THE DUTY OF A FATHER JOSHUA 24:14-15
This morning, since it is Father’s Day, I want to examine a passage of Scripture that is probably familiar to all of us and if you are not familiar with this passage then you will be by the time this sermon ends. So I ask you to turn in your Bibles to Joshua 24:14-15. I can remember as a boy in my grandparents house that there was a plague hanging on the wall that quoted verse 15. And some of you might have this Scripture in your house.
So I want to speak to you fathers who are here, this morning, father to father. I hope to challenge you to man up and be the head of your house. Now, I speak as a father in progress and not one who has it all together. I am in the process just as you are in being the man of God that God desires me to be. I realize that on Father’s Day dads get berated while on Mother’s Day moms get exalted. So this morning my goal is not to beat up on fathers, but to encourage you from God’s word to be the best dad you can be for your children. And if the Spirit convicts you in an area that you need to work on, then confess it and try your best to do better in the future.
Before we look at this passage, I want to give you a little background to Joshua’s instructions to the tribes of Israel. Joshua was the leader of the people after Moses passed away. He was given this post because of his great potential by Moses. Remember, he was one of the twelve spies who went into Canaan and brought a report about the products and the people who lived there. Ten of the spies thought it too risky to enter the Promised Land except Caleb and Joshua. Because of their faith in the Lord they were allowed to enter the land.
Joshua was general of the Israelite’s army when they conquered the land of Canaan. They had a remarkable run of victories with only two setbacks. God through the leadership of Joshua and the people of Israel drove out the people of Canaan. Now, Joshua at the age of 110 gives a farewell address to the children of Israel. And in this speech, you notice Joshua’s concern for the welfare of Israel.
After a lengthy reminder of God’s grace and goodness to the people of Israel from the calling of Abraham in a pagan land to the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt to the conquest of the land on both sides of the Jordan River. God gave them a land in which they did not labor and cities which they did not build, they ate fruit of the vineyards and olive orchards that they did not plant. And with this stirring of affection for all that God had done for them; they should dedicate themselves to the Lord and him alone out of gratitude for God’s gracious deeds.
Joshua is not the only aged leader to issue such a farewell. Samuel who was dedicated to the Lord by his mother and served in the house of the Lord all his life spoke to the people of Israel in the same fashion. So Samuel prayed for Israel and reminded them to dedicate themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly.
People of God are there things in your life in which God has been gracious to you. Many of you grew up in Christian homes, most of us have jobs provided for us by the Lord, and a majority of us have been saved by God’s grace along with our household. So out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for us let us heed the instructions given here by this godly man. Let our lives be dedicated to the Lord and may we dedicate our families to the Lord and his service.
If there is ever a day in which this message is relevant it is in our day. There are many in the church and outside the church that need to heed this message because of the disturbing trends that are happening in our families. Families are being redefined by the culture we live in by suggesting that marriage is no longer between a man and woman. Even the President is making strong legislation that promotes homosexual unions.
Families are being split in half by divorce in which one out of every two marriages end in divorce. Or there is the case of the pregnant woman and the father who has abdicated his responsibilities to the family he has created.
And even more alarming are the statistics about teenagers leaving the church. According to researchers, it is estimated 88% of teens who profess Christianity walk away from the faith by the end of their freshman year in college. Researcher George Barna discovered that 85% of born again teens do not believe in the existence of absolute truth. Over 60% agreed with the statement, “Nothing can be known for sure except the things you experience in your own life.” More than half of those surveyed believed that Jesus sinned during His earthly life. In light of these trends, the only thing that will reverse these things is the Word of God. This is why I want us to look at Joshua’s instructions carefully.
In these instructions given by Joshua to the people of Israel, I want you to notice two things Joshua did to help the people serve the Lord. They are the power of exhortation and the power of example. First, let us look at the power of exhortation.
THE POWER OF EXHORTATION – 14-15a
These verses reflect the ancient vassal treaties in which the subjects of the king would hear all that he done for the people and they in turn will show exclusive loyalty to the king. One particular treaty commanded, “Do not turn your eyes to anyone else!” Well, this is what is happening in these verses. God had done great and mighty things for the people of Israel and Joshua charges the people in light of everything that the Lord did for you to show loyalty to him by turning to no one else.
So Joshua exhorted the people in a positive and negative way. Let us look at the positive exhortation that Joshua gave them. He instructs them to fear the Lord and serve the Lord in sincerity and faithfulness. The idea behind fearing the Lord means to wave the white flag of surrender before his laws and submit your self to his commands. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), and the fear of the Lord keeps us from sinning (Exodus 20:20). When we sin, we are treating the covenant Lord with contempt. But Hebrews 10:31 warns those who would continue in sin, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” The key to a holy life is to have a holy reverence for God, to whom we all must give an account. Holy fear should lead us to submit to the Lord’s will and do it eagerly, just as a son who reveres his father will be eager to please him by doing the father’s will.
Next, Joshua instructs them to serve the Lord in sincerity and in faithfulness. In other words, God’s people are to serve God without hypocrisy or the show of piety. In this statement, Joshua knew that man is naturally bent to be a servant. It is only a matter of who we are going to serve. We can either serve God or Satan.
Men and women, I want to remind you that prior to becoming a Christian that the Bible says you are a servant of Satan and under the wrath of God. Also, we were slaves to sin even though we may have considered ourselves free. But Jesus came to deliver us from that bondage of slavery and so now we are servants of God. Therefore, out of gratitude for all that God has done for us we ought to serve the Lord in sincerity and in faithfulness.
Embrace Him, Joshua is saying. Come before God with a willingness and a desire and a longing to say to God, "Anything, anything, Lord, whatever You ask of me. Whatever trial you ask me to bear, whatever road you ask me to traverse, whatever obstacle to overcome, whatever difficulty to embrace, whatever pain, whatever joy, anything, I want to serve You. I want to be out and out for You."
Joshua is wise in his assessment of the human heart and tells the Israelites to carefully give themselves to the Lord without any reservations and to put away anything that might hinder God from being first place in your life. Now this does not mean that there were idols in the camp of Israel at the time, but there could definitely be a hankering for it because of their past history.
Remember Abraham was called from a people who worshiped pagan deities before God called him to worship Him and Him alone. While in Egypt they were surrounded by false gods and some of them offered sacrifices to demons. Even after they left Egypt, while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments the people had persuaded Aaron to make them a god. And they wound up with a golden calf and said this is the god who delivered you from the slavery in Egypt. After they had crossed over the Jordan into the land that they were now living there were people who had all kinds of gods in which they sacrificed almost anything to these gods.
So the temptation was there for the people to fall into idolatry and Joshua knew it. And he said put away those hankerings, those inclinations to rebel against God in this way and give him your absolute loyalty. We are to serve God exclusively. First Kings 18 describes Elijah’s confrontation with the false god Baal: “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’” A Christian cannot serve both the true God and false gods. It is not both/and, but either/or. God demands exclusive covenant love and obedience from his people. Jesus told us, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Suppose a husband or wife commits adultery. Even unbelievers will display certain anger. How much more will the infinite holy God be angry with those who try to serve him and false gods at the same time!
Folks, are there any idols in your lives that have taken precedent over the Lord? Are there any inclinations you give more time and loyalty to than to God? Maybe it is the idol of materialism, or the idol of pleasure or the idol of work or the idol of family. In other words, anything that we put before God is an idol and we must get rid of it. So Joshua exhorts Israel to serve God and nothing else. Next, Joshua gives them the
THE POWER OF EXAMPLE – 15b
The power of example goes a long ways. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, said, “I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in fifty years what my father taught by example in one week.” I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way. The eye’s a better pupil and much sharper than the ear. Fine counsel can confuse me, but example’s always clear. The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true, But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.—Author unknown
So example is one of our best teachers. And Joshua was ready to lead by example. Parents, you should be willing to lead by example to the children that God has given you. What kind of example are you? Are you having a positive or negative influence on those who are watching you?
Here was a good soldier in God’s army. Joshua is convinced that God is the one and only God. He realizes that all other desires can obscure his vision of staying loyal to the Lord. And he was willing to do whatever to get rid of those things that would prevent him from serving the Lord with all his heart, mind and soul. So Joshua’s conviction was not to swerve from the path that God has laid out before him.
One commentator said, “In days when faith is weak and compromise has become general, when the sense of duty is slight or the definitions of duty vague, it is well that the spirit of Joshua should be displayed among the leaders in Israel, and that there should be those who will take their stand boldly upon the declaration, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua understood the role of his leadership before the people of Israel. Men, do we understand the role of leadership that God has given to you for your house. He calls you to be a prophet, priest and king. Now what does that mean? It means that we are to instruct our families (prophet), pray for and with our families (priest), and govern, direct and provide for our families (king). The last one mentioned is not that difficult for most of us; it is the first two.
God tells us through the Apostle Paul, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). The idea here is to raise our children through correction (reproof or rebuking) and training by words. Moses gives us an example of training in words in Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Father’s we are given numerous examples of men who fulfilled their responsibilities. For example, Job knew his responsibilities, as head of his family, with the souls under him, the scripture tells us, “When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send [for his children] and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job's regular custom.” Joshua was concerned for his household's welfare, as his own. Nor lastly, that of Cornelius, who feared God, not only himself, but with all his house: and if Christians had the same spirit of Job, Joshua, and the Gentile centurion, they would act as Job, Joshua, and Cornelius did.
So Joshua gave the people of Israel the power of exhortation and the power of example. Now before we wrap up this morning, I want to give you some application that I hope will help you in being the father that God wants to be in your family. I am borrowing insight from a sermon by George Whitefield who preached on this same passage. My purpose in this application is to give you methods and motivation to lead your family.
First, let us talk about three methods in leading your family. One is you need to read the Word of God to your children. Find time in the day in which you can sit down with your family to read the Bible to them. You need to remember that your children are less informed about the Word of God than you are and God has given you the responsibility to teach them. Men you do not have to be an expert on theology in order to instruct your families in the way of God.
Well, you might be thinking where do I start. You can start about anywhere in the Bible because God’s word is living but start where you are most comfortable and most knowledgeable. For example, the gospels are the stories and teachings of Jesus and they are pretty straight forward. The epistles give great instruction on how to live the Christian life. Just do something! Start today by reading the Bible with your family.
A second method in leading your family is prayer. This is exactly how our blessed Lord acted, when he lived among us: for it is often said, that he prayed with his twelve disciples, which was then his little family. Paul admonishes to pray in the spirit of all occasions. Have you or members of your family been blessed, then you have something to be thankful for? Have you or members of your family had trials or tribulations, then you have concerns to pray about? Have you or members of your family sinned, then you have need of confession? Folks, there are many things for which we are to pray for or pray about.
You have heard that families who pray together stay together. So I encourage you to find time to spend time in prayer about the things in life. And men this may seem weird at first, but I guarantee your family will appreciate you taking the lead in being their spiritual leader. I have never met a woman who has not enjoyed having their husband lead their family spiritually.
The third method is to lean on the Holy Spirit. It is easy to give lip service to the Lord and in leading your family. Admit to God your weaknesses and ask him to help you as you lead your family in the ways of God. James tells us “He who lacks wisdom should ask the Lord who gives to all generously.” So go to the Lord in your private time and seek his wisdom in leading your family.
Now before we close, I want to offer several motivations for leading your family in worship of God. The first motivation is that men probably far busier than you have led their family in the worship of God. So you cannot use the excuse that I just don’t have time for it. Abraham, no doubt, as a wealthy man had many demands of business in his life, surely as much or more than those objectors may have had; but yet he found time to command his household to serve the Lord. David was a king, and consequently had a great deal of business upon his hands; yet in spite of all these requirements, he professes that he walked in his house with a perfect heart. And, one more example, holy Joshua was a person definitely engaged in many worldly affairs; and yet he solemnly declares before all Israel, that as for him and his household, they would serve the Lord. And if persons would only redeem their time, as Abraham, David, or Joshua did, they would no longer complain, that family duties kept them from accomplishing the business of the world.
Next, do it out of gratitude for all that God has given to you. Remember these requirements given by Joshua were against the backdrop of God’s goodness to them. We have so much to be thankful for salvation, family, work, homes, clothes, and food along with many more things. So out of thankfulness for the Lord lead your families.
Next, you should lead your family out of love for your children. Most parents are quite fond of those children that God has given them. And we show that love to them by providing the needs for their bodies such as food, clothes or even exercise. But how much more important is it that we provide for their salvation. We should take time to prepare those immortal souls for eternity.
Next, allow the motivation of self-interest help you in leading your family in worship of God. Don’t we allow that to motivate us in many areas of life such as behavior or dress or even sports? So why should this not motivate us in the development of our children’s spiritual lives. I believe it to be in the heart of every believing father to have godly sons or daughters.
Finally, lead your family in worship of God because of the terror of the Lord. Remember, the time will come, and that perhaps very shortly, when we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; where we must give a solemn and strict account of all of our discussions and interactions with our respective families in this world. How will you endure to see your children and servants (who ought to be your joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ) standing up as many witnesses against you; cursing the father that gave them life, the womb that bore them, the breasts which they have sucked, and the day they ever entered into your houses? Do not think for a moment that the damnation which men must endure for their own sins, will be sufficient, for there is also the additional guilt of being accessory to the damnation of others. O consider this, all you that forget to serve the Lord with your respective households, “lest he remove you, and there is no one to deliver you!”