A Time to Gather Stones
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together…
From Genesis to Revelation we hear about stones in the Bible. Have you ever wondered about the 12 stones that represented the 12 tribes as described in Joshua 4?￼ These steadfast Israelites gathered large stones out of the Jordan River when God parted the river, before they went into Jericho and the promised land. ￼This was about 40 years after the parting of the Red Sea, when Moses led them out of Egypt. In the first scenario, the Israelites were being delivered from a battle. In Joshua, the river parts before they face the battle that lies ahead.
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.
These particular stones were set up for remembrance of the Lord’s divinity and promises. ￼This event happened at Gilgal, an intentional name, that means circle of stones (or wheel) in Hebrew. God had delivered His people and He can (and will) do it again. I ￼find it interesting that the Israelites were instructed to gather stones before they went into Jericho where they marched around a fortified city where the Lord made the stones fall down.￼ Basically, they built up a memorial of stone and soon after they brought down the stone walls, of a huge fortress. ￼
So what does this all mean? Is there some kind of deeper meaning behind the stones? Yes there is. Let’s dig in.
“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” ~Joshua 4:6-7
Before the Israelites went in to Jericho, God told Joshua to circumcise the sons of Israel (Joshua 5). Having all the capable warriors circumcised at the same time would have put the children of Israel in a very vulnerable state. But they trusted God and obeyed. After they had healed, God said to Joshua “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” This was a reference to a stone being rolled away, hence the name Gilgal.
This trust that the Israelites had reminds me of when young David took 5 smooth stones from the brook and only one stone was needed to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David also trusted God and so it shall be the same with us.
The stones are a reminder of God’s immense power and protection, they were also set in place so that the next generations would ask about them. This gave the elders a teaching opportunity, to tell the children about the glory of God. Then, those children would be able to share it with the generation after them. Many people have forgotten God’s majesty, His constant presence and His righteousness. But what is far worse than that, we have forgotten how crucial it is to teach the next generation.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
~1 Samuel 7:12-13
The prophet Samuel set up stones as a tangible reminder of the Lord’s deliverance from the hand of the Philistines. Stone in Hebrew is Eben (Strongs 68). Ebenezer means stone of my help.
Again, stones acted as a marker or a signal since we are so prone to forget our Savior. Just as we are constantly putting reminders on our phones and sticky notes on our mirrors to remind us of simple tasks, we also need constant reminders that we are not the ruler of the universe, and at any time our life could change at the breath of God. That is why there are so many festivals in the Old Testament sparking reflection and why Jesus warned us at the last supper to take the bread and wine in remembrance of Him.
Just as Samuel put up a reminder, there are important scriptures throughout the entire Bible helping us with our forgetful minds. One of my favorite scriptures is called the Shema. Shema means ‘to hear’ in Hebrew (Strongs 8085).
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The Shema acts as a stern reminder that the Word of God should be, as if, stamped between our eyes, always in our sight and always on our mind. Let us not forget that when God spoke to the people at Mount Sinai, His words became etched in stone (two tablets). The first set of commandments being etched by the finger of God, Himself. It was important that the nation remembered that moment. Even though we are no longer under the law, we still must know what God said, our history, our story, the power of God and His steadfast character.
Do you remember when Moses was in the wilderness and he had to strike the rock to give the people water? This happened twice – Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. When Moses struck the rock, water burst forth both times. God is there when we are lacking and struggling. This rock is a foreshadow of Jesus Christ and the water represents the living water or Holy Spirit.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
~1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Some of the most thought provoking scriptures are those about the cornerstone. Isaiah 28:16 states – 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.’ This passage was written in the midst of warnings from the prophet, Isaiah, cautioning the people that they have built their trust on an unstable, worldly foundation. Jesus, Himself, had to remind us of the cornerstone in the book of Matthew 21:42 –
“Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
This particular scripture is also referenced in Mark 12, Luke 20 and Acts 4 and general cornerstone references are also made through scripture, such as in Zechariah 10, Ephesians 2 and 1 Peter 2. Why so many references to the cornerstone? Because it is important. Jesus is our cornerstone. He was tested, as referenced in Isaiah, because He stood firm in love even when He was accused falsely, mocked, ridiculed and ultimately sacrificed because of our tendency to cling to our flimsy, worldly foundation. Jesus did not fall into temptation, even when the devil tried with all his power to make Him stumble.
The Eternal Rock
In all honesty, I find the encounter Jesus had with Satan very odd. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, Satan used stones in his attempted snare. For example, Satan said – “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” ~Matthew 4:3-4. First of all, Jesus is the stone and He is also the bread. In fact, He was divinely placed in Bethlehem for His birth and Bethlehem literally translates to ‘house of bread’. Jesus is our rock. He was born and placed in a stone manger, and when He died, He was placed in a stone tomb. From the beginning to the end of His earthly life, He was laid in rock as a symbol of His identity.
So the enemy uses the very things that Jesus has already been granted as an attempted snare – why? Perhaps the enemy was trying to convince Jesus to take an easy way out, a path not put forth by God – no cross, no suffering for the people. However, Jesus was already given all things because of the sacrifice that He was about to make. Jesus will always choose God, the Kingdom of Heaven and us. He will always choose us.
The Stones Cry Out
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us exult and rejoice in it.
O Lord, grant us salvation. O Lord, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Psalm 118 is what the people are referencing when Jesus rides in on a donkey into Jerusalem as the people cry out ‘Hosanna’. The phrase hosanna (pronounced hoshi’a na in Hebrew) occurs in Psalm 118:25 and handful of times in the New Testament. It can be translated as please save (salvation) or we beseech thee, it can also be a cry of praise or adoration of God Almighty. It was during this time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the people were rejoicing, that this statement was made in Luke 19:38-40 – “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He (Jesus) answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Why would the stones cry out? Because God made all of creation. If we choose to deny His presence then the Earth, itself, will do it for us. When we build our home with a firm foundation it is secure, just like building our life upon Jesus gives us a solid foundation.
The temple of God, throughout our history, may be one of the first things you think of when stones are mentioned relating to the Bible. However, the first temple of worship was not built of stone but rather a temporary structure, called the Tabernacle. This temporary structure was built by the Israelites after the deliverance from Egypt, around 1450BC. It wasn’t until around 960BC that King David’s son, Solomon, built God a stable, solid structure. Unfortunately, this beautiful temple, full of gold, finely woven fabrics and exquisite construction was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC.
Even though several repairs were made to Solomon’s temple afterward (Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah), it became noteworthy around 20BC when Herod’s temple was built upon Solomon’s temple foundation. King Herod expanded the temple area to about 35 acres and it was quite extravagant. Sadly, this magnificent temple was also destroyed in 70AD by the Romans. This event was prophesied by Jesus when He and His disciples were looking at the temple and Jesus said – “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:2.
In Nehemiah 4:2, we see that the Jewish people were attempting to restore the temple in the midst of opposition – “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” These harsh words were meant to discourage the workers striving to put God back at the center of the lives of the people. God loves those who fight for His presence. The will of God will always prevail. When Jesus returns, He will restore all things and shine His light upon Zion and everyone will see the truth.
You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.
For those of us who know the truth, that Jesus is the Messiah, we must continue to pray for those who refuse to see that their salvation is in their grasp, they need only to grab hold. We also know that we do not need a physical structure to be close to Jesus. Saint Paul reminds us of this hope in the New Testament, saying – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
But here is where it gets interesting, let’s look at 1 Peter, where we see that Saint Peter has a deeper understanding of stones.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 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.”
1 Peter 2:4-8
So we are to be like living stones, built up together, like a temple, for Jesus to dwell. We are also to lay stones of remembrance and those who see us should see a pillar for the church and for Christ and the generations after should also know us as such.
The 12 tribes of Israel set up their stones before they went forth to do God’s work. All the tribes grabbed a stone – together. When we stand together in the name of Christ, we are stronger, mightier and glorious, and others will ask what we are all about. Why do they stand together in that way? We are bringing the most glorious news to the people who may not have yet heard it. We work for a heavenly kingdom, let us tell others about truth, love and eternal life.
The disciples were considered pillars of the church. The disciple, Peter (also known as Cephas) received a name change from Jesus at the beginning of his journey with Christ. Cephas’ name, meaning rock or stone, was a reminder of his identity.
In Revelation 3:11-12 it states – I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. If we follow Jesus and serve Him, we are given a position in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Alpha & Omega
Church, it is time to gather stones – to remember what God has done and to gather together. It has been 2000 years and our redemption draweth nigh. Let us look up and gaze upon history and our story together and prepare for what lies ahead.
Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
For Jesus is a stone, cut not with human hands. He is the deeper meaning in all the Biblical text. Let us prepare for Him and live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Our divine creator gave us a precious Bible to be used as our guide. A holy, divine gift that we get to study. Full of unique connection and layers of deeper meanings beyond our comprehension. Our vast knowledge on Earth is but a sliver in comparison to the wisdom of God. We can only strive to understand Him. He is our eternal rock. It is foolish for us to think we can cling to anything but Him.
Jesus is the stone and He is woven throughout the entire Bible. The Alpha and Omega, from the beginning. God’s people, it is time to gather the stones and come together. It’s time to tell others the good news, serve, pray, worship and gather – gather together and prepare for Jesus. Maranatha!
Is Jesus the foundation of your life? Or is He merely a stone in your house? Does everything you do, rest on Jesus?
Lord Jesus, be our foundation. Please help us understand our need for Your presence and our complete dependence on You. Give us strength to stand against what the world tells us to depend on and turn toward You instead, every single day. Be our Rock, O God. Soften our hearts and guide us. Help us gather often and praise You together as one voice. We pray all Your people see truth and turn away from darkness.
We LOVE You Jesus!
Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, 2015
Strongs Guide to Bible Words, James Strong, 1996
The Holy Bible, ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB
About the Author – Bethel Jiricek
Bethel resides in the beautiful foothills of Colorado. Born and raised without much biblical influence, she began to diligently pursue the Word of God after struggling with work, family and relationships. She started listening to the Bible every evening, finally making a commitment to read and study the entire Bible, from beginning to end. While going through this extensive study, she realized it was positively changing her life, softening her heart and her attitude towards others. Now she has an intense desire to keep studying while sharing God’s love and wisdom with others through her writing.
My true desire is to get everyone in their Bibles – learning the Word of God and spending quality time with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every single day. ~ Bethel