Praise the Sculptor or Praise the Stone?

Some of those who sincerely follow the Lord Jesus Christ have difficulty in understanding the Bible’s clear instruction on God’s unconditional election of His chosen ones to salvation. For those believers, I offer this story of a sculptor and a stone as an illustration.

THE SCULPTOR AND THE STONE

The day had finally arrived for the unveiling of the sculptor’s grand project. For two whole years he had been working on this one sculpture, this one piece that had required his highest skills to be focused intently throughout its creation. As the date of the unveiling had approached, the buzz of interest had steadily increased to a fever pitch. Now the day was here and the veiled masterpiece had been painstakingly moved from the secret sanctuary of the sculptor’s studio to the plaza where it would be permanently displayed. The plaza itself was made up of hundr4eds of flat, rectangular stone pavers and at the borders of the plaza were plain stone benches and spaces filled with smooth pebbles and small stones. Ironically, the pavers and the benches and the pebbles were made of the same type of stone as the sculptor’s masterpiece.

But to understand this more fully, we need to go back two years to the day when the master sculptor had gone to the quarry. Most days at the quarry were fairly routine. The morning was spent cutting huge blocks of stone from the quarry walls and then transporting them down to the processing factory. In the processing factory, these huge blocks of stone were sawn and cut into plain, rectangular pavers or into parts for stone benches or they were shattered and thrown into a massive tumbler to produce smooth pebbles or small stones. Day followed day in this manner, with carving and cutting and tumbling. But that day was different, that day when the sculptor visited the quarry. He arrived just as the last of the huge stone blocks had been delivered from the quarry, but before the processing of the stone had begun. He had asked to see the manager of the quarry, and when the manager appeared, the sculptor explained his business to him.

“I am starting a sculpting project and am in need of a block of stone. I would like to examine your current inventory of stone blocks and choose the one that I think will best suit my purposes. How many blocks do you have available?”

The two men walked down the line of stone blocks, counting out loud as they went. There were eleven blocks.

The sculptor said to the manager, “Since you work with these blocks of stone all the time and I don’t, I need your advice. Which one would you recommend as the stone for my masterpiece?”

“Honestly,” replied the manager, “these eleven blocks are all pretty much alike, as far as I can tell. There is nothing remarkable about any of them. The fact that they are all basically the same is why we send them all through the factory to make pavers or pebbles. I have never thought of any of these huge blocks of stone as a sculptor’s future masterpiece. So, anyway, I think that any one of them is as good as another. I would just choose one and ignore the rest.”

The sculptor nodded his head and continued to scrutinize the blocks. Then he suddenly ran his hand over a feature in one of the stone blocks and looked very carefully at this feature. “This is curious. What is this? It looks like a flaw in this stone.”

“Oh, yes, that is definitely a flaw in the stone,” replied the manager. “Every stone block in the quarry has some flaw, whether significant and obvious or relatively minor and internal. Not one of them is perfect; they are just different degrees of imperfect. That’s why these
stones are used for pavers and pretty pebbles, but not really used for sculpting masterpieces. Unfortunately.”

“I see,” said the sculptor, thoughtfully. Yet again he walked down the blocks of stone, now running his hands over them as his eyes examined them one last time. Now he stops at one, looks it up and down, slowly nodding his head. A smile begins to spread across his face. “Yes! Yes, this is the one that I choose. How much for this one?”

The manager frowned. “Sir, that one you selected is one of the poorest of the lot. There are others with fewer flaws.”

“That may be, but I choose this one. How much?”

The manager winced to himself as he named a price four times what the best stone in the quarry would have cost. “Okay,” he thought to himself, “if he wants that stone block, it will cost him. Let’s see if he will pay the price!”

Without hesitation the sculptor accepted the price. “That price will be paid in full. Please talk to this young man.” He gestured to his right. “He has my full authority to pay the price.”

The quarry manager glanced in the direction that the sculptor had indicated and noticed for the first time a young man who had been in the background until then. There was nothing particularly noticeable about him, just a sort of plain young man, but he did seem pleasant enough. He stepped forward out of the shadows, paid the required price in full, and then quietly stood some distance away to wait for the sculptor to complete the transaction.

“Thank you, sir,” the sculptor said to the quarry manager. “We have chosen our stone and concluded the purchase. We will arrange for moving the block from here to my studio. Is there anything else you need?”

The quarry manager paused because he felt that his next question was a bit too personal and thus a bit inappropriate, but his curiosity was overwhelming him. “I do have one more question,” he said. “Who is the young man?”

As he walked away, the sculptor said over his shoulder, “Oh, that was my son.”

All that had taken place two years ago, and now that quarried stone block that had been chosen by the sculptor so long ago had been transformed by the sculptor’s chisel into his latest masterpiece, and the rest had been turned into pavers and pebbles which people walk on. But the difference was not in the block of stone, but it was in the choice of the sculptor. How did the sculptor choose? By nothing other than the sculptor’s pleasure. All the blocks of stone were destined to become pavers and pebbles, but the chosen block became exquisite art in the sculptor’s hand. And all the praise goes to the sculptor, for he is the one who chose the block of stone and he is the one who formed it into a masterpiece.

In the same way, all men and women are destined for destruction because of their sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “There is none righteous, not even one.” “The heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually.” But because of His mercy, God has chosen some of these before the foundation of the world for salvation. In time, those who are chosen are called by the gospel to salvation, and, because they are chosen, their hearts are quickened and they come to repentance and faith. The rest hurtle on to destruction, perhaps hearing the gospel, but never responding, and finally “sudden destruction comes upon them like labor pains upon a woman with child and they will not escape (1 Thess. 5:3).”

“Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me this way,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honor and another for dishonor (Romans 9:20-21)?”

The Lord Himself is sovereign over His universe and over everything in it, including all of mankind. The Lord has the Creator’s right to rule His creation as He sees fit (Psalm 115:3) and He will have mercy on whom He desires, and He will harden whom He desires (Romans 9:18). If all have sinned (Romans 3:23), then all have earned hell’s condemnation and they are without excuse (Romans 1:20; 2:1). But since God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), and since He desires to give His Son a ransomed Kingdom of redeemed worshipers (Revelation 7:9; Isaiah 53:12), then He has chosen some sinners before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6) who will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and who will thus be justly justified (Romans 3:26).

“O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God (Romans 11:33).” As a master sculptor selects a flawed stone block and then fashions it into a masterpiece, so the Lord graciously chooses some of the condemned to spend eternity at the master’s table as His adopted children (2 Samuel 9 and Mephibosheth).

The Lord God is, indeed, sovereign in His unconditional election.

SDG       rmb       7/11/2019

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