In ancient building practices, cornerstones were very important. The builders who laid the foundation had to shape and set the cornerstone of the foundation accurately, because the whole building was set out in relation to it. The building depended upon the cornerstone for its successful construction (Job 38:6; Isa 28:16; Jer 51:26). As the builders moved on to the construction of the walls, they used additional cornerstones to tie the main walls together, thereby bringing stability to the whole structure. The placing of the chief cornerstone was always a satisfying achievement, because this was the stone that guaranteed the perfection of the whole building.

The cornerstone therefore provided a useful illustration of triumph and achievement. On one occasion when an Israelite king was on the edge of a humiliating defeat, he was likened to a useless stone that the builders had thrown away; but when he triumphed, he was likened to a stone that they had brought back and made the chief cornerstone (Ps 118:21-24). In rejecting Jesus, the Jews were likened to builders who rejected the best stone of all. And just as a stone lying in the builders’ path can be an obstacle to them, so Jesus was an obstacle to the Jews.

As long as they would not believe in him, they could not be saved. They were like builders trying to complete the building without using the main stone. God then took the rejected stone (Jesus) and made him the chief cornerstone in the new house of God, the church. Christ is exalted to the highest place, and the whole church, which consists of ‘living stones’, is built around and built into him (Matt 21:42-43; Acts 4:11; Eph 2:19-20; 1 Peter 2:4-8). (See also STUMBLING BLOCK.)

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