… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15, NIV)
At three critical points in Israel’s history, Moses (and later Joshua) prepared the Israelites to teach their children about God, giving answers to crucial questions that began ‘what does it mean to you?’ First, as the Israelites fled from Egypt, Moses said:
And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. (Exodus 13:14, NLT)
Second, as Moses prepared to come to the end of his tenure, seeing the Promised Land only from a distance, he instructed them:
In the future, your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the Lord our God has commanded us to obey?’ Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand. The Lord did miraculous signs and wonders before our eyes, dealing terrifying blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people.’ Deuteronomy 6:20-22 (NLT)
Third, when God stopped the Jordan River flowing, allowing the Israelites to take their first steps into the Promised Land and was doing amazing things amongst them, Joshua said:
In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever. (Joshua 4:21-24, NLT)
Each time, Moses and Joshua prepared the people with the words: ‘when your children ask you.’ This was significant for five reasons:
- The question was prompted by action: They assumed the Israelites would continue to obey God’s Word, and that this would cause the questions to flow. It assumed that children would see what their parents were doing, not what they said they were doing or what they should be doing. The question was an overflow of a life well-lived before the Lord, a life lived where church and home were one.
- The question was personal: What does it mean to you? The question implied that future generations would want to hear personal accounts of God’s significance in their parents’ lives. The responsibility of explaining what they were doing was not something that was abdicated to Moses or Joshua, or to any future leaders, it was one that was shared by parents.
- The question was a call to dig deeper: Whilst the question assumed that the parents were observing the customs and rules, the personal nature of the question meant that parents could not fail to reflect on their relationship with the Lord. It was a powerful challenge for those whose remembrance had grown dim—where the joy of the Lord had been replaced with habit and routine, where the fear of God had been replaced with complacency, where tradition had replaced a love and devotion for the Lord. For those who had maintained their zeal for the Lord and zeal for His house (John 2:17), the question was a powerful reminder to develop an even deeper relationship with the Lord.
- The question was an opportunity to teach and encourage obedience to God’s Word: The Lord commanded us to obey him and fear him so he might bless us (Deuteronomy 6:24).
- The question was both a powerful opportunity to testify of God’s glorious, miracle-working power and a reminder of all that God had done for them—collectively and personally. The children’s questions created an opportunity to speak of God’s character—His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy, His grace, His provision, His presence, His trustworthy nature, His righteousness, and His justice. It was a reminder that they were God’s special possession (Deuteronomy 14:2; 1 Peter 2:9).
The Israelites were encouraged to answer questions about what does this ceremony, rule or regulation mean to you? Today, that question might be: What does this church mean to you?
The instructions to the Israelites revealed a pattern that we can learn from today (Romans 15:4): that of the symbiotic relationship between the church and the home. The home should not operate separately from the church—rather what happened in the church was to be exemplified in the home. The church was an overflow of the home, and what happened within the church was to be modelled, reinforced, celebrated, and spoken of at home. 2 Timothy provides another example, where Timothy’s faith was stirred by his grandmother, his mother and then by Paul:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also… But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:5, 14-15, NIV)
We may not currently be able to gather together as a church family, but we can stir up faith in others—whether it’s our children, grandchildren, spouse, family, work colleagues, or our friends and neighbours. It’s never too late to start or too soon to begin. We can do so:
- By creating a godly atmosphere in our homes (Deuteronomy 6:5-8).
- By bringing the very sound of heaven into our homes ‘with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord‘ (Ephesians 5:19, NCV).
- By devoting ourselves to prayer, praying for ‘all the saints‘ (Ephesians 6:18), for our leaders, and for the nation. At a time of worldwide fear we do not need to be anxious about anything but should pray about everything (Philippians 4:6).
- By ensuring our speech is ‘always full of grace, seasoned with salt‘ (Colossians 4:6, NIV).
- By giving cheerfully and liberally (2 Corinthians 9:7).
- By telling others about Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16).
- By living to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
As the lockdown stretches into an eighth week, we miss the moments when the glory of the Lord descends as we gather together as a church. But while we wait for the lockdown to end, God’s glory can descend within our own homes, utterly transforming our lives:
So David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The Ark of the Lord remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his entire household. (2 Samuel 6:10-11, NLT)
As the nations of the world absorb the impact of the pandemic we know that God is in control; that God has a plan, that He ultimately has given us a brief window to be part of His eternal plan, for our lives to be weaved into a miraculous move of God on Earth, and to bring His awesome power right into our homes.
© 2020 Kate Gooch / Harvest City Church