Finding Stability

At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:
“At the cost of his firstborn son
    he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
    he will set up its gates.”
So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

  • Joshua 6:26-27

“Therefore 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.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

  • Matthew 7:24-29

In the photo, you can see some interesting things, if your viewing platform doesn’t crop too much.  In the distance, there is a fresh patch of asphalt.  Along the right-hand side of the highway, there is something that resembles a patch along the edge.  With better resolution, you can see large cracks forming along the length of the roadway in the middle of the right-hand lane.  You can also see how irregular the guardrails are along the right-hand side of the highway.

Everything that I just mentioned has the same root cause.  The hillside is unstable and the earth beneath the road is sliding down the hill.  The fresh patch covered a really bad spot.  You would be driving along and then the right side of your vehicle, since we drive to the right here, would dip about 30 degrees.  I am sure when people complained, they said they felt like the car would flip over, but 30 degrees is bad enough to cause concern, and for the poorly educated, cause panic.  But the patch left the road with a distinct 10-15 degree dip on the right side and the root cause was never addressed.  This is one of the routes we take to church, and the three primary routes each have a piece of a road just like this.

I got out my handy-dandy military engineering manual, which I may write about soon.  You have three types of soil factors: in place, loose, and compacted.  I have never seen a patch in our area of Pennsylvania that takes those factors into account.  Unless they do a full replacement of the road, patches always result in uneven pavement, a dangerous roadway, and conditions that are hazardous to the long life of the vehicles.  And potholes happen all the time due to poor construction in the first place and poor patching.  They never get rid of the problem, the root cause.

In most cases, the problem is water underneath the road surface.  It undermines the road, making the foundation soft.  Even automobile traffic puts a heavy load on the pavement, and without a good foundation, it cracks.  Then more water leaks into the crack.  In winter, the water freezes, and when it melts, a cavity is created.  Even a small car can cause the pavement above the cavity to crumble – you just created a pothole.

But these cracks in the photo are caused by the hillside wanting the slide down into the valley below, possibly weakened by water flowing under the road, either due to no culvert being installed or something clogged or poorly designed for the amount of rainfall.

But back to engineering manual and the in place, loose, or compacted soil.  When you have clay that is “in place” and you dig it up and place it on a truck, it is “loose” soil.  It is the same soil, but now it takes up 50% (half again) more volume.  So, then they dump the soil into the hole, and they see that they have more soil than they need, so they pack some of it down and shovel the rest into the ditch.  But then they must compact the soil before vehicles can drive over it.  The soil is now 90% of its original volume, if they had not thrown any of it away.  When you started with the right volume of soil, just not compacted, you threw away a third of it and then lost 10% more of the volume when you compacted it.  You started with a dip in the road, and you created a dip in the road.

To make a long story short, you did not put enough dirt in the hole.  Asphalt is more expensive than dirt, so instead of truly fixing the perceived problem (a dip in the road), you left everyone with less of a dip in the road.  Because you did not account for the change in volumes and eventual compaction.  Try not compacting at all – which is often the case around here – and you get the vehicles doing the compaction for you, just unevenly, leading to someone breaking an axle on their vehicle or losing control and wrecking their vehicle.  And still our roads are better than many of the countries I have visited.

Around here, they blame the horrible roads on the salt.  People think that they mean that the salt ruins the roads.  What they really mean is that they spend a lot of money making sure the roads are fairly clear in winter by using salt, and they have no money to properly maintain the roads.

But in this one little patch of highway with the guardrails trying to slide down the hill, one post at a time, each sliding at a different rate, and the cracks showing how the road is following the guardrails, it is obvious that some decent engineering could be used to repair the roads in the first place.  Improperly patching is simply wasting taxpayer dollars.  I know, you get more complaints than you get money to repair the infrastructure, and then 90% of the infrastructure bill in Congress will go to things that are not infrastructure, and the rest will go to giving the engineers that may or may not be doing a good job getting a small pay raise.  Any to the roads?  I doubt it.

But what does this have to do with the Scriptures above?  The Scripture from Matthew is the ending of the Sermon on the Mount, warning everyone to be a wise builder and build upon solid rock.  In the context of what Jesus was saying, build our lives upon God’s Word, and Jesus, Himself, as the Apostle John calls Jesus “The Word” at the beginning of his Gospel.

As for the curse issued by Joshua, the repairs done to the highways may be cursed in such a fashion.  If we are spiritually bankrupt, will not our performance in doing our job start to suffer as well?  Did the workers do precisely as they were told?  Did a supervisor say that their poor repair was “good enough?”  Did the boss say that the money has run out on this repair, so whether it is fixed or not, you are finished?  (That last one has been said in my presence many times, but never about my jobs, and the customer never knew that the “finished” product that was delivered was far from finished.)

People think that there is nothing that can be called absolute truth, although that thought is an absolute truth.  But if they drove down that road at the precise moment that a part of the road slid down the hill, they would be absolutely upset that something definitely happened and they were injured, if they survived.  We have rejected God and the Bible in our secular culture today.  Without a foundation, what we think is solid ground is going to crumble beneath our feet.

There is objective, absolute truth.  It is found in the Bible.  That truth is foundational, and once our feet are set upon stable ground, we can withstand the storm.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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