Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joshua 4 - Giving Children a Godly Heritage

Joshua 4, especially :6-7, 21-24

Opening thought: Omnipotence Questioned
A Bible class teacher was examining her pupils after a series of lessons on God's omnipotence. She asked, "Is there anything God cannot do?"
There was silence. Finally, one lad held up his hand. The teacher, disappointed that the lesson's point had been missed, asked resignedly, "Well, just what is it that God cannot do?"
"Well," replied the boy, "He can't please everybody."

Contextual Notes:
The narrative arrangement of Joshua 3 and 4 is remarkable. Some scholars suggest later editing and combining of two accounts, but a simple view of the text shows the writer’s genius and negates any attempt to say this text is somehow a patchwork of motley hero stories.

The passage has four sections: the preparation (Joshua 3:1-6), the passage (Joshua 3:7-17), the memorial stones in the river bed (Joshua 4:1-14), and the return of the river flow and the memorial stones at Gilgal (Joshua 4:15-24). Each section closes with a summary statement, a common Hebrew OT historical mannerism.

In each of the last three sections, there is a triple division: God’s command, Joshua’s command, and the execution of the command. For example, God’s command (3:7-8), Joshua’s repetition (3:9-13), and the action (3:14-17) Verse 17 gives the customary summary.

Chapter 4 is divided into two sections. Verses 1-14 are about the bringing of twelve memorial stones from the Jordan. Verses 15-24 conclude the whole event. The same pattern is here of God’s command, Joshua’s repetition of command, and the action of the command.

Matthew Henry: “We may well imagine how busy Joshua and all the men of war were while they were passing over Jordan, when besides their own marching into an enemy's country, and in the face of the enemy, which could not but occasion them many thoughts of hear, they had their wives, and children, and families, their cattle, and tents, and all their effects, bag and baggage, to convey by this strange and untrodden path, which we must suppose either very muddy or very stony, troublesome to the weak and frightful to the timorous, the descent to the bottom of the river and the ascent out of it steep, so that every man must needs have his head full of care and his hands full of business, and Joshua more than any of them. And yet, in the midst of all his hurry, care must be taken to perpetuate the memorial of this wonderous work of God, and this care might not be adjourned to a time of greater leisure. Note, How much soever we have to do of business for ourselves and our families, we must not neglect nor omit what we have to do for the glory of God and the serving of his honour, for that is our best business.

There is some lack of clarity in the text as to whether there were two memorials or one. Either Joshua left one in the river or he took the stones and set them up at Gilgal for a memorial or both.

“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them” (4:7); “In the future, when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them (4:21-22)

1. Teach them God’s power (4:6-7, 21-22)
Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 6:20-21.
c. Illustration: Parent’s dream when the well went dry.

2. Teach them God’s faithfulness (4:23)

Tell them stories of God’s faithfulness in the Bible. Tell them stories of how God was faithful to you and when you had nowhere else to turn. Read to them books about people who experienced God’s faithfulness.

Pray together as a family asking God to show Himself faithful in the issue at hand in your lives. Let them see first-hand God’s faithfulness.

Have communion together as a family. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to remind us vividly through the humble bread and wine that Jesus gave his body and blood for us.

Encourage them to trust God’s faithfulness in their own struggles.

Exodus 12:26-27: 26 And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' 27 then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.' "Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

Illustration: Taking out loans to pay for Fuller seminary.

3. Teach them God’s missionary heart (4:24).
Notice the purpose of the memorial stones. That God would be known among the nations. Our God is a missionary God.
Read the child-sized missionary biographies together. Get a copy of OPERATION WORLD FOR KIDS and pray for the nations of the earth.
Adopt a child through Compassion International in another country.
Watch a missions DVD together.
Go with your child to a homeless shelter to serve.
Take your child on a mission trip, domestic or international.
Illustration: Lottie Moon’s personnel and fundraising appeal.

It is the parents’ responsibility to train children, not the Sunday School teacher, not the pastor, not the school teacher, not the television, not the computer.

It is your responsibility before God to get your children and grandchildren involved in church. Not the preacher’s. Not the youth directors’. Not the Sunday School director’s or teacher’s.

We are always one generation away from the extinction of Christian families. God is very much concerned that each generation be trained in righteousness. Look around this sanctuary. In fifteen years, how many will be here? Who will keep the lights burning? Who will reach out to the masses of unchurched moving into this area?

Take time with the younger folks around you. Mentor them, whether children, grandchildren, or just friends. Share a story about how God met you in crisis, how the Lord rescued you from darkness, what your faith in Jesus and the Word of God means to you, and why it has been a strong foundation for you through the school of hard knocks.


[1] Maclaren, Expostions of Holy Scripture, Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 303.
[2] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, “Joshua 4:1-9, e-sword.
[3] Ruth A. Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 237-8.