February 21, 2019

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter…Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock, [and] everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Matthew 7:21, 24, 26

Did you hear about the man rescued from quicksand at Utah’s Zion National Park?

One of his legs was trapped up its knee for several hours. Search-and-rescue rangers, alerted by his companion, finally reached him in the backcountry and freed him after much effort. Then they all had to spend the night outdoors waiting out a wintry storm that brought four inches of snow. The following afternoon, they were all airlifted out by helicopter.

Who knew you could get caught in a creek bed’s sludge in a national park? Quicksand is the stuff of movies, not real life!

But apparently it can happen.

In Matthew 7, Jesus instructs His followers using “two ways” sayings, a common teaching method in Judaism and Greco-Roman philosophy, with which His listeners would have been very familiar. A pair of outcomes are given in each instance: preservation or destruction.

First, there is a wide gate and broad road that lead to ruin, and a small gate and narrow road that lead to life (vv. 13-14), a contrast between an easy and therefore popular way, and a harder, less chosen route. This summarizes the question as to whether to follow Jesus’ teachings or not.

The second “two ways” metaphor is about wolves and sheep, a warning to Christ followers to beware of “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (v. 15), explained further as a comparison between good and bad trees and their fruit (vv. 16-20). These wolfish, counterfeit leaders (trees) may look okay on the outside, talk a good talk and perform great deeds, but they are actually deceivers, because they show their true character (fruit) by promoting their own way instead of God’s (vv. 22-23, 29).

Finally we come to the foolish and wise home builders. Just as words without action are condemned, so is hearing without action (v. 24). The man who built on sand labored diligently on his house, but his failure to use a strong base left it susceptible to stormy weather (v. 26-27). He did things his own way, and suffered the consequences. The house built on rock, though, withstood the elements (v. 24-25).

Perhaps you know that in this passage, Jesus was referring to Himself as that foundation of rock. Both Old Testament (most notably by David in 2 Samuel 22:2-3, 47; Psalm 18:2, 31 & 46, 19:14, 31:3, 71:3) and New ascribe this term to God and to His Son Jesus. Writes the apostle Paul, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder…For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

There will come a day, Paul goes on to say in verses 12-15, when the life we have built—whether on the solid rock of God and His truth, using the precious promises of the Gospel, or on a shaky foundation with worthless materials—will be judged. “God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (v. 4:5). Did we go against the tide and chose the harder way? Or did we “not put up with sound doctrine [and] instead suit [our] own desires…gather[ing] around [us] a great number of teachers to say what [our] itching ears want to hear, [turning] our ears away from the truth and turn[ing] aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)? Was our aim to please our Creator, or ourselves?

Quicksand is found where we least expect it. The unstable ground stands ready to trap us and leave us in the cold with nothing to protect us. But, oh! We have a Rescuer, whose self-described mission is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever,” Paul confidently asserted near the end of his earthly life (2 Timothy 4:18).

If you’re stuck in sinking sand, reflect on the words of David. He knew what it was like. “Save me, O Lord, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold” (Psalm 69:1-2).

He also knew the remedy: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:1-2).

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