Roll Ye Away the Stone
By David Brandt Berg
Download Audio (5.9MB)
I was studying maps and shipping lines and trailer parks in preparation for an upcoming move. I had worked on it pretty hard all day, and I thought, “Lord, why can’t You just show me this in a flash of revelation? Why do I have to do all this hard work?”
There’s a story about a guy who wanted to play the accordion, who said, “The Lord’s going to teach me how to play the accordion.” So he didn’t even get a book or study. He said, “The Lord’s just going to make me play it.” I was kind of like him; I just wanted to have a flash of revelation rather than have to go to all the hard work of studying—where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do, what’s the best way and place and method.
I was just taking a break, heaving a sigh of weariness and saying, “Lord, why can’t You just show me all these things without me having to work for it and study?” Immediately I got the scripture, “Roll ye away the stone,”1 from when the Lord went to raise Lazarus from the dead:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”—John 11:38–442
The Lord never seems to do anything for anybody that they can do for themselves. He expects them to work at it. And work for it. He did the thing they couldn’t do—raise Lazarus from the dead. But He expected them to do what they could do.
Even though it was hard work for them to roll away the stone, He wasn’t going to do it for them. They could do that. It was hard work and a hot country and they had to huff and puff and heave, and it probably took several of them to roll away that huge stone that was in front of the sepulcher. He didn’t just raise His finger and roll it away for them. He said, “Roll ye away the stone.” That’s something they could do. And then He did what they couldn’t do—raise Lazarus from the dead.
So I guess I was rolling away the stone all day yesterday trying to find where Lazarus was buried. And when the time comes, the Lord will raise him up, raise up the answer to it all and do the miracle that it’s going to take. It’s like the Lord’s saying, “Roll ye away the stone. You do what you can do and I’ll do the rest that you can’t do. You can study maps and places to go and all that sort of thing, and when you get to where you can’t do any more, then I’ll do the rest.”
We have to work at these things ourselves. These are things we can do, and when the time comes, the Lord will do what we can’t do. We do the possible and He does the impossible! It seems as if the Lord is always having us try to reason things out and go through a process of elimination, shopping or trying, testing, probing. And in this process you don’t always find out what the Lord’s will is, but you sure find out what it ain’t.
I have sometimes found the will of God just by going ahead and trying doors and seeking and finding, asking, until I found out at least where it wasn’t, before He finally showed me where it was. Then I really appreciated it! If you work hard at it yourself and you finally get to where you can’t do it, then you appreciate the Lord’s help.
All the way through His Word, God commanded man to do something first before God met his need. God told Moses to strike the rock and then He’d bring forth water. Moses could have said, “Well, Lord, I don’t think there’s any water in that rock, and this is kind of crazy! Besides that, Lord, I’d rather just see You do it.” But Moses went ahead by faith and took an old stick and hit the rock, expecting God to do the rest, and God did.3
The Lord told the priests to go down to the water of Jordan and start carrying the Ark across, and that then He was going to stop the river at floodtide, when it was at its highest. He was going to stop it and let them go through on dry ground. They could have said, “That’s crazy! We’re going to get drowned carrying this big old heavy Ark down there. Let’s just stand here and wait till God parts the water; then we’ll go across.” But no, He told them to go, so they went, and as their feet touched the water, the waters divided.4
God wants to see us obey first. Obedience comes before the blessing, obedience comes before the reward, obedience comes before the anointing. The test is to see whether you’re going to obey or not. And the minute you start obeying and working, God will do His part without fail. He will bless. “Roll ye away the stone.”
Originally published May 1980. Adapted and republished September 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.