Living Stones

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 As believers, we know that we are saved by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, not by our own works (Eph. 2:8-9). Stones are the work of God since He created them. A person cannot create a stone. But people can make bricks. Bricks are the work of men. 

Stones = God’s works.
Bricks = men’s works.

Bricks of Rebellion

Bricks are mentioned several times throughout the Bible, often in situations of rebellion against God. Two of these instances were at the tower of Babel and during Israel’s slavery in Egypt.

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  Genesis 11:1-4

As the people rebelled against God, they turned to the works of their own hands and made bricks to use instead of stone. They rejected the work of God and His commandment to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28, 9:1).

Many years later, when the nation of Israel was living in Egypt, they were forced to make bricks as punishment for multiplying and filling the land.

But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.  Exodus 1:7-14

When God first sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go, Pharaoh rebelled against God and refused. As punishment, he gave the Israelites more work to make bricks.

So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.”

So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters forced them to hurry, saying, “Fulfill your work, your daily quota, as when there was straw.” Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before?”

Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why are you dealing thus with your servants? There is no straw given to your servants, and they say to us, ‘Make brick!’ And indeed your servants are beaten, but the fault is in your own people.”

But he said, “You are idle! Idle! Therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Therefore go now and work; for no straw shall be given you, yet you shall deliver the quota of bricks.” And the officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in trouble after it was said, “You shall not reduce any bricks from your daily quota.”  Exodus 5:6-9, 12-19

Pharaoh was relying on the works of men, not the work of God. God then carried out His works by sending the ten plagues upon Egypt and freeing His people. When Pharaoh and his army chased after the Israelites, God parted the Red Sea for His people to escape. In the song of Moses recorded after this event, an interesting detail is written.

The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.  Exodus 15:3-5

Altars of Stone

After the Israelites were freed from Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land, God gave His Law to Moses to instruct the people of Israel on how they were to worship Him.

“And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”  Deuteronomy 27:6-8

Altars used to worship God were to be built using whole stones. Whole stones were the work of God. If tools were used on the stones then the people would have been adding their own works to the altars. 

After forty years in the wilderness, the people of Israel entered the Promised Land with Joshua and built an altar of stones to worship God as they had been commanded.

Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.  Joshua 8:30-31

God was very clear about the difference between the whole stones of His works versus the cut stones or bricks of men’s works. Through the prophet Isaiah, we learn what God thinks about altars made of bricks instead of stone.

I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick.  Isaiah 65:2-3

The Cornerstone

Of all the stones representing the work of God, there is one which is the culmination of His work: The Cornerstone.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  Job 38:4-7

I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.  Psalm 118:21-23

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.  Isaiah 28:16

The Cornerstone that was prophesied of in the Old Testament is Jesus. 

In the gospels of Matthew (21:33-46), Mark (12:1-12), and Luke (20:9-19), Jesus told the parable of the wicked vinedressers. Jesus told about how the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to the vinedressers who killed each one. The owner then sent his beloved son who was also killed by the vinedressers. The owner of the vineyard represents God the Father, the servants represent His prophets, and the beloved son represents Jesus. Then Jesus directly quoted Psalm 118:22.

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  Matthew 21:42

“Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  Mark 12:10-11

Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  Luke 20:17-18

After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter healed a lame man in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10). When questioned by the Sanhedrin council, Peter quoted Psalm 118:22 to show who Jesus truly is and why there is power in His name.

Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:10-12

Jesus is the Cornerstone and it is only through His finished work that we are saved.

God’s Work of Living Stones

Believers are saved through faith in the finished work of Christ, not in our own works. Just like stones were created by God and are His work, we are also His workmanship.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:9-10

As God’s work, we are the stones that make up His temple with Jesus as the Cornerstone, the first stone from which the whole building is built upon.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  Ephesians 2:19-22

As the stones of the dwelling place of God, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. This means we are living stones just as Jesus is a Living Stone.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”  1 Peter 2:4-6

If we, the living stones, believe on Jesus, the Cornerstone, we will by no means be put to shame. Praise Jesus!

 

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