From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twelve, Day Three
Stones were used for building altars, homes, palaces, and temples. When "capstone" or "cornerstone" is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a particularly important stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner, one that stabilized the structure at the foundation, or one that formed the keystone over an arch or at the top of a roof parapet. In order to hold the structure together, the cornerstone had to be perfectly fitted for the task, both strong and well shaped. A flawed or poorly cut stone would compromise the building's integrity.
Jesus is the Cornerstone or Capstone to which we are joined as living stones. Together we form a spiritual house in which God can dwell.
As the foundation stone on which God is building his kingdom, Jesus is strong enough to hold everything together. He is also the fitting conclusion to all God's work. When you pray to him as the Cornerstone, you are praying to the One on whom you can base your life.
Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'?" >Luke 20:17
Praying the Name
The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread,
and he will be a sanctuary;
but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people
of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." Matthew 24:1-2
Praise God: For dwelling with us.
Offer Thanks: That God is a refuge for you.
Confess: Any patterns of self-reliance that keep you from relying on God.
Ask God: For the grace to be a refuge for others.
I remember listening to a call-in radio program a few days after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. A woman residing in Southern California called to say that she had decided to move to a remote region in Canada where she hoped her family would be safe. It seemed an extreme response, even more extreme than shelling out a few hundred dollars for a gas mask, as some people were doing at the time. I thought back to the bomb shelter that childhood friends had built during the Cold War when people feared Russia would launch a nuclear attack on the United States. Tucked into the side of a hill and stocked with provisions, it made a neat little refuge from tornadoes, if not from atomic bombs.
Every age and place seems to hold its share of danger and trouble. Who hasn't at one time or other looked for refuge, for a place in which to shelter until danger passes? For the Israelites the Jerusalem temple seemed to be just such a place. After all, it was where God had placed his name, where he had chosen to dwell. Hadn't God long ago promised that he himself would be a sanctuary to Israel?
But the promises of God swing one way for the faithful and another for the faithless. As Isaiah had prophesied, God would be a sanctuary for those who followed him but a stone of stumbling for those who did not. Jesus himself wept over Jerusalem, foreseeing a time when it would be overrun by its enemies, when one stone would not stand upon another, because its people had failed to recognize God's coming to them.
In AD 30 Jesus predicted the temple's destruction. His words must have sounded ridiculous to those accustomed to worshiping in such a magnificent structure. How could God not be pleased with it? After all, it had taken forty-six years to build, and the work was still not complete. Herod had spared no expense on the massive building project. Constructed of white marble, its eastern front was covered with plates of gold that reflected the rays of the rising sun. Yet forty years after Jesus' prediction, the temple was destroyed. The Romans burned it to the ground when they overran Jerusalem in AD 70, and the six thousand people who had sought refuge inside the temple perished as well. It has never been rebuilt.
The New Testament clearly presents Jesus as the cornerstone of the new and living temple that God is building. As Christ's followers, we are living stones, integral parts of a structure that is being built to last forever. Together we form the temple in which God dwells. Joined to Christ as the cornerstone and to our brothers and sisters, we are living stones cemented together by bonds of faith. In this way, we both find and become a place of refuge.
If this is God's intention, what then is our experience? Do we draw strength and hope from Christ and from those who love him, standing firm in our faith when life is difficult? Or do we revert to old habits and patterns of behavior that make it clear we are pinning our hopes, not on God, but on our relationships, our sense of prosperity, our success? What if the stock market crashes next week? What if a spouse is diagnosed with a chronic and debilitating illness? What if a child dies? Where will we find refuge when everything in this world collapses? Let's ask God today to give us a vision for what it means both to take refuge in him and to become a refuge for others as we link our lives to his in faith.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.