“The stone that the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22).
The figure employed in this parable has both material and spiritual applications. Materially, it refers to the building of Solomon’s temple, which was constructed from blocks of stone which were hewn in subterranean quarries under Jerusalem itself, one of which stretches for 213 yards in a straight line. The blocks of stone, once cut out from the rock, were taken into an underground workshop where every stone of the temple “was made ready before it was brought thither” ( 1Kings 6:7). Each block was finished off and marked for the place it was to occupy in the Temple. It was a careful and painstaking process and beautifully foreshadows the same time consuming and meticulous process of building the spiritual temple(1 Peter 2:5) that is now being built for “an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
When the builders were putting the prepared stones together in the construction of the temple on Mount Moriah, they thought that the crowning stone, the “Head of the corner”, was too insignificant for this place of honour and refused it; they took up one stone after another that they thought more worthy of this commanding position but they did not fit. Finally, they took up the stone which had been marked for this position and found that it fitted perfectly. Then they sang this passage from Psalm 118.
But, of course, this passage has a more important prophetic application; it was the final prophetic message of Jesus to the Jews (Matthew 21:42) and the scripture tells us that the priests and Pharisees knew that He was talking about them (verse 45); the scriptures are replete with references to the “rock” or the “stone” all of which the Jews knew spoke of the Christ.
Therefore thus says the Lord God, “aBehold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. And the one believing upon Him will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 28:16).
He was to be to those trusting in Him a “sanctuary” but to both the houses of Israel He was to become “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (Isaiah 8:14), for they rejected Him. Moses sang of this “Rock”;
“Ascribe greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4).
This was the same rock that followed them around in the wilderness and from which they drank; “…and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was the Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).
Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, knew what the Rock meant and so did the leaders of the Jews; they knew only too well who the “Rock” signified in their scriptures and traditions; but they said ‘We will not have this man to rule over us’ (Luke 19:14). They refused to throw themselves upon the Rock and so they endured what Jesus prophesied;
“And the one falling on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” (Matthew 21:44).
Just so; the Jews were indeed scattered like dust and have only now been regathered, albeit still in a state of unbelief, for the final act in the great prophetic drama, of which Psalm 118 is a partial script.
It is upon this same Rock that Christ is presently building His spiritual temple (Matthew 16:18) “and it is marvellous in our eyes”; but His warning to the Jews is just as relevant to us today, as it was to the Jews; we must throw ourselves upon the rock and be broken to pieces; the self must be utterly overthrown, or else we, too, will be scattered like dust.
For those trusting in, and following, Jesus, let Peter have the last word;
“To you then, the honour, to those having faith in Him; but to those being faithless, the stone which the builders rejected, this has become the Head of the corner and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, which those disobeying the Word strike against, to which they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:7-8).