Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"An Example of Spiritual Fatherhood"

Joshua 24: 14-18

1 Thessalonians 2: 9-12

      One time, a little boy was asked to define Father’s Day.  His response:  “It’s just like Mother’s

Day, only you don’t have to spend as much on a present.”  Here are dad’s top five sayings in

ascending order -- Number 5: “I’m too busy right now.”  Number 4: “I used to walk five miles to

school, in the snow, with holes in my shoes.”  Number 3:  “When I was your age….”  Number 2:

 “Just wait ‘til I get home.”  And Number 1:  “Go ask your mother.”  My last opener before we

read our Old Testament lesson is a poetic prayer I  once came across: 

     “Mender of toys, leader of boys; Changer of fuses, kisser of bruises.  Bless him, O Lord.

      Mover of couches, soother of ouches; Pounder of nails, teller of tales.  Bless him, O Lord.

      Hanger of screens, counselor of teens; Fixer of bikes, chastiser of tykes.  Bless him, O Lord.

      Raker of leaves, cleaner of eaves; Dryer of dishes, fulfiller of wishes.  Bless him, O Lord.”

      There are a number of places in the Bible we could turn to for examples of godly fathers,

albeit imperfect fathers, as every earthly father tends to be.  Just ask my kids.  Even in their imperfections,

we could talk in fairly glowing terms about the ancient Jewish patriarchs such as

Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob.  We could lift up kingly fathers such as David, or Solomon, or Hezekiah. 

From the New Testament, we could speak well of fathers such as Joseph, or Jairus, or

Cornelius. 

      This morning, however, we turn our attention to a father who is best-known as a warrior of

God, and as successor to Moses.  It was Joshua who, after Moses’ death, took the ancient Hebrews on the last leg

of their journey into the land flowing with milk and honey.  Although the Bible tells us virtually nothing about Joshua’s

personal life beyond the name of his father, Nun, it’s probably safe to assume that over the course of his 109 years, Joshua fathered children. 

But for our purposes this morning, Joshua’s fatherhood was more expansive as patriarch to the Hebrew clans which began to settle in Canaan. 

Joshua’s fatherhood was a distinctly spiritual fatherhood. From him, all fathers could take a cue about their responsibility as spiritual heads

of their households.  Sadly, in our day and age, most fathers have abdicated their roles as spiritual leaders in the home, for all deferential

intents and purposes saying, “Go ask your mother.” 

      In the last year of his earthly life, Joshua summoned the Hebrew leaders to Shechem for

what amounts to a farewell address.  As the people’s spiritual father, he charged them to obey

the Lord who had fought for them, and given them a great inheritance, as well as warning them

about the danger of apostasy;  of chasing after other gods.  Here’s in part what Joshua said.

          (Read Joshua 24:14-18)

      For his farewell address, Joshua chose the perfect setting at Shechem, which was alive with

sacred family memories.  It was the location of Abraham’s altar, Jacob’s well, and was the site

twenty-five years earlier of a tremendous service of dedication.  As Joshua spoke, he did so with

authority of experience, having walked alongside Moses some forty years; then leading Israel in

the conquest of Canaan for the next quarter century.  He reinforced his appeal with the power

of a good example, declaring in no uncertain terms:  “…as for me and my household, we will

serve the Lord.”  A few years ago, my family bought me a wall hanging from P. Graham Dunn

with those very words.  It hangs proudly and prominently in my den.  There are a lot of things

we could say about Joshua’s spiritual leadership.  But for the sake of time, I want to focus on

two; two qualities which he possessed that all fathers would do well to emulate in their

spiritual leadership of the home.

     Joshua’s first quality could be called fatherly priesthood.  He acknowledged his responsibility

for the spiritual life and well-being of those he fathered over.  He spoke for his flock, and he declared their intent. 

He prayed on behalf of his spiritual family, and interceded for their sins.  A key characteristic of priesthood on any level is that

a priest cannot function unless he is in close contact with God.  For a father in any family, prayer and study of God’s word is tantamount

to his fulfilling his “priestly” service. Only through this is a father able to educate his children in the knowledge of the Lord, and to help  lead

them in the ways of the Lord.  Only through this is the father able to intercede for and on behalf of his family.  And only through this may he do

the greatest thing a father can do, which is to pass on to his children respect for and moreover love of God.  In the 23rd chapter of this book

bearing his name, Joshua says to his spiritual family: 

“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.  But beyond mere words of instruction,

the father’s priestly role obliges him to seek to incarnate the love of God in his flesh; that is,

God’s love should be readily visible in his life.  I’m reminded of a story of a little boy who was

terribly frightened by the thunder and lightning of a late night storm.  He cried out of the dark

across the hallway, “Daddy, come to my room.  I’m scared!”  The father called back, “God loves

you and will take care of you.”  “I know God loves me,” his son replied.  “But right now, I want

somebody who has skin on.”  In our priestly function as fathers, we should want to be, above

all else, God’s love with skin on.

      There’s another story which illustrates this.  It’s about a young widowed pastor whose teen

daughter became very ill.  After the girl had undergone an exhaustive series of tests, her father

was given the crushing news that she had an aggressive cancer.  The father agonized over how

he would break this to his little daughter, who was still in the bloom of youth.  After earnestly

seeking direction from God, he went with heavy heart to the hospital unit to his child’s bed-

side.  First he read a passage of Scripture, and prayed over his daughter.  Then he gently told

her that the doctors said she only had a short time to live.  The father asked with tears in his

eyes, “Are you afraid to meet Jesus?”  Blinking away a few tears of her own, his daughter

replied, “No, not if he’s like you daddy.” 

      The second quality that Joshua possessed as a spiritual father was that he had a plan for his

family.  Being priest of the family is only one element of effective spiritual fatherhood.  The

godly father must also have a plan for the spiritual lives of his loved ones.  Joshua, when speaking of his household – both his personal household and

the people at large – did not say, “I will serve the Lord,” but We will serve the Lord.”  We must strive, with God’s help, for spiritual unity in our families. 

When Joshua spoke, his voice rang with the sounds of oneness:  “Me and my household.” 

      For all that Joshua and the people had been through together, there was togetherness.  And

I believe the reason that unity was in place was due to Joshua’s godly character; his example;

his genuine and authentic faith; so much so that his family said in essence, “Whatever you say,

dad, we’re with you.”  Listen again to their response to Joshua:  “Far be it from us that we 

should forsake the Lord to serve other gods….. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is

our God.”  I’m sure we’ve all found it true that when the family is united, especially on a spiritual front, it will endure the trials that come its way;

will stand strong and together in the face of any threat.  This was Joshua’s intent and plan for the family over which he fathered.  He pressed a godly

determination to persevere with his family, and in that determination, his family learned to persevere as well.

   I’m afraid most households – and no small number of Christian households – have no spiritual

plan or purpose; no discernible spiritual direction.  In our day, many fathers who profess the

Christian faith takes a laissez faire approach with regard to their children’s spiritual direction.  I

myself must confess that I’ve been guilty as charged on this one.  “They’ll find their own way.”

“I don’t want to force religion down their throats.”  “I don’t want to turn them off.”  While we

can’t force the Christian faith down our children’s throats, and sure don’t want to turn them

off, our role as spiritual leaders in the home is to give full expression to our Christian faith; to

talk about the Lord and about godly things; to model godly behavior in our lives, and to talk

about the Spirit who guides our behavior; to strongly encourage family participation in the life

and work of the church.  And the Christian father who sends his wife and kids off to church

while he hits the links or lakes models nothing more than indifference.  At the end of the day,

the outcome will more than likely be that of which the late Harry Chapin once sang:  “As I hung

up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me.  Yeah, my boy was just like me.”

      No.  Faithful spiritual fatherhood brings a godly determination, after the example of Joshua,

son of Nun, to plan for and oversee the devotional life of his family; to provide at the very least

a spiritual oasis where his family can find rest and refreshment in the things of the Lord.

      On this Father’s Day, our hope and prayer is that fathers of this parish, and Christian fathers

everywhere, would step up and assume their roles as spiritual leaders in the home; interceding,

instructing; inspiring and uniting; serving both a priestly and a visionary role for the family

which they are called to spiritually tend.  All this is the stuff of spiritual fatherhood.

Lord our God, whom we call “Father,” inspire spiritual fatherhood in us, that we might be the

leaders you have called us to be, in our church, in our community, but most importantly, in our homes and to our families. 

This we ask and pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102