Despite the capriciousness of much of modern ethos, which in essence is governed by a denial of governance, absolutes, and absolute authority, in which existence has either meaning or not according to one’s own personal bias and subjectivity, some things are ‘written in stone’, as the idiom expresses it, and thank God that it is so.
If something is ‘written in stone’ it is said to be permanent and cannot be changed. Conversely, something ‘not written in stone’ is a statement of lesser seriousness, one subject to challenge and change.
The expression is derived from scripture and refers to Moses originally having received from God two stone tablets which were engraved by God with His teachings and commandments. In fact, God thought it important enough to establish this point, this maxim, that, He again underscores and pretty much repeats this object lesson, by instructing the children of Israel to erect a monument of stone as they entered the Promised Land and to write upon it these same commandments.
Yes, some things are ‘written in stone’, such as the principles and laws that God uses to govern the universe, such as the unchangeableness of His own being and nature. A day isn’t of one duration one day and of a different duration the next; He’s not one thing one day and another thing another day. He doesn’t act one way one day and another way another day. He doesn’t determine one way one day and completely differently the next. He says, ‘I am the Lord, I change not.’
There are physical absolutes that we can be assured of and depend upon, that in turn bring order, sense and confidence into what would be an otherwise chaotic, apprehensive and insecure physical existence. Likewise, there are aspects of God’s nature, of His being that are absolutes, that we can be assured of and depend upon that have similar positive effects upon as spiritual beings. To not recognize and acknowledge this is to undercut the bedrock underpinning of our entire existence to our own detriment.
But, sadly, hearts are often hard as stone and wills equally as adamant in their oppositions. At least with stone it can be engraved upon but even then, one of the hardest of substances can still be broken, but not so human wills. When set in adamant opposition they become worlds within themselves, unbreakable but by their own doing.
We are said to have been made in the image of God but much more we attempt to change God into our own image, more to our own liking, to something or someone we would like Him to be, something and someone we can change, manipulate and reinterpret to and at our own convenience.
But where the real, the eternal permanence is embraced, where the ‘pay-dirt’, so to speak, is to be had, is when we allow Him to write, not just in stone; which is but an object lesson of the greater reality, but upon the tables of our hearts.
Through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, God declared so long ago:
“The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with (My) people…. The new covenant that I will make with (them) will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 )
This is why the apostle Paul could declare in New Testament times of the people of God:
“You are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corintheans 3:7)
Thomas Traherne, the 17th century English poet, clergyman, theologian, in writing his classic Centuries of Meditation wrote:
If man’s heart be a rock of stone, these things ought to be engraven in it with a pen of a diamond, and every letter to be filled up with gold that it may eternally shine in Him and before Him!
He has given me freedom, and adventured the power of (choice) into my hands: it ought to be a principle engraven in me, to use it nobly, to be illustrious and faithful, to please Him in the use of it, to consult His honor… to behave myself as a faithful friend to so great a Majesty, so bountiful a Lord, so Divine a Benefactor.
And what is the end of those things ‘written in stone’? –But love out of a pure heart and faith in all sincerity.