For about 15 years in the 1990s and early 2000s General Motors used Bob Segar’s song, “Like A Rock” in their truck ads. Of course, they wanted to convey the idea that their trucks are strong and reliable. I’ve never owned one, so I don’t know if the image is appropriate or not. What I do know is that Jesus used the stability of a rock two millennium beforehand to speak of the faithful child of God.
Near the end of Jesus’ discourse commonly called the sermon on the mount, He made a contrast between those who do His will and those who merely hear it. He could simply have said the first is wise and the latter is foolish (which He did do), but to help illustrate and to make the teaching memorable, He employed a parable about two builders. His teaching is not complex, in fact, Matthew 7:24-27 has been fashioned into a simple children’s song. My first introduction to this text, as yours may also have been, was that song.
Two recurring themes in the sermon on the mount are the need for us to have good works and to respond favourably to the word of God. Much of Matthew 5 is used to combat the misuse of the Law by the religious leaders. Matthew 6 reveals that we must set aside our worries and trust the Lord, seeking His kingdom and righteousness. Matthew 7 begins with the need for us to handle God’s word in a responsible way.
In the middle of Matthew 7, the Lord tells us three things about our pursuit of a heavenly home.
- The way to heaven is narrow (7:13-14);
- Some teach a way contrary to the Lord’s (7:15-20), and
- We will have no hope of heaven if we do not do God’s will (7:21-23).
With this backdrop, Jesus speaks plainly of the two possible responses to His word, those who hear and do, and those who hear and do not do.
The Wise Man
To hear and do the will of God is wise. Jesus pictures such a person as one who chooses to build his house on the rock. This is not a pebble or a small stone (Gr. petros), but a mass of rock, bedrock (Gr. petra). The same word is used of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4) and the confession of Him as the Christ (Matthew 16:16, 18).
A house build on bedrock is secure. Its foundation will not be swept away by a flood of water, nor will it be easily shaken by the wind. So it is with those who have placed their confidence in Christ, and demonstrate such through obedience to the word of God.
The Foolish Man
To hear and not do the will of God is foolish. Jesus pictures such a person as one who chooses to build his house on the sand. This house is not even built on the petros (pebbles), but on ammos, sand as on the beach.
Beaches are great for early morning walks, hunting for seashells and building sand castles, but it is not a good place to build a house. Sand is not a good foundation. Have you ever heard someone speak of something being “set in sand”? Things that are set in sand are swept away. A house built on the sand will not stand. Likewise, the one who claims confidence in Christ but does not show it by faithful obedience to the word of God stand. Jesus said of the house “…great was its fall.” Of how much greater magnitude is the fall of a soul due to neglect of God’s word.
The children’s song based on this text tells us to build our lives on the Lord Jesus Christ. It associates the blessings of God with our fervent prayers. Friend, let us live and pray as we should—if we do as we should, we can certainly have confidence that God will do as He has promised.