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Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Stone

Christ the Stone - Marvin J. Rosenthal

When the body of missionary-explorer David Livingstone was laid in Westminster Abbey, a British journalist wrote, “Let marble crumble – this is Livingstone!” It is hard to conceive of living stone. In all of God’s creation, nothing appears more inanimate or lifeless than stone. It is interesting, therefore, to realize that the Bible repeatedly refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as a Stone.

To God Christ is the Smitten Stone
Moses confronted Pharaoh of Egypt with his Lord’s message, “Let my people go” (Ex. 8:1). A short time and 10 plagues later, Pharaoh reluctantly let the Hebrew people go. They hadn’t gone very far before the army of Egypt was in hot pursuit. As the Egyptians bore down upon the Hebrews, all hope appeared to be lost. However, at God’s command, Moses thrust forward his rod, the Red Sea parted, and the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground.

They continued only a few days’ journey into the hot, barren desert and began to murmur. There was no water, and the people thought it better to be slaves back in Egypt than to die of thirst as free men in the desert. They had only recently, and from a box-seat vantage point, seen the power of God to deliver. And now, at the first sign of difficulty, they murmured instead of trusted. Once again, God told Moses to take his rod in hand and strike a rock. As he did, an abundance of water gushed out, enough to meet the needs of the entire wandering nation.

Commenting on this in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul identified that Rock that was smitten: “And did all [those who came out of Egypt] drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).

The Prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years earlier, had written:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4).
Christ was smitten by His Father that you and I, through trusting in Him, need never experience the smiting of a holy God.

To Israel Christ is the Stumbling Stone
Once again, hear the words of Scripture: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23).
It was not that Israel was not expecting a Christ – or Anointed One. They were. As a matter of fact, the coming of a Deliverer, an Anointed One, a Messiah – this was at the top of their hit parade. Messianic expectation was the focal point of Jewish theology. But they did not understand that suffering must precede glory – that Christ must die before He could reign. Their chief concern was that a Deliverer appear who could and would throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. A crucified Messiah was, therefore, an unexplainable enigma. Peter summed it up like this: “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them [Israel] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Pet. 2:8).

To the Jewish mind, a Christ, yes. A crucified Christ, no. This, then, was their stumbling stone.

To The ChurchChrist is the Foundation Stone
The Epistle to the Ephesians presents the highest Church truth to be found in all the Word of God. Paul sets forth the architecture of the Church (2:1-10); the appointments of the Church (Jew and Gentile, 2:11-18); and the appearance of the Church (2:19-22). In summing it up, he says: “And [you] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (2:20).

After Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s table, and only hours before His crucifixion, the Bible records that He and His disciples sang a hymn before going out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). The song they sang was called the Hallel. It comprised Psalms 113-118, with particular emphasis placed on Psalm 118:22: “The stone [Christ] which the builders [Israel] refused is become the head stone of the corner [foundation stone of the Church].”

To the NationsChrist is the Smiting Stone
The “times of the Gentiles” is a biblical term denoting that period of history when Jerusalem would be under Gentile domination (Luke 21:24). That period began with the Babylonian captivity in 606 B.C. and will terminate when Christ returns physically to the earth to establish a 1,000-year kingdom.

The dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation by Daniel (Chapter 2) depicts the times of the Gentiles. Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image. Its head was gold, its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron mixed with clay. In Daniel’s interpretation, the times of Gentile domination over Israel are detailed. The head of gold represented Babylon; the chest and arms of silver, Medo-Persia; the belly and thighs of bronze, Greece; the legs and feet of part iron and part clay, Rome. These were four successive world powers that dominated Israel. All of these empires would diminish in influence but not be destroyed. In the final days of history, these empires will be restored to power. It is over this restored and expanded empire, the Anti-christ will rule.

What will happen to the final form of Gentile power? Hear the prophet Daniel once again:
Thou sawest till that a STONE was cut out without hands, which SMOTE the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and THE STONE THAT SMOTE THE IMAGE became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:34-35, emphasis added).

The Stone is Christ. That it was “cut out without hands” probably refers to His divine origin. When He smites the image on its toes, Gentile power will come to an end. The Stone becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth depicts His worldwide kingdom. The Apostle John was describing the same scene when he wrote:
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev. 19:15-16).

To GodChrist is the Smitten Stone

To Israel Christ is the Stumbling Stone

To The ChurchChrist is the Foundation Stone

To the NationsChrist is the Smiting Stone

Who is He to you?

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