Rev. Langerak is pastor of the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It is easy to overlook the lowly stone. But Scripture does not. In it, stone represents spiritual realities as commonality (II Chron. 1:15), a fool’s wrath (Prov. 27:3), danger (Ps. 91:12), end of man (Job 28:3), and terrified, lifeless, natural, and inhumane hearts (Ex. 15:16; I Sam. 25:37; Ezek. 11:19; Job 41:24). But it is especially their permanence that is special in the kingdom. More interested in show than substance, the children of men make their kingdom from brick (Gen. 11:3). God builds with stone. The corner of His kingdom is Jesus, the living stone made without hands, rejected of men but chosen of God and precious (Dan. 2:34;Matt. 21:42). He said that His Father didn’t give stones for bread (Matt. 7:9) and could raise up children from stones (Matt. 3:9), and that if people didn’t praise Him the stones would (Luke 19:40). For three days He lay encased in stone, only to spring free (Lam. 3:53). Upon Him is built a spiritual house of elect stones—each solid, lasting, formed in the quarry of this world, but very alive (I Pet. 2:4ff.; I Kings 6:7).
Stones represent God’s use of lowly means such as the Word and discipline to maintain the antithesis and preserve the covenant from threats within and without. Stones were formidable weapons in the hands of the skilled (I Chron. 12:2). David toppled that uncircumcised monstrosity Goliath with one. Uzziah developed cunning engines to hurl them on those who laid siege to God’s city (II Chron. 26:15). Sometimes, God simply hurled the stones himself (Josh. 10:11). The Egyptians sank like stones in the Red Sea (Ex. 15:5). As a great stone cast into the sea, Old Babylon fell, a fate that awaits the New Babylon (Jer. 51:63; Rev. 18:21). And Jesus is the ultimate stone; those who fall upon Him are humbled and saved, but those upon whom He falls are ground forever into powder (Matt. 21:44). The accursed were buried under stones (Josh. 7:26; II Sam. 18:17). Stoning freed the congregation from the guilt of another. Therefore, it was reserved for sins of which they might easily become partakers by “silence and connivance,” such as blasphemy (Lev. 24:14), adultery (Deut. 22:21), Sabbath desecration (Num. 15:33), soothsaying (Lev. 20:27), idolatry (Deut. 17:5), promoting apostasy (Deut. 13:6), and rebellion by riotous children (Deut. 21:18ff.). But apostates used stones on the righteous (Heb. 11:37). Almost stoned were Jesus and Moses (John 10:31; Ex. 17:4). Stoned but spared were David and Paul (II Sam. 16:13; Acts 14:19). Killed was Naboth, for trying to preserve his heritage (I Kings 21:13); and for their testimony, the prophet Zechariah (II Chron. 24:21) and deacon Stephen (Acts 7:59).
Stones represent the unconditional character of God’s covenant. On the one hand, they testify of the church’s covenant unfaithfulness. They witnessed notorious evil: Adonijah’s rebellion (I Kings 1:9), Saul’s treachery (I Sam. 20:19), and Joab’s murder of his cousin (II Sam. 20:8). Israel turned them into high places, worshiped stones as their father, and learned from stones (Jer. 2:27; Hab. 2:19). On the other hand, stones witness to God’s everlasting covenant faithfulness. With his finger God wrote the “words of the covenant” on two stone slabs to teach that men could (and would) break them, but the covenant itself was unbreakable (Ex. 31:18; Ex. 34:28). Stone monuments testified of this truth to succeeding generations. Jacob set up two in Bethel, one each time God confirmed the covenant (Gen. 28:13; Gen. 35:9ff.). Israel set up stones to remember God’s covenant promise (Josh. 4:7), God’s covenant law (Deut. 27:8; Josh. 24:26), their covenantal unity (Josh. 22:34), and God’s defense of the covenant (I Sam. 7:12).
Finally, stones reveal the grace and purpose of God’s sovereign election in the covenant. God made some stones precious, beautiful, and rare. The church was carried into the presence of God as gems set in the garments of the high priest (Ex. 25:7-8; Ex. 28:9ff.). Precious stones make up the King’s treasury (I Chron. 29:8; II Chron. 32:27) and cover His crown (Zech 9:16). Mere rocks when in darkness, they burst forth in radiant beauty when infused with the glorious light of God’s perfections (II Chron. 3:6). The consummate gem, Jesus, glows like a rainbow (Rev. 4:3). And His church, the New Jerusalem, is where the glory of God forever glitters on crystalline walls of the righteous, pearly gates of patriarchs, and a foundation of twelve apostolic gems (Rev. 21:11-21).