Family Life and The Kingdom of God
This post is by Gloria Furman. Gloria is a wife, mother, cross-cultural worker, and the author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full.
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You and Your House
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b).
Could there be a grander vision for the family than this? It is no wonder this verse is brought up in premarital counseling sessions and emblazoned on artwork in our homes. The highest aspiration of every Christian family is to have this kingdom mentality and live rightly under the King’s rule.
But how can our family be faithful to do what our heart sets out to do? We find the answer in the story surrounding this verse.
Whom Will You Serve?
At end of the conquest of Canaan, Joshua called together the tribes of Israel to Shechem. Joshua charged the people to make a choice: Option A – serve the true King, Option B – serve their ancestral idols, or Option C – serve the false gods of the dispossessed Canaanites. It is here in this passage that we read Joshua’s infamous declaration: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b).
All the tribes of Israel affirmed that Yahweh is their King and pledged to serve him. Every family was on board. But despite Joshua’s warning that there was no way they could keep this holy and jealous God’s covenant apart from his help (24:19), the people confidently repeated, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.”
When we read between the lines in Joshua 24:31 then we see a hint that these families were not faithful for very long. “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” Would the King’s subjects betray him, forsake his rule, serve his enemies, and live like traitors after the elders of Joshua’s day passed away?
Just One Generation Later
Say it ain’t so! But sadly, it was. We read a dismal depiction of the situation in Judges chapter 2. After the last godly generation passed away there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work he had done for Israel (Judges 2:10). The family of God fell apart as the sons and daughters of godly parents collectively did what was evil in God’s sight, served idols, and abandoned the Lord. The rest of Judges is a record of God’s grace in their lives, sending them judge after judge to deliver them from their enemies. But in light of God’s faithfulness, do these sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers repent and turn from their sin?
The last line of Judges strikes fear into our hearts and we wonder, Is the drama of redemption actually a horror movie? “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Not a single family in God’s kingdom acknowledged God as King. These were despicable times.
God’s Grip of Grace on Our Family
What would become of God’s covenant people? The suspense does not linger in the air for long, because the next thing we read in our Bible is this: “In the days when the judges ruled” a man whose name ironically means “God is King” moved his family out of the promised land because of a famine (Ruth 1:1). Things look bleak for this family from the outset, and indeed, events turn tragic. The man dies, his sons die, and his wife Naomi is left widowed and destitute.
Tension in this drama mounts when Naomi heard that God had visited his people to give them food. The pantries in the “house of bread” were being restocked (Ruth 1:6). As she set out on her journey she urged her daughters-in-law to go back to their families because “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13). The irony of Naomi’s lament is not lost on us, as we read in the next line “but Ruth clung to her” (Ruth 1:14).
God’s hand was not against Naomi—he was holding her fast in his grip of grace as he rescued her through Ruth. The grandson whom Ruth later laid in Naomi’s lap took his place in the lineage of David, the shepherd-king from Bethlehem (Ruth 4:17). This, of course, reminds us of God’s provision of the greatest Shepherd-King to come from Bethlehem, Jesus, the descendant of David.
Their Story Is Our Story
The families in these stories seem so far away from our own experience, but really, this is our family history, too. Like the fathers and mothers of Israel who were so eager to affirm their loyalty to the King, we desperately need God’s grace in order to live rightly under his rule. Like the children who lived in the days of the judges, we are tempted to live according to what seems right in our own eyes. Like Naomi who couldn’t see what the hand of the Lord was doing to her family, we all need help remembering that God’s hand is mighty to save.
By God’s grace we long to live rightly under his rule. We fly the banner high above our family—“Me and my house will serve the Lord!” And rightly so. We lead our family to submit to the King and pray that his kingdom would grow through our family’s influence. God’s covenant faithfulness proves true even when we are not. The death and resurrection of King Jesus is the most striking picture of God’s grip of grace. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).
How can our family seek to live under the King’s rule in his kingdom? We receive everything we need for life and godliness from the hand of the King himself. Our family can serve him through the very same means he used to bring us into his kingdom in the first place—“by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9).