“Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isaiah 28:16
The days of Jerusalem’s Second Temple are long gone. Nothing remains of the glorious structure where once the Spirit of God inhabited. The armies of Titus in conquering the rebellious zealots in 70 A.D., truly did not leave one stone upon the other, as Jesus prophesied. Yet the foundation stones remain. Archeologists and scientists in exploring the base of the former Temple have uncovered hewn quarried stones 40 feet in length and weighting an estimated 80 tons a piece. Today, there is tour beneath the Western Wall. Here as you follow the course of the stones laid by the builders long ago, you will wonder: How did the stonecutters place these magnificent stones into the foundation? One Jewish legend proclaims that angels lifted them into place.
The engineers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, in their explorations around the temple area, discovered what is believed to have been the “chief corner stone” of the temple, “the most interesting stone in the world.” It lies at the bottom of the southeastern angle, and is 3 feet 8 inches high by 14 feet long [1.1 meters x 4.3 meters]. It rests on the solid rock at a depth of 79 feet 3 inches [289.9 meters] below the present surface.
“Behold, I lay in Zion…”
This word of the LORD was first spoken to the rebellious sons of Judah who had “erred through wine, and through strong wine.” These scornful leaders of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets, had stumbled in judgement and made lies their refuge. They had chosen to hide themselves in falsehood, and in doing so had led multitudes of God’s people astray. These leaders of Judah also boasted that they had made secret agreements with death and hell and so need not fear the threat of an Assyrian invasion (Is. 28:15, 18). Isaiah later reveals that this secret covenant was made with Egypt (Is. 30:1-3). The power of Pharaoh, though, would not protect them from the scourge of Assyria (Is. 30:7). Isaiah’s cry was “Woe” to those who chose to trust in chariots and in horsemen and “look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD” (Is. 31:1).
Thus the LORD God through His servant Isaiah reveals that He is placing in Zion a foundational stone of such strength that all who grasp on to it shall never flee in haste. This stone is the Messiah, the promised Savior to both the House of Israel and to Judah. Furthermore, to Jerusalem, He promises: “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay thy stones with fair colors and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles and all thy borders of pleasant stones” (Is. 54:11).
Stones used in construction are cut from bedrock quarries. These rocks are usually hewn out in a rough cut, and then trimmed to fit at the building site. Solomon in building the House of the LORD ordered his “stone-squarers” to dress the stones before they were brought to the site. Thus “there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” (I Kgs. 6:7)
Daniel foresaw the Messiah as the stone cut without hands, which became a mountain. Christ is that stone, sent to form a kingdom which prevails over all adversity and challenges to become a conquering mountain. (Dan. 2:44-45).
A Tried Stone
Rocks and stones today when used in construction projects usually are subjected to testings so as to prove their strength. Engineering laboratories employ specific machines that rate these materials’ ability to resist stress and still maintain their strength. Four of these processes include testing for the rock’s breaking point, resistance to crushing, a hardness test, and impact durability. Standard for all other specific rocks and stones such as granite or basalt used in construction can be determined by these measurings.
The writer of Hebrews reveals that “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Christ our Savior successfully passed all of Satan’s temptations and God’s tests to become our great high priest. Satan could not move him in the wilderness. The son of man was also obedient to God in all things, humbling himself and “becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:9).
Scripture reveals four tests that our Lord Jesus endured, becoming the “tried stone” approved by the Father.
- Breaking Strength:
Resistance to fracturing and cleaving in a stone is determined by its internal strength and composition. Tests are done in laboratories and in the field to determine the strength a rock has to outside and internal forces.
On the night, Jesus was betrayed, he instituted the New Covenant, praying over bread, breaking it into pieces and giving it to the disciples. Paul writes that as he blessed the bread, he said: “This is my body, broken for you.” Hours later, our Savior hung on a cross, his joints pulled out of place, but not a bone broken (Ps. 34:20). Yet, his skin was broken, as he was “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5).
He was broken for us, that we might find salvation, freedom and deliverance from the law. Because of his breaking strength, we as believers can be used in his kingdom and become “living stones.” Because he himself experienced “brokenness,” Jesus is able to heal the brokenhearted and heal their wounds (Ps. 147:3, Is. 61:1).
- Crushing test:
Stones subject to a “crushing test” are placed in a machine that subjects them to a maximum load. This is the maximum weight which causes the sample to fail, thus be crushed. Isaiah prophesies of Jesus’s suffering that “It pleased the LORD to bruise him.” Dakar, the Hebrew word for “bruise” also means: to crush or pierce.
Jesus also spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees and declared that “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Mt. 21:44). Christ the “rock” will beat down and crush all who oppose his rule and kingdom.
- Hardness Test:
Hardness tests in rocks determine their resistance to scratching, abrasion, cracking and splitting. German geologist Frederick Mohs developed this simple test in 1812. For instance a diamond is ten times harder than a piece of talc. Hardness tests are the principle method of testing for precious stones.
Isaiah again speaks of Christ, the suffering Messiah. It was he who chose to embrace hardship, “bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows” (Is. 53:4). No one else could do it. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we could embrace life. Jesus lived a life of discipline, through prayer, fasting, and obedience. Paul counsels in his Epistles that the believer should “endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ” (II Tim. 2:35).
- Impact Test:
Engineering laboratories conduct tests for impact resistance on rocks and stones to determine the best material for foundations, buildings, and forming dams. For stone and/or concrete, a steel hammer is dropped in increasing heights upon a specimen that is held fast on an anvil. The impact blow which causes a stone to break is noted and recorded. This test is used to determine a stone or rock’s resistance or non-resistance to stress and sudden shock.
Christ throughout his ministry remained resolute. He was not impacted by the murmurings, the words, and the threats of the Pharisees. The power of Rome did not sway him, nor did the judgment of Pilate. The devil had no power over him. Christ though himself impacted the world as no other. He is without equal. As believers we are counseled to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10).
A Precious Stone
Jerusalem is not noted for its precious stones. Other than buried antiquities, there are none to be found in its rocky soil. Rather Scripture identifies Jerusalem with its “precious sons” who were “comparable to fine gold” (Lam. 4:2). Precious stones though were placed on the breastplate of the High Priest. The Kings of Jerusalem also had precious stones set in their crowns. And Solomon commanded the builders of the First Temple to bring “great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones” into the city so as “to lay the foundation of the house” (I Kgs. 5:17).
John, in his vision of the New Jerusalem, saw the foundations of its walls: “garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst” (Rev. 21:19-20).
What Makes a Precious Stone?
The Hebrew word for “costly, dear and bright” is yaqar. A stone that is “precious” is known for its color, its brilliance and its rarity.
The Lord is precious to the Father God. When Jesus was baptized a voice from heaven declared “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). Again the Creator God at Jesus’ transfiguration spoke the same words: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him” (Mt. 17:5).
Jesus in John’s Gospel speaks of being the Good Shepherd and of his willingness to lay his life down for the sheep. He declares the Father’s love for him. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again” (Jn. 10:17). This unity of a Savior who is both a shepherd and a stone is prophesied in Jacob’s blessing to his sons. The patriarch speaks of the mighty God of Jacob “from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel” (Gen. 49:24).
Christ is our precious stone. He is costly, for one must pay a dear price to follow him. The Lord’s parable of the man who sold all to obtain the treasure in the field illustrates this. The apostles left all as well to obtain all. Peter and James and John left their fishing boats, Matthew left his tax table. When many of Jesus’s disciples were troubled and walked away because of his sayings, the Lord asked the twelve: “Will you also go away?” Peter answered for all saying: “Lord to whom we shall go? Thou has the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). This is why Jesus is the believer’s precious stone. He holds eternal life to our earthen bodily vessels. It is he who forms in us the ability to become “living stones.” Because he is, we as believers are being “built up as a spiritual house.” (I Pet. 2).
Christ, the Chief Cornerstone
The chief cornerstone of the Temple and in every other building was/is the first stone laid above ground. It was placed upon the foundation. As a cornerstone, it was chosen to bear the weight, as all other stones would be laid on top of this rock. Its placement had to be exact, so that each succeeding course of stone would be level and aligned. Cornerstones are blocks at the end of a building, and serve as means to unite two walls which were then joined together. The cornerstone was/is the most costly stone because of its beauty and strength.
Christ is the chief cornerstone of the kingdom and of all believers, both Jew and gentile. He came to bring salvation to many. To Peter, he declared: “Upon this rock I will build my church.” The Greek word used in this sentence is petros or a large rock. Christ’s church is formed through his being. He is the precious cornerstone.
Eben Ha Shetiya
According to Jewish tradition, the bedrock inside the Temples was the foundational stone or Eben Ha Shetiya for the whole earth. It was where Heaven and Earth were joined. The Ark of the Covenant in Solomon’s Temple was placed on this stone. Unique to this precious stone is a hole which pierces this rock and leads to a cave below it. Thus the Eben ha Shetiya is a pierced stone.
Our Savior Jesus, the “stone of Israel,” is also pierced. He showed Thomas his pierced hands and invited this doubting disciple to thrust his hand into his side (Jn. 20:27). Jesus continues to stand before us today, inviting us to be not faithless but believing. And when the LORD returns that final day in the clouds, “every eye will see him, and they also that pierced him” (Rev. 1:7).
A Word of the LORD
I am the stone that Jacob made a pillar (Gen. 28:22). I am the stone of Israel, the Messiah (Gen. 49:24). I am Joshua’s stone of witness (Josh. 24:26-27). I am the Ebenezer, the stone of help that Samuel set in place (I Sam. 7:12). I am the stone with seven living eyes that Zechariah saw (Zec. 3:9). I am the stone the builders rejected (Lk. 20:17). I am the chief cornerstone and the cap stone (Eph. 2:20). I am The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things (Rev. 1:8). I am your God. “Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence you are hewn and to the hole of the pit (quarry) whence ye are digged” (Is. 51:1).
LORD, I thank you that because my foundation is in you, I shall not faint, nor run away in the day of adversity. You are my strength, my bulwark, my high tower. Like David I will now say: You O LORD are “my refugee and my fortress: my God in him will I trust.” I praise you Jesus, because “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: The Lord knoweth them that are his” (II Tim 2:19).
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations there of fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof?” (Job 38:4-6)
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David, king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid” (Ezra 3:10-11).
“Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings crying Grace, grace unto it” (Zec 4:7).
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto a holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-21).
Jerusalem, Lest I Forget Thee by Gene Little
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