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed Israel far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary for them for a little while in the countries to which they had gone.”’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give [back] to you the land of Israel.”’ When they return there, they will remove from it all [traces of] its detestable things and all its repulsive things (remnants of paganism). And I will give them one heart [a new heart], and put a new spirit within them. I will take from them the heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh [that is responsive to My touch], that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. – Ezekiel 11:16-20
The pious captives in Babylon were insulted by the Jews who continued in Jerusalem; but God made gracious promises to them. It is promised, that God will give them one heart; a heart firmly fixed for God, and not wavering. All who are made holy have a new spirit, a new temper and dispositions; they act from new principles, walk by new rules, and aim at new ends. A new name, or a new face, will not serve without a new spirit. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The carnal heart, like a stone, cannot be made to feel. Men live among the dead and dying, and are neither concerned nor humbled. He will make their hearts tender and fit to receive impressions: this is God’s work, it is his gift by promise; and a wonderful and happy change is wrought by it, from death to life. Their practices shall be agreeable to those principles. These two must and will go together. When the sinner feels his need of these blessings, let him present the promises as prayers in the name of Christ, they will be performed. – Matthew Henry
God declares it is to be the free gift of His Spirit.
As God had already spoken concerning the piety of the Israelites, He shows that they could not forsake their sins until they were renewed, and so born again by His Spirit. Therefore He seemed to praise the Israelites; but because people too eagerly claim as their own what has been given them from above, now God claims to Himself glow of their virtues, of which He had formerly spoken. Their zeal in purging the land of all abominations was worthy of praise; hence the survivors of the people of Israel are deservedly celebrated, because they were impelled by the fervor of zeal to free the worship of God from all corruptions; but lest they should boast, that they had done it in their own strength, and from the impulse of their own hearts, God now modifies His former assertions, and shows that such pursuit of piety would exist among the Israelites, after He had regenerated them by His Spirit. We see that the Prophet unites two things together, namely, the faithful elect of God strenuously attending to their duty, and intent on promoting His glory, even with ardor in the pursuit of His worship; and yet they were nothing by themselves.