My wife knows first hand what an earthquake can do. She was in bed at home when the massive Taiwan earthquake of 1999 struck her city!
Many buildings collapsed as the cheap, inferior building materials and fast-track construction of the 1990s building boom were quickly and tragically exposed. Their foundations could not hold.
Foundations are as necessary in life as they are in architecture since, under heaven, everything that stands, stands on something else.
And what you build on and how you build determines the strength of your superstructure.
Jesus made this same point in a well-known parable (Matthew 7:24-27). A building stands or falls in storm or flood on the basis of its foundation.
For some of us, stuck in the groove of memorable Sunday-school songs and lessons around this passage, familiarity breeds contempt. We think we already know the lesson: if you don’t build your life on Jesus, your house will be in danger when the next storm (or earthquake) strikes. But this story illustrates more than just procuring natural disaster protection from Jesus for times of testing and trouble.
As I reflected afresh on this parable, it seemed to me that Jesus’ expectation is a consistent, daily walk in obedient acts that follow from keen reception and trust in Him. That is what Jesus means when he speaks of building on the rock – ‘And everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man …’ (vs 24).
Setting foundations is not a static thing. It requires effort and perseverance. The deeper you dig, the higher you can go – hence, Luke’s version has the words ‘dug down deep’ in describing the act of laying the right foundation.
But this story of Jesus also calls us to two other outcomes:
- Knowledge of the Father’s will.
The story is linked by the conjunction ‘then’ to the previous section in Jesus’ Sermon on the mount where, in verse 21, he makes the point that calling him ‘Lord’ is not the same as doing what He wants. The question is not ‘do you know Jesus?’ but ‘does he know you?’ This is surely the point of verses 22 and 23.
Recognition by Jesus is not based on the mere performance of even spectacular ‘religious acts’ but intimacy born of our keen desire to know and do the Father’s will. Which raises the question: ‘Do we know what the Father’s will is?’
- Obedient response
Jesus spoke of hearing His words and them doing them. Are we allowing Him to dictate the form and content of every part of our lives and community? Scripture is clear — there can be no other foundation to our lives and their living.
In Ephesians 2:20, Paul himself points out that Jesus Christ in the ”chief cornerstone” (cf Isaiah 28:16) — the key foundational stone in the superstructure of ancient buildings. John Gill, the 18th Century Baptist pastor commented thus on this verse:
“Jesus Christ … cements and knits together angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, Old and New Testament saints, saints above, and saints below, saints on earth, in all ages and places, and of every denomination … (he is) is the beauty and glory, as well as the strength of the building, which keeps all together.”
In him, all things hold together and apart from Him, we are and can do nothing (Colossians 1:18, John 15:5). The firm foundation of every true disciple must be and remain the hearing and practice of all He commands. On such alone, the houses of our lives will ultimately stand or fall by.
Which words of Jesus have we heard and not done? Who truly calls the shots in your life and mine?