The background for
chapter eight of Isaiah is the Assyrian invasion. It
is a picture of political intrigue and panic. The
prophet is trying to encourage King Ahaz and the
people of Judah to trust in the LORD God and not
enter political treaties with the Northern Kingdom
of Israel and Syria against the superpower Assyria.
The prophet announces coming judgment if King Ahaz
does not put his trust in Yahweh.
The nation is so low
spiritually under Ahaz's leadership that when the
prophet calls for trust in the LORD the politicians
and the people accuse him of a "conspiracy." The
king accused the prophet of being a troublemaker
because he did not go by the polls and the political
programs. Ahaz has opted to follow the polls and
popular opinion instead of the word of God. The
politicians accuse Isaiah of a right wing
"conspiracy" because he opposes compromise with the
pagan nations (8:11–13). The challenge is to fear
the LORD! Put your confidence in Him. If you are
going to conspire, conspire with Him. Don't put your
faith in the king of Assyria; put your faith in the
LORD your God. Because Isaiah sided with Yahweh they
saw him in service of the enemy and conspiring to
overthrow the government. No one was more loyal to
the Lord God and His covenant nation than the
prophets. The clarion call was, "You are to fear
If the king and the
people had sanctified Yahweh and feared Him there
would be no conspiracy (v. 13). If you give the LORD
His proper place in your life then you will fear and
dread Him. If you put Him first you will sanctify
and honor Him. If you don't regard Him as holy then
He will be for you "a stone to strike and a rock to
stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the
inhabitants of Jerusalem" (v. 14).
What is your attitude
toward the Lord?
The imagery in verse
fourteen is a man fleeing the coming judgment. If
the man is a believer and fleeing in time of trouble
the altar will be a sanctuary, the place where he
meets God in salvation and security. However, if he
is an unbeliever who has no time for God, then the
altar is only a heap of stones to strike and stumble
over. Look how Isaiah reinforced the thought of
salvation and judgment in verses 13-15.
"It is the LORD of hosts
whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your
And He shall be your
Then He [the LORD of
hosts whom you regard as holy] shall become a
But to both the houses of
Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble
And a snare and a trap
for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many will stumble
Then they will fall and
They will even be snared
The admonition is clear,
sanctify yourselves and the LORD will be to you a
sanctuary. If you sanctify Him, He will be a
sanctuary for you. He will be your salvation and
The Old Testament
scholars Keil and Delitzsch observed: "All who
sanctified the Lord of lords He surrounded like
temple walls: hid them in Himself, whilst death and
tribulation reigned without, and comforted, fed, and
blessed them in His own gracious fellowship."
However, for those who
refuse to trust in Yahweh He will be a stone of
stumbling that will crush them in judgment. Verse
fifteen says God will set for the people not only a
rock to crush them but a spring loaded bird trap to
snare them. Because of the stone many will stumble,
fall and be crushed. They will be completely
Who is this Rock of
Salvation and Stone of Stumbling?
The apostle Peter
captures this idea and reminds his readers, "You who
believe the Lord is precious will not be
disappointed in Him. But you who are disobedient and
refuse to believe in Him, the stone which the
builders rejected, the same is the head stone and a
stone of stumbling and rock of offense" (Pounds
paraphrase). He combines two verses from Isaiah
(28:16; 8:14) with Psalm 118:22 in 1 Peter 2:6–8.
The chief corner stone is the stone of stumbling and
rock of offence for those who refuse to believe.
However, He is the solid rock of salvation to those
who choose to believe. The purpose of the "stone, a
tried stone, a precious corner–stone" is a
foundation that gives stability and security to the
How can the chief corner
stone become the stumbling stone and rock of
offense? "They stumble because they are disobedient
to the word, and to this doom they are also
appointed," writes Peter (1 Peter 2:8).
Who is this rock of
offense? Clearly, it is Jesus of Nazareth, God's
chosen and choice stone.
Simeon was in the Temple
of Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to
be dedicated. Simeon was "righteous and devout,
looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy
Spirit was upon him. And it was revealed to him by
the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before
he had seen the Lord's Christ (Messiah)" (Luke
2:25–26). Simeon took Jesus in his arms and "blessed
God." He recognized that Jesus was the Anointed of
God and praised God that he was allowed to see His
Son. Simeon blessed Jesus and His parents and
praised God. Then he said to Mary, "Behold, this
Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in
Israel, and for a sign to be opposed and a sword
will pierce even your own soul––to the end that
thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (vv.
34–35). Did you catch it? This Child will be a
stumbling block "for the fall and rise of many in
Later in his Gospel Dr.
Luke quotes a parable Jesus gave on the Vine–growers
association (Luke 20:9–18). In making His
application Jesus asked a question while quoting
Psalm 118:22. "What then is this that is written,
'The stone which the builders rejected, this became
the chief corner stone'?" Then He quickly added,
"Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to
pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter
him like dust" (v. 18). Luke observes, "And the
scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on
Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for
they understood that He spoke this parable against
them" (v. 19).
Our attitude toward Him
determines our spiritual welfare. He is a sanctuary
to those who sanctify Him. He is a place of refuge,
peace and security to those who believe. However, to
those who reject Him He becomes a stone to trip
over. He becomes a crushing stone of judgment to the
proud of heart. Many people collide with Him and
trip over Him because they try to live as if He
didn't exist. Jesus Christ will always be a
stumbling stone to those who refuse to trust in Him.
"For the word of the
cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but
to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1
Corinthians 1:18). The Jewish people were always
asking for signs and the Greeks were in search of
wisdom. "But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a
stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to
those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (vv.
Peter used the
illustration of the rejected stone becoming God's
chosen stone in a sermon on the death and
resurrection of Jesus. He concluded his message
saying, "And there is salvation in no one else; for
there is no other name under heaven that has been
given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts
4:12). Jesus and the salvation He offers is a
stumbling stone for many.
However, He brings
eternal life and inner peace to those who believe on
Him. In his great chapters on the sovereignty of God
in salvation the apostle Paul draws the conclusion
that Gentiles, who did not have any interest in the
righteousness of God, have "attained righteousness,
even the righteousness which is by faith" (Romans
9:30). They were unconcerned and indifferent pagans.
They were not concerned about a right standing with
God. Yet, God in His rich grace and mercy chose to
save them by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand,
Israel, who had been pursuing a law of
righteousness, never arrived at God's righteousness.
Gentiles attained this righteousness, but Israel
failed. Why? Paul tells us, "They stumbled over 'the
stumbling stone,' just as it is written, 'Behold, I
lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of
offense, and he who believes in Him will not be
disappointed'" (9:32–33 quoting Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).
The Gentiles obtained a
right standing with God which was a "righteousness
that is by faith." The problem was in the way the
Jews pursued righteousness. They wanted to do it
their way, not God's way. They wanted to use the Law
as a means of obtaining righteousness. However, by
the works of the law they could never attain it
because they were sinners. They could never
perfectly obey the law. Christ alone has fulfilled
the law. Paul saw the law as a means of leading
people to Christ and a right relationship with God.
Instead of seeking God's righteousness by faith,
they stumbled over works righteousness. "The
righteousness that answers the demands of the law,
is the righteousness of God, which is received by
faith. The Jews, then, did not attain to it, because
they sought it not by faith, but as of works of law"
(Robert Haldane). It is impossible to attain
salvation other than by justification by faith.
Righteousness is by faith. The Jews refused to come
by faith. They sought the right goal in the wrong
way, and therefore stumbled over Christ. Paul
applies the stone of stumbling and rock that crushes
in Isaiah 8:14 to Christ. He had no hesitation in
applying to Christ those Old Testament passages that
refer to the Lord of hosts.
God's sovereign will does
not eliminate human responsibility. The Jewish
people's lack of faith prevented them from
recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. They had an
attitude problem. Instead of begin the cause of
great rejoicing in the rich blessings of Yahweh, He
became a "stumbling stone" to them.
Christ is the Stone. Is
He a stone of offense or a rock of salvation for
you? The believer will never be ashamed before God
because Christ is his righteousness.
Title: Isaiah 8:14
A Rock of Salvation and a Stumbling Stone
Christ in the Old Testament