The Cornerstone (II)Sermon passage: (Isaiah 8:11-18) Spoken on: December 24, 2019
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Isaiah
Title: The Cornerstone (II)
Date: 24th Dec 2019
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
Merry Christmas to friends and family in Christ. I’m glad we are doing the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this year for our Christmas eve candlelight service. It really brings out the harmony from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Linking the two testaments is the underlying theme for this year’s Advent. In the daily devotions, we see the ancient laws of Moses coming to life in the Gospel of Mark. On the pulpit, we listen to the prophecies of Isaiah that were echoed later by the words and deeds of Jesus.  You might have also noticed that our Christmas decorations are quite unlike anything you would ever see on Orchard Road. It is a visual representation of Jesus as the cornerstone. It is a reminder of God’s promise to place a stone in Jerusalem. And when Jesus was incarnated into this world, which is the true meaning of Christmas, we believe that this ancient prophecy was fulfilled.
Our belief is based on 1 Peter 2: 4 As you come to (Jesus Christ), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
What is the meaning of a cornerstone? If we survey the Old Testament, we would see that it is used synonymously with foundation.
In Job 38: Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
Therefore, the literal meaning of cornerstone is something structurally on which the rest of the entire construction depends. But there is something more when the word was used in the judgement against Babylon, Jeremiah 51: 26 No rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone,
nor any stone for a foundation,
for you will be desolate forever,”
declares the Lord.
When God wanted to destroy Babylon forever, he said, you can never have a cornerstone. So, not only is the cornerstone fundamental, without it, nothing can be started. And it is only with it, that the rest of the building process follows. 1 Peter quoted from Isaiah 28 to declare that the cornerstone promised by God is Jesus Christ. We can apply all that we have learned so far about the significance of Jesus as the cornerstone. He is the essential foundation of a new beginning. The entire new religious structure can rest secure on him. The coming of Christ is God’s revelation to us, that he is starting something new.
But cornerstones are not just something static, that after you lay it down, its job is fully done. It takes on a dynamic element when it is used metaphorically on people. Cornerstones can refer to leadership because everyone and everything depends on them, including failures and successes. In Isaiah 19, cornerstones referred to political leadership.
Isaiah 19: 13 The officials of Zoan have become fools,
the leaders of Memphis are deceived;
the cornerstones of her peoples
have led Egypt astray.
In Zechariah 10, cornerstones referred to military and spiritual leadership.
Zechariah 10: 4 From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler.
5 Together they will be like warriors in battle
trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
They will fight because the Lord is with them,
and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.
Jesus didn’t just come to start something new; he is the leader of this new movement. This is nicely summed up in Colossians 1: 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here tonight because we affirm the magnitude of the coming of Christ. We acknowledge Jesus as the cornerstone of all that we believe. We can be saved. We can approach God in worship. We can hope in a new Creation. We can do all that because Jesus Christ has come.
But just believing in something new is not enough. Cornerstone means leadership. If Jesus is head, it means that the rest of the structure, the body, must follow. If Jesus is leading us to war, then we must fight. If Jesus is leading us to serve, then we must sacrifice. If Jesus is leading us to worship, then we must pray and go back to God. You cannot have a cornerstone without the rest of the stone aligned to it. If the cornerstone is light and life, then the rest of the stones must also shine.
After declaring Jesus as the cornerstone, Peter continued to say:
1 Peter 2: 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumbled because they disobeyed the message—which was also what they were destined for.
Peter quoted from Isaiah 8 to warn that Jesus the stone can become a stumbling stone to some. The flip side of a new beginning is that there will be those who are not on board. Just as the stone is a foundational one for others to follow, those who do not follow will be exposed as flawed. If Jesus is the beginning of the perfect Temple to access God, then those who hang on to the old system would be using a broken one. This might seem unfair. Why should I update my system just because God has a new system update in Jesus Christ? But when we go into the context of Isaiah 8 and 28, we can see why God’s renewal is justified. It wasn’t God who made the previous system obsolete. It was the people who were responsible for its corruption in the first place. Therefore, God has to restore it with a new and better version.
As I shared in the Christmas Sunday service, the people made a deal with Death (Isaiah 28:15). Ironically, in trying to evade Death, they courted their own deaths. They scoffed at Isaiah’s words to trust God and change their ways. They found Isaiah’s call to believe in God’s words very naïve. Our passage tonight in Isaiah 8 is God’s assurance to Isaiah his faithful servant. He must not follow their conspiracy, or fear what they fear. He must regard God as holy and fear God alone. God is the stone that will come in judgment to those who reject him. In the end, they were just reaping what they had sown. In contrast, Isaiah’s faithfulness would be vindicated by God’s actions. Holiness means belonging to God and God alone. By trusting in God’s words and his ways, Isaiah displayed what it means to belong to God.
There is much we can learn from Isaiah’s example. This was what Isaiah did in Isaiah 8: 16 Bind up this testimony of warning
and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples.
17 I will wait for the Lord,
who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.
18 Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Isaiah made his family a testimony for God. The best example they can display as a testimony is to wait for the Lord and trust that his words will be fulfilled. In many ways, we are so much more fortunate than Isaiah. He did live to see the divine judgment in the fall of Israel and Judah, but we get to know the divine salvation in Jesus Christ. When Jesus began his ministry, it is recorded in Mark 1: 14 Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” By the grace of God, Jesus has come, so that we get to know the good news of the kingdom of God has begun. The cornerstone has been laid with the coming of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, what will your testimony be? Will there be patience and hope? Will there be acts of forgiveness, selflessness and love? Remember these words from Isaiah 40: those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 8:11–18 (Listen)
11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 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. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.