“Then build an altar there to the Lord your God, using natural, uncut stones. You must not shape the stones with an iron tool.” (Deuteronomy 27:5 NLT).


Moses instructed Israel to build an altar of “natural, uncut stones” after they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. They were to offer burnt offerings on it to celebrate God’s law and provision for his people. But why did God insist that the altar be built with natural, uncut stones?
The most obvious reason for leaving the stones uncut was because God commanded it. For those who trust the Lord, “because God said so” should always suffice.
Perhaps another reason the stones were to be left natural was to prevent the altar from becoming an idol. The pagan peoples of that land made intricately carved, manmade altars in the high places and the Lord did not want his people to worship falsely.
Yet, surely the most meaningful reason is an allegorical one. The stones were to be left natural and uncut because God’s salvation is the work of God alone without any human effort. In this sense, the uncut stones point to Christ. For Jesus is the stone that “was cut out, but not by human hands” (Dan. 2:34). He is the “stone that the builders rejected [that] has become the cornerstone” (Matt. 21:42). As Isaiah prophesied and Peter preached, the Lord has said, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Isa. 28:16, 1 Pet. 2:6). Christ is that Cornerstone laid by God himself.
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for Christ, the Cornerstone and foundation of our salvation. We have believed in Jesus and received freely your great salvation. What wonder and awe we feel as we contemplate the work of salvation you began even before the foundation of the world. There is nothing we can add or subtract to the work of salvation you have provided for us in Christ Jesus. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices in response to your great love and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.