The Three Stones
Right after the 911 attacks, the president addressed the nation. He said, “A great people have been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot shake the foundation of America!” In other words, “even though we just experienced one of the worst days in American history, we’re going to make it! We’re going to survive! Because this nation is built on something more solid than cement! This nation has a sure foundation!”/
Tonight, as we study Isaiah 28:15-16, we’re going to make sure that our own lives are built on a sure foundation.
We know from verses one through fourteen that Israel’s foundation is shaky. In verses 1-4 Isaiah characterizes the Ten Northern Tribes as arrogant drunkards. To break their arrogance, God will bring the Assyrians against his people, resulting in their deportation. That literally took place in 721 B.C.
The two Southern Tribes of Judah and Benjamin are no better. Their national life is characterized by drunkenness (vv. 7-8), disdain (vv. 9-10), and disbelief (vv. 14-15). They had rejected the word of the Lord spoken through Isaiah the prophet. Their disbelief is indicted by a treaty of protection signed with Egypt. They tell Isaiah in verse 15, “We have made a covenant with death! Because of our diplomatic relationship with Egypt, nothing can hurt us! We have created for ourselves a safe and secure society!”
But Isaiah says at the end of verse 15, “You’re trusting in a lie! The Egyptians aren’t going to keep you safe. If you put your trust in them instead of putting your trust in God, then you are building your lives on a shaky foundation.” Just a few chapters over, the prophet is very clear:
“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin;” (Isaiah 30:1, NIV84)
The result of this disobedience is two fold: 1) For Judah, the horrors of the Babylonian Captivity (28:11–13, 17–22; 29:1–4)—the people refuse to listen to God, so he will send the enemy like a flood to destroy them, 2) and far worse will be a spiritual sleep, causing the people in their blindness to later reject their own Messiah:
“For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, And hath closed your eyes: The prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, Which men deliver to one that is learned, Saying, Read this, I pray thee: And he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, Saying, Read this, I pray thee: And he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isaiah 29:10–13, KJV 1900)
Let me say this: If you are relying on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ to get you through this life, then just like Israel, you are building your life on a shaky foundation. Jesus is the solid Rock on which we stand! All other ground is sinking sand!
In the Scriptures, Jesus is the Rock of Ages. That “rock” is portrayed as a stumbling stone, a foundation stone, and a smiting stone.
I. STUMBLING STONE
- when we consider the humble birth of Jesus, it amazes us that a poor, helpless baby is to be our deliverer
- before Christ, no writer in antiquity ever used the word “humble” as a tribute to a great man
- Jesus simply did not fit the “picture” of the kind of Messiah the nation of Israel was expecting
- when Jesus came before His synagogue in Nazareth as a young man, declaring Himself the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, the town rejected him outright, because they only saw His humanity
- they could not conceive that one of their own townsfolk might emerge as the hope of Israel and the revelation of the glory of God
- they even talk about him, Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Don’t we know his brothers and his sisters?
- the townspeople likely thought back to the glory days of David and Solomon, and wondered, “How could this local kid bring about that kind of glory?”
- even our Lord’s Name was a stumbling stone
- it’s special for us, but in that day, “Jesus” was a very ordinary Jewish name, like “Jim” or “Joe” today
- we sing how marvelous, how matchless the Name of Jesus is, but in His day it was a common name
- “Jesus” is a form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”; both mean “he shall save”
- I’m sure that our Lord’s neighbors didn’t think the meaning applied to Him
- once Jesus began his public ministry, he didn’t make belief in him easier
- his words are not always easy to grasp
- sometimes even the disciples had to pull him aside privately and say, “We don’t get it.”
- he made many provocative statements
- like “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven!”
- he often expressed truth through stories and symbols, and didn’t make it easy for people to understand His meaning
- one of the reasons Jesus spoke in Parables was so that Isaiah 29:10-13 would be fulfilled!
- ILLUS. After His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, and the days prior to His betrayal, Jesus taught the people through a series of parables. In one of them, the Parable of the Tenants, He hinted at His rejection, yet the people listening were so caught up in the story they didn’t realize that He was talking about them. Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118, a chapter the crowds also quoted from when welcoming Him into the city: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
- ... when Jesus didn’t follow up His Triumphal Entry with a civil revolt
- ... when He appeared to not satisfy the political expectations of Israel
- ... when it became obvious that He wasn’t about to raise an army and drive Rome out of the land, the nation turned against Him
- Jesus became a stumbling stone and disappointed the short-sighted masses and he was rejected
- to modern-day Israel, Jesus remains a stumbling stone
- the Apostle Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews” (I Cor 1:23)
- ILLUS. In May of 2010, Moshe Rosen died and went home to be with his Messiah. Rosen was the founder and former Executive Director of Jews for Jesus. He writes about how he was regarded as an outcast by his people. They considered him as one who had forsaken Judaism. He argues that nothing could have been further from the truth. Moshe insisted that after his converstion, he is more Jewish than ever, that Jesus has made him kosher--because he followed the Jewish Messiah. He wrote: “I am a member of the people to whom Jesus chose to be born. I am Jewish just as Peter, Paul, James and John, who brought the message of the Messiah to the world. I was born a Jew and will die a Jew.” The most Jewish thing a person can do he said, was to believe in Jesus.
II. FOUNDATION STONE
- Jesus is the Rock upon which our faith is built
- He’s the cornerstone of the Church
- the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians that we are “members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord” (Eph 2:20-21)
- in Isaiah’s prophecy, this Foundation Stone has certain qualities
A. JESUS IS A PROVIDENTIAL STONE “I Lay in Zion”
- not just anything will do—God lays the foundation
B. JESUS IS A PROVEN STONE “tried stone”
- He has been tested and proven true
- on several occasions, the voice comes from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
C. JESUS IS A PRECIOUS STONE “precious cornerstone”
- ILLUS. In 1902, Charles H.Gabriel wrote a hymn that became a favorite among Baptists and Methodists. So precious is Jesus, my Savior, my King; His praise all the day long with rapture I sing. To Him in my weakness for strength I can cling, For He is so precious to me. Refrain: /For He is so precious, so precious to me; For He is so precious, so precious to me. ’Tis heaven below, my Redeemer to know, For He is so precious to me.
D. JESUS IS A PREEMINENT STONE “cornerstone”
- Jesus is not just any stone, but the stone of the corner
- this is a place of stability, but it is also a place of prominence
- the stone all will see is the cornerstone
- “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; ” (Colossians 1:18–19, KJV 1900)
E. JESUS IS A POWERFUL STONE “sure foundation”
- though all men will stand before a sin avenging God, we do not have to stand in the quicksand of our own deeds
- we stand on a sure foundation
- For Some, Jesus Is the Foundation Stone
III. SMITING STONE
- in the Book of Daniel we encounter a vivid, prophetic vision of an image made up of various substances--a head of gold, chest of silver, thighs of bronze, and feet of iron and clay
- most scholars believe this represents various kingdoms and empires throughout history
- Daniel then says, “While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.”
- the rest of the image was then broken to pieces and was swept away by the wind “without leaving a trace but the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34-35)
- if sinners do not fall upon the Rock of Ages the Rock of Ages becomes a smiting stone that falls upon sinners
- Jesus is coming again, and when He returns, He will destroy all evil in the world and complete His Kingdom
- the Messiah who came in meekness will return in judgment
- For the Lost, Jesus Will Be a Smiting Stone
As we await our Lord’s return, He is providing us time to get His message of salvation out to others. Our job is to share the free gift of God’s mercy, while warning people of the consequences of unbelief. Those who refuse to believe in Christ have made the greatest mistake of heir lives. To reject Christ is to reject life. For those of us who believe, Jesus is the Rock of Salvation. In Isaiah’s prophecy, the Father declares: “I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed” (Isa. 28:16).