Having bought a house today, I started to muse on the concept of the house as it relates to matters of faith. The concept of houses in the Bible encompasses not only physical buildings, but lineages. The “house of Israel” is not just the Temple; it is also those people descended from Abraham and Isaac.
I think that two uses of the term “house” are speaking especially to my heart tonight:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
The former is poignant because Jesus, the carpenter’s son, would know all about foundations when discussing houses. The foundation metaphor is found throughout our hymnals; we know it well. The latter quote, especially the last sentence of the first paragraph, is found on a plaque at my grandmother’s house. I can hear my father’s father, a taciturn man of God, speaking those words in my ears. I don’t think that I ever really heard him say those words, but in the memory of the small child that still holds within me, I have always read that verse with Clyde Morris’s voice in my ears.
Lastly, the townhouse I just bought was paid for in part by a bit of family history: a Hollis ancestor on my mother’s side—my maternal grandmother is a Hollis, part of the Lamar County, Alabama, group of Hollises, most notable of whom was a long-time county sherriff, the man who was also my great-great grandfather—received two parcels of land in Lamar County for U.S. military service in and around the War of 1812. This land was held in Hollis hands until the mid-to-late 1990′s, when my great-aunt died and we decided to sell. [Lamar County, for those not from Alabama, is one of the poorest counties in the state; it's well over two hours from Huntsville, so it made no sense to keep the land, even when it was offered to me.]
The proceeds of that sale—which was just the old family homestead and the land surrounding it; we still hold some of the other land to this day—were divided by my grandmother into certificates of deposit held by myself and my brother. So my townhouse, my new home, is not only built on the foundation of almost two centuries of land ownership in the Great State of Alabama, but also built on the same foundation of faith in Christ set forward by the self-same members of that family.
My house has and will continue to serve the Lord.