Posts tagged ‘Sand’

ABC Extra – How Firm A Foundation

Some of my fondest memories as a child are of our family trips to the beach.  The sun, the white sand, the clear blue water.  Wait, check that.  I grew up in Oregon.  It was always cloudy, the sand was rocky, and the water was murky.  But I loved the beach nonetheless.  And even in the rocky sand, I loved to build sandcastles.  I would always make sure I had my pail and spade in tow, ready to create an impenetrable fortress right there at the base of beach.  Except that, inevitably, my fortress would always be penetrated – and washed away – by the water.  For sand castles, no matter how well you build them, never last.  They always succumb to the relentless pounding of the surf.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we were introduced to one of history’s most infamous rulers – Herod the Great.  Known for his ruthlessness and megalomania, Herod would stop at nothing to protect and extend his reign and rule as “king of the Jews,” a title bestowed on him by the Roman Senate in 40 BC.  He was married to no fewer than ten women over his life, most of whom he married out of political expediency rather than out of love.  He banished his first wife, Doris, because he wanted to marry his second wife, Miriamne.  He eventually had her executed after they got into a fight.  He also killed his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, as well as three of his sons under suspicion that they were trying to usurp his power.  Herod was a tyrant indeed.

But for all of Herod’s tyranny, he was also a monarch of great skill and vision.  Most notably, Herod was a master builder.  He built a whole city called the Caesarea Maritima, situated on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, which had a breathtaking manmade harbor spanning more than forty acres.  He built himself a palace which included baths, a pool, a colonnaded garden, and a 600 foot long terrace.  He named it, modestly, the Herodium.  But most famously, Herod rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem bigger and better than ever.  He plastered it in marble and gold.  It ascended higher than a fifteen-story building.  It was truly a monument to Herod’s skill as an artisan.  Herod began his work on the temple in 19 BC.  It was not completely finished until 68 years after his death.  If Herod died, as the German theologian Emil Schürer asserted, in 1 BC, that means the temple was finally finished in AD 67.  In AD 70, the Roman general Titus laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and destroyed its temple.  Herod’s completed temple stood for only three years.

Like my sandcastles on the beach, Herod’s building projects weren’t as enduring as he thought they would be.  His crowing achievement, the Jerusalem temple, was destroyed only a few years after it was completed.  His architecture succumbed to the relentless march of human history.

Jesus once told a story about the fate of building projects:  

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Jesus warns that man’s building projects can and do fall.  The only way to make them last is to build them upon a firm foundation – and that firm foundation is Christ.  Herod never learned this.  Indeed, we learn in Matthew 2:16 that he wanted to kill Christ, not build his life and legacy on Him.

What are you building?  And more importantly, on whom are you building?  The things you build to your own fame will inevitably fall.  But what is built on the rock of Christ and to His glory will endure.  Do you build on the rock of Christ at your job, with your family, and throughout your life?  Or, like Herod, are you only building monuments to your own greatness, which are really no sturdier than sandcastles?  As the apostle Paul warns, “If any man builds…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).  May our work not be found wanting – not because of our skill, but because of Christ’s foundation.

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December 19, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Luther on Romans 12

This morning’s text in worship is Romans 12. Paul opens this chapter, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Luther offers some great context on this verse – what comes before it and what follows it – in his commentary on Romans:

In the preceding chapters, the apostle laid “the true foundation which is Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11), or “the first rock,” upon which the wise man builds (Matthew 7:24), and he destroyed the false foundation, namely, man’s self-righteousness and merits, which are as “the sand” upon which the foolish man builds (Matthew 7:26). Here now he proceeds to “build upon this foundation gold, silver, and previous stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12). Good works, which are the building, must above all have a sure and dependable foundation on which the heart can purpose to stand and to rely forever, so that, even in the case that the site may not yet have been built upon, the site is ready to do so. The moralists do the opposite of this with their good works. They seek to put their trust in their conscience and, when they have performed many good works, they think they have done enough for themselves, so that they can feel secure. This is nothing else than to build on the sand and to reject Christ. The apostle tries hard to prevent this; this is the purpose of all his letters. To say, as is commonly done, that “sand” means the riches of the world is a superficial and weak exegesis. For Christ speaks here of the people who build (i.e., who do good) and not of misers and worldlings who rather destroy themselves than build up anything.

Hence, it is good works that the apostle calls “sand.” And it is upon this foundation that these people try to build their righteousness in order to obtain a dwelling place for the conscience and peace of mind. But, as a matter of fact, only Christ is this foundation – and before all good works. For even before we think of doing enough or building up, He has given us the foundation as a free gift, namely, a quiet conscience and a trusting heart. Has there ever been a builder stupid enough to lay also the foundation? Do not the builders look for the foundation that is already laid in the earth or do they not accept what is offered to them? So then, just as the earth offers us a foundation without our effort, so Christ offers Himself without us as our righteousness, peace, and security of conscience in order that from then on we can continually build upon Him in doing good. (WA 56)

January 23, 2011 at 7:35 am Leave a comment


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