I’m not a big DIY-er, but I do love a good episode of This Old House. Have you ever noticed that those guys still have ALL their fingers? That seriously astounds me. If I ever got near a power tool, I’m pretty sure I would immediately lose all 10 of my digits. And I’m not talking about my phone number.
Now, I’m not 100% sure if this is the right analogy, but earlier this Fall, a verse from Zechariah was hitting me hard over the head while I was working in the garden. It’s about the plumb line.
8 Then another message came to me from the Lord: 9 “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. 10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
You see, I’ve been working on my garden edging a bit, and I’m usually not one for using straight edges. I like things that curve, that meander. But one side of my garden bed edging is an old cedar log, which is stick straight, and to have the other side be meander-y would look, well, pretty weird.
Initially, I thought, “Well, this will be easy because the bricks I’m using for the other edge all have flat sides, so I don’t need a straight edge. I’ll just butt them up to each other and call it a day!”
FALSE. Here’s what my first attempt looked like:
Seriously off-kilter. So, as you can see in the above picture, I set up a straight edge. A plumb line, if you will. Two stakes in the ground with a piece of string attached to them, pulled taut.
As I was laying the bricks, I kept thinking about this verse from Zechariah. In this section, Zechariah is given a vision about what God is doing behind the scenes as Zerubbabel is leading the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish people’s 70+ year-long exile to Babylon. Zerubbabel and his team kept getting hit with problem (Ezra 4:1-5) after problem (Ezra 4:6-24) after problem (Ezra 5:3-5), yet scripture says God delighted to see Zerubbabel start this work, even though it had humble, maybe even rocky, beginnings. In fact, God says in Zechariah 4:7, “Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”
There are plenty of tools that could have been mentioned as being in Zerubbabel’s hand. Why the plumb line? And why all this talk about stones?
Well, not super surprisingly, both the plumb line and cornerstone are significant.
Search your Bible index and you’ll see that plumb lines are mentioned about 80 bajillion times in scripture (slight exaggeration, it’s 237 times ;)), almost always in reference to justice, righteousness, and judgment. There are a few occurrences that carry the most weight (no pun intended).
We need a plumb line to set the standard. The plumb line tells us definitively what is fair and right. You might think of the plumb line as the Old Testament law and prophets.
But the plumb line alone is not enough. We need a cornerstone.
A cornerstone sets the pattern for the rest of the stones and holds the foundation together. This is Jesus Christ. Check out these verses for more on how this cornerstone functions:
Psalm 118:22-23 & Matthew 21:42-44 – The builders have rejected the stone that becomes the cornerstone (the most important piece!). Jesus quotes this to point out that the Pharisees and chief priests have rejected him, but he will be the cornerstone.
Isaiah 8:14 – The Lord Almighty is a stone that causes people to stumble, a rock that makes them fall. The imagery of God as the rock of refuge is flipped here – causing those who don’t believe to fall.
Isaiah 28:16-17 – The stone is “tested” and “precious” for a “sure foundation”. Righteousness is the plumb line.
1 Corinthians 3:9-12 – We are God’s field and building. Paul is laying a foundation of faith and other teachers are building on it. Jesus Christ is the only lasting and true foundation. Everything else will be destroyed.
Ephesians 2:19-22 – Jesus is the cornerstone, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. Joined together, they make up the temple of the Lord. We, as believers, get to be stones that are part of this building where God’s Spirit resides!
1 Peter 2:6-8 – Summarizes the cornerstone imagery and meaning nice and succinctly.
In the end, thanks to the plumb line and cornerstones, I was able to finish my raised bed edging. It was a small task, but I enjoy the thought that God likes to see me working on the little things and making new beginnings. What is something that God is calling you to start? Have you trusted in Christ to be the foundation of this work?