Saturday, August 24, 2013

The White Stone


 
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ – Revelations 2:17

I believe I have a touch of Magpie bird in me somewhere.  That’s the only way I can explain an overwhelming attraction to shiny objects, such as colored glass dishes, stained glass windows, and gemstones of all colors.  Something makes me want to not only see them, but touch them.  So when I read Revelations 2:17, and found that one day God will give those who overcome the world a white stone, I was excited!  But then I wondered.  Of all that God has in creation that He can give us, why would he give us a rock with a name on it?  And why is it a white rock, and not an emerald or a ruby?  But as is the case in God’s word, imagery has a purpose, and there is a reason that it is white, and a reason for the name on it.
There are 11 white gemstones used in jewelry (http://bit.ly/1ay9zgE), all beautiful in their own right.  One in particular is my favorite -  the white opal.  This white stone diffracts light, which makes it almost appear to light up with all the colors of the rainbow. The Greek word used for “white” in Revelation 2:17 is ‘leuken’, which means light, brightness, and purity.  To me, the opal is what I imagine as this white stone.

In the way that an opal diffracts light, I’ve often wondered if this is what the glory of God looks like, as Revelation 4:3 says that the One sitting on the throne of Heaven was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  Emeralds are green, but Jasper can be many different colors, including red, yellow, brown, green, and rarely even blue.  Sardius, which we call carnelian, is a blood-red color.  Both are formed from the mineral chalcedony.  Chalcedony is mentioned in Revelation 21:19 as being on the third foundation of the New Jerusalem of Heaven, along with Jasper, Sapphire, and Emeralds on the other foundations.
Another gemstone, Onyx, is formed by the intergrowth of two silica materials, quartz and moganite, which create bands of chalcedony.  The Onyx stone is formed when the materials have been subject to heat and pressure, and is black.  The name Onyx is from the Greek work ὄνυξ, which means fingernail.  Oddly enough, the bands of chalcedony are shaped in an arch like the human nail. 

Onyx is first mentioned in the Bible in an odd sentence we read in Genesis 2:12.  It’s odd because it is in the midst of the explanation of the creation of earth, the universe, man being formed from the dirt of the ground, and the Garden of Eden.  As the writer describes all the trees and plants and rivers and their names, we read the verse, which abruptly says, “And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.”  Gold later becomes a material made into things in the temple, as well as idols.  Bdellium is a gummy resin that comes from trees.  And then we find Onyx, the black gemstone, mentioned. 
Onyx is found in the Bible 11 times.  The first time is in Genesis 2:12, and then 1 Chronicles 29:2 states that onyx stones were to be in the temple. Job describes it as precious in Job 28:16, and Ezekiel 28:13 tells that it was one of the many stones in Satan’s covering.  The other seven times it is used in the instructions of the Ephod for the priest, where it plays an important role.

In Exodus 28:9-12, as the instructions for making the Ephod are given.  The Ephod would be worn by the priest as he offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Two onyx stones were to be placed on the shoulders of the Ephod, but these stones, like the white stone of Revelations 2:17, were to be engraved with names.  

God’s Word says “Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel:  six of their names on one stone and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth.”  The stones were to be engraved “like the engravings of a signet”.  A signet was an engraving found usually on a ring and linked to a person’s identity.  It was a legal representation of that person.  A signet would often be pressed into hot wax to seal a document, in the same way we would use a signature.  The two stones were to be placed on the shoulders, “and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. God did not need to be reminded of the children of Israel, as He does not need to be reminded of anything.  So the memorial was for the Israelites and the Priest. 

So we have mention of a white stone, and black stones, both engraved with names.  In the Revelation 2:17, the word used for stone is psēphos (G5586) which means a small worn stone or pebble, but also means a vote.  In the ancient courts, a ruling of guilty or not guilty was made by using stones. A jury member placing a white stone would mean an acquittal or innocence, and a black stone would mean guilt. The Greek word used to describe acquittal is 'nikōnti', which is also the word used to in Revelation 2:17 for “overcomes”.  What Jesus promises is that those who are aquitted (overcome through salvation, and are found innocent), will receive hidden manna to eat, and a white stone of innocence which is engraved with a new name, a new identity.
But what about the hidden manna that we are given to eat?  What does that have to do with stones?  In Hebrew tradition, there were stones that would be inscribed between two people who had become intimate friends.  These stones were known as ‘tessera’.  Each person would have a stone with a special inscription, and the stones would be passed down from generation to generation. If one of the ancestors was traveling and needed a place to stay, they would show their tessera stone to the descendants of the friend, and the inscriptions would be matched.  This guaranteed the descendant a place to stay, as well as food and hospitality.  The tessera was a memorial of a special friendship.

Jesus Christ offers us an intimate friendship with Him, and with God, through salvation.  Salvation gives us a new identity as we become a new creation and "the stony heart" we have is exchanged for a heart of flesh, and we are given His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:36).  From that friendship we gain an inheritance in Heaven. 
Ephesians 1: 10-14 says,

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE [like the hidden manna and white stone], being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE [like a signet], who is the GUARANTEE OF OUR INHERITANCE [like a tesserae] until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Lastly, 1 Peter 2:4-8 describes those who believe as “living stones” that are used to build a new temple, a “spiritual house”, and Jesus Christ as either a cornerstone or “a stone of stumbling”.  It says:

“Coming to Him as to a LIVING stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and PRECIOUS, you also, as LIVING STONES, are being built up a spiritual house, A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him [Jesus Christ] will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”
To each of us Jesus Christ is either our cornerstone, our very foundation of life and precious as an intimate friend, or a stone of offense and stumbling.  

I encourage you to seek the salvation of Jesus Christ and have the inheritance He offers.  I hope to one day look around Heaven, and see all my friends holding precious white stones, engraved with their own intimate name, and eating of the hidden manna that is for the Children of God.  But today you have a choice to make.  He will either be your “cornerstone”, or He will be your “rock of offense”. 
 Seek the white stone.

 

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