Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

Isaiah 62:3

In the face of conflict and strife, when many feel as if they are “forsaken” or “desolate,” we are comforted by God’s precious word that we are not “forsaken” but we are “Hephzibah”—the Lord delighteth in thee (Is. 62:4). In the lowest of lows, God mercifully teaches us that we are very precious in His sight—we are “a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hand of [our] God.”

What a beautiful truth not only to comfort us during the discouragements of life, but also to give us great encouragement as we begin a new school year. We, with our children, are royal diadems in the hand of our God! May we be mindful of the precious place our children have in His covenant as we begin another year of instruction in our good Protestant Reformed Christian schools.

In our on-going study of “minerals” we now turn our attention to the precious stones and gems that are found in God’s creation. These precious stones and gems give us a beautiful picture of who we and our children are in Christ. Let us examine this part of God’s creation, giving Him all glory for His wonderful work of making these beautiful and exquisite gems and for the beautiful spiritual picture they display.

When you think of examples of gemstones, what names come to your mind? Likely you think of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds as examples of gems. If so, you have identified the best-known gemstones. But what makes these jewels differ from common stones? First of all, regular stones are a conglomeration of minerals, whereas gemstones are exclusively one type of mineral. Secondly, there are certain characteristics that make gems particularly unique. Ask any newly engaged couple about the “rock” the young man gave his fiancée, and likely they will be familiar with cut, clarity, color, and carat (and probably also cost). These characteristics of a diamond point to the unique properties that distinguish a gem from a common stone, namely, the gem’s crystal structure and its purity (molecular makeup).

Crystal structure and molecular makeup

The crystal structure and the molecular makeup of a mineral determine some key properties of the mineral, such as the mineral’s hardness, refractive index, and purity. All of the gems are distinguished from other minerals, in part due to their hardness. Diamonds are considered the hardest mineral, followed by corundum (sapphires and rubies). This means that the gems will not be scratched or marred by other substances that are in contact with it. The hardness of these gems is due to the strength of the bonds of the atoms that form the crystals and to how densely the atoms are arranged within the crystal structure. Diamonds, for example, are composed of only one kind of atom—carbon. The atoms in this instance are arranged in a rigid threedimensional cube with very strong bonds in all three dimensions, making the diamond very strong.

Secondly, these minerals have a relatively high refractive index. When light enters into a transparent substance (window, diamond, pool of water), it slows down a bit. The degree to which it slows is related to the molecular makeup of the crystal. Within diamonds, the light slows significantly. As it slows, the light changes the direction of its path (refracts, or bends). As white light passes into a diamond, each of its component colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) slow down at slightly different speeds, resulting in white light being spread out into a rainbow of colors. If the diamond is cut and polished with appropriate angles, the light can experience many reflections within the diamond itself before passing back out of the diamond. This explains why a diamond is so sparkly and reflects the light so brilliantly. Something similar, but not to the same degree, occurs with the other precious jewels, which makes them stand out from a common stone.

Finally, the purity of the stone contributes to its preciousness. Gems, composed exclusively of one type of mineral, contain only one specific kind of atom or one specific group of atoms. While diamonds are composed of only carbon atoms, sapphires and rubies are made of a specific ratio of aluminum and oxygen atoms that regularly repeat within a hexagonal prism structure. When the aluminum and oxygen atoms are the only atoms present in the crystal, the gem will manifest itself as white sapphire. But when there is a small amount of impurity— the presence of a small number of titanium and iron atoms—the gem appears as blue sapphire. If there are a few atoms of chromium in the mix of aluminum and oxygen atoms, then the gem appears as a reddish/ pink sapphire, which we then identify as the gem ruby. The various colors of gems, therefore, are due to small levels of impurities—other metal atoms embedded in the crystal structure. Each metal atom gives a crystal a slightly different color.

There are other imperfections, called inclusions, in a gem. Small amounts of air or water can be trapped within the crystal structure. They give the crystal a small imperfection or an entirely cloudy appearance.

Thus we see that besides the fact that gems are generally low in abundance, gems are distinguished from regular stones by their clear colors and brightness (due to their crystal structure and molecular makeup).

Spiritual truths

Gems are precious because they are rare. Not only are gemstones rare in the sense that they are few in number, but gems are also rare in that they have an uncommon hardness, color, and clarity. And it is Isaiah 62:3 that points us to the spiritual reality. As a gem is rare, so is Christ’s church—a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

Throughout history the church has been a small, helpless portion of the human race. Isaiah refers to her as a lonely, helpless hut in a cucumber field (Is. 1:8). Elsewhere the church is called a remnant (Is. 1:9; 37:32). The elect are always few (and physically weak and helpless) in comparison to the multitude of the wicked. In this sense, the church, like gems or precious stones, is rare.

The church is also aptly called a “royal diadem” (jeweled crown). We belong to King Jesus. We are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Christ is our elder brother (Matt 23:8; Rom. 8:29). Thus we are of a spiritual, royal lineage. And, as those who belong to Christ Jesus, we are very precious in God’s sight. He loves us and will always protect us and preserve us! Not only are we precious because we belong to Christ, but we are precious because we are beautiful. We are not beautiful from the perspective of our natural state. Naturally, we are totally depraved—wicked, ugly, and vile creatures. But, by a wonder of grace, we have a new man—a new man that has the beauty of Christ and has been given the victory over that wretched old man. We are beautiful because we are new creatures in Christ. Due to the blessed work of the Holy Spirit in us, we reflect the beauty of Christ Jesus. We are beautiful, precious jewels!

As a gemologist chisels and cuts precious stones so that the gem more and more reflects the light and appears more and more brilliant and beautiful, so God chastens us, chiseling and shaping us, so that we more and more show forth that spiritual beauty of Christ in us. While “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). When we face various trials, we need to see them as the work of King Jesus— our perfect gemologist—shaping and polishing us for our blessed place in His glorious temple. “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels” (Mal. 3:17; cf: Eph. 2; I Pet. 2:5).

And we must not forget that, as in this creation each stone is unique, so each gem in the temple of God is necessary and has its own unique gifts and purpose. Let us, therefore, learn to rejoice in the beauty also of our fellow saints.

The crucible of fire is not God’s only tool or ‘school’ to make us shine. God also uses the means of godly instruction to lead all of us, including His precious covenant children, to grow and develop spiritually. As we have begun a new school year, let us remember that God gathers His children, His royal diadems, from our children in the line of continued generations, and that He uses also our priceless Christian schools as a means to mold, shape, cut, and shine His jewels for their place in the New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21). This instruction of the children is “the means by which God brings the reborn covenant child to spiritual maturity so that he or she becomes a developed man or woman of God, capable of a life of good works” (Prof. D. Engelsma, Reformed Education, p. 6). “The goal of the glory of God is achieved through our rearing of the children…. God uses, really uses, our education to bring His covenant child to become the man of God, fitted to a life of good works” (Engelsma, p. 93).

God truly is shaping and polishing His jewels—His little lambs—and one of the means He uses is our good Christian schools. It is important to remember this at any time in history, but especially when our schools are being attacked. Rather than attending to the rhetoric of those who would undermine our schools, set your minds on the true blessedness of our schools. Appreci-ate the schools! Diligently labor to instruct your children in the fear of God. And trust in God’s promises!

“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1). What beauty is found in the creation— precious jewels, glittering and shining with such clarity and vibrant colors. Our God intricately made all things, including these marvelous gemstones!

And thanks be to God for all His faithfulness, despite all our unfaithfulness. Gracious in all His works and ways, He has ordained that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). By the power of His grace we begin to reflect His beauty more and more. All glory to God for forming us and shaping us to be His beautiful, precious jewels! Gems in the Master’s Hand!