Building on the Rock – November 18, 2018
Ezekiel 33:30-33, Matthew 7:24-29
November 18, 2018
Hear once again these words that God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel. He said, “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you, will say to one another, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes forth from the Lord.’ And they will come to you as my people come, and they will sit before you as my people, and they will hear what you say, but they will not do it! For with their lips they show much love, but their hearts are set on their gain.” (Ezekiel 33:30-31)
I remember the first time I read those words, how chilling they were in describing God’s people! And then this. “And lo, you are to them like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.”
That’s quite an indictment, isn’t it? Because God’s people had a habit of not listening to their prophets! In his speech to the Council in Acts 7, Stephen asked, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered!” And then, of course, they stoned him, too!
Even Jesus lamented this as he looked over the city of Jerusalem, just before the Palm Sunday procession. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he said, “killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How I would have gathered you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:32) No, the people of Israel did not have a great record of heeding their prophets! They thought the prophets to be very important people! But they didn’t want to hear their message!
I was wondering this week if Jesus was thinking of Ezekiel when he spoke these final words of the Sermon on the Mount. “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock.” I wonder if he was hearing this passage we read today as he said that. And I wonder if the people there were thinking of Ezekiel as they heard it! They knew their scriptures, too! And they knew their history!
I was also wondering if James was thinking of Ezekiel when he wrote his letter. Remember these words. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) And that’s what we find in the paragraph heading for this part of the Sermon on the Mount. It says “Hearers and Doers.” And think about it! These are the final words of Jesus that day. And they make for a perfect ending! “Ok, I’ve told you all this stuff. Now it’s up to you. Are you going to be hearers of the word only? Or will you do all this stuff?” That’s what Jesus is saying here!
Then he gives us these two great metaphors! (Well… similes, actually! Since he uses the word “like.”) He says, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.” (There’s the simile!) “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Anybody think that word was coming through Thursday night? We had all that, didn’t we!
This passage makes me think of the coastal storms we have here in our country. And in comparison with some of them, the one we had the other night was a mild version! And of course we don’t have a corner on that market! There are devastating storms in lots of other parts of the world! It’s just that we tend to hear about the ones that hit the Carolinas, or Florida, or Ocean City! Just recently we saw all the pictures and videos in the news of the devastation in the Florida panhandle. Whole towns were gone. People’s lives were devastated right along with the buildings and roads!
Storms can be very powerful! And Jesus is using the power of nature as an illustration in this final lesson. And remember that those people knew that power! They saw “the waters of the world” as the greatest of natural forces. When it said in Genesis that “The world was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep,” that was “the waters!” That was framing the whole story of creation in the context of greatest and most powerful of all forces.
Well here, Jesus used that same context! He is serious about this! It’s like he was saying he had wasted his breath if people didn’t do what he was saying. And! – and this is big! – and their lives could come crashing down just because they didn’t do what he was saying! Do you get that here? And it’s not so much a matter of “the storms will be sent to you” if you don’t. It’s about the fact that the storms of life will come anyway! And they’ll be more devastating because you haven’t done what he told them!
Remember, the bottom line here – in fact, the reason for all of God’s “rules and commandments” in our lives – is that God wants the very best for us! If you think about it, so much of what Jesus had been saying that day was good advice! In fact, it was very good advice. “Do not worry.” “Seek God’s kingdom.” “Love like God loves.” “Be peacemakers.” If we do all those things, our lives will be more peaceful, no matter what happens! If we “do his word,” we’ll be better able to deal with the storms! We’ll be better able to deal with the difficulties this life throws at us!
The truth is, God wants us to weather those storms! That’s one reason I believe Jesus stated the positive part of this first! He told us first about the “Doers.” He told first about those who built their houses on the rock! And it is about weathering the storms! It’s about avoiding the fall, the fall that is truly coming if we don’t listen to him, if we don’t do his word!
Now, a word about being a “Doer.” Being a “Doer” takes choosing! Being a “Doer” takes acting! If we hear only and do not make a decision to do, we will be a “Hearer only.” That just follows naturally! Doesn’t it?
Some people think that being a “Doer” comes naturally to those who are “Doers.” “Such and such a person just naturally acts! They just naturally do!” But that’s not the case! Those – all those people – had to choose to be a “Doer,” too! Somewhere along the lines they decided they would “Do” Jesus’ words. Do you see? Then maybe later it came more “naturally.”
So then, if we want to be “doers,” we start by “doing something” (and mind you, not by “doing anything” – but that’s another message!) This is like learning to trust God. You start by trusting him for little things. Then you get better at it. Well, you start being a “doer” by choosing to “do” Jesus’ words. Then you get better at it! (Maybe later, someone will say of you, “He or She just ‘does’ Jesus’ words – naturally!”)
So think about being “doers of the word.” Be people who hear what the word of the Lord is for them, and then “do the word.” Be people who take seriously what Jesus said on the Mountain. Be people who strive to love like God loves, who strive not to be anxious, who treasure things of heaven, and who do all these other things Jesus said that day! Take time to re-read this Sermon on the Mount. It’s only 3 chapters.
You are God’s people. May it show in all that you say and in all that you do. In doing so, you are building on the rock!
Eternal God, help us to hear, help us to follow, help us to be “Doers” of the word. We know the storms of life will rise. Help us to weather the storms, to be your light in the darkness, to be your city set on a hill. Help us to follow the example you gave us in Jesus Christ, and to be his people. For we pray in his name, Amen.