Cornerstone

Read: Exodus 27-28, Matthew 21:23-46

Matthew 21:42

Anyone who believes that the only side of Jesus there is belongs to a gentle shepherd has missed a few verses. This verse, quoted from Psalm 118:22-23, is powerful on its own, but in the context of Matthew, it’s a rather firm jab at the chief priests and Pharisees. I can imagine Jesus staring down the temple leaders with piercing eyes as he tells them exactly who and what they are. They are the ones who rejected the stone, the Son. And if that wasn’t harsh enough, Jesus goes on.

Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.

Matthew 21:43-44 (NIV)

The leaders that Jesus was talking to thought they had it made. Plans were in the works to put Jesus—a man they saw as a disturber of the peace—to death. This man who dared to cause division among the Jews would be dealt with and their position would once again be secure. Yet here he is, in no uncertain terms telling them that they will be usurped. These men had made a religion based on their own beliefs and interpretations, leaving God completely out of the picture.

The parable that precedes Jesus’ statements is about a landowner who rents out his land. When the time for harvest came, he sent servants to collect his share of the fruit. The tenants decided that they did not want to give what was owed to the landowner and beat, killed, and stoned the servants. The landowner sent even more servants who were met with the same fate. Finally he sends his son believing that he would be treated as the landowner himself. Instead, the tenants kill the son with the intent of taking his inheritance.

Jesus then asked what would become of the tenants when the landowner returned.

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Matthew 21:41 (NIV)

Without knowing it, the Pharisees had condemned themselves. By refusing to give the son the same honour as the father, the tenants robbed themselves of the right to remain in the land. God is the Father. Jesus is the Son. Because the chief priests and Pharisees refused to see Jesus for who he was, they essentially removed themselves from the kingdom of God.

Position is not what gets any of us into the kingdom. It doesn’t matter so much what we build, but rather how we build it. The Jewish leaders of Jesus time failed to recognise Jesus as the cornerstone. If Jesus, as the Son, is not given the honour that is due to him, any foundation we may attempt to build will crumble.

CORNERSTONE: The stone which lies at the corner of two walls, and unites them; the principles stone, and especially the stone which forms the corner of the foundation of an edifice.

Jesus has to be at the centre of anything we do in the name of our faith. Without him, our labour is in vain. He is the rock, the cornerstone, the foundation on which the entire kingdom of God rests.

These rules

My parents have family rules. Even now that all of us kids are adults, there are still certain parameters and guidelines that we are expected to live by, especially when it comes to our interaction with each other. Anyone else who joins the family—by marriage or by birth—is expected to adapt to the family code of conduct. It’s not always easy and we don’t always like it, but in the end, we’re all still family and we still love each other.

God has adopted us into His family. And, like my parents, He has a set of rules and guidelines that we are expected to follow as members of the family.

God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules, but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NLT)

If I decide that I no longer want to play by my family’s rules, I’m not only being rebellious, but I am telling my parents and the rest of the family that I no longer respect them and cannot be bothered to act in a manner fitting to be part of the clan.

We do the same to God. He has called us to a higher standard of living than the one we lived before we came to Him. He has grand plans for all of us—if we follow His instructions. But if we make the decision to disobey Him, we are not only letting down our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are essentially saying that God is good, but not good enough and that His plans and purposes aren’t worth our effort. We not only reject His rules, but we reject God himself.

So, if we don’t feel like living up to God’s standards, what does that say about how we feel toward salvation? If God isn’t enough, was Jesus’ sacrifice enough? Was his message not worth his time and effort?

My parents haven’t laid out guidelines for the family to be mean or spiteful, they’ve done it so that we can continue to have fruitful relationships with each other. God has done the same. All of the rules He has given us are not to take things away from us, but to prepare us for the great things He has in store for us.

These rules aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 59-61, 1 Thessalonians 4

Shadows and light

All through Bible school, I heard the term type and shadow in reference to comparing the Old Testament against the New. It’s all type and shadow. After you hear something over and over again, it can either become a great revelation or it can cease to carry meaning altogether. I claim the latter on this particular term. Until today, that is.

I’ve always known that the New Testament is a brighter reflection of the Old Testament. There are many parallels to be found between the two. But it wasn’t until reading Stephen’s last message to the high council that the light finally came on. He is telling the tale of Jewish history. (This is moderately amusing because, who would know Jewish history better than their high council?) Stephen starts with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and goes on to Moses.

And so God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected.

Acts 7:35a (NLT)

That sounds familiar.

Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT)

Moses was a man rejected by his own people. Jesus was a man rejected by his own people.

He was the mediator between the people of Israel and the angel who gave him life-giving words on Mount Sinai to pass on to us.

Acts 7:38b (NLT)

Israel needed a mediator between themselves and God so that they could receive the inheritance God promised to them. Hey, I know someone else who needs a mediator to receive an inheritance.

The is why he [Jesus] is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them.

Hebrews 9:15a (NLT)

Could it be that God had already proven it possible that a man rejected by his own people could still be their saviour? The Jews, knowing the account of Moses, should have been well-prepared to receive Jesus. Yet history repeated itself, the Old Testament becoming a shadow in the light of the New Covenant.

The great difference is this: where Moses was unable to reach the Promised Land, Jesus has already gone ahead of us. Our way is paved and ready to go. We have two choices—we can be like the ten scouts who saw only giants and impossibility or we can be like Caleb and Joshua, ready, willing, able, and full of confidence.

You can live in the shadow of the Old Covenant or bask in the light of the New.

Daily Bible reading: Job 4-6, Acts 7:20-43

Never fail

Sometimes I like to look up words that I hear a lot. In the church, we often hear that God will neither fail nor forsake us. But what the heck does forsake really mean? It’s almost Shakespearean in nature.

FORSAKE: to quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from; to renounce; to reject; to leave; to withdraw from.

As Moses’ time as leader over Israel is coming to a close, God is giving him a few parting words for Israel and for Joshua—the man who would take Moses’ place.

Be strong and courageous! Do no be afraid of them! The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will never fail you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

All through the Bible, God tells His people that He will never leave us. He will never abandon us. He will never depart from us. He will never renounce us. He will never reject us. He will never quit us.

So why do we have churches full of people who feel far from God? God is incapable of breaking His Word. He can’t leave us. Could it be that we are the ones who have pulled away from Him?

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites.

James 4:8 (NLT)

As soon as we turn toward sin, we turn away from God. In order to feel close to God, all we must do it turn to Him. How difficult we have made such a simple thing! There is no great secret to being close to God. Our relationship with Him works the same as our relationship with others—we have to pursue someone in order to have a relationship with them. If we aren’t pursuing God, how can we ever expect to feel close to Him?

Take courage, though! Be strong! God has already gone ahead of us. He may be just out of our line of sight, but it is never, ever too late to catch up. If we make it a priority to pursue Him, He is faithful. He will never fail us.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 31-32, Luke 1:1-23

Reject

How would you like to be one of God’s rejects? To be the one whom He had chosen and then turned His back on?

Even when we think we’re doing well, what is good in our own eyes may not be good in God’s eyes.

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.

1 Samuel 15:22b (ESV)

Saul had just come back from raiding the Amalekites. God’s instruction had been to destroy them utterly. Leave nothing. Leave no one.

Samuel had heard from God that Saul missed the mark.

Saul thought it would be a good idea to keep the king along with the very best of the flocks. The intent was to sacrifice the best of the spoils.

God was not impressed.

God’s mind was made up. Saul would no longer have His stamp of approval as king. In fact, He said to Samuel,

I have provided for myself a king among his (Jesse’s) sons.

1 Samuel 16:1b (ESV)

Was Saul’s intent to sacrifice the best of the spoils a bad idea? He did what he thought was a good thing. But that good thing wasn’t the thing God had told him to do.

For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b (ESV)

Saul’s heart was no longer one that longed to obey God. He had lifted himself up. Admittedly, it would be difficult not to get big-headed being Israel’s very first appointed and anointed king, but he lost his way and, as a result, lost his throne and he lost the very thing that mattered the most – God’s approval.

Obeying God’s word is far better than making the sacrifice He never asked for.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 14:25-35