Friday, July 15, 2005


The Stones Will Cry Out

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-44) the Pharisees command that he silence his disciples who were praising God. Jesus’ reply is, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Song writers and preachers have had a field day with this statement. They make it out that if people today stop praising God the rocks around us will suddenly come out of retirement and shout praise to Him.

Not so. Neither Jesus nor Luke means that this crying out of stones is a covering for silent worshipers. It is a specific reference to that occasion—and the crying out of the stones would not be a cry of praise.

The reference is to Habakkuk chapter 2, where a warning is given regarding the Chaldeans (or, Babylonians). This warning is transferable to any city similarly built on greed, violence, and injustice, as Babylon was. Habakkuk 2:9 says, "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain.” Verse 12, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime.”

From Genesis 11 to Revelation 18, the Bible represents Babylon in these terms. Habakkuk predicts Babylon’s fall because of such sinful human intent and action by its leaders and people. In fact, he presents the very stones and timbers of the city as crying out to God for intervention because of human sin and refusal to acknowledge God. Verse 11, “The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.” It is clearly a cry for judgment, not a cry of Hosanna.

As Jesus entered his beloved Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, he recognized the marks of a violent city ruled by greedy leaders. The stones were calling for God’s judgment. He wept over the city (verses 41-44) because of the “woes” awaiting Jerusalem’s people under the judgment of a holy God. Only one thing could hold off that promised retribution: if its people would know what would bring them peace.

The cries of the disciples, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” were cries of hope for Jerusalem. Like the edict of sackcloth, ashes, and repentance in the Nineveh of Jonah’s day (Jonah 3:5-10), the cries of the disciples and pilgrims on this day might have averted the promised disaster, had they been picked up by the city’s leaders and populace.

Alas! the stones did “cry out” and God heard them. But their cry, like that in Habakkuk, was a cry to the God who not only saves but who also brings righteous judgment.

It is comforting (for us) to know that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” In other words, whether we sing our praise or not, the Lord’s glory will prevail (Habakkuk 2:14). But, our worship is not to silence the stones.

Let’s read with our eyes open.

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