“The Cornerstone” (1886-1894)
by James Tissot (1836-1902)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 118:15-29
TO CHEW ON: “The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22
Psalm 118 was a hymn for the Feast of Tabernacles called a Hallel. The procession of the king, priests and people carried palm branches and sang this song as they approached the temple. In the first part of the psalm the king recalls his victories. In the second (our reading today), the procession moves from the temple gateway to the altar.
Maybe it was the sight of the impressive temple building that brought up the cornerstone imagery. The verses we are focusing on talk about this most important stone (“It could have been a large stone over a doorway like a lintel; a keystone holding up an arch; or a cornerstone at the base of perpendicular walls” – Quest Study Bible, p. 837). The builders in the psalm neglect to put it in, or reject it. The psalmist leaves unstated what will happen to that unfortunate building, but we can imagine!
In our reading in Zechariah a few days ago, we noted that the cornerstone was one of the metaphors used for Messiah (Zechariah 10:4). Here Jesus quotes the reference to the cornerstone from Psalm 118 as a reference to Himself (Matthew 21:42). He says that just like the king’s subjects kill the king's son, in the story He has just told, the scribes and Pharisees are rejecting Him and by doing that turning their backs on the foundation or cornerstone of God’s plan of salvation.
In the Easter season just past, as we remembered how Jesus was rejected by the people of His time and crucified, we may have been tempted to look with haughtiness on them, thinking we would never do that if He were with us in person now. But I wonder, sometimes, if we don’t do just that in subtle ways, as we try to twist the gospel into a more socially acceptable message for the people of our time – people who don’t like to be told that God has set an objective standard of right and wrong, that on our own we can’t attain that standard, and that God sent Jesus to die and rise again so we can be reconciled to Him. He (His incarnation, death and resurrection) is still and will always remain the chief cornerstone and foundation of God’s plan.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to fulfill God’s plan to reconcile us to Himself. Help me, as Your child, to make You the cornerstone of my life. Amen