Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Stone the Builders Rejected

Yet Another in the Collection of the Obvious which Lynn Has Heretofore Missed :\

Psalm 118:22-23 says, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." This scripture is understood to be about the Messiah (at least by Christians!) and Jesus quotes it in reference to Himself (Matthew 21, Mark 12, Luke 20) in the culmination of a confrontation with the chief priests and elders in the temple, about His authority to teach.

I've always thought of dressed stones and wondered why one suitable to be the cornerstone would be reject but as I read the verse today it struck me that a stone which is rejected is a stone which refuses to be any shape but its own.

This is most assuredly the case when it comes to Jesus: the Jewish people in the first century were (very understandably) looking for the Messiah to come as a conquering king to throw off the yoke of Rome - most of the previous 600 years were spent as a conquered or vassal state: first to Babylon then the Medes & Persians, then the Greeks and now the Romans. And there are lots of Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures which reference Him as conquering king; these have not yet been fulfilled. Instead Jesus came as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, God in human flesh paying for human sin as the passover lamb, in order that death will no longer have authority over those who come into agreement with Him.

So, right there, you have 'builders' with an idea of the shape of the stone for which they are looking, an opinion about what shape the chief cornerstone should be. And, in the natural, the builders and the architect are in agreement about the dimensions of the cornerstone. But in the spiritual realm, the Architect is God and He is the one Who says, "This is the chief cornerstone," and thereby establishes the shape of the entire building. And we builders, straddling the natural and the spiritual, look at this entirely self-possessed cornerstone and cry, "but I can't DO anything with that!" That Stone is entirely Itself and It does not change shape to accommodate anyone; instead we must come into agreement with the Stone.

This makes me think of Joshua 5:13-15, this powerful and mysterious interaction before the battle of Jericho: Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" The captain of the LORD'S host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

Personally, I read this as a Christophany - an appearance of pre-incarnate Jesus in scripture - because an angel of God will not receive worship (in both Revelation 19 and 22 John tells of falling at the feet of a glorious being and he is told, "See that you do it not! I am your fellow servant - worship God!") and this Person not only receives worship, He commands it ("take off your sandals; this is holy ground").

So, if this is Jesus appearing to Joshua, why in the world doesn't He say, "of course I'm on your side! You are my chosen people!" ???

Because it is not for this Being, commanding the army of the LORD, to be on the side of Joshua - rather it is for Joshua to be on the side of the LORD. Likewise, it is not for the stone to accommodate itself to the builders but rather for the builders to accept the Stone provided by the divine Architect.

I wrote a song we use sometimes at church which says, "Help me line up with You, line up with You, line up with You, my Lord--" and that's my ongoing prayer, as God is doing the work of shaping me to fit His purposes and I resist the temptation to try and shape Him to fit my purposes!

God is big and unpredictable (to us, at least - Aslan is not a tame lion!); we know He is good and we know something about where He is taking us but the path is often circuitous - it's certainly not the way we would go, left to our own devices. And so we start questioning, doubting - maybe God hasn't taken everything into consideration? Maybe there's something we know which He hasn't noticed yet? (!! - I know it sounds silly, but how often do we pray as if we were instructing God on the shape of our lives? "Lord, I'm having this problem with XYZ..." "Really? Wow, Lynn, somehow I'd missed that--") And it's not a big step from there to thinking we have vending-machine god or portable god that fits in our pockets. We persist in trying to downsize God because, face it, He's too big for us to see in His entirety. I'm sure it's awesome and amazing to travel in the space shuttle or live in the space station, to look out the window and see the earth and the moon - but if you really want the whole picture, you have to leave the station or do an extra-vehicular activity. And even then, you're seeing through the limitations of your helmet....

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)