Today’s passages: 2 Kings, chapter 20; Psalm 75; Isaiah, chapters 38-39; 1 Peter, chapter 2
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:4-10 (NRSV) – Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into glorious light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Observations: The reference to Jesus as “a living stone” and the “cornerstone” is familiar to many of us, but I never really thought too much about the way that Peter extends that metaphor to us: like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house… As I thought about that, God reminded me that a pile of stones does not make a house! When stones are just lying around on the ground, they are much more likely to cause stumbling than to be a help to someone. If someone gathers the stones together and piles them up, at least they’re out of the way – but a pile of stones doesn’t really do much to help anyone. But if a skilled worker takes those stones and builds them together, he or she can create a house that will last for generations to come.
As I understand it, the process starts with the selection of a cornerstone – the foundation on which everything that is added will rest. I don’t know anything about that process, but I can understand the metaphor in its spiritual application: Jesus is the cornerstone, and all who believe in him are “living stones” which God will build into a “spiritual house” – the Church. Every one of us is a living stone which God intends to build into that house – a spiritual house…a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.
The image is that of a temple – where priests minister, where sacrifices are offered to God. But this is not just an earthly building; it is a spiritual temple, which God intends to stand for all eternity in his Kingdom. Our spiritual sacrifice begins with allowing God to build us into that spiritual house, but it doesn’t end there. In Romans 12, Paul describes offering ourselves as “living sacrifices” as “our spiritual act of worship.” To be “living sacrifices” means much more than allowing ourselves to be built into a “spiritual house”; it means that each day we willingly submit ourselves to God for his purposes. It’s hard for me to stretch the metaphor this far, because I’ve never seen a living stone. I’ve never seen a stone get up and move on its own; I’ve never seen a stone do anything other than just be there. But God says that we are “living stones,” and that means that we have the capability to act– and he expects us to do that. And we are not only “living stones”; we are also a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people, in order that [we] might proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness into glorious light.
Our presence as part of the “spiritual house” is a witness to the work of a master builder, who crafts us together to become that house, but our obedience does not end there. We are also a royal priesthood – priests being people who act as intermediaries between God and mankind. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that God has committed to us the message of reconciliation; Peter says that we are a royal priesthood called to proclaim God’s mighty acts. While each of us has particular “mighty acts” that God has done in our lives, Peter highlights two “mighty acts” which all of us can proclaim: he made a group of individuals who previously sought their own way and served themselves – who previously were not a people – to be “a people”; and he showed his mercy to people who had not previously received mercy, and had no reason to expect it.
Applications: Every one of us who has received life in Christ can tell the story of receiving mercy from God. We are each like the man who was born blind, who said, “I was blind, but now I see!” (John 9) We’re all like Lazarus – we came stumbling out of the “tomb” of sin and death when Jesus called us to come forth (John 11). We’re the ones who have been healed, who’ve been set free from the demons that held us captive. We have a story to tell! And every one of us, by our inclusion in God’s great spiritual house, bears witness to the work of God in building us together. Who else could take a group of people with different backgrounds, different personalities, and different ways of thinking and speaking, and unite them into a great spiritual house to bear witness to the One who built it? We have a story to tell – mighty acts to proclaim! We need to be actively looking for opportunities to tell that story.
Prayer: Father, I thank you for the mighty acts you have done in my life. When I think of where my life was before I came to you in faith, it is absolutely amazing that you have forgiven me, blessed me, and helped me to grow into the person you have called me to be. Help me to be obedient to you, that you might continue to help me to grow. Help me today to recognize the opportunities that you give me to declare your mighty acts. You have prepared me for this day; help me to walk in faithfulness so that you may be lifted up. Lead me in your ways today. Amen.