Isaiah 28: 16
1 Peter 2: 4-5
We had a reference on Lord’s day to this scripture in Isaiah. It is attractive to think of the Lord Jesus, as the foundation stone. What stability and what permanence attach to Him! No doubt the stone has some allusion to His deity, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8: 58), “Jesus Christ ... the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come”, Heb 13: 8. It is interesting to compare the stone and the rock. The rock, of course, also implies what is durable, but, as we know, the rock was smitten. Our brother’s reference to Numbers brings to mind that the Lord Jesus was the smitten Rock. He was smitten in order that the Holy Spirit might be made available to us. But, so far as one can see, there is no reference in scripture to the ‘stone‘ being smitten. It emphasises what is everlasting and permanent. Yet it is “a tried stone” as well, a very affecting reference, no doubt, to the humanity of our Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus, as Man, was tried to the uttermost, but He emerged superior to everything that was brought against Him. Psalm 105 says, “the word of Jehovah tried him”, v 19. How affecting to ponder the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane as Satan sought to deter Him from fulfilling the pathway of His God and Father’s will. In that sense “the word of Jehovah tried him”, but He could say, “but then, not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42. What unspeakable pressure was brought to bear upon Him there. Satan was pressing on Him the thought of death as the judgment of God. Not only did he face anticipatively the wrath of God on account of sin, but there was also before His holy soul the particular wrath on Israel on account of a broken law. He was to be made a curse! Mr Darby, in his pamphlet on the Sufferings of Christ says, ‘No simple fact of death, dreadful as it was to the Prince of life ... could be put on a level with divine wrath’, Collected Writings, vol 7 p 178. How deeply affecting that He, who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb 7: 26), should actually be made a curse before God. All this entered into His being “a tried stone”. The oblation brings out how He was tried. The oblation was baken in the oven, or on the pan, or prepared in the cauldron, Lev 2: 4 - 7. The greater the intensity of the heat the greater the intensity of the fragrance to His God and Father.
But then he was also “a precious corner-stone”. The hymn speaks about “the rejected Corner-stone”, Hymn 322. Of course, He is that, as our brother has brought before us, but Isaiah, the great evangelical prophet, describes Him as “a precious corner-stone”, that is to say, He is the Foundation of everything that is for God and which will be for the pleasure of God eternally. Everything truly built upon Him will be precious, and, as taking its character from Him, will result in praise to God. Ephesians gives that to us, as it says there, “increases to a holy temple in the Lord”, Eph 2: 21. The great millennial scene in all its bliss, in all its glory, will be founded on what Christ has accomplished in His life here and in His dying and death. Then, too He is “a sure foundation”. What assurance and stability that gives to the soul. In the blessings in Genesis there is the reference, “From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel”, Gen 49: 24. How fine to think of the Lord Jesus in that sense as the Stone of Israel. Paul, too, alludes to it, “For other foundation can no man lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”, 1 Cor 3: 11. What a sure foundation we have as we put our faith and confidence in such an One. So that, “he that trusteth shall not make haste”. The footnote says ’shall not hasten with fear’. We can rely on Him with perfect assurance. He is the Stone, Jesus Christ, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega.
In Peter’s epistle, we have not only “a tried stone” but “a living stone”. Life is found in Jesus. He that looked on the serpent of brass lived, Num 21: 9. As coming to the Lord Jesus, we can enjoy a new kind of life, “according to promise of life, the life which is in Christ Jesus”, 2 Tim 1: 1. The Lord Jesus lives in “power of indissoluble life” (Heb 7: 16), and the believer is able to live in the life which emanates from Him. We may be “saved in the power of his life”, Rom 5: 10. We are able to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6: 4) and Romans 8 tells us that “God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law should be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit”, v 3-4. So that, as living in the life which Christ can give, and drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit we can be here as living stones, able to provide that enthusiastic answer to what the Lord Jesus so desires. The key is, “To whom coming, a living stone”. It is to be characteristic. It is open to each one of us. “To whom coming, a living stone, ... yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house”, that is to say, we are, speaking reverently, of the same material as Christ. We are of His order, He a living Stone; His own are living stones, “built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. The whole structure must be Christ; first personally, then as formed in the saints. So the stone, the work of God in the believer, that character of development in the believer, cannot be eroded, cannot be undermined. It will go through to eternity. The work of God is incorruptible. Thus Nehemiah in days of recovery sought a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest for timber for the gates of the palace and for the wall of the city, Neh 2:8. It was necessary to renew the timber but it was not at all necessary to renew the stones. Although the walls were in ruins, it seems the stones were still there. They simply needed to be restored to their place. Similarly, in Ezra, the instruction is for “a row of new timber” to help build the house, chap 6: 4. But there is no suggestion of the need for new stones. The reference is only to great stones being used in the construction of the house; but new timber was needed as if the key to revival and spiritual vitality is in our links with Christ Himself and in seeking fresh impressions of His perfect humanity and His glory. So “the keeper of the king’s forest” is a very touching reference. You think of the variety of trees in the king’s forest, all producing timber for the restored house and for the walls and for the gates, all expressive of the Lord Jesus Himself. But as far as the stones were concerned, there was no need to add to what was there already. How fine that is. The work of God proceeds unimpaired. It will go on to completion since “he who has begun in you a good work will complete it unto Jesus Christ’s day”, Phil 1: 6.
Well, it is affecting to think of our Lord Jesus, our precious Saviour, as the Stone, the tried Stone, able for every testing and exigency which He faced in His pathway. Everything was approached in the perfection of a manhood which could never be equalled, in a way which was always entirely pleasurable to His God and Father. We thank God we find our foundation in Him, a “sure foundation”, and that foundation can never be swept away. Things are precarious, fragile and shaky in this world but, as we place our trust increasingly on the “sure foundation”, we shall be preserved safely and securely for that great but quickly coming day.
16th March 2010