Message of the week: Checking the foundations
The temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of Jewish nationalism, monotheism and their hope. To first century Jews, it spoke of the coming Messiah who would undo all wrongs. The temple was called by different names in those days. Jesus said it should be called a "House of Prayer for All Nations" (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). In rabbinic literature it is called "The Sanctified House." Sometimes it is called the "House of the Lord."
One first century term was "The House on a Rock." It was built on a seemingly immovable rock mountain, and when Herod rebuilt the temple, many of the stones were massive. Some of the foundation stones exceed in size the largest stones used in the pyramids.
The symbolism was hard to miss. It was little wonder that the disciples talked in amazement at the beauty of the temple, and Jesus remarked that though it seemed it would stand forever, it was doomed to fall (Luke 21:5-6) and 38 years later the impossible happened. The temple was destroyed in the storm of war.
Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount spoke of a man who was wise and built a house on the rock and a man who built a house on the sand. Both houses had the same hard times: terrible storms of wind and rain. What made the difference was where they built: rock or sand.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 — 7) is about foundations. Israel was religiously and socially building on the sand. When we hear about building on the rock, we connect the dots to building on Jesus, Our Rock. I invite you today to step back and look up from the valley to the "House on the Rock:" the Temple. It is was supposed to be a place of refuge, worship, healing, the caretakers of the words of God, and where God met man. But in all the religious effort it had become a place of exclusion. It was built on religious sand.
Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount by describing a group of people that seemed to be anything but the foundational type: the poor in spirit, those who are filled with grief, the meek, the hungry. Then he moves on to light and salt which are native by-products of these people who build on the Rock. Next, he told them how to distinguish between the rock and sand: "You have heard… (sand) but I say unto you… (rock)"
Christians are supposed to build on truth: the rock. So, Jesus excludes behavior that erodes relationships with God and one another by not only excluding murder but also attacking a person's reputation.
To allow whispers that separate the best of friends is to build on sand in the foundation. Paul in 1 Timothy 5:19 warns us to don't even listen to an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses. To do otherwise is to build on sand.
To even call someone "a fool" puts us in danger of hell fire. Why? The Jews considered ruining a man's reputation as being like murder. For restitution can be made for a theft, but there is to remedy for destroying a reputation. It cannot be undone.
Here's some homework for the week. Re-read Matthew 5 through 7 and find examples of building on sand and rock. Ask God to speak to you about the difference and to help you build upon the rock so that you may "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:57).