Lapis Lazuli

Our text this morning is taken from Isaiah 54:11-12 (MSG): “Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied: I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise, lay your foundations with sapphires, construct your towers with rubies, your gates with jewels, and all your walls with precious stones.”

This passage anticipates the restoration of Israel, begun in part by the return of the exiles from Babylon in 536 BC. But we take our cue from 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (MSG) Therefore the text is applicable to us and our circumstances even though it is about Israel.

In Isaiah 54:11 therefore, we see a man in the midst of so much trouble – relentless trouble. He is “afflicted”, “storm-battered”, “unpitied”. The trials of life are pulverising him from all sides: no respite. Yet in the midst of all this trouble comes a promise of the improbable. God promised: “I’m about to rebuild you… I will lay your stones… lay your foundations with sapphires.” It is an aggressive promise – very revolutionary in approach. It is not evolutionary. It talks about wholesale reconstruction, not palliatives. It lays down a bold vision.

Sometimes, God’s vision for our lives is so revolutionary – bold, audacious, improbable. His assignments can be visionary. The apostles might have wondered when Jesus laid down a global vision for the gospel: “And you will be my witnesses – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8. “Impossible!” the skeptic might have thought. “How is the vision going to be accomplished?” The cynic might have wondered. The implementation personnel were mostly made up of under qualified staff lacking in organisational skills. None had ever worked on a global agenda. They had hardly travelled out of Jewry. Leadership skills were lacking. They had proved cowards in the face of state directed clampdown on religious freedom. But here we are 2000 years later! And who could have imagined the rise of Paul. Or satellite broadcasting! Or the internet. God has the strategic capability to bring his word to pass. He promised Jeremiah: “I’m sticking with you. I’ll make every word I give you come true.” Jeremiah 1:12.

Now, if a structure must be rebuilt from the foundation up, it means it’s the scene of serious devastation. The man who must be rebuilt from the foundation up must have suffered serious calamity. The world would have given up on such a man. He’s beyond rescue, a lost cause. Perhaps everyone has given up on you. But God has not given up on you. Be it a drug problem, or financial problem, or prostitution, or health challenge, God hasn’t given up on you! No matter how far down or how far gone, or how far lost we are, God never gives up on us! He’s the God who left 99 amenable sheep to search for one wayward sheep. God is particular about us individually. He has statistical data on you. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. The data is updated every haircut. Luke 12.7.

This God has made a huge personal commitment to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of your life. “I’m about to rebuild you,” God promised. That promise is in the first person. God is not delegating. He’s taking personal responsibility for your life. I don’t know what your circumstances are. May be you’re in the midst of a fiery furnace. Unrelenting trials. Maybe you have suffered devastation- emotional, familial, financial, social or professional. God will rebuild you from the ground up. It may seem impossible, it may seem improbable, but those are the specialties of God.

Sometimes in the midst of trouble it is hard to find the word of God. Our vision is beclouded with fear. Yet in our passage God’s word comes through. There is always a word of God in every circumstance we face. Sometimes the troubles are so much it shakes us to the very foundations of our faith. Life begins to look unfamiliar. No markers. No GPS. Nothing makes sense again. We’re lost! But the word of God is present. We may not readily see it but it’s there. Look for the word. And what we think is devastation is God’s opportunity to rebuild. He’s a reconstruction specialist. We built with hay, wood and stubble but God wants to rebuild us with precious stones. And the glory of the latter shall be greater than the former. That is God’s reconstruction philosophy. Your tomorrow shall be greater than your yesterday! God sends his word this morning. And the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith.

And so in our text this morning, God promises to rebuild us with stones of turquoise, lay our foundations with sapphires. Foundations are buried in the ground yet God makes a lavish commitment to use expensive stones for that phase. God is rich. He can afford whatever building material he chooses. He is lavish with grace. He does exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever ask or think – infinitely beyond our highest hopes and dreams. Ephesians 3:20.

The word translated “sapphires” in that passage is actually “lapis lazuli”. Isaiah 54:11: “I will rebuild you with precious jewels and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.” Lapis lazuli is a prized deep blue semi-precious stone from antiquity. Has an intense colour. “Azure” is derived from it. Afghanistan was the source of lapis lazuli for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations. The Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years.

Lapis lazuli is also used for art, decoration and in jewellery. Powdered lapis was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra. It was used for the eyebrows on the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (1341 – 1323 BC).

And so we see God committing to use an expensive material for your foundation – the stuff of kings and legends. Foundations are thus important to God. He’s particular about foundations. Christ is our foundation. 1 Corinthians 3:11, Matthew 7:25. He’s committed huge resources to your foundation. You will need an expanded capacity to take in such extravagance. You will need to readjust your thinking to appreciate the future God has for you. You must key into God’s vision. Such extravagance depicts the love of God towards us. You are being given the Jesus treatment. Christ, the living cornerstone of God’s temple was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 1 Peter 2:7.

Give him anticipatory praise!

© Leke Alder |