The Sermon on the Mount site.

Matthew 7:24-27, house on sand or house on rock

Building well

Hut perched over an eroded bank of sand
Building under threat from erosion.
© R I Kirby, used with consent. 


7:24
“Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.
7:25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock.
7:26 Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand.
7:27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell--and great was its fall.”

(Matt 7:24-27 WEB)

A house to withstanding the flood

This parable of the wise and foolish builders is a well known teaching, for at one level Jesus’ meaning is obvious. You build on a solid foundation if you want what you build to stand and obeying Jesus’ words provides just such a solid foundation. However, Jesus uses symbolic elements in this picture to give it a deeper and much richer meaning. The house, the wind and flood, and the rock are the symbols that he uses. 

Jesus’ forefather, David, was promised an enduring house, in other words a dynasty that would stand, come what may. 

The Hebrew Bible portrays floods and winds as forces that brought chaos and could only be controlled by God. It therefore uses them metaphorically to describe the causes of calamity that could suddenly overtake an individual (e.g. Job 27:20), a nation or a dynasty. Especially those caused by the foreign armies that periodically swept across Palestine

Moses describes God himself as ‘The Rock’ (Deut. 32:4), a metaphor that would ingrain itself in the Jewish national psyche. God was their sure place of refuge and strong tower against the enemy.

Thus, the person who listens to Jesus and obeys him is like someone building the enduring house of David, a house founded securely upon God and able to withstand the chaos and tumult that typically beset first century Palestine (and which we are still familiar with today). 

It is easy to see why Jesus chose rock as his solid foundation, yet sand is made of the same stuff as rock. Rock’s strength comes from a ‘matrix’ that binds the individual particles together and holds them securely in place. Building your understanding of the Hebrew Bible upon innumerable disassociated rules and proof-texts, is like building upon sand. However, as Jesus’ teaching binds those scriptures together in their proper relationship, so trusting it becomes like building upon rock.

. . . commentary continues with Matt 7:28-29

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