Unhewn Stones

  • Jan. 6, 2016
  • #8788

Any effort by man that adds to or attempts to improve upon the cross dishonors the work that Christ alone has accomplished.

Unhewn Stones

I was just in New England and saw the most beautiful stone walls.

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and, oh, I guess it was about a month or two ago I was in New Hampshire and Connecticut for several ministry events. And everywhere we drove, I saw these beautiful stone walls, like something out of a Robert Frost poem.  Each stone flat and fitting just right into the next stone, and the next, making a long, winding and very weathered barrier, but so beautiful. My father, John Eareckson, was skilled at making stone walls. There are several of them on our old family farm in Maryland; he would select just the right stones, some round and big, others, small and flat. He’d pick one up and look at it this way and that, measuring where exactly it would fit. He would dust off the dirt—he never used a tool though to shape a stone. He always thought they should remain natural-looking. And because of that, those stone walls on our farm look like they were put there by God; they look like they’ve been there forever.

Recently, I came across a passage in Exodus chapter 20 that speaks about dressed stones and natural stones. In verse 25, God tells His people, “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.” In other words, the altar was to be God’s work; not man’s. Only natural stones were to be used, not stones shaped and chiseled with a tool.

Now stop and think about that, because it means something. There’s a reason that God did not want His altar built out of stones that had been shaped with a tool. No hammer, no mallet or pick was to be used in constructing God's altar. But why? Well, obviously, God wanted His altar to look like it had been put there by Him, and not by man. The altar of God where sacrifices were offered up was to be just that, God's altar, not man’s. And had a tool been used on it; had the stones been dressed with a chisel, then God's altar would show human effort.

That’s all well and fine for the Old Testament, but what does this picture of an altar made with natural, undressed stones mean to us? What application does it have under the new covenant? Well, simply this: human beings always want to have a hand in what is God's. Like: natural stones aren’t good enough for the altar of God; let’s chisel them. Human beings always want to be improving on what God does, and when it comes to God's altar in the new covenant, that is the cross. Somehow, someway, we think we must have a hand in God’s gift of salvation. Human wisdom is always trying to improve on the Gospel. Like dressing a stone (you know, shaping it up and changing and chiseling it to our liking), just like dressing a stone, we want to dress up the Good News of Jesus to make it sound more appealing or more acceptable. But let’s learn what the Israelites of old learned. The altar is God’s alone. Anything we try to add to the cross only dishonors the work of Christ and Christ alone.

I hope this little Bible lesson inspires you today. God's Word is full of so many wonderful insights like this one. And hey, I would love to hear if this insight has blessed you, because every word in scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit; and God infuses meaning into everything He does, and into everything He writes. So let me hear from you today on my radio page at joniandfriends.org. And today join me in thanking God for His altar of salvation: the cross of Christ, His and His alone.

Photo: mentalpropell.com

© Joni and Friends


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