What Can God Do With Stones?

I am intrigued by the statements Jesus and the biblical writers made about stones, and what God is able to do with them. I just read again this morning John the Baptist’s statement in Matthew 3:9 “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” He followed that statement by telling them that even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees and that every tree that did not bear fruit would be cut down. It seems clear he is telling these Jews, the special natural seed of Abraham, there was more to being the true people of God than physical descent. Later, Jesus tells a group of Abraham’s descendants that if they were truly the descendants of Abraham in the spiritual sense, they would believe in him as their professed father had done, and thus done the works of their “father.” What John was telling these arrogant Jews was that God was not limited to their nation as a source of a seed to serve him. If he willed to do so, he could raise up such seed from the stones.

In the next chapter, immediately following his baptism, Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Matthew saw a connection between John’s statement and the Devil’s demand. There is clearly a connection between the occurrences surrounding Jesus’s baptism and the devil’s hissing insinuations. God the Father had borne witness to Jesus’ deity in a rather spectacular way in sending the Spirit to rest on him and in declaring from heaven, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It does not seem strange, then, that the first words from the tempter’s mouth are “If you are the Son of God. . . .” These words sound eerily similar to “Did God actually say. . . ?” (Genesis 3:1). Could there not also be a connection between John’s declaration about what God can do with stones, and the devils suggestion that if Jesus is the Son of God, he should be able to turn the stones in to bread (see-Matt. 4:3). There is no indication in the passage that Jesus could not have performed such a miracle, had it been the Father’s will for him to do so. The point of the passage is that, to use Jesus’ words from the preceding chapter, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ mission as the last Adam was to obey in all the points in which the first Adam had disobeyed. Here, he shows his absolute love for and submission to the Father by humble obedience to his law.

Later, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding on a donkey [apart from a fulfillment of prophetic Scripture, one would have expected better for a conquering prince], in keeping the stage of his incarnate existence called his “humiliation,” his disciples begin to cry out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the LORD. . . . (Luke 19:38). When the Pharisees insisted he silence these disciples, Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). He will be praised. If men with stony hearts will not praise him, God is able to cause the creation itself to sing hymns to his majesty.

It seems more than passing strange that the Old Covenant God cut with the nation of Israel was inscribed on tables of stone. Why tables of stone? The answer some have given is not only less than satisfying but is in direct contradiction to plain Scriptural statements. Their answer is that God inscribed this covenant on tables of stone to indicate the permanency of the Ten Commandments. This, we are told, is the eternal, universal, moral law of God. Not only do the Scriptures never describe these tables of stone in this way, they clearly state that the covenant written on tables of stone was one that God intended to be eclipsed by a new and better covenant. In 2 Corinthians 3:5-11, the apostle Paul wrote,

5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,
8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

The apostle clearly tells us “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone. . . was being brought to an end.” He contrasts that covenant with the New Covenant ministry of the Spirit referring to it as “what is permanent.”

There must be another reason why God carved his covenant in letters on stone. I believe it was to point to the adamant nature of sinners in an unregenerate condition. What is God able to do with stones? In his promise of the New Covenant, Jehovah says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek 36:26-27).

This is a part of what makes the gospel “good news.” God knows how to deal with stones. There is no sinner so hardened in his rebellion that God cannot break his stony and recalcitrant heart and incline him toward loving obedience to his revealed will. He can raise up from stony hearted rebels, children unto Abraham who not only believe as did their father, Abraham, but also sing his praises and exclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”


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