Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily. Isaiah 28:16
In ancient building practices, the cornerstone was the principal stone placed at the corner of the edifice. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. Numerous times in Scripture Jesus describes Himself as the Cornerstone that His church would be built upon, a body consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers.
But the phrase that captured my attention in reading Isaiah 28:16-17, just one of several texts in the Bible referencing Christ as the Cornerstone, is that this precious cornerstone was a tried stone.
The original translation of “tried” is “tested” or “stone of proof.” Jesus was a tested stone and stood the trial! This we know from all of our Scripture reading, but that He was described as such by Isaiah adds a new dimension to all that Christ accomplished for us at Calvary. In light of Good Friday and Easter, it is a vivid reminder of how terrible sin really is and the unending personal attacks upon our Lord and Savior during His earthly ministry. The word “tried” also carries the idea of being tempted.
Jesus was sent by the Spirit into a wasted land for forty days, without food, to be tested by the Evil one (Matthew 4:1-11); the Sadducees tested Him requesting a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1); The Pharisees tested Him, asking is it right for a man to put away his wife for every cause (Mark 10:12); the blasphemers passing by as Christ hung on the Cross cried, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross (Matthew 27:40); the unbelieving thief on the cross blasphemed Him saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39);the rulers sneered saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35); the soldiers mocked and tested Him crying out, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:36); the Apostle Paul said that He was tested in ALL points as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15); and even the Father tested the Son when He cried out asking why had He been forsaken but received no response (Psalm 22:1).
Tried by the Father? Tested by God Himself? Isaiah even says, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10a). But why? Isaiah goes on to give the answer when he states that His soul was made an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10b)!
Jesus was truly a tried stone! It was one thing to be tried by men, but by the Devil, the god of this world, and by God Almighty, the God of all creation? In one of Charles Simeon’s sermons he states in speaking about the hour and power of darkness (Luke 22:53), “If a legion of evil spirits could possess the body of one demoniac (Mark 5:9; Matthew 12:45), who shall number the hosts which Satan brought against the Captain of our salvation? It was necessary that He should be tried in all points. The adversary must not have it in his power to say that the Son of Man had not been fairly, or fully, tried.” John Stevenson in his excellent exposition of Psalm 22 entitled Christ on the Cross, states, “Rulers, principalities, and powers, every fiend and evil spirit of hell, came round the holy human soul of Jesus, and did their utmost, during these three hours of darkness, to gain an entrance, but not one of them could find anything in Christ congenial to their own natures, on which to work.” Stevenson goes on to say, “It was His holiness from which they shrunk; and it was by His unsullied holiness that He proved more than a conqueror over them in death. The Prince of this world, and all the powers of darkness tried it (the Stone), AND FOUND NOTHING!”
In the last hours of our Savior’s journey back to the Father in heaven from whence He came, He traveled a troublesome path as a tried stone – from lonely Gethsemane where He prayed, to Gabbatha’s scoffing crowds where He was judged, to Golgotha’s hill of skulls where He was crucified, to the Garden Tomb where up from the grave He arose!
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed… and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Oh, sin, flee from us! Holiness, be our garb! Righteousness be our robe! Thank you, Father, for a stone, truly a tried stone that has stood the test of time and taken away our sin! Abusively booted around as a worthless pebble, trodden upon as an unknown treasure, tried and tested in every unimaginable way, but found undefiled, unscathed, and remains today a precious Cornerstone, our sure foundation! The Psalmist said it well, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23).
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he!
‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s son, yet David’s Lord;
by his Son God now has spoken: ’tis the true and faithful Word.
Tell me ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress;
many hands were raised to wound him, none would interpose to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.
Ye who think of sin by lightly nor suppose the evil great
here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, his the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.
–Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)