Sometimes I marvel at people who build houses along the coast or next to a river. They must know about the risks, but the setting is so appealing, it's worth taking them I suppose. I have to confess I've daydreamed about living near the ocean. I love the vast horizon, the sound of the waves, and the shells! There is an appealing place like this in Israel too. It is mentioned in Psalm 23 verse 2. The word for this location is usually translated as two in English, "green pastures", but the Hebrew word actually relates to the well-watered and green area at the bottom of a wadi (wah-dee). I suppose translators knew most of us would not relate to this unique place and word so they used this English “equivalent, but in a way, they’ve done us a disservice by doing so, because Jesus uses this beautiful but dangerous spot to illustrate a very important point. But first…
"What's a wadi?" you ask. Wadis are like gorges, but not as wide. They were carved out of the limestone rock in the wilderness areas of Israel in the same way the Colorado River carved out the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Shepherds who raise their flocks in these areas of Israel must know the layout of a wadi inside and out, because although they are a great water source and provide some nice vegetation for grazing, they are dangerous. Rain which falls miles away will eventually travel into the wadi which, if there’s a lot of it, can cause flash flooding. So good shepherds know it is wiser to get your water and leave, rather than make yourself comfortable and stay.
Jesus had this geographical characteristic in mind in Matthew 7:24-29 (cross reference- Lk. 6:46-49). Maybe you remember singing this as a child: "The wise man built his house upon the rock...". It's not necessarily convenient to build on the top of those rock walls that line the wadi. It would be far more pleasant to build down in the gorge, next to the water source if you’re planning to stay for a while. When you build next to the water, you don't have to lug those big water urns up and down the path. It's easy. It's comfortable. But Jesus warns us that building in the sand at the bottom of a wadi is unsafe! When the rains come down, and they will, your house will wash away. Likewise, it's tempting for us to "build our lives" in the conveniences of the world. We think life should be easy, comfortable. The trouble is, putting trust in the comforts of this world, is exactly like building a house in the bottom of a wadi. When storms come rushing into our little world, its sandy foundation is washed away with the water.
What should disciples build on? Jesus says in verse 24 that those who come to Him, hear His words, and act on them have built their life on the rock. Their foundation is so solid that when the storms come, the house withstands the onslaught. In other words, if we are letting the Bible (Jesus’ Words) guide us in the way we live and what we believe, when the storms of life come (and they will come), we will be able to weather the storm. But this is not an easy or convenient way to build. It is certainly more popular to build on worldly things. It's easier, more comfortable and advertisers do their best to show how appealing it is. But building a life this way is unstable. Today's fads are tomorrow's history lessons. The latest trends are forgotten tomorrow when the "next big thing" becomes news. And do those modern conveniences really help when we are slammed with loss, sorrow, turmoil or loneliness? No. Why build on the shifting sand of pop culture and the “latest thing”? Build your life on God's Word so that you will stand firm when storms come your way (Proverbs 3:1-8; Colossians 3:2). So, what’s your building plan today?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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