Bible Study

Stones & Rocks

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Stones and rocks are the skeleton of the solid part of the earth on which the flesh of earth is laid. Stones are to be found everywhere: little flinty stones which the plough turns up in many a field; round, smooth pebbles on the sea-shores of the world; tumbling scree on the mountain sides, like a great overspill of waste rock from some factory in the heart of the mountains; giant rocks, cropping out of the earth, or standing like bastions against the washing tides; and coloured stones, precious stones in a multitude of varieties which give beauty and wonder to the face of the globe.

The Stone from God

It is not surprising, therefore, that we should find stones as part of the parables and lessons of Scripture. God Himself is the Rock, the solid, safe, secure and permanent base on which everything rests, the foundation of eternity. Ancient altars were made of stone. Sometimes the altar was prepared from the stones immediately to hand without special choice or searching. For example, when Jacob left home and spent his night sleeping in the open with a pillow made of stone, he made an altar on the spot in remembrance and in thankfulness, an altar on which he poured his oil as an offering to the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. Although the stone was merely a pillar, it formed a place of offering and of meeting with God. Later on, the idea of stone altars was incorporated in the Law which Moses gave. There is a striking feature about the law of the altar. God does not specify what kind of stone is to be used: He does not choose granite in preference to limestone, or marble instead of sandstone. “If thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” (Exod. 20:25). Raw stone and undressed stone was to be used. Human shaping by human tools in human hands was not acceptable. Why? Surely the smooth cut and polished stone would have made a more acceptable edifice than the rough, unshaped rock pieces? No. Rock as it came from God out of the earth was the stone to be used.

What is the principle? An old promise couched in poetic form in one of the blessings of Jacob tells us something of the meaning. “The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee” (Gen. 49:24, 25). This blessing concerned Joseph and his seed, but, beyond that, it pointed forward to One to come who would be both Shepherd and Stone. Human hands would have no part in him, no human father could claim to have begotten him, no human heart could have conceived or brought forth the marvellous character, the godliness and righteousness, of the Son of God. His hands were made strong by the mighty God of Jacob. He was a stone from God.

It is interesting to notice that when God reveals to Nebuchadnezzar the history of the ages to come and the work of man as contrasted with the work of God, the intervention of God in human affairs is by “a stone . . . cut out of the mountain without hands”. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. The kingdom is the Lord’s and He is the Governor among the nations.

The Foundation Stone

This concept of the work of God is variously described throughout Scripture, but always it is made plain that the work is the Lord’s. Solomon, when the temple was being dedicated, recognized the limitations of the work of thousands of workmen in raising up a dwelling place for God: “Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (2 Chron. 6 : 18). Human hands have their uses, but “the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands”; or, as Paul expressed it in Athens, where the temples to the heathen gods were plentiful and magnificent: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:24, 25).

The stone of salvation is the foundation laid by God. It is not of man’s devising; it is not man’s own thoughts polished up over the ages or man’s ideas cut to form a suitable basis for the world in which he lives. The stone is an inconvenient, awkward stone which fits no human structure but forms a firm and wonderful and perfect basis for the outworking of the purpose of God. Try as he will, man will never successfully shape Jesus to fit man’s schemes. Men in the days of the Lord himself tried to make Jesus a part of their building and ended up by rejecting him altogether—“The stone which the builders rejected” (Psa. 118:22). What happened to it? “It is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Here is the key, “the Lord’s doing”, “the Lord hath made”—the stone was from God and was perfect for God’s purpose which is salvation for His people.

The Stone of Stumbling

It is interesting to follow the development of this idea in the rest of Scripture. Isaiah records these words: “Hear the word of the Lord . . . Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (28:14–16). This prophecy is set amidst a condemnation of men who trust in ways of their own devising—lies and human confidences wherein there is no profit. The Stone is the only place of safety—the stone laid in Zion, Jesus the Son of God, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, the One who was closed in a tomb of death by a large stone and was raised to life as “the foundation” stone of salvation. In commenting on Isaiah’s words Paul takes up the phrase, “he that believeth shall not make haste”, and clarifies its meaning for us by saying: “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 9:33).

Peter makes the matter clear. In quoting the same words from Isaiah and in giving the meaning as, “He that believeth shall not be confounded”, he adds: “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient” (1 Pet. 2:6–8). There is power in the Stone: power to save and power to destroy. The Stone is eternal; it is Christ. Those who believe and are obedient rest upon a sure foundation. Those who reject the Stone do so at their own peril. The Stone will destroy them in the end. What saith the Scripture? “Many . . . shall stumble (thereon), and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken” (Isa. 8:14). Destruction awaits the rejectors. This is inevitable since “the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35). There is no room for anything but the Stone and those who belong to it. The rest is like chaff which shall be blown away.

Changing the order of the figure but maintaining the meaning, the Lord Jesus says: “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken.” These are those who are saved. They come to Jesus with broken and contrite hearts, with their past life confessed and rejected, and he receives them to himself as parts for the new temple of the Lord. And the others? “On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder”—annihilation in the day of judgement. The power of the stone is designed for salvation, and salvation rejected is destruction.

5 thoughts on “Stones & Rocks

  • Thomas Keogh

    I have a question about the use of “stone” referring to the people of God in the NT, specifically in Matthew 3:9, Luke 19:40, and 1 Peter 2:5. Jesus told the pharisees that God could raise up children for Abraham out of stones. He also told pharisees that if He did as they demanded of Him the stones would cry out. Finally, Peter wrote that God’s people are to be like “living stones” in God’s temple. The verses in Matthew and 1 Peter obviously refer to people who God would shape to be His. But of the verse in Luke (this being Palm Sunday as I write), Jesus says that if God’s people kept quiet, stones would cry out. One biblical scholar I know who has PhDs in Rabbinical studies and archeology made the comment that Jesus was implying that people would start throwing rocks if the pharisees made them shut up. Basically, that a protest riot would break out. Do any other scholars you know hold the same as a possible interpretation?

    • Thomas, I have been studying these things for quite some time and what I find terribly interesting about Matthew 3:9 (and Luke 3:8) is that Jesus was likely baptised in the Jordan River, in the very place where Joshua and the 12 Tribes crossed into the Promised Land. It was the door into the Promised Land, just as it was the door into Jesus ministry, and Jesus being the door unto our salvation (John 10:9). There are no coincidences in scripture. In Joshua 4 the Israelites were instructed to take one stone per tribe out of the Jordan, from the exact place where the priests had stood, and then roll their burdens off their backs as an altar to God in the place where they camped that night (4:3), which was Gilgal (which name means “rolling”), then Joshua set up 12 stones in the very place of the river where the altar stones had been taken (4:9), where the priests had stood, and it was a ford that remained to the day of the writing of the book of Joshua, and likely remained to the time of Christ. So when John the Baptist made reference to “these stones,” I believe he was pointing to the ford of stones made by Joshua. So we believers, which are members of the Christian/Messianic/Jewish church, are referred to by Peter (whose name means “stone” or “rock”) as “living stones” being built up as a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5) upon the foundations of the Apostles (Revelation 21:12-14), with Christ as our Chief Cornerstone, I believe connects back to the very picture of those stones from the Jordan River and what John the Baptist was alluding to.

      And as far as Luke 19:40 is concerned, archeology has unearthed so much in the last 50 years to prove the infallability of the Bible – the ROCKS are crying out!!!!!! They are crying out of the silence of the last 2000 years. The real Mount Sinai has been discovered in Midian (Saudi Arabia), the rocks that Jeremiah hid in the mortar at the doorstep of Pharaoh’s dwelling in Egypt have been discovered, the foundations of the City of David has been unearthed rather miraculously, the foundation stone under the Dome of the Rock – which has stripes all across it and a hole pierced in it, the altars of the patriarchs (Jacob’s well, Joseph’s bones, Rachel’s tomb, Mount Ebal altar, etc.) have all been discovered. Archeology is testifying of the events and the places in the Bible – and that was the purpose of those altars to begin with. It’s pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. Praise Jesus!!!!!!!!

  • M. Orlich

    I am not a scholar, but I have studied the scriptures my entire life and I feel the scholar is missing an important point. The stones crying out is in reference to the message of God, nothing could hinder it being spread. If people were unable to speak, He would make the rocks speak. The emphasis is on the importance of the message, not the means of it being spread. Nothing would interrupt this from happening. Just life the referncd you made to Jesus recalling the account Abraham’s offspring. It was certain that he would have children, the arrival of the Messiah depended on it. God would let nothing hinder his plan. This is the point. God plan is certain, and this is evidenced in the definition of his very name Jehovah, which means “He causes to become”. He can use the rocks….if the need ever arose…to accomplish his purpose whatever it may be. God’s people however…..breaking into riot, throwing stones, does not fall in line with any of the traits that would categorize a person as one of God’s. There is countless verses recorded encouraging peace. Romans 12:18 is a commonly cited example. Throwing rocks in protest would not be the pursuit of peace, Romans 14:19. The real question here, in my opinion, is what is this message that God would ensure would be spread? What message was so important that if God’s people kept quiet, he could use the stones to say? Isn’t this truly the question?

  • P.S. Abraham had many sons, but God raised up Israel from Isaac to be His own special people, chosen to teach the world about Him – the ONE TRUE GOD!!!!! Those 12 stones from the Jordan represented the chosen people that God raised up. And God can raise up whomever He wants out of those tribes – through the Apostles. Right now a door is open to the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

  • If I may also add to my other replies that I think it fascinating that after Jesus was baptized, that He went to the wilderness, just as Joshua and the Israelites had done, to be tempted of the devil, and in Matthew 4 the first temptation of Christ involved certain “stones.” Once again specific stones are being pointed out. Could they be the rolling stones at Gilgal that the tribes unburdened themselves of from the Jordan River? Certainly Gilgal was in a nearby wilderness, and specific stones were set up there by the tribes after crossing the Jordan? Gilgal is the very place where the manna ceased (Joshua 5:12) – and Jesus is our bread of life (John 6:31-35), which Satan hoped to cause to cease to exist. I am not a Bible scholar, but it is intriguing to think about. God Bless!!!!!


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