By J.R. Miller
"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes."
There is a strange Jewish legend of a stone that was originally meant for an important place in the building, but was misunderstood and rejected. It is said that when Solomon's temple was building, all the stones were brought from the quarry, cut and shaped ready for the place they were to fill. Among the stones, was a very curious one which seemed of no desirable shape. There appeared to be no place where it belonged. They tried it in one wall--but it would not fit there. They tried it in another wall--but it was not suitable for that. The builders were vexed and angry, and threw the stone aside among the rubbish.
The temple was years in building, and this castaway block became covered with moss, and the grass grew around it. People passing by laughed at the stone of such peculiar shape that it would fit nowhere in the temple. Every other stone that came from the quarry found its place and fitted into it perfectly--but this one seemed useless--there must have been a blunder in the architect's drawings.
Years passed and the temple arose into beauty--but still the poor stone lay unused, unwanted, despised. The great day came when the temple was to be finished, and throngs were present to witness the crowning event. There was excitement--something was lacking. "Where is the capstone?" the builders said. Nowhere could it be found. The ceremony waited while the workmen sought for the missing block. At last someone said, "Perhaps the stone the builders threw aside among the rubbish, is the one for this place of highest honor. They brought it and hoisted it to the top of the temple, and lo! it fit perfectly. It had been cut and hewn for this very place. Loud shouts rent the air as the stone which the builders had refused as unfit, became the capstone, filled the place of highest honor.
The stone had been misunderstood. The master-architect knew the place for which it was hewn and shaped. But the builders did not understand it and thought the architect had blundered. At length, however, the architect was vindicated, and the stone, long despised, found its place of honor.
There seems to be a reference to this tradition in the words of the Psalm: "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." Several times the reference occurs in the Scriptures. In the story of the building, it was the architect's plan or purpose that was misunderstood. The builder thought the master had made a mistake--but he had not. The stone was despised for a time--but at length found its place--the place of honor. Continually the same mistake is made in life. People think that God has blundered in His plans. But when we come to understand, we find that His purposes are right.
"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." We see examples and illustrations of this continually.
There are people who at first do not seem to fit into any place in the world. They do not appear to have ability for anything worth while, to possess the qualities which will make them of value to the world. They are not brilliant or strong, nor do they seem likely to do anything to distinguish themselves; yet later, they develop ability, wisdom, even greatness, and fill important places in the world. There are many eminent men, of whom their early teachers predicted failure. They were dullards, not showing capacity. Yet afterwards, when they found themselves and found their place, they became distinguished in some particular line. Parents and teachers should never be discouraged when children seem unpromising. There may be hidden in their brain and heart special gifts, possibilities of power which will be brought out in certain circumstances, fitting them for particular duties.
No other man has ever been a more remarkable illustration of this, than Lincoln. Reading only the narrative of his early years, no one would dream that he would fill a great place in human history. Even in his manhood, when he was beginning to disclose his powers, men did not think of him as fitted to be President of the nation, the leader of a great moral movement. He was not the stone the builders would have chosen as the capstone. He was clumsy and unattractive. Never was the hand of Providence more clearly visible in the bringing of any man to his place--than in the events which led to Mr. Lincoln's election to the Presidency. The political leaders did not want him. He was the stone which the builders rejected.
Yet we know also the story of his wonderful life and work. His greatness was not fully known, even while he lived. Every year since his martyrdom has revealed new elements of noble character in him, and shown in clearer light the greatness of his work. The world thinks of Lincoln as the emancipator of slaves. He was that--but he was also the savior of his country. South as well as North knows now how he loved the Union. His greatness appears at every point. His oration at Gettysburg contains only a few sentences, less than three hundred words--but it is acknowledged everywhere to be a piece of matchless eloquence.
From whatever side we look at this man--he is great. More and more, too, as the years pass, do we see the providential meaning of his life, what it meant to his own country, what it meant to Christianity, what it meant to the world. His tragic death did not end his life, nor put an end to his work. They buried him amid the tears of a nation--but his life was not hidden in the grave.
Thus Lincoln is an example of one who was misunderstood by men, a stone which the builders rejected--but which God made to be the capstone.
God knows what He is doing, when He is making men. He never makes one He has no place for. Even if it is a broken life, God has a place for it, something for it to do. There is a home where the only child is mentally handicapped. Has God a place for it? Yes--perhaps it will be the means of the preparation of the parents for sweeter life and higher glory.
We see examples of the same truth in life's common relations. There are many who are misunderstood and unappreciated, and who do not get their proper quota of praise and commendation. It is so in some homes. A good many of us men do not half understand the worth of our wives--the fineness of their spirits, their devotion to our interests; nor appreciate their self-denials and self-sacrifices for us and our homes. We are not half thoughtful enough toward them, not gentle enough. It is not enough for a man to be true to his wife, to provide well for her, to supply her with physical comforts--her heart craves appreciation, cheer.
A great many people everywhere--men as well as women--are not well understood. They may be tactless. They may have faults which mar their beauty. They may have peculiarities which neutralize some of their good qualities. They are uncouth and unattractive in some way. People do not see the good there is in them, do not set the true value upon them, misunderstand them.
Here is a man whom many of his neighbors do not like. Something in his manners offends them, excites in them unkindly feelings toward him. They say he is not sincere, that he does not mean what he says. Yet those who have had an opportunity to know this man's inner life, learn that his neighbors are mistaken in their judgment concerning him. He has in him good qualities, he fills an important niche. He is only misunderstood.
Let us strive to see people--as God sees them. He sees our possibilities, not what we are today--but what we may become through love and patience and discipline. Some fruits are not sweet until late fall. Some people ripen slowly and it is a long time before they become sweet, beautiful, and helpful. Do not reject any life because it is not beautiful at present. Let God train it, and some day it may fill an important place. The stone which you builders would reject as unfit, God may want by and by for the finest ornament in His temple.
Let us be more patient with people we do not like, whose faults offend us, who seem unfit for anything worthy or noble. Perhaps their faults are only unripeness. Or perhaps they are not faults at all, only individualities which will be elements of strength when the people find their places. God has a plan for every man, and a work for every one to do. Let us leave people with faults and peculiarities, in God's hands. He will have a place by and by, for the misunderstood life, and the stone which the builders despised--He will use to be the capstone somewhere.
Sometimes it is God Himself that is misunderstood. Yesterday a young woman came to ask counsel. A few years ago, she was married to a noble young man and went to the West. Her husband died and soon all the money he had gathered was embezzled by a professed friend, leaving the young widow with two little children, and penniless. Other losses and sorrows have come. The woman has returned to her childhood home to take up her life work. She is brave and cheerful. She is not doubting God--but she is questioning, "Is God always good? Does God really ever cease to be kind? How can I thus understand these years of my life--in which every flower of joy and hope has faded, and everything I had, has been taken from me?" She is in danger of misunderstanding God. What can one say to her?
Only this, that God's work with her is not yet finished. You read a story, and at the end of a certain chapter, all seems wrong. If the book ended there, you might feel that God was not kind. But there are other chapters, and as you read on, you learn how good came out of all that seemed hard, even unjust.
Many times we think that our experiences in life, are anything but beautiful and kindly. We cannot see divine love in them. It does not seem to us possible that these rough and hard things, can be built into the temple of our lives, as stones of beauty. This may be the very stone which God has prepared for the holiest place in all the building, and that some day you will say of it, "The stone which I, the builder, would have rejected, has become the capstone! This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in my eyes."
This illustration of the misunderstood stone runs through the whole New Testament. It is used by our Lord in the Gospels as applying to Himself. He was the stone which the builders rejected--but which God made to be the capstone. Speaking to the rulers, He said: "Did you never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the capstone! This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!"
The meaning is very clear. Jesus Himself was the stone which the builders had rejected. The rulers had a mistaken idea of the Messiah who was promised. They believed the Messiah was coming--but they thought He would be a great earthly king who would free them from their political condition, and would make them a great nation that should conquer the whole world. They had not learned the sacrificial character of the Messiah given in such prophecies as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. So when Jesus came, lowly, meek, loving, unresisting, they did not believe He was the Messiah promised. They misunderstood Him.
Peter in his defense before the Sanhedrin used the same illustration. The rulers demanded by what power the lame man at the Beautiful Gate had been made whole, and Peter answered, "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--even by Him, does this man stand here before you whole." Then he added, "He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." That is, the rulers had rejected Jesus of Nazareth, the stone God had provided--but God had taken the misunderstood and rejected stone, and made it the very keystone of the temple. The great building of Christianity rests on this stone--Christ the one foundation.
Yet there are some people who do not like Jesus Christ. They do not approve of His way of helping and saving. They do not think He is the friend they need. They do not approve of the life to which He invites men. They do not think He can lead them to the best things, the fairest beauty of character, the deepest joy, the largest usefulness.
But the temple could not be completed without the misunderstood and rejected stone. This stone at once made it complete. Your life will always be incomplete, unfinished, until Christ is received to His supreme place. Christ came to give you life, fullness, abundance of life. Let His life enter your soul and possess you wholly. Christ came to give you rest of soul amid all strifes and cares. Take the rest He gives. Christ came to give you His own peace. Let His peace rule in you. Christ wants to take charge of all your affairs, to choose your way for you, to direct all your life. Lay all the tangles, all the frets, all the questions in His hands.
Christ came to change you into His own likeness, by teaching you the lesson of love, by giving you self-control, self-mastery. He does not want to destroy the temper, the appetite, the tendency in you which troubles you so much. He wants to teach you to be master of it, master of yourself, of all your being, and lead all your life into sweet devotion to Him. Christ wants to enter into your life so fully--that He will be your constant companion, that He and you shall live together, so that you will do nothing without Him--but that He and you will work together and do impossible things. Christ came to lead us thus into the fullest, richest, most blessed life of fellowship and service, giving us His joy, His peace, His life, His love, at last crowning you with glory!
That is what it means for the misunderstood stone to be made the capstone for you. The most glorious thing possible, is to have Christ in His rightful place in our lives.