Fatherhood has been both the greatest challenge—and the greatest joy of my life. I now have desires that I had never experienced before being a dad: I want to provide for, nurture, and protect my three daughters; and strongly desire that they would follow and serve Jesus alone.

I think Joshua of the Old Testament knew a thing or two about fatherhood. He was mentored by Moses, the man who led the people out of Egypt, and brought the Lord’s teaching to them. We can imagine that Moses and Joshua had a relationship much like a father and son.

The Priority of Home

It was Moses who taught the elders of Israel to make the Lord the centre of their homes. In Deuteronomy 6:4–9, we see God’s design for the household to be the primary place where worship and discipleship ought to take place:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

So, it’s not a surprise that at the end of his time as Israel’s leader, Joshua gave a similar message to Israel about following the LORD wholeheartedly. He did so in his farewell message to them, after the people had entered and occupied the land that God promised to Abraham and Moses:

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”
—Joshua 24:14

In the next part of his speech, however, Joshua recognised that his influence on the families was limited. They had the free will to choose; and that they might very well choose not to serve the LORD:

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”
—Joshua 24:15

Do you sense the sarcasm in Joshua’s words? If his hearers did not want to obey the LORD, they could choose someone or something else to serve! It’s a lot like saying: “If you want to destroy yourselves, be my guest!” He even named some of the choices they had if they wanted to turn against the LORD: “whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living” (v. 15).

Worldly Gods and Values

This part of Joshua’s speech may resonate with many people living in fast-paced Singapore, who may be inclined to value worldly successes, such as achievements in education and status.

But if we put these ahead of serving God, the pursuit of these achievements can become our idols.

After sarcastically giving his hearers their choice of false gods, Joshua proceeded to declare the all-familiar challenge and encouragement to everyone, especially to fathers:

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
—Joshua 24:15

Joshua declared with confidence that his choice was to serve the LORD, the one true God. He could not control what others would do, but he had put his stake in the ground. He had drawn a line in the sand: he would serve the LORD.

However, he did not stop with himself. He declared that he would be joined by his household. His declaration included everyone in his home: They would serve the LORD.

A Challenge to Dads

While Joshua’s influence on the rest of Israel was limited, he knew he had the opportunity and responsibility to lead his own household. Like his mentor Moses, Joshua recognised that the primary place of discipleship was in the home. Joshua took responsibility, and made a public commitment to have his household serve the LORD.

While Joshua’s influence on the rest of Israel was limited, he knew he had the opportunity and responsibility to lead his own household.

Joshua’s challenge to Israel is a challenge to fathers. If you’re a father, have you made a similar commitment with your household? Have you put a stake in the ground that you will not run after the false gods of your ancestors? Have you drawn a line in the sand that you will not run after the false gods of worldly values? Will you lead those in your family to serve the one and only true God?

Do you have a father or a fatherly figure in your life? Think about how you can encourage him to take responsibility and serve his household. Consider how you can support him in his role of influencing his household to serve the LORD.

If you hope to be a father someday, is this a commitment you’ve made for yourself? When temptation comes, will you choose to put God first, like Joshua did? Are you preparing yourself to have a household that serves the LORD?

Discipleship in Our Home

For me, having my household serve the LORD means a transformation of our lifestyle. We read the Bible every day together as a family. We pray together for God’s blessings, our families, the unsaved, and for the Lord to use us to serve His church. We have been volunteering in ministry together, most recently helping out at a women and children’s shelter. We involve our children in our outreach efforts, having them write to our sponsored children in Ecuador, praying for our contributions to the church and missions, and showing hospitality to others.

We are asking the Lord to build our girls into disciples who deny themselves and boldly serve Him. For us, this is discipleship in the home. We still have a long way to go, and I am seeking wisdom from our heavenly Father.

God is calling those who influence their homes to lead with conviction and courage.

In upholding the commitment for me and my household to serve the LORD, I recognised the need and importance of breaking cycles of sins in my family history. For example, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act in the US and immigration patterns, for generations, only the men came to the US to support their families, while their wives and children were left behind in their homelands. In other words, I come from a long line of physically absent fathers.

While I may not be absent physically, I sometimes fail by being absent relationally. I recognise that I have the responsibility to connect with my wife and children, and lead with conviction. This is a crucial step in breaking the cycle of being a disengaged husband and father. I believe God will then provide the opportunities, and equip me to positively influence my wife and children at home. What generational sins might you, too, need to break in your household?

God is calling those who influence their homes to lead with conviction and courage. The heavenly Father, from whom every family derives its name (Ephesians 3:14–15) deserves all loyalty and worship.

Dads, will you join me in choosing for yourselves? Will you make the commitment that you and your household will serve the LORD?

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This article was originally published at SOLA Network. Adapted with permission.
Daniel K. Eng is a husband, dad, pastor, teacher, and follower of Jesus the King. He is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Western Seminary. He has a D.Min. in Asian American Ministry (Talbot) and a Ph.D. in biblical studies (University of Cambridge). Daniel is an editorial board member at SOLA Network, and the author of the commentary on James in the forthcoming Hodder Bible Commentary (expected 2024). He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and three daughters.
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