The following sermon was preached by Pastor Chad Bates Sunday morning June 16th. 2013 from Joshua chapters 3 & 4
In Joshua chapters three and four, we find the telling of the children of Israel as they are coming out of a forty year wandering in the wilderness. We also find that they are about to cross over the Jordan river into the promised land. And after they cross over on DRY ground God says to Joshua... "Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you,..." Joshua 4:2-3
This memorial that God was asking to be built was not a request so that God would remember this miraculous day... but rather that when looked at by the children of those who had experienced the blessing of this event saw these stones set up as they were, then it would spark a young inquisitive mind to ask "What mean ye by these stones?" Joshua 4:6 Let me mention here that on that day when Joshua called for those to come and here the bidding of the Lord God; that it was not women or children that He called for this laborful task, but rather it was the men... or can we say the fathers that he needed to complete the work.
This speaks to me, and reminds me that it is upon the shoulders of men, as husbands and fathers that God has placed the responsibility to lead our homes and point our wives and children to Christ and His glorious Gospel. When those men went and chose the stones and put them on their shoulders it was much more than the weight of the stones that they were bearing; it was the weight of responsibility to provide proper godly training and guidance for their families... It was the weight of remembering the blessings of God... and that with Him the impossible is possible! It would do us all well as men to realize the responsibility that God has placed on our shoulders.
Dear lady reader, this does not in any way or form imply that you are not to be godly and strong in the Lord... it doesn't mean that you don't have a major part in influencing your children in the narrow way. Because anyone who is married and has at least one child knows that it is a team effort. How pitiful and rude would our society be if raising children were to be left to the father! But it does mean that God has chosen the man to guide the home, and to lead and love his wife. " For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," Ephesians 5:23-26 What an enormous responsibility that the husband has to not only love his wife but to love her as Christ loved the church! We see the overwhelming love that Christ had for His bride when we take our minds eye to Calvary and remember the price that was paid for our sins, and that should wake us up when considering what our love and care is to be towards our wives.
And that brings me to this; the man bears the task of telling his children about the things of God... His power, grace, judgement and so much more. There are several places in scripture that back this up but allow me to give you one particularly that sheds light on this... "For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:" Psalm 78:5-6 Men we must be careful when dealing with our children! We are as potters with the most delicate of clays spinning on the wheel before us, we have to discipline ourselves to stay before God and plead for His guidance as we are guiding those around us. Children are so very impressionable, they pick up on things that you had no idea that they ever would, and before you know it they go from resting in your arms to walking down the isles to begin their family. Oh but then it is too late, they are who they are and outside of the grace of God they will be only who we taught them to be. May the Lord help us to see how tender these little lives are! "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Next, considering the scriptures that are before us let us look at a few of the responsibilities of those who where part of this glorious occasion. First, there was a responsibility to follow the will of God. The scripture reads "When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." Joshua 3:3 We understand that the ark of the covenant is a picture of the presence of God and on this day the people were to follow the will of God and they did so by obeying and following the presence of God. Fathers if we are to lead our children in this narrow way then we must be dedicated to following the will of God for our lives and living daily in His presence! We cannot be fake religionist, we cannot place our families in the pews of a cold fruitless church with no devotion to God or the brethren.It will cost us far too much down the road.
I also noticed in the next verse something that caught my attention it said "...for ye have not passed this way heretofore." Joshua 3:3-4 In other words, the reason God commanded these folks to follow the ark was because they were embarking on a journey that they had never encountered before. And so it is with us many times in our lives, we face difficulties and trials so many of the places we find ourselves in life require a strong leaning on the Lord for wisdom and understanding, and outside of God's help and guidance we are headed for disaster and mishaps.
Or how about the responsibility to cleanse their lives? "Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you." Joshua 3:5 Let's not forget that God expects holiness to flow out of the believer's life, much more so in our homes among our wives and children. How many blessings do we forfeit because of dirt and scum that collects in our lives on a daily basis? If all your family sees in you is a sports crazed, bitter jerk then that fowl spirit will ooze over into the atmosphere of your home. It isn't entertainment, vacations or a worldly education our children need to thrive, but rather the cleansing power of the word of God. And I find that this is why prayer and family scripture reading is lacking in our so-called "christian" homes today; it is because that our homes are full of the world, and most men are afraid that if their homes become too religious then their carnality will be exposed and reveal them for the father they really are in the eyes of God. Father's our lives must be pure before God if they are to be pure before our children.
We could talk about many other aspects of this story and how it relates to biblical fatherhood; such as the responsibility to display visible faith in front of our families (Joshua 3:9-13), or the responsibility to fortify our memories for future generations Joshua 4:5-7 But these are thoughts I'll leave for you to consider in your personal study of this subject. But I would like to end with this thought... As fathers we have a responsibility to remember that burdens of life as well as the blessings of God. I know what some of you are thinking "We should never dwell on our past" and I'll agree with you but only to a certain extent. No, we are not to focus on our old lives and the sins that nearly destroyed us in the past, but we are to remember that it was through many dark and trying times that God has turned a burden into a blessing. This was true in the lives of the children of Israel; they had many burdensome days behind them, and in those experiences they learned that God had never failed them. But now that they are facing a brand new obstacle, their faith seems to be a little shaky! After all, they did wander in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of faith that God would fight for them, but their lack of faith turned to fear and ultimately disobedience... and that is why they found themselves in the wilderness. But if we would be honest we would all admit that each new storm that arises in our lives requires a fresh and strengthened measure of faith. Such was the experience with God's people here in our sermon today, They had already crossed the Red Sea; not to mention that they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years... and though that wasn't at all easy to endure God supplied their every need and even in judgement He did not fail them.
Dear reader, destruction does not always come out of darkness. Sometimes the trials of life are directed by God himself and He intends a blessing to be had for those who endure the test and are faithful to His will. Fathers and Mothers, this world offers many traps and snares, Satan and this world's system will completely and utterly devour our families if allowed to. We must learn to lean hard on our God and His divine grace! Let's be content in Christ that we may be able to stand firm for our children for the glory of God, even in the midst of this sin cursed society.
I will finally close with this. We find in our story today this... "And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever." Joshua 4:19-24 Do you sense the overwhelming responsibility of what lay before these men? They were responsible to tell of the power and presence of God, and then that responsibility would be passed to the next generation, and the next, and the next... Men, Fathers... May we sober up and open our eyes to the need of Biblical fathers in our land. Fathers who will love God from their hearts and not out of duty, fathers who understand their place as head of the home, fathers who will pray to God and worship Him in their homes, fathers who delight in the word of God and love their children enough to lead them to Christ.
Dear Lord, help us to understand this.