The Precious Stone
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:4–12, especially verse 7: “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.”
Introduction: Is anyone here wearing jewelry? Any diamonds? Any rubies or emeralds? Any precious stones? We wouldn’t normally think of using that word “precious” to describe a rock or a stone, yet we’ve all heard the phrase “precious stones.” Well, three times in this passage, Peter uses the word “precious” to describe our Lord Jesus (vv. 4, 6, and 7), and strangely, he portrays Christ as a precious stone.
1. As We Come to Christ, He Becomes Our Cornerstone (vv. 4–7). Peter begins with the assumption that we have come to Christ for salvation. Verse 4: Coming to Him as to a living stone.… The word “come” is a word of obedience. This is one of the first commands taught in dog obedience school. The word “come” appears in the Bible 1,706 times. Jesus says, “Come!” It’s an invitation, but also a command. We can turn toward Him and run into His embrace, or we can turn on our heels and run in the other direction. Jesus has been saying, “Come!” to people of every generation, and He calls the same to you and me today. As we come to Christ, He becomes our Cornerstone. Verse 7 tells us He is a cornerstone others have missed: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This quote from Psalm 118:22–23 is repeated five times in the New Testament as referring to Christ. Jesus used it in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17. Peter preached from it at the beginning of his ministry in Acts 4:11, and quoted it near the end of his life here in 1 Peter 2:7. German theologian Johann David Michaelis felt this was referring to an event that reportedly took place during the building of Solomon’s temple. It’s said there was no sound of hammers or pounding, the temple being erected in relative silence. The plans were so exact that each stone was perfectly shaped at the quarry. Arriving at the site, each fit perfectly into place. But one huge stone didn’t seem to fit anywhere, and the builders placed it to the side. Eventually it got in the way, and workmen pushed it over the bank and it rolled into the Kidron Valley. After the foundation had been laid, the time came to hoist the cornerstone into place. Word was sent to the quarry, but the masons replied that it had already been delivered. It was that rejected stone! Being retrieved, it slid perfectly into place, serving as the stone that held all the others in position. When we come to Christ, He becomes the Cornerstone for our lives and for our church. That leads to the second part of the equation:
2. If He Is Our Cornerstone, We Are His Construction Project (vv. 4–5). Ever heard the phrase: “Please be patient; God is not finished with me yet”? We’re all under construction. The Lord is building “a spiritual house;” and the emphasis isn’t just on His work in us as individuals, but as a church. Notice how Peter described the church: Living stones being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, aliens and strangers in the world. That leads us to the third part of the equation:
3. If We Are His Construction Project, We Have Divine Purpose (v. 9). No one ever constructed a temple or cathedral without having a vision for it—of what it could be for the glory of God. What does God intend for us? What function and role has He designed for us? Verse 9 says: “… that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”
4. If We Have Divine Purpose, We Should Live Accordingly (vv. 11–12). The word “abstain” means to refrain from doing certain things, going certain places, indulging in certain habits. The Christian life is a restrictive life. Jesus talked about self-denial, and the Bible frequently uses the words “discipline” and “self-control.” Many things may be fun for the moment, but only at the expense of our welfare and testimony. But the positives of self-discipline outweigh the negatives, and the blessings are far greater than anything we give up.
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
Scripture: Numbers 6:22–27, especially verse 24: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
Introduction: Let’s begin the year on a positive note, with a timely blessing and a timeless benediction. Numbers 6 gives various instructions to Israel’s priests. In verses 22–27, they are told how to bless their people. We call this the Priestly Blessing, or the Aaronic Blessing or Benediction. Aaron, Israel’s chief priest, was to pronounce it on ancient Israel. But in a special way, it’s for you and me at the beginning of this New Year.
1. A Blessing in Triplicate. Notice the threefold use of God’s name: The Lord … the Lord … the Lord…. This represented the fullness of God’s blessing. He was blessing and blessing and blessing again. It reminds us of the three-fold angelic song in Isaiah 6: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The triple use of the word intensifies the reality to an infinite degree. As Ecclesiastes puts it: “A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” But there may be a greater significance to this triune formula. The Israelites didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity as we do; but the Book of Numbers wasn’t written just for them. These passages were written for God’s people of all ages. Looking through the lens of subsequent revelation, it seems natural to understand that the three-fold blessing of Numbers 6 suggests the Trinity. Compare the Apostolic Benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14. Some feel the Aaronic Blessing should be read with the Trinity in mind:
• God the Father bless you and keep you.
• God the Son make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
• God the Spirit lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
2. A Blessing from Christ. While the blessings are from the Triune God, the Blesser Himself is the Lord Jesus. This was a priestly blessing, given to Aaron as the high priest of Israel representing the Almighty. According to Hebrews 5, Aaron was a foreshadowing of Christ, our Great High Priest. Our Lord’s last act of ministry before returning to heaven was to bless His people (Luke 24:50–51). His nail-pierced hand is lifted over the heads of His children in continual blessing.
3. A Blessing with Authority. Christ conveys this blessing to us with authority. This wasn’t just an expression of good will or a simple prayer. In Old Testament times, Aaron, endued with the authority of Almighty God and using the Divine Name and the appointed words of God Himself, conveyed God’s blessings on the congregation.
4. A Blessing According to Our Needs. The six components of this blessing correspond to our needs:
A. The Lord Bless You. “Bless” is a common Old Testament word, occurring (with its derivatives) about 415 times. It implied life, health, and prosperity. These blessings are spelled out for Israel in Deuteronomy 28, and for the Christian in Ephesians 1–3 (see Eph. 1:3).
B. The Lord Keep You. “Keep” conveys the idea of protection. It was used for a shepherd’s keeping watch over his flock. Its root meant “to hedge about.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this term, “to exercise great care over.”
C. The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You. Here the idea is sunshine. We’re to soak up the light, joy, radiance, and enthusiasm of Almighty God. We need to be close to Him, in His Word, worshiping and loving Him. As we absorb His light, we begin glowing in the darkness like a child’s luminescent object.
D. The Lord Be Gracious to You. Gracious here means “ kind and beneficent.” Prominent in this is the idea of forgiveness.
E. The Lord Lift Up His Countenance Upon You. In the Bible, relationships were often expressed in terms of facial expressions. When Cain became angry with Aaron, his countenance fell. When Laban became frustrated with Jacob, his countenance was not favorable toward him. The Lord’s lifting up His countenance implies His fellowship and smile.
F. The Lord Give You Peace. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom (see Is. 26:3).
5. Blessings Equated to the Name of God. This Aaronic benediction was equated to the Name of God (v. 27). The blessings of Christ indicate He has put His name on us, we are called by His name. Do you need His blessings? Are you ready to turn from sin and Satan, to give yourself wholeheartedly to Him? Here at the beginning of a new year, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.