A White Stone – 3
Leaving Wilderness Behind
In Through New Eyes, James Jordan notes that the wilderness was Havilah, the place mentioned in Genesis 2 that was rich in raw materials. Israel stripped Egypt of her gold, then plundered the desolate places of hidden wealth. She came out of the desert with a High Priest clothed in gems, and a new generation of soldiers born of God’s threshing floor.
The manna began to fall just after the Hebrews’ victory over Pharaoh. As with Jacob, the Lord was faithful to provide for His chosen one. But perhaps, in covering the ground, there is also the idea of a firmament (this might sound strange to some readers, but I have found the concept is a frequent one). The wilderness is the place of the humble bread of priesthood, displayed in obedience to God. It was the next generation that would drink the wine of Canaan after obedience under Joshua.
The Lord commanded that some manna be put into the Ark as a memorial. Symbolising manna, the white stone is a memorial of faithful priesthood. Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan was memorialised by large, engraved, white stones.
And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. “You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.” (Deut. 27:2-8)
Coming at the ‘Trumpets’ step of Israel’s journey from slavery to Sabbath, these white stones were a symbol of her corporate resurrection. Neither faithful Moses nor faithful Israel left a body to be found in the howling tomb. The dirty birds of the Covenant curse were empty-bellied.
From Gravestone to Topstone
The Hebrew bdl is the word used to describe God’s dividing at Creation. In post-exilic texts it is used to describe the division of the priesthood from the people, and sinners from the people. It is an act that brings about a new Creation. This is the word in the hand of Zerubbabel. It is not a plumbline. It is a metal stone symbolising a priestly division, a cutting in two that brings new life. What was the cutting in two? It was the future death of the Lamb that allowed Joshua to put on the Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenly court, under the very eyes of the very dirtiest bird, the Accuser.
Zerubbabel brought forth the engraved “altar” stone as a craftsman brings forth his chiselled work. As an altar stone, it was not cut by human hands, but engraved by the finger of God. Just as the prophets brought the stones of the Law down upon Israel under Nebuchadnezzar, so too this small white stone would be exalted. The two pillars of Solomon’s Temple (priest and king) were slain, but now replaced with a single element that was divided as priest and exalted as king. It was permanent bread from heaven that would never, ever be filled with worms, the very public face of the hidden manna in the lost Ark, and the Facebread hidden to all but the priests.
Ezekiel was promised a hard face so that he could face the hardened faces of God’s rebellious rulers. As a High Priest in exile, he was not given the golden forehead-plate with its seven holy eyes, but the real thing. The Bible speaks often of Adam’s face relating to priesthood. The ‘face of a man’ in Ezekiel 1 corresponds to the Table of Showbread in the north (always facing south). The account of Cain and Abel is structured according to the Creation/Tabernacle pattern, and at the Facebread step, the representative Man at the Altar, Cain’s face fell. He was no longer his brother’s keeper, his watchman. Ezekiel was made a new watchman because Israel’s priesthood had become like Cain.
Jesus also set His face like flint. As Facebread, it was covered in blood, first as the cursed brow-sweat, then with the cursed ground-thorns, Adam and Cain. He was set apart, cut asunder, as a bread fragrant with frankincense before God, then resurrected. An angel dressed in lightning-white sat on the stone to speak as a memorial. The howling waste of Sheol was empty, and so was the dirtiest bird, who like Herod and Haman and all those before, had anticipated a feast. He was a serpent exposed on a pole to disempower its fiery children, a man impaled by the emperor whose ungodly sons were also slain, a false god-voice devoured alive by death-eating worms on his stolen throne like overripe manna. There is no Sabbath without resurrection. All faces will be lifted to face God, and all faces will be covered – either in a bloody human firmament (Christ’s) or in a black hood, a veil. We are white stones, or whited sepulchres.
The Word is ‘Yes’
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157).
Both Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds record these strange events. After the crucifixion, it is written that
- the most important lamp of the Temple menorah went out every night despite every precaution. Judah’s Lampstand would be removed, and not shine in her any more. It was given to the witnessing Firstfruits church (Rev. 11:4; 18:23; 22:5).
- the crimson thread that reportedly turned white if the Day of Atonement had been successful no longer did so
- the Temple doors kept swinging open of their own accord. The Jerusalem Talmud states:
”Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, ‘Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars’ ” (Zechariah 11:1)’ (Yoma 6:3).
- the Day of Atonement ‘lot’ that chose the goat for Azal, a black stone and a white stone, came up black every year between AD30 and AD70.
The scapegoat was chosen by lot, the Urim and Thummim engraved stones in the ephod – a miniature Ark worn by the High Priest. The Last Supper, as I have mentioned before, follows the feasts pattern, and at Atonement, Judas is chosen by Christ as the scapegoat. His replacement is chosen by lot, and then the Holy Spirit is poured out, after which we never hear of the lot again. Faithful saints are given the white stone by the Spirit, the Law engraved on tablets of flesh.
Zerubbabel’s exaltation of the white stone was a resounding ‘Yes!’ from the Lord. Atonement was accepted. The Temple of God would be completed and Israel’s resurrection would again turn the howling waste into a true vine and figleaf Feast of Tabernacles.
“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”
2 Corinthians 1:20
If the Talmudic accounts above are true, and the black stone denotes that the atonement after the once-for-all death of Christ could never again be accepted, the white stone promised in Jesus’ letter to Pergamum takes on bloody connotations for the receiver. In context, it was written just before the biggest corporate massacre and resurrection of saints in history. They had received the Word-bread with thanksgiving. Now they themselves would be broken bread covering the ground in Herod’s howling waste. If the Herodian priesthood’s right hand would not be marked with the blood of the bdellium (divided) stone, it would be marked with the blood of the saints.