Therefore thus said the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone…
(Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude): — It is the first chapter out of the six which form the "Book of Woes" (Delitzsch). The Messianic prophecy, though full of consolation, "turns its dark side" — for it has one — to the scoffing magnates of Jerusalem (ver. 14). The zeal of the prophet, manifested in this lesson, against vice and unbelief, may have led to its selection for this festival of St. Simon and St. Jude. The Church has combined them together — these two apostles — in one commemoration, perhaps, among other reasons, because they shared in an especial degree the same spirit of zeal. St. Simon was called the Zealot, it may be, because the quality of zeal was very marked in his temperament; and St. Jude has the name Thaddaeus, probably for the same reason. At any rate, his Epistle is one of denunciation — a "Book of Woes" against ungodly persons.
I. THE IMAGE.
1. No one person can satisfy the "majestically unique description" but Christ. The Divine purpose is spoken of as if already accomplished. Behold, I "have laid" in Zion. It was eternally decreed. It is the acme and explanation of Israel's election and history.
2. It was no new figure. Isaiah himself had spoken of Jehovah as "a stone of stumbling" (Isaiah 8:14). We must go back to Jacob's parting blessing upon his sons to find the same figure in patriarchal days (Genesis 49:24). Joseph's history was a picture of the rejecting of "the stone" and of its final triumph. The Psalmist foretold the same vicissitude (Psalm 118:22). Our Lord alluded to "the stone" as signifying Himself (Matthew 21:42). St. Peter, when brought before the council, denounced the Jews for setting at nought this "stone" (Acts 4:11). The same apostle quotes the text in his first Epistle (chap. 2:6) with a variance, and St. Paul a portion of it (Romans 9:33).
3. The frequency of its use or reference shows some especial fitness in the designation. At once the ideas of solidity and strength suggest themselves. Other ideas are connected with "the stone" as a figure of our Lord, by Zechariah. It is "a stone of seven eyes," meaning doubtless that the seven gifts of the Spirit rested upon Him, and setting Him before us as a Being full of light and knowledge.
II. THE QUALITIES OF THE STONE.
1. A "tried" stone. We miss this in the quotation of the text in the New Testament. Both St. Peter and St. Paul cite the LXX, which omits it, and cite it freely, one of them blending it with another prophecy. The word "tried" may be interpreted also "trial stone" or "stone of probation." Both interpretations are true of Jesus Christ. Christ was tried and "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin," and through His sufferings was not only proved, but "approved of God" (Acts 2:22). He is also a stone which puts others to the test, like the Lydian stone, which was said to distinguish the genuine metal and to detect the presence of alloy — to separate the true from the false (Luke 2:34). Throughout our Lord's life we see, as He came in contact with men, this discerning of spirits, but especially during His Passion.
2. A "precious cornerstone." St. Peter says, "elect, precious" — chosen, that is, of God, and precious both in itself and in relation to the building of which it was the cornerstone. A cornerstone is the stone of junction, where the walls meet. The expression in its highest sense may indicate the union between the Divine and human natures in the One Person of the Word; or, in a less elevated sense, it may refer to the union of Jews and Gentiles in the one Body of Christ (Ephesians 2:15).
3. A "sure foundation." A foundation stone implies a building — implies here the Church, and the "cornerstone" does the same (Ephesians 2:20, ἀκρογωνιαῖος) — the stone at the extreme corner. The image is somewhat different — the one points to the base, the other to the extreme angle of the building. Christ is "Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (Revelation 22:13). There is no contradiction between the statement that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles," and that "no other foundation can be laid" "than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). Christ is, St. explains, "Fundamentum fundamentorum." We are built upon the apostles, because through the apostles we are built upon Christ. He is a "sure" foundation, so that the gates of hell, though they may war against, yet can they not overcome the Church. The foundation is "most surely laid" by "the Lord God Himself."
1. As Christ is the foundation stone, so each Christian is a stone built upon Him, and deriving his spiritual life from Him. St. Peter speaks of Christ as a "living stone." The apostle passes here from the metaphor to the reality. "Dead as a stone" is a common saying; but the stone which the builders rejected came forth from the tomb, not only living, but life giving. Each Christian, "baptized into one body," and living in fellowship with Christ, is a living stone from contact with Him (1 Peter 2:5). See, then, that we are living in union with Christ.
2. We are not only built upon Christ, but are cemented together with other stones in the walls of the "spiritual house." We are members of a Divine society, and not isolated Christians. Hence love of the brethren is a duty which devolves upon every Christian — union with them as well as with Christ, as we are cemented together by the Spirit of the Lord.
3. Though living stones differ from ordinary stones in that the latter have no wills or powers of motion, but are simply passive in the hands of the quarryman or mason; yet the living stone depends for its vitality upon the absolute surrender of the will into the hands of God, so that it may be hewn and shaped and polished, by the trials of this life, as the Master. Builder thinks best.
(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.