Are children of Abraham created from stones?
John the Baptist said to the Jews, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” [Luke 3:8]
No doubt, the stones John referred to were part of the land of Israel. There is a spiritual significance to the promised land. It signifies the knowledge of God, and the truth. The promised land was where many of the Scriptures were written. Some that were written elsewhere, such as the prophecies of Ezekiel, spoke about the land. However, Paul said the chief benefit of being Jewish was that they received the revelations of God, not that they possessed the land of Canaan.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
When Joshua entered the land, the law was written upon stones built into an altar. They were whole stones, that were not shaped by man. [Deut. 27:8; Joshua 8:32]
Other lands, where God’s people were taken captive, and where the Israelites were scattered, represent beliefs other than the way of God. When the people turned away from God, and became like the Canaanite nations who they had displaced, they were expelled from the promised land.
Restoration to the land means returning to God, and repentance, and reconciliation. John’s statement that God could make children of Abraham from stones points to the spiritual significance of the land; it was a place intended for raising up the children of Abraham, those who have faith in God.
When Jacob returned to the promised land, with his family and possessions, after he had lived for 20 years in Syria, he was a changed man. His name was changed to Israel. He became reconciled to his brother. When John the Baptist spoke of God making children of Abraham from stones, the saying has a spiritual significance, as the rocks and stones are symbolic of God’s word, and his revelations, and promises. Entering the promised land is a figure representing belief in the Gospel, and faith in Christ, in Hebrews 3:19 and 4:1-11.
The whole history of Israel, the promise of land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel’s anticipation of receiving the promise, their exodus from Egypt, wandering in the wilderness under Moses, taking possession of the land under Joshua, governing the land, and their ultimate loss of the land, is an elaborate parable. Psalm 78 relates the history of Israel, up until the time of David. Verse 2 says: “I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old.” The history related in the psalm is called a parable, showing that events in Israel’s past have profound spiritual meaning for the church. Paul said of the experience of the people of Israel, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [1 Cor. 10:11]
The prophets foretold a restoration to the land, associated with repentance, and returning to God. This is not about a physical return to Canaan, which was merely a shadow of a better, heavenly land. [Heb. 11:16] The heavenly land represents the spiritual inheritance of the saints. One of the things Jesus promised was that the Spirit will guide us to all truth. The Psalmist said, “Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” [Psa. 85:11]
The return to the land described by the prophets should be understood in a spiritual way, in the light of the Gospel. Those prophecies are similar to Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son. Like the return of the son, they describe the spiritual reconciliation of men and God, and the worship of God in spirit and in truth.
Repentance is not a notable characteristic of people moving to the modern Jewish state. The Zionist movement is not a fulfilment of the prophecies about Israel’s future restoration. Jeremiah focused upon the spiritual nature of the return.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
In his first epistle Peter referred to Jesus as a living stone, rejected by men, and those who believe in him as stones built up as a spiritual house. By mixing the metaphors stones, holy priesthood, and sacrifices, he implied that this spiritual house is the true temple of God. Peter wrote:
1 Peter 2:4-5
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.