The Lord's Jealousy for Zion

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Zion a Chief Cornerstone

Reading: Psalm 48; 1 Peter 2:3-10.

"I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect and honourable... Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house."

Following upon our meditation of yesterday evening in the Lord's jealousy for Zion, we are again brought by the passages read into a very close touch with the Lord's thought that is represented by Zion, that it is a pre-eminent concern with Him, and it is through that that I feel the emphasis is laid in my heart. It is most important that we should know where the Lord's chief concern is and that that ought to be our chief concern.

Now, I have no doubt that the Lord has a concern for a number of things, and that there are a number of things that fall within the compass of the intention of God through the ages, that there are various aspects of the Divine purpose, and that the Lord is occupied in working out the different phases of His whole scheme, his whole plan. But while it is well for us to be informed as much as possible as to what it is that the Lord is occupied with and concerned with, it is pre-eminently important that we should know the supreme thing in the Divine thought and concern and that all other things should take their own place, perhaps all secondary things falling into line with that supreme thing, and that for us it should be a thing which absorbs us entirely and becomes a dominating matter of our whole lives. I hope you recognise that. I expect most of you do.

There are different phases of Divine activity and interests of the Lord. For this dispensation there is the return to glory of the Lord Jesus after His death and resurrection to the point where the church is translated. Through this dispensation, marked by these points, the pre-eminent and supreme concern of the Lord is the church which is His Body. Everything else falls into a secondary place. That being foremost in the concern, interest and activity of the Lord, we should be concerned that it should be the supreme thing for us. It is just possible that the other aspect should be occupying us so that we miss something of the fulness. I do not think I am speaking too strongly when I say that other things may become aspects of truth and one may become so engrossed in them that one is diverted from the main things.

It is just possible to become so taken up with things which do fall within the compass of Divinely ordered activities, and yet are not the most important, that we miss the fullest. Good can be the enemy of the best. We must have our hearts occupied with the supreme things of the Lord and not the secondary things. In Psalm 48 we find the pre-eminence of Zion. This psalm is a presentation of the excellencies of Zion, its supremacy in the centre of everything. 1 Peter 2:6: "I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone". This must be spiritual. It cannot be literal because the temple was never built on mount Zion, but on mount Moriah. This is in keeping with that which we have already said, that Zion is God's ideal. Zion represents a state or condition rather than a place. Zion is always presented as being the same; it is the representation of the House of God. It embodies the very highest and best of God; the Divine ideal concerning His people.

"I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone... Ye also as living stones...". The spiritual house of God is Zion. Now come back to Psalm 48. "Walk about Zion, and go round about her...". That is, note the glories of the House of God, the excellencies of the House of God. Come back to Peter: "That ye should show forth the excellencies of Him who has called you". Let us bring it into the New Testament language, the church which is His Body; that spiritual house typified by Zion is the Lord's supreme concern in this dispensation. Anything which is not the Lord's chief concern must take second place. Oh, that there were in the hearts of the people of the Lord more of that which corresponds to Israel's feelings about Zion! Their songs of ascent as they went up were all about the glories and magnificence of Zion. Zion was a great heart matter with them. They were full of glory and praise. We need more of that which corresponds to this concerning the Lord's house which is His body.

If you read the context of these words in the first letter of Peter, you will see the practical outworking of this, that it really is a heart matter: "Putting away all malice, and all guile, and all evil speaking...". If we really have the Lord's house at heart we do put away all malice and evil speaking.

Here the Lord is presented as the chief cornerstone. Here in Zion the chief cornerstone is literally the 'outmost' cornerstone. Chosen, elected and honourable. When was the Lord Jesus laid in Zion as the chief cornerstone? I think there is little doubt but that it was in His resurrection. You see that He was rejected indeed of men, but with God elected and honourable. The rejection has been carried through to fulness and finality and then the Lord makes Him the chief cornerstone. But now, "we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour".

It was in His resurrection that He was made the chief cornerstone. The object in pointing that out and stressing it is that His house is essentially a resurrection house. "Ye also as living stones" ... "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, which has begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead". We are entirely on resurrection ground when we are dealing with Zion. That is, that this house is the embodiment of that life by which death was conquered in the Lord Jesus is a living house in every part. That is something more than being just alive. It is possessing a life which has proved that death cannot conquer it. This house, from the chief cornerstone, from its very foundation, is the vessel of the risen Life of the Lord Jesus and it shows forth the excellencies of that Life.

It is, in the first place, to show forth the excellencies of His Life. Excellence is not only a lustre. The word here means that which "excels"; that which is above and beyond all else. We find the same word in 2 Cor. 4:7. "We have this vessel in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God..." "That the exceeding greatness..." Here is God's standpoint. This exceeding greatness is that of the Life.

Here is a glorious contradiction. If you are a stone you are not alive; if you are living you are not a stone. The language of the New Testament is always linking things which are essentially different. Living stones built up a spiritual house. It is all a matter of the presence and power of the Life. This excellency of Life is not always a thing which can be seen outwardly, of which one can take mental note, it is a thing which works in spite of a good many things which would challenge it. I believe that this excellency of the risen Life of the Lord Jesus is manifested very often in the sheer persistence, when all things are taken into account, amid the pressure and the suffering which come to bear upon the life of the instrument. This sheer persistence of Divine Life is a marvellous testimony to the fact that there is something there which is unquenchable. In looking at it you can only see the cost, but it is a testimony to an excellency, the exceeding greatness of power.

Take the history of the church as a whole. At times it seems almost to have been eclipsed. You see ships in the mighty sea, almost inundated by the mighty waves of persecution and spiritual trial and it seemed as if the Lord's testimony had disappeared and the vessel had been overwhelmed.

Likewise, in our personal lives. It may seem as if we have gone out. We feel finished, swamped, gone. But the Lord is in the midst. It is an awful experience when we are there. There seems no more hope. Yet some how we come up, and we know that it is not by our own strength of will. We go on, "The Lord is in the midst, she shall endure for ever".

"Elect, honourable". That is a much better word than in the text, "Elect, precious". The chief cornerstone is elect and honourable. "Now unto you who believe is the honour". That which is true of Him as chief cornerstone is also true of the living stones. What is true of Him is also true of them by faith, "Unto you which believe...".

As it is written in the Scriptures, "They which repose their trust in Him shall not be put to shame". That is the very opposite of honour, if you are ashamed you have lost your honour. The honour is for you and I as we repose our faith in the Lord. If the Lord is honourable and you repose your trust in Him, then you cannot be put to shame. It is to repose faith in Him, the chief cornerstone. Follow that closely: "Rejected indeed of men, He was despised, reproached, humiliated, cast out, but God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, crowned with glory and honour". Now men may despise, may humiliate, but the word that was true concerning the Lord Jesus is also true of every stone. God will transfer the honour of His Son to every one united with Him. It is the glories of Zion.

This last word. You notice that closely running alongside of this is the further quotation from the Old Testament. "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood..." (1 Pet. 2:9). What I want you to notice is that this spiritual house, Zion, is essentially a priestly house. All the excellencies are excellencies of priesthood as well as of the kingdom. We are carried back to the priestly period. There are the glories of the priesthood, the garments of honour representing the glories of heaven. The priest was in a very high place of Divine honour and this represents the heavenly glories and beauties.

Zion is represented as being a priestly House. Just as it is true that the kingly glories of the Lord Jesus and the kingly honour are transferred to the living stones, so also the priestly glories. We are brought into the priesthood of heaven now. We are now a kingdom, and priests, and it is a tremendous thing that you and I should now, in spite of all our human weakness and failing, be standing into the place of Christ's heavenly glories and minister as priests in His House. His priests are clothed with beauty and honour. There are tremendous possibilities bound up with this priestly house. When you contemplate what a place the priesthood occupied in Israel of old, you see some of the possibilities. But look at it in the days of Eli, of Malachi, of Joshua clothed in filthy garments. Then the priesthood was in desolation and shame and it meant that the Lord's people were crippled, were in weakness and helplessness. The whole state of the people is influenced by the state of the priests. When the priest is in his place of glory and honour the people are always in the place of power and strength.

The point is that the Lord needs a priestly instrument tremendously today, an instrument that stands right in His immediate presence on the behalf of His people, those who know how to lay hold on the Lord and really to bring Him out in the interests of His people and to stand for the very life of His children.

Look at what happened when such a one as Samuel came in on the scene. Everything was in a state of declension, but he laid himself out on behalf of Israel before the Lord and fulfilled the ministry of both priest and king. And then he brought in the king. There was a change in dispensation. Samuel truly knew how to stand before the Lord, and by his ministry the dispensation was changed.

"If Samuel was to stand before Me, even then would I not hear". "If I would hear anybody, it would be Samuel, but in this case I would not even hear him". When they chose Saul to be king, Samuel stood against it. "I will pray the Lord to send rain and thunder in the time of harvest." And it came.

Samuel's is the ministry in the presence of God on behalf of the Lord's people. The Lord needs something like that in Zion today. We can be in that place of priestly ministry today, in Zion to stand before the Lord in the interests of the Lord in His people.

May we hear that call and come into the place of the priestly ministry of our glorious Lord Jesus.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.