DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 16
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
1 Peter 2:7–8
Have you ever walked past a restaurant or food stand with someone and had completely opposite reactions to how it smelled? One of you may have exclaimed, “That smells delicious!” while the other said, “Ugh. What is that stench?” In 2 Corinthians 2:15–16, Paul speaks of the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ spreading everywhere; to some it is a sweet aroma while to others it is a pungent odor: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life....”
A similar contrast in reactions is taking place among the builders in 1 Peter. While to those who trust in Christ, he is “a cornerstone chosen and precious,” (v. 6) to those not trusting in Christ, he is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense” (v. 8). Peter is pulling from Isaiah 8:14 to illustrate that Jesus’ holiness is a stumbling block to a disobedient people, the full verse saying, “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
Isaiah warns that we must be responsive toward God or we will be “tripped up.” The presence of the Stone of Offense offers an opportunity for those who stumble over him to repent. Isaiah’s second warning is much graver, claiming that those who do not heed the warning will be snared, falling to their doom. The Cornerstone serves as a reminder of God’s holiness, which will ultimately be either a sanctuary to those who embrace him or a snare to those who don’t.
A similar situation is described in Isaiah 28. God’s people are refusing to trust him. They are arrogant and self-assured, questioning his sovereignty and failing to see there is no other refuge than in him. In their search for security elsewhere, the prophet warns them, they are signing a contract with death and boasting in the grave (vv. 14-15)! Yikes! They are living out the rejection depicted in Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” In response to the stubbornness of his people, God tells them to watch closely for he has laid a tested stone in Zion.
Zion is God’s holy city, a place that embodies all God’s promises of blessing. The stone God has laid down is a “sure foundation” of the city-dwellers; all who trust are secured. There is great emphasis on the “tested stone.” Those refusing refuge in it will stumble (Isaiah 28:16). Scholars cannot definitively say if the “tested” element of the stone refers to a stone that has undergone testing or a stone that imposes testing. But Peter doesn’t make us choose; he uses it both ways—as tested security for the trusting and an offense to the disobedient.
Using both the Psalm and Isaiah passages, Peter concludes that those who permanently reject Christ were “destined” (1 Peter 2:8) to stumble because they refused to repent, to obey God’s word, or to seek the goodness of his gospel. God knew this was going to happen, just as he foreknew the plan of salvation at the beginning of the world. Sadly, not all people will trust in him.
This passage is difficult on several levels. First, it acknowledges destruction for those who do not trust in Christ. This is a reality that should deeply move, upset, and motivate Christians to always be on mission and spreading God’s good news in Jesus Christ. Those who trust in Jesus should share with others the surety of their foundation, telling anyone willing to listen that the place God dwells is a safe house—here, none of the inhabitants will be put to shame.
Another challenge to us emotionally is how this teaching fits with God’s justice and goodness. God is consistently himself—his goodness, mercy, justice, righteousness, love, and power are all in equal parts and are all uncompromisable. God is glorified when his justice is satisfied, when his wrath is quenched, when his grace is poured out, and when his love abounds. Whatever happens to us, God will still be his good, merciful, gracious, just, loving self—and he will still be glorified.
With all of us starting out in a state of sinfulness, we do not begin with the right orientation. We may ask questions like, “Why do good people go to hell?” But, a more accurate question is, “Why do any sinful people get to go to heaven?” Think of this analogy: Three robbers are running towards a burning bank hoping to steal as much money as they can. One gets apprehended by the police before entering; the other two enter and perish. All three robbers were planning to enter the burning bank, but one did not succeed. Is it fair to try the police officer for not having saved the other two?
If you’re still wrestling with this teaching, I’m wrestling with it along with you. This is hard for me to write, and I would love to be able to confirm that Scripture says there’s another way. But it doesn’t. Had there been another way to secure our salvation, Jesus would not have died. But God’s wrath had to be satisfied. However, those who trust in Christ are graciously atoned for by Jesus’ payment on the cross, which is an outpouring of God’s mercy and grace. Jesus takes the shame we were due and gives us his honor, securing us for good.
So, according to the Bible, there are two types of people: those who are founded on the Rock, and those who stumble over him. If by God’s mercy you have been founded on Christ, the Rock of your salvation, be humble and honor the Lord! Go out and seek those who are stumbling, that they may turn from their disobedience and find stability on the Cornerstone God has laid. And, if Christ is not your foundation, would you repent and turn to him now?