How Firm a Foundation?
Matthew 7:24-27 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
With this challenge Jesus comes to the end of the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Over the course of a few chapters, Jesus introduces the ethics of the kingdom that He is bringing in with the New Covenant. While on a mountain top, seated with His disciples all around, He takes on the posture of a prophet, speaks the Word of God, teaches with straight forward authority about the Gospel, and describes what it means to follow Him. The whole scene is pregnant with divine action, prophetic fulfillment, and eternal significance as the promised Messiah proclaims the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
This final section probably begins in Matt. 7:13, where Jesus calls for a decision from His hearers. His words are not merely to be heard, they are to be heeded. The challenge is not to simply seek a better life now, but to run after the One who is able to give abundant spiritual life now and eternal life in the world to come. Jesus is not issuing an invitation. He is issuing a command that all who hear Him repent and come after Him. Not to do so is to suffer eternal destruction.
From 7:13 onward, Jesus gives several contrasts so that it is clear to see what a true disciple of Christ looks like. To illustrate this call to discipleship, He uses four different pictures. There are two paths (13-14), two trees and their fruit (15-19), two claims and their destinations (21-23), and two houses or builders (24-27). In all four cases the results of one’s life are clear for all to see. A life either ends in eternal life or in eternal destruction. The fruit is either good or bad. Saying something is not the same thing as doing something. There is a difference between hearing the truth and putting the truth into practice.
As we look at the details of vv. 24-27, we can make some preliminary observations. In first century Palestine, the rains came only a few times a year. The ground, hardened by the burning sun, was not able to absorb much of the rain when it did fall. Thus, the water would rush along the ground and fill up the dry river beds, called wadis. Within a few moments, the depth of the water increased dramatically and moved rapidly down these now gorged wadis. Once the rains fell, there was little time to get out of the way. All that was in the path would be washed away and destroyed.
However, during the long dry months of the year, these wadis would provide a manner of protection from the winds, the dust, and the sun. So, it was not uncommon that shepherds would set up tents and homes in these wadis because, by all appearances, they seemed like a safe place. However, while they looked safe and solid, they could very quickly become deathtraps for those who were not vigilant about their surroundings and circumstances. The wise man, however, recognized that though the wadis looked like a good place to build, it was better to build elsewhere on solid ground with materials that could withstand the coming storms.
So, what are some lessons that we can take away from this parable? What would the Savior have us learn as He challenges us with these words? Briefly, we can state a few things:
The storms of life will come to all. Jesus reminds us that both the wise and the fool face the rains, floods, and winds that come with living in a fallen world. While we certainly need to be wise, careful, and prudent about how we live life, we need to understand that, ultimately, there is no place on earth that is completely safe. Certain and sure safety is reserved for another place, namely the New Heavens and the New Earth. It is not promised in this dispensation.
Appearances can be deceiving. For 8-10 months out of the year the wadis and their hard ground would seem okay to build upon. They would provide an apparent measure of security and shelter. The homes built there might even appear to be similar to those built nearby with the same materials. The deciding difference was their respective foundations. One was on the surface of the ground or in a wadi bed; the other was on a foundation dug down into the rock. The strength of a foundation is only known when it is tested.
It takes time to be build a good foundation. In Luke’s account of this story, the builder dug down deep to build on the solid foundation of the bedrock (Lk. 6:47-49). Building in that way takes time and added expense, but the results merit the effort. That type of house can withstand the storms of life, whereas the other experiences “total destruction.”
What is the foundation of your life? The things and people of this world may seem to be solid rock upon which to build our lives, but there is only One who can truly withstand the storms of life. Jesus Christ came and stared down the storms of sin, rejection, betrayal, weakness, and death. He conquered them all by His virtuous life and His victorious resurrection. Only He can give the foundation that will allow you to stand forever. Are you standing on that rock?
In addition, it takes time to build on the foundation that He has provided. Are you investing the time needed to be strong in Him? The distractions of this world are many and our hearts are often rushed and cold, but there is no short-cut to spiritual growth and maturity. The disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, confession of sin, fellowship, church involvement, and evangelism are on-going things that require time and commitment, so that we are fortified and strengthened in Him, so we can stand and endure when life gets tough.
The storms of life will come to us all, including the ultimate storm – death itself. Only those who are in Christ will withstand that storm and be ushered onto the safe shores of heaven. Are you on that foundation? If not, now is the time to repent and cry out to Him for mercy and salvation. The storm clouds are gathering. Are you prepared?