Twenty five years ago, as our distressed nation viewed a generation of its youth angrily protesting the evils, real or imagined, of their parents’ society, one of those angry young voices, Graham Nash, wrote a song that sounded like an island of contentment in a stream of discontent:
Our house is a very very fine house
With two cats in the yard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you.
Now there’s something to dream about– a house filled with tranquility where “everything is easy” because two people have found harmony together.
Now that generation has come of age, and then some. We’re not only parents–some are even in the early stages of grandparent-hood. And some are still humming along with “Our House,” hoping that somehow the tranquil dream will come true (minus the cats?).
But this dream house comes with a built-in self-destruct mechanism; it is wheeled in onto the flawed foundation of self-gratification:
I’ll light the fire
You place the flowers in the vase that
you bought, today.
Staring at the fire,
for hours and hours while I listen to
you play your love songs
all night long, for me,
only for me.
How many are dedicated to the idea that the home is place “for me, only for me”?
A man much older than any of us took a different view of home and family. He surveyed the nation of the Israelites as they prepared to take up their lives in the land of Palestine. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, followed by a few years of war and conquest after they crossed the Jordan River, they were a people ready to settle down in the land “flowing with milk and honey.”
But Joshua knew that the only predictable trait of these people was their fickleness; when the people promised their allegiance to the LORD alone, Joshua challenged that commitment: “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God…” (John 24:19).
“Choose For Yourself…”
So Joshua called on the people to make a conscious choice. What would be the priorities in the houses of these people — will they be beautified by flowers on the table, and little else? Who will have the allegiance of their hearts? “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served . . . or the gods of the Amorite, in whose land you dwell” (Josh. 24:15a).
Joshua knew that it was not his place to coerce the people into a commitment. They would have to do that themselves. But they dare not procrastinate; nor could they limp along with divided loyalties (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:21). They would serve either the Lord, or another.
The old man could only speak for himself and his house. At one hundred and ten years he knew his earthly sojourn was at an end. For himself he was only reaffirming the devotion he had displayed over a period of a century. But he was declaring also that this devotion extended also to “his house.”
Joshua’s understanding of the term “house” takes into its account the far-reaching concept of the biblical “house.” He was given a role of responsibility for the spiritual well-being of his wife, children, slaves, etc. All who looked to him for their daily food and shelter — this was his house. And yet it was not his. Rather, he dedicated it all to the LORD. Were it not for the Lord’s goodness, his house would be nothing. In holy fear and gratitude, whatever was his was devoted to God, the only true God.
In Joshua’s view, “house” was also a far-sighted concept. His house was one portion of the house of Israel — a people and nation blessed by God with the promise of a Redeemer who would deliver them and present them a holy people before their God. Much later Israel would hear it put this way: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine'” (Is. 43:1).
Having seen in his lifetime how God had dwelt among this people, sanctifying them for His purposes, Joshua realized that his house was immeasurably rich in belonging to and serving the true God: God who gathers in His believing people through the preaching of the Redemption; God who sanctifies homes and their inhabitants through daily use of the Word; God who gives refuge to His children when they flee to Him from the worldly turmoil that surrounds, and at times invades, even our Christian homes. This God is He who impresses on us and our houses that we are a part of “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
May God who caused His Son to be born into the family of man, grant that our homes be filled with the tranquility, beauty, love, and strength that can only come to those who belong wholly to Him by faith in Jesus Christ.
— Pastor Peter Reim