Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold,
I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘
Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4
And as he came out of the temple, one of his
disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!
Over five hundred years before Jesus was born, Jewish exiles in Babylon returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple (Ezra 3). About 160 years before Jesus was born, Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiled the temple by dedicating it to Zeus and sacrificing a pig on the altar. The Maccabean family led a revolt, taking back the temple and rededicating it. In 39 BC, Herod the Great overran the temple and killed many of the priests. About twenty years later, he tried to placate the Jewish populace by renovating the temple to surpass the standards God gave Solomon. Although major construction was completed in only a few years, it wasn't entirely finished until AD 67—long after this passage in Mark occurred.
Three years later, the Romans besieged Jerusalem and
fulfilled Jesus' prophecy that
every stone would be taken, one from another
At this time, the temple and surrounding courtyard are indeed "wonderful."
The temple is massive, made of great white stones.
The eastern side is covered in gold. Herod not only expanded the temple, he expanded the top of the temple Mount. He built great walls to roughly square off the plateau, and back-filled them to flatten the top. Porticoes—open-air porches— line the top edges. The largest, Solomon's portico, borders the southern edge.
On the northwest corner is Antonia Fortress, home to the garrison that guards the temple Mount against riots. It is this garrison that will save Paul when he is wrongly accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple (Acts 21:27–36).
Throughout the week, Jesus and the disciples have probably entered the temple courtyard through the east gate, where the morning sun shines through and onto the temple. Although built by an evil, quasi-Jewish king, the temple is architecturally a magnificent emblem, representing both the worship of God and the nationalism of the Jews. Unfortunately, it has become more of the latter and less of the former.
The building that should be the centerpiece of God-worship
is now a symbol of corruption
The resurrection of Jesus
is the cornerstone to a worldview
that provides the perspective to all of life.
And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The term living stones in 1 Peter 2:5 is used as a metaphor to illustrate the secure and intimate relationship believers have with Jesus, who is described in the previous verse as the “living Stone” (1 Peter 2:4). Together, these two verses picture how Christ and His followers are joined by God Himself: “As you come to him, the LIVING Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5).
The foundation of God’s building is
His Son, Jesus Christ,
the “living Stone.”
The “living stones,” in turn, are believers who come to Jesus and place their lives upon this foundation.
The living Stone is “precious” to those who believe (1 Peter 2:7), but some men reject the living Stone in order to build their lives their own way, not God’s way (see Psalm 118:22 and Luke 6:46–49). Unbelievers cast this living Stone aside, not caring that Jesus is the only true foundation upon which they can build securely (1 Corinthians 3:11).
In a metaphor much like that of the living Stone, Jesus is described as the chief cornerstone in Ephesians 2:19–22. Peter references Jesus as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11–12, stating that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” God accepts no one who refuses to become a part of His building.
And God is just like all builders--
He has a foundation upon which all workers must build
So what is the significance
of the stones of remembrance
in Joshua 4:9?
It is one of the climactic events in all of biblical history. The Israelites had waited forty years, but now the time had come. It is a poignant moment as they stride across the riverbed of the Jordan, opened for them by the miraculous power of God. Behind them, they leave the wearying decades of meandering around in a barren wilderness and the tragic memories of countless funerals for an entire generation of people who would not trust God's promises. Slavery in Egypt and the bare survival of nomadic life are bygone experiences now.
A new and welcome chapter opens before them!
Before them lay a land richer than their dreams, more fruitful than their hopes, and more beautiful than their imagination. Now it is theirs by God's steadfast promise.
It must have felt surreal to finally stand in Canaan, kind of like when you unlock the door to your first home. You've envisioned it, planned for it, imagined what you will do with it…but when you step in that front door, your emotions soar!
To be the fulfillment of an ancient promise to Father Abraham must have been overwhelming.
Their joy had been magnified by recent events.
When they arrived at the Jordan, they found it is flood stage, menacing in its speed and dangerous fro what it concealed. The jungle-like grow covered by the rapid current left Israel flatfooted. The river was impassible, its crossing impossible.
But God intervened, performing a miracle that paralleled the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt.
God rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, just as He had done with the Red Sea.
God meant what He had said through Moses years before.
Here was His signature again,
in the same way, to assure His people that
He was good to His word.
I imagine there were songs and shouts as
God's people worshiped and exulted in Him.
After the people of Israel supernaturally crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, God commanded Joshua to “choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight’” (Joshua 4:2–3, NLT).
These stones of remembrance
would serve as a permanent national reminder and a memorial to future generations of the miraculous river crossing.
Joshua’s stones of remembrance
are just one monument in a series of memorials commemorating the mighty acts of God on behalf of the people of Israel (Exodus 13:3–6; 24:4; Deuteronomy 27:1–8; Joshua 22:9–12; 24:24–28; 1 Samuel 7:12).
To everyone else, the stones were just a heap of rubble, but to the people of God, they were a constant reminder that
Yahweh was a personal and powerful God,
working wonders on behalf of His people.
When the people following Joshua arrived at the Jordan, the river was at flood stage, transforming it from its typical 100-foot width to a daunting mile-wide, raging river. Israel’s entrance into Canaan was completely blocked. But as soon as the priests dipped their feet in the river’s edge, God stopped the flow of water, and the people crossed on dry ground.
The priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the riverbed until the whole nation had passed over (Joshua 3:14–17).
Then God gave Joshua instructions to appoint twelve men, one from each tribe. The men were each to retrieve one stone from where the priests had stood in the riverbed bearing the ark of the covenant. The stones of remembrance were not to come from the shores of the Jordan but the center, spotlighting the fact that Israel had crossed over on dry land.
Each of the stones of remembrance represented one of the tribes of Israel. The number twelve is repeated five times in Joshua 4:1–8, emphasizing the unity of the tribes as one nation under Joshua’s leadership.
The twelve stones of remembrance would
now serve as a perpetual sign and memorial.
--stones that at one point were buried, unreachable, covered by a challenge to the faith of God's people, but were now divinely accessible.
Joshua piled them up in Gilgal, where the Israelites set up camp. “Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘In the future your children will ask, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the LORD your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the LORD’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the LORD your God forever’” (Joshua 4:21–24, NLT)
Remembering the past plays a vital role in the identity of any nation. Sociologists claim that a society aspiring to endure must become “a community of memory and hope” God repeatedly directed ancient Israel to set up monuments and enact rituals such as the Passover (Exodus 13—14). Each tribute marked a significant historical memory that would offer future hope for the nation that God had claimed as His own.
Crossing the Jordan represented a major change for the nation of Israel.
Their wilderness wanderings were over. No longer would Israel be fed with manna provided by the hand of God (Joshua 5:12). From now on, the people would need to walk by faith in God’s promise to give them a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).
God sent the ark ahead of the people into the overflowing waters to encourage their faith. The ark represented God’s presence, His very self, going before them and opening the way for them in their new walk of faith. Just as God had parted the Red Sea to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt, so also would He spread open the Jordan to lead them into the Promised Land. Remembering God’s miraculous provision and presence gave the children of Israel the courage to follow Him into this new territory fraught with conflict and enemies to conquer.
With stones of remembrance, the Israelites built a monument to commemorate their crossing over from the old way of life into the new in the Promised Land. The pile of twelve stones reminded Israel of what God had done for them—that He cared for His people, kept His promises, and went before them in victory to conquer the land of their inheritance. This is the message the stones declared to Israel, and this is what they say to us today.
They represented a sign, an unmistakable marker at the very place where God had demonstrated His power to overcome any obstacle to His will. Because stones don't naturally stack, there would come a day when Israel's children would ask for an explanation for this phenomenon.
This is what happens when the impossible meets the promises of God. This is the outcome when the implausible comes up against the glorious riches of God in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 2:5 You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
God is faithful. His promises never fail (1 Kings 8:56). With the assurance of His presence and the reminder of His mighty power, the Lord bolsters our faith whenever He asks us to follow Him into new areas of battle and conquest. We can let these stones remind us, too, that unless we step out in faith and get our feet wet as the priests did, we’ll never fully experience the new life of faith and freedom that Christ has opened up for us as our inheritance in Him (Galatians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:16).
“To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).
In part of the Lord’s message to the church of Pergamum, we read, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17). The book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature, which features symbolism and sometimes bizarre imagery in its presentation of prophecy. The “hidden manna” mentioned in the letter to Pergamum is one example of such symbolism.
Quite simply, the hidden manna is a symbolic picture of Jesus Christ. As the manna of the Exodus sustained and strengthened the Israelites for the forty years of desert wanderings, so Jesus strengthens and sustains us spiritually as we walk through this life on our way to heaven. Jesus is the “manna” from heaven—the spiritual sustenance we need—and it is promised to us.
Jesus Himself made the connection between the manna of Moses’ day and His own provision of salvation: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:48–51, 58). The manna that sustained the Israelites was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ; the manna mentioned in Revelation 2:17 is another, symbolic reference to Christ.
As a symbol, the hidden manna of Revelation 2:17 is not to be taken literally; in other words, Jesus is not speaking of something we literally eat. Rather, the Bread of Life is something we “ingest” in another, non-physical way. We receive the benefits of salvation by faith (John 1:12).
The manna is “hidden” in that it is given exclusively to believers in Christ. Only believers will reap the benefits of salvation. The unbelieving world that rejects Christ will never know the joy and satisfaction of faith in Him.
The recipient of the hidden manna is specified in Revelation 2:17 as “the one who is victorious.” The overcomer is one who endures in his faith, despite trials and hardships. Overcomers are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of this world. An overcomer holds fast to faith in Christ until the end. He demonstrates complete dependence upon the Lord Jesus through thick and thin. First John 5:4–5 encourages us that all who are born again will overcome this world: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
As we seek to remain faithful to Jesus, living in light of His death, burial, and resurrection for forgiveness of sins, and resisting the temptations of the world, we are promised goodness. The hidden manna from heaven will be ours. Even if the world cannot understand how, we will be strengthened. We will be sustained.
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.”
“But the Master, God, has something to say to this: “Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple. I’ll make justice the measuring stick and righteousness the plumb line for the building. A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.”
“Therefore the Lord God says this, “Listen carefully, I am laying in Zion a Stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone for the [secure] foundation, firmly placed. He who believes [who trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone] will not be disturbed or give way [in sudden panic]. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and waters will flood over the secret [hiding] place.”
“Jesus is the Stone that the builders of this world rejected. In ancient architecture the cornerstone was the principle stone placed at the corner of a great edifice, such as the temple. The Cornerstone was the most precious, valuable, and carefully constructed stone in the entire building. It was the stone upon which all others rested, and it brought unity to the whole. The Church can be compared to a temple with each of us being like living stones. Christ is the head corner stone. Our strong foundation, the one who holds us all together, and the one given the greatest honor. The metaphor is similar to the picture of the Church as one body with Christ as the head. This one, that has been scorned and rejected by the world, is the one whom God has given the chief importance and the greatest honor.”
Isaiah has been telling us that the people of Israel and Judah have chosen to disregard God’s directives, and ignore His teachings, choosing instead to make a contract with death. Leadership was found saying:
“We have made a pact with death; we’ve made a deal with the grave.
When the scourge of disease and doom comes our way, they won’t touch us.
Death and the grave will pass us by
for our fraud disguises us, and deception is our shield.” -Isaiah 28:15
“So the Lord, the Eternal, has this to say: Eternal One: See here, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone—a cornerstone, chosen and precious—for a firm foundation. Whoever trusts in it will never be disgraced. Justice will be the line by which I lay out its floor plan, and righteousness will be My leveling tool. A hailstorm will pulverize and wash away the fraud and deception behind which people hide, and floodwaters will overrun their hiding place.”
Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty,
response to their prideful attitude and arrogance is found in our text. Here we find a prophetic Word about a Stone, which will be the measuring stick or plumb line, to check whether the foundation that the people were building lined up to God’s standards. This Stone, notice the capital “S”, was/is the person of Jesus Christ.
“But the Lord God says, “See, I am placing a Foundation Stone in Zion—a firm, tested, precious Cornerstone that is safe to build on. He who believes need never run away again. I will take the line and plummet of justice to check the foundation wall you built; it looks so fine, but it is so weak a storm of hail will knock it down! The enemy will come like a flood and sweep it away, and you will be drowned.”
“With this stone metaphor, the biblical writers established that the kingdom God built would be founded upon Jesus Christ. Every detail in its dimensions, shape, size, and form relates directly to Christ. Without the corner stone, the building has no value.”
Psalm 118 is attributed to David. Within its stanzas of praise, we find this prophetic word about Jesus Christ the Messiah, though Jewish rabbis and tradition felt it referred to David himself:
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” -Psalm 118:22
Paul, writing to the church in Rome, refers to Isaiah’s prophecy. Paul is explaining about the God’s plan, from the beginning, that the Gospel was to be for all man, both Jew, and Gentile. This fact would become a tumbling block for many Jews. Paul wrote:
“So what does all of this mean? Did the non-Jews stumble into a right standing with God without chasing after it? Yes, they found it through faith. And has Israel, who pursued the law to secure a right standing with God, failed to keep the law? Yes again. And why is that? Because Israel did not follow the path of faith. They thought that whatever they needed to be right with God could be accomplished by doing the works of the law; they tripped over the stumbling stone. As the Scriptures say, “Look what I am going to do in Zion. I’ll put in place a stone that makes them stumble, a rock that trips them up, and those who trust in it will not be disgraced.” -Romans 9:30-33
Jesus, speaking to the Chief Priests and Elders, made reference to the Stone, that the builders rejected. He said this:
“Jesus asked them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The [very] Stone which the builders rejected and threw away,
Has become the chief Cornerstone;
This is the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous and wonderful in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to [another] people who will produce the fruit of it. And he who falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces; but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Matthew 21:42-44 (AMP)
Peter also wrote about the Stone, which we know this Stone as Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior. Peter writes that those who choose to depend on the Stone, saying they would never be disgraced or disappointed.
“Come to Him—the living stone—who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed. For it says in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “See here—I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious;
Whoever depends upon Him will never be disgraced.” To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious; but to you who don’t, remember the words of the psalmist: “The stone that the builders rejected
has been laid as the cornerstone—the very stone that holds together the entire foundation,” and of Isaiah: “A stone that blocks their way,
a rock that trips them.” They stumble because they don’t follow the word of God, as they were destined to do.” -1 Peter 2:4-8
“The stone is a stone of judgment. It is not susceptible to destruction by its enemies. All efforts against the stone shatter to pieces. Furthermore, it falls in judgment on those who reject it. ”
My friend, Jesus is the Cornerstone, the very One that so many have rejected. He is our measuring stick, our plumb line, to compare ourselves to, not other people, but Jesus. If we follow His ways, and live as He directed, we will never be disgraced or disappointed.
As living stones, we have new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As integral parts of the building of God, we have security in Christ (John 6:37). As the Master Builder, God places His living stones just where He wants us to be (1 Corinthians 12:18). As living stones, we are connected to one another in the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). Our Lord, the foundation Stone, is alive forevermore and will never crumble. He will support us eternally.
Peter goes on to describe the function of the living stones: to “declare the praises” of Him who called us out of the darkness of sin into the light of life and glory (1 Peter 2:9). This is the “job description” of a living stone: a speaker of praise, a declarer of truth and love and light. The spiritual house God is building is designed for His glory, and we, the living stones, glorify the Lord in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
What do these remembrance stones mean in Joshua?
I. It's all about God
Seeing that rock pile and hearing the story, the people of Israel would know clearly that they had not crossed Jordan on their own. Those stones cried out, "God did this! By His hand we have forded this river. By His power and faithfulness we have accomplished this!"
So may this memorial stand to speak to us all. Let it remind us that Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor over it in vain (Ps. 127:1). Let the hallowed act of our devotion come back to strengthen us that it truly is "Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit," says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6). From start to finish, from every dollar given to every brick laid, let God be all in this place!
II. We have a missionary purpose
Joshua told Israel that the stones would serve as a reminder that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord's hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God." (v. 24) Let no one be confused. We have no mission here but the Great Commission. These buildings aren't memorials to us, but to Him! We exist to know God and make Him known. Our buildings exist, not to make us comfortable or proud, but for God's glory and the gospel's advance.
III. We must change if we want to go with God
The stones out of the Jordan marked the movements of God among His people. They testified of the willingness of a people to leave what they had known in order to go with God, to face challenges to their faith, to step into the water, to believe in what they could not see.
Here me, people of God:
Between the realization of this dream God has planted in our hearts and where we are now, there stands some daunting boundaries. We cannot yet see how God will do it, but we believe He is faithful. It's time to venture with God into His future for us.
This is all about God and His glory; it is about the missionary purpose for which we exist; it is about the challenge to change so that God can manifest His glory more fully through us.
God Almighty, I ask that you remind me that I should not be comparing standards to the World, but only to Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. He is the standard that I am to be following, my perfect example. To those who have accepted His gift of salvation, He is a Cornerstone, a blessing. To those who do not know Him, He is a stumbling block. Thank you, Lord, for being my living example. Help me to pursue becoming more like you every day,
my precious Cornerstone.