When Joshua was an old man and was about ready to die and go home to the Lord, he gathered the leaders of Israel together to plead with them to serve the Lord, to put away the foreign gods among them and to incline their hearts to the Lord. In verse fifteen of chapter 24 of the book named after Joshua, he said, “If it is diagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fahters served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.”
If you searched the history of Israel from Abraham through the book of Malachi you would find that the single greatest problem the Israelites had was with idolatry. God had delievered them from their enemies every time they turned to him repenting of the sins and commiting their lives to him. They had seen amazing miracles from the hand of God over and over again. Yet they kept going back to worship idols made with their own hands, who couldn’t hear, couldn’t speak and couldn’t act.
The idols people worship in our time aren’t nearly as obvious as the ones they worshiped. But the fact that Paul declared that covetousness is idolatry demonstrates that we still have our idols. Often the greatest problem is that we tend to remake the God of the Universe in our own image rather than our being transformed into his image.
Joshua spoke for himself and his family, saying as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. In the New Testament book of Acts when we are told of the establishment of the church and the spread of the gospel thorugh the known world it is amazing how often it talks about whole families coming to God. For example, when Peter preached to Cornelius, he was told by Cornelius, “We are all here present before God to hear all things commanded us by the Lord.” When Peter preached the gospel of Christ to them it wasn’t just Cornelius who became a Christian. It was him and his family who made that move. When Paul went down to Philippi and preached to Lydia and a group of women on the sea shore, she and her household or family gave their lives to the Lord.
While it is certainly true that the choice of who I will follow and who will be the Lord of my life is one made by each individual how one makes that choice is highly influenced by the family they are part of. Often we wish we could make the decisions for our children on the whole matter. But God wants each person to make a decision for themselves of whom they will serve.
Consider what a difference it makes in the life and choice of a child when they know that their family is devoted to the Lord completely. Even when the time is there for them to choice for the Lord, it makes a huge difference in their choice when they know their parents and their siblings, and their grandparents have all already made the choice for God and that they will be thrilled for when I make that choice.
But how does a father make a choice for his whole family as Joshua did when he spoke for him and his family? In truth there are many things that the father or the parents make the decisions for their children that it will only be when they leave home to be on their own that they will have the choice of changing. I never did have a family meeting to talk with the whole group about whether or not they would go to school. It was clear from the beginning that we were interested in their education and wanted them to do the best they could in school. In the same way there were no meetings or even any discussion about whether or not our whole family would be in church each Sunday and would also be in a Bible Class on a regular basis. While I’m quite certain there were some times when they didn’t want to go, it wasn’t a matter of discussion because as long as they were at home they were going to church and going to be involved in the things that went on there.
I don’t have any doubt that making those choices to put our children in an environment where they often heard about God and saw parents trying to live by what the Bible teaches made a difference in the choices they made. But it was their choice as to who would rule their life?
It is very common today for someeone to say, “but things are so different now. Children are often brought up in a single parent home and don’t have a father involved in their life to help them choose for God all along.” That could well be the reason the Bible tells of women raising children without the help of a dad and those children being devoted to God. When you read in the Book of Acts about Peter being thrown in jail and Herod planning to execute him the way he had executed James the brother of John, the angel of the Lord entered Peter’s cell and released the chains. He led him out of the prison and opened the gates for Peter to go through. When Peter was finally awake enough to realize this wasn’t a dream but he had actually been released he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark where he found the brethren gathered in prayer for his release.
We don’t know anything about John Mark’s dad. But it is obvious this mother was devoted to God and that her home was the place where church members went in times of stress. She brought up Mark to follow the Lord. While he faltered at one point, he came back to be a profitable servant even to Paul.
One of my favorite characters of the Bible is Timothy. Paul said he knew of the genuine faith that was in his mother and grandmother and he was persuaded that it was in Timothy as well. He mentioned that Timothy from childhood had known the Holy Scriptures that were able to make him wise to salvation. What makes this so interesting is that Timothy as a child of a Jewish mom and Greek dad wouldn’t have been allowed ot go to the Synagogue to learn the Scriptures the way the Jewish boys did. Both parents had to be Jews for one to enter the Synagogue and to be trained in the word. It seems that Eunice and Lois were so determined to give Timothy the ability to make the right choice for God that they taught him the Scriptures he would normally have learned with the other boys at the Synagogue.
If we are to be parents who lead our children to the Lord and to faithfulness in the Lord’s work it is necessary that we be very active in their training and understanding of God and his will. To simply trust that they will learn those things by going to Bible classes each Sunday is to assume too much. In the family our place is to step into the gaps in our children’s lives and training and make certain they are given the equipment they need to make their choice for God when that time comes. Certainly having them in Bible classes and in worship to God regularly will help in the times of choice. But each family needs to take steps beyond just being in church.
Look around church this Sunday. Make a note of the mothers and dads who are there but whose children are never there. They have either lost all interest in spiritual matters or have chosen a different way of faith to travel. While Joshua was an old man when he made the statement about “Me and my house” he hadn’t waited until he was old to train his children to live for God. By the time he made this choice he was not only a father, but grandfather and great grandfather. But he was still the man who was leading his family to serve the Lord.
What is your family heritage when it comes to serving the Lord?