The Onyx Stone Genesis 2:12

The onyx stone. - Genesis 2:12

How many precious stones do you know? Count and see. I expect all of you know a diamond and a ruby, an emerald and a sapphire, an amethyst and a turquoise. That makes six. How many precious stones do you think the Bible knows? Nineteen! And if we add what we may call “the precious stones of the sea,” the pearl and the coral, that makes the list total twenty-one.

You will find most of these precious stones in three great lists. The first list is in the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Exodus, and it is repeated in the thirty-ninth chapter. That list is a description of the twelve jewels which Aaron, the first Jewish high priest, wore on his breastplate. There were four rows of stones, three in each row, and each stone had the name of a tribe engraved on it. When Aaron went into the Holy Place to intercede with God for the people he put on this wonderful breastplate. He carried, as it were, the names of the tribes on his heart when he entered the presence of God. And as the light of the Holy Place fell on the twelve jewels they flashed and glowed as if they were living.

The second list you will find in the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel; the stones mentioned there are those worn by the King of Tyre. There are nine of them, and you will notice that they are all stones that were mentioned in the first list, though the order is different. Between the time of the first list and the second nine hundred years had passed. Seven hundred years after the second list a third list appeared. You will find it in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation. The stones spoken of there are the twelve foundation- stones of the New Jerusalem, the City of God which is to be, and which John the Apostle saw in a vision. If you read over that list you will notice that eight of the stones we have already met, and four are strangers. The four new stones have names which look hard to spell and difficult to pronounce. Try them. Chalcedony, Sardonyx, Chrysolite, Chrysoprase.

Besides these three lists you will find the names of jewels scattered through many pages of the Bible. You see, the Jews were an Eastern people, and Eastern nations set greater store by gems than we do. You have only to look at the picture of an Indian Prince with his magnificent strings of pearls and his jeweled sword and his turban clasped with an enormous emerald—you have only to look at him to see how much jewels mean to those in the East. An Eastern counts them his most cherished possession. Instead of putting his money in the Bank he buys jewels. He thinks of them as living. He believes that they bring to their wearer health, wealth, happiness, strength, long life, and fame. He fondly hopes that they will keep away from him evil and misfortune. He even imagines that they will wash away sin.

We don’t go so far as our Eastern brothers, but still we too love jewels. We admire their wonderful color and their fascinating sparkle, and we like to hear the many stories that are told of them. Let us see if they have any special message to give to us.

We are not going to take any of the lists we have mentioned, but we are going to make up a list of our own—a stone for each month. Perhaps you may have heard people talking about their birth-stone. They were going back to an idea which the old Romans had that every month of the year had its own precious stone. The Romans said that if you were born in a certain month you should wear the stone belonging to that month. It would bring you good luck. They also wore a talisman made of the stones of the months set in their proper order. Of course we are too sensible to think that merely wearing certain stones will bring us good fortune, but let us see if we cannot make a talisman of our own out of twelve of the Bible stones.

Our stone for January will not be the garnet, which is the stone the Romans chose for it, but the very first precious stone mentioned in the Bible. Look up the second chapter of Genesis. In the last three words of the twelfth verse you will find our text—“the onyx stone.”

How many of you know an onyx stone when you see it? And how many of you can tell me why it was called an onyx? Some of the bigger boys and girls who are learning Greek will be able to help here. They will tell us that the onyx stone is named after the finger-nail. There is a whitish half moon at the base of your finger-nail, then there is a broad band of pink, and then there is, or should be, another narrow strip of white. The onyx is a banded stone, and the Greeks thought the markings on it resembled those on the human nail, so they called it the “finger-nail” stone. The best known onyx is formed of layers of black and white, but there are onyxes of other shades besides. Many of them have a layer of red, and these are known as sardonyxes.

You must have seen an onyx many a time though you may not have recognized it. Perhaps Granny has a brooch with a beautiful head carved in white against a black background. You have often looked at it and wondered if the jeweler glued the white carving on to the black foundation. Well, no jeweler ever glued the one to the other, the two are just one stone, and it was God who made them one ages and ages ago. That stone was once a round lump in the hollow of a volcanic rock, and somebody found it and took it to the jeweler, and he cut it, oh so carefully; and then he carved out of the white layer that tiny delicate head; and the result was Granny’s brooch which she calls her “cameo.” That is the name given to the figure cut on the stone.

Nowadays we do not admire the onyx so tremendously.

Other jewels are more fashionable. But in olden times and in Bible days the onyx was highly prized. It was found in large pieces, so large that even cups have been cut out of a single block. It was tough, yet not too hard, and so lent itself to the engraver’s tools.

Its colored layers allowed him to get a striking effect.

I wonder what the onyx stone has to say to us. If it could speak I think it would like to tell us to be sure to get ourselves well engraved. It would say, “Boys and girls, try to be beautiful like me. You are like the lump of stone when it comes from the rock. You can be made into almost anything. It all depends on how you are cut. Are you going to let yourself be spoiled by bad cutting? Are you going to let time and chance have their way and engrave on you images faulty, or distorted, or hideous? Or do you wish to be a beautiful gem, fit for a king’s wear? Then go to Christ, the best Engraver, and ask Him to take you in hand. Ask Him to do the cutting and the polishing. Ask Him to take you and make of you what He will.”

Shall I tell you the result? Christ will grave on you His own pure image, and He will make of you a gem worthy to be worn in His own crown.

[The texts of the other sermons in this series are Job_28:19; Pro_3:15; Jer_17:1; Eze_1:26; Eze_27:16 (2), Eze_28:13; Mat_13:45; Rev_21:19-20 (2)]

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Genesis - Children's Great Texts Of The Bible by James Hastings