“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
The theme for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America’s 2016 Creative Festival is a good challenge for all Orthodox Christians to think about, regardless of jurisdiction. The theme is this verse: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.“ (Joshua 24:15) This is a great verse for us to personally study and embrace. It is also a good verse for us to study with our Sunday Church School students. (Readers in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America will likely be studying this with your students later in the year, anyway, so this blog post can help you to begin thinking in that direction!) This blog post will help us to ponder this verse in context, and then think of ways to apply and teach it.
Study and think about the passage:
Take a moment to read the whole 24th chapter of Joshua to better understand the context of this statement of faith. In the verses prior to verse 15, we read that Joshua was reminding the Israelites of everything that God had done for them over the years. He told them to put away all other idols and serve only God. Then he made the bold declaration of his plan that he and his household would serve the Lord.
In the verses that follow, we read that Joshua carried on a dialogue with the Israelite people. As he was doing this, the people kept saying, “We will follow God!” and Joshua replied that God is Holy and therefore His people can not follow any other gods; only Him. This happened multiple times; it is almost as though Joshua was trying to talk the Israelite people out of following God; certainly he was testing their resolve; checking to see if they were sure of their decision. But the people insisted that they would follow only God. Finally, together they made a covenant to follow the Lord. They even set up a big rock to remind themselves of that covenant.
It’s interesting to note that Joshua didn’t force the people to follow God. He simply encouraged them to choose for themselves and then he set the example by choosing to follow God with his household. Orthodox Christian parents can choose that entire their household will follow God while their children are still under roof, just as Joshua chose to do with his family. But, in the same way that Joshua related to the children of Israel who were not in his household, parents cannot force their children to follow God once they leave home. Children are baptized into the Faith while they are young and parents can still set their course in the direction of the Church, but parents cannot force the children to continue in the faith. That has to be the children’s choice, and, God willing, it will be! So just as Joshua did for his fellow Israelites, let us invite the children in our care to follow only God for all of their lives. Let us lead the way by our own example, removing any idols in our life that could interfere with that complete following. While we follow, let us also keep reminding the children (and ourselves) of all that God has done for us along the way. Let us also remind each other that we need to follow Him without distractions. And the whole time, both when our own children or our Sunday Church School students are following Christ with their family at home, and when they have moved out on their own, let us pray for the children that they will always choose to serve the Lord!
Consider how to apply this passage (include your family, if you have children living at home):
- Study Joshua 24:15.
- Think about the verse and its implications. Consider questions such as these: In order to follow God more completely, is there anything that needs to change in my/our household? What are the idols – the things that I/we are allowing to be more important than God – that are keeping me/us from following fully? How can I/we really serve the Lord? What does serving Him look like in everyday life?
- Commit to serve the Lord with all of your heart. Make a plan for how to do that.
- Place a reminder, a “stone of remembrance” of sorts, somewhere in your home that will help you to remember this passage and your commitment to following God more fully. It could be an actual stone or perhaps an artistic rendering of Joshua 24:15.
- Serve Him!
Teach this passage to your Sunday Church School students:
- Find leveled ideas for teaching Joshua 24:15 here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf/lesson-plans-2016
- Find ideas (including a short skit, a craft, and a snack suggestion) that you can incorporate into a lesson on Joshua 24:15 here: http://cciog.com/cckids/kids-bible-lessons/alphabet-bible-lessons/a-as-for-me/
- Print this free printable to use with a preschool or early elementary lesson on Joshua 24:15: http://www.christianpreschoolprintables.com/Pages/BibleCrafts/BibleCraftsJoshuaHouse.html
- This lesson is written from a non-Orthodox perspective, but can be used to help Orthodox kids think about who they will serve, and how they can show that they are choosing to serve God: http://hannapublications.com/samples/WS106L12.pdf
- Here is a printable primary-leveled story of the end of Joshua’s life, including a focus on Joshua 24:15. The pdf includes the story and related activity pages. http://www.godsacres.org/ss.Joshua.Goodbye.pdf
- Find a lesson on serving God, geared to older elementary students, here: http://ministry-to-children.com/bible-lesson-serve-god-joshua-23-24/ and another, here: http://www.jesusisall.com/pages/ss/092406b.pdf