The Wise and the Otherwise

by Pastor John Fredericksen

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An excerpt from Pastor John Fredericksen’s commentary on Matthew

Who did Christ say was a wise man, or what made one wise? Matthew 7:24-27

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

Our Lord is Master of all things, including the use of illustrations. In this instance, the Lord Jesus gave an illustration, with the meaning so obvious, that all who heard Him understood. Yet, He could also lay within that illustration a much deeper meaning that only those who paid close attention and knew the Scriptures would fully comprehend. Let’s examine both.

  • The obvious meaning of this illustration was our Lord urging these disciples not to be merely “hearers” of His words but “doers.” (James 1:22).
    • Those who chose to “seek…first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33), and “enter” through the “straight gate” of strict obedience (Matt. 7:13), would enter the Kingdom and receive eternal life.
    • These obedient followers would be, figuratively, like a wise man building his house on a solid foundation. The foundation here would be His doctrine. Their obedience would keep them forever safe and secure in eternal life.
    • Those who would not continue to obey His doctrine were likened to one building a spiritual house on sand. As that house would crumble and fall, so would they, without obedience that brought eternal life or entrance into the Millennial Kingdom that awaited Israel.
  • We discover the deeper meaning of this illustration by looking closely at the symbolism of several key words and tracing their usage elsewhere in Scripture.
    • The word “Rock” in Scripture consistently refers to the Lord.
    • Moses sang of the Lord saying, “He is the Rock…a God of truth…” (Deut. 32:4).
    • David wrote, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress…” (Psa. 18:2).
    • Peter quoted to fellow Jews, “It is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Pet. 2:6; see also Acts 4:11). Peter was calling Christ God, and the Father’s provision for life.
    • When Christ said, “Whosever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them…[he is like] a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24), He was urging His listeners to build their hope for eternal life on Him, the rock of their salvation (Psa. 95:1).
  • The word “house” consistently represented Israel.
    • This is a figurative term that we use in this sense to this day. For example, the House of Windsor represents the family by that name. Likewise, in 1 Tim. 3:5, an elder is to “rule his own house.” Obviously, it is not the house, but who it represents, that is in view.
    • Quite frequently, the Lord referred to the entire nation of Israel as the “house of Israel” (Compare Ex. 16:31; 40:38; Lev. 10:6; 17:3).
    • In Matthew 7:24, our Lord has a subtle implication to the house of Israel needing to build their spiritual house upon Him. They would be safe if they did, in peril if they did not.
  • The “winds” that would blow and the “rain” and the “floods” represented the coming tide of God’s judgment ready to fall on Israel in the Tribulation. Since the days of Daniel and the prophets, this time had been predicted.
    • The entire twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew deals with the Tribulation that will precede Christ’s Kingdom being established. There, the Lord referred to the trials of these days being “as the days of Noe” (Matt. 24:37).
    • The first thing that comes to our minds when we think of Noah is God’s judgment of a world-wide flood (Gen. 6-9). Surely, it was the same for each Jew who heard our Lord refer to Noah. From long ago, this man had come to represent God’s judgment.
    • Therefore, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Israel would only be safe during God’s coming judgment in the Tribulation if they built their spiritual life upon Christ.

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