The city’s ancient name is Rekem and it is situated near the Dead Sea, in the desert-lands of Jordan. It was discovered by Westerners as late as 1812. Like any ancient city it consists of various buildings – houses, tombs, a monastery, temple, and other dwellings.
Two facts about the city are striking. One is its age. It is so old that no one has any idea when it was founded. There are references to it in the writings of Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Old Testament, but it seems to have been around much longer than that. This survival would be remarkable for any city, but what makes this even more incredible is the harshness of the region’s geographic elements. The region is prone to severe flash-flooding. The city has survived millennia of sandstorms, flash floods, and earthquakes, not to mention wars, fires, and various manmade calamities. How is this possible? Because of the city’s other most striking feature: the entire city is carved out of a massive slab of solid rock.
I don’t mean it consists of rocks, I mean it is a rock. There are no bricks. The buildings are all carved out of a single, giant edifice. The modern name (and by modern, I mean for the last millennium or so), the name you will see on postcards, is simply ‘Petra’, the Greek word for rock.
There is no better picture of what Jesus meant in his parable of the two houses in Matthew 7.
Matthew 7:24–27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 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. 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. 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.”
LET’S EXAMINE THE 2 CONTRASTING FOUNDATIONS ON WHICH YOUR SALVATION COULD BE BUILT
Jesus is talking about two types of builders. Here we see that both build houses and both encounter a testing storm.
a) Both hear the words and both build houses
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…26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them …
This blog’s readership all belong to this category. Jesus is talking to a biblically literate crowd. He is addressing those who attended synagogue, knew the Old Testament, respected the Law, and possessed a system for pleasing God.
Some of these were genuine believers and others were not. But they looked the same.
Just as the two houses that looked the same.
Jesus doesn’t say one man built a shack and the other a fortress. They both had the same external structure to their lives.
This is important to us because probably everyone reading this has an externally religious life. We attend church, go to Bible study, tithe, order sermon CDs for our neighbours who don’t go to church. But there is no way to see the foundations….til the storm comes.
Notice another similarity…
b) Both encounter storms.
The storm represents the test that reveals the truth. It starts with trials in this life and culminates in the final judgment where we are stripped of all our masks.
Both structures are tested. It’s not like you become a Christian to get a better life that avoids storms.
Christians are not immune to disease, callous to heartache, impervious to loneliness and depression and pain. Christians lose their jobs, have kids that rebel, get flat tyres, and catch COVID-19.
Do not fall into the common trap of thinking God has forgotten you in trials. Your goal is to be like Christ, not to be comfortable. Storms will come to both groups of people because we live in a stormy world. But for believers, God is using them to make you more like Christ.
These differences are revealed when the storm hits.
a) The Foundation
The most significant difference is that of the two foundations: there is rock and sand.
Some sandy foundations include…our past experiences, our emotions, others’ opinions of us, our external righteousness, and any system of holiness which we invented …”I’m not a bad person (according to my standard.)”
But what does the rock represent?
Some say this is Christ. It is true that he is called our Cornerstone, and our Rock, and our Refuge. But in this instance, rock represents something else: obedience to God’s word.
I know this because the interpretation is given by Jesus in verse 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.”
Building a spiritual house on the Word of God is the only way to survive the storms of life.
Obedience is the only real evidence of your salvation. In the courtroom of God’s judgment, your Advocate is Jesus, who stands up and takes the blame you deserved.
b) The Result
The result of the storm leaves the houses in different states; only the bedrock house survives the storm.
The final culmination of the storm that tests the foundations is the final judgment on the last day when we are stripped of all façade and pretentions and external efforts.
Obedience to Christ is the only foundation your soul rests on. Not your works, but his. Not your merit, but his. He is your fortress. He is your Cornerstone. He is your Rock and Refuge in the day of judgment.
Do not try to brave the storm of God’s fury on your own. Your only hope is to run to your Savior today. Cast yourself on his mercy and he will save you from your sins. Examine your life. Examine the Word of God. And see if you can spot the difference.
And if there is a difference, demolish your sandcastle of self-righteousness, and ask Jesus to build you a house with foundations deep in the bedrock of God’s word and his righteous obedience to the law.