Written in Stone
Bible Study #9
Common Bible Phrases #6
This particular Bible phrase is familiar to many people, but that may not be you, so let’s take a look at it!
Meaning: A decision or rule that is permanent, not subject to change.
“Now, this isn't written in stone yet, but this looks like the way it's going to be”.
“Is this policy carved in stone, or can it still be modified”?
Bible verse: Exodus 24:12,13
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” 13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.
The Background Story of the phrase:
Moses, one of the main characters of the Old Testament, was born in Egypt, of Hebrew slave parents. At that time in Egypt, there was an edict from the ruling Pharaoh, that all the ‘first-born’ Hebrew boys should be cast into the river Nile, to drown or be consumed by predator animals. That was to prevent the Hebrew population from becoming too populous and powerful, in contrast, the girls were kept alive as they could be used as slaves.
Moses’ mother did put him in the river, but, in a basket which had been coated with pitch or tar. He was found by an Egyptian princess, and rescued by her. Moses was raised in the Pharaohs palace, to one day become part of the ruling class Egyptians. After many trials, defeats and final victories, in his later years Moses became the leader, not of the Egyptians, but of the Hebrew people. For many years, they had been slaves to the Pharaohs of Egypt. God told Moses to take the people out of that land and go to a land that He would give them, which was called, “The Promised Land”.
The Commandments on Stone are Written
After leaving Egypt the Hebrew people were no longer under the control of the Egyptians. This meant that they had to know what was right and wrong to do for themselves not what they were ordered to do. This proved to be difficult, in fact, without God’s guidance it would have proven to be impossible. There were many divisions and strife that beset the people. Moses was called by God to travel into a high mountain called Mt Sinai. There at the mountain top, God would give Moses’ two stone tablets with a set of ten commandments for right living carved into it. These rules could not be changed, but were permanently written in the stone, from where we get the familiar phrase, ‘written in stone’, about something that cannot be changed. Those ten commandments in various forms have become the basis for countless societies and civilizations since.
Here are two movie clips from well-known movie accounts of Moses’ story.
The Ten Commandments (With Charlton Heston)
Prince of Egypt (Animation movie)
Slaves in Ancient Egypt and Slavery Worldwide Today
This phrase ‘written in stone’, is often used in the context of something that has been done or decided that cannot be changed. Sometimes though, it is used to describe a coming event that seems to be inevitable and cannot be changed. In that context, let’s move from the ancient world to the present day.
Although Moses’ story happened around 3,500 years ago, the situation the Hebrews faced is all too familiar to many people today. Slavery is still a worldwide problem, in fact, there are reports that the number of slaves worldwide is increasing and may be greater now than at any time in history.
Modern Slaves in the Making- Ukrainian Refugees
As can be seen in the present crisis in the Ukraine, where untold millions of people are in upheaval. Men cannot leave the country due to military service, but women and children are rapidly becoming refugees in other countries. Lands where they are strangers, not knowing the language or the people.
It is a known fact that women and even child refugees, without their own men to protect them, are very vulnerable to all kinds of abuse, exploitation and even slavery. Accounts of this type of tragedy are not difficult to find in the news media. Reports of similar problems regarding the Ukrainian refugees are already appearing, please keep this potentially tragic situation in your prayers.
That is a very sad commentary on the present state of our world. Not a good place to end a Bible study!
So, as has been said, ‘If the hero hasn’t won, then the movie isn’t over yet’! In other words, while the world is still beset with the same ancient and many other modern problems, there is hope, but we need to look further ahead to the greater things that God has promised that have not appeared yet to gain that hope for the future.
Rom 8:21-24 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. (23) And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (24) For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why doth he yet hope for? (25) But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
The Promised Solution and Future Promised Land
For the Hebrew people, Egypt was not their final home, it was a difficult place and time they had to go through, a sojourn, to get to their physical ‘Promised Land’. The place that God had promised to their ancestor Abraham, a place that they could call, home! Where they would be able to live in peace and prosperity.
The same is true for us too!
This temporary place and time that we are all in, this journey that we call life, which for growing numbers of people who are subject to constantly increasing restrictions, mandates and regulations, it either seems like or actually is a place of slavery. But this is not our permanent home, but a journey that is going somewhere –If we choose it. Not to an unknown destination, but to a destination that was promised from the beginning—and what is that destination? God’s final Promised Land.
In the New Testament after a list of some of the well-known characters from the Old Testament, who lived their lives following God, as best they could, but never reached that final perfect Promised Land. We read the following, in Hebrews 11:13-16
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
They believed in and looked for, a future inheritance, a Promised Land, that would become permanently theirs. That was their life’s goal, to follow the path that would lead to that final destination.
Hebrews 11:14-16 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. (15) And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. (16) But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
God prepared for them and us the final Promised Land, and within it the city of ‘New Jerusalem’.
And What or Where is this Promised Land?
Jesus talked specifically about it in John 14:1-4
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
A place where we will not be strangers, pilgrims or refugees but all its inhabitants will truly be at home!
Here are some more verses that talk about this new Promised Land.
Heb 11:39-40 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, did not receive the promise, (40) for God had provided some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.
Heb 13:12-25 Therefore Jesus also, so that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (13) Therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. (14) For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (15) By Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name.
Revelations 21:1-5 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”