God willing, sometime around 2 August 2012 I plan to hold in my arms my newborn granddaughter and words to this effect: “McKenna, welcome to the family; we’re taking you to heaven!”
I am sure that, for many, that sounds incredibly presumptuous. After all, it is God who saves, not man. Who am I, then, to make such an outlandish claim? I simply would answer: I am a man who believes God’s Word and therefore, while at the same time renouncing my own sufficiency, I lay hold of God’s all sufficiency. Or in the words of one of my fellow elders, “Those who hide behind God’s sovereignty are in trouble. Those who hide in it are safe.”
Since God is sovereign I do not need to fret about His secret counsels (Deuteronomy 29:29) but can instead rest in His promises. I can actively respond to His commands to fulfil my responsibility while resting secure that His sovereignty assures me that His revealed will will be done.
It is for this reason that I have a biblical expectation that God will exercise His sovereign grace in the salvation of my granddaughter. Like Joshua, I expect to spend eternity with my family. God has given me promises to that effect. And God is true to His Word. I plan on taking Him up on it. I plan to please Him by faith. I plan to trust His Word that He exists and rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). I know that that my son-in-law and daughter desire to be faithful. I pray that they will be. I also plan to be. I desire to be a covenant keeper. And as one has written, “the heart of covenant keeping is promise believing.”1
It is a tragedy of huge proportions that so many believing parents are unaware of God’s promises with reference to raising a godly seed—a transgenerational godly seed. I aim to make parents aware of these promises. And I also desire to help parents to believe them. I desire for parents to raise their children by faith in these promises. I also desire to help them to see that faith without works is always dead (James 2:24-26). And therefore they must apply themselves to the promises by raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Those who believe the promises must behave like they believe them.
In, Courageous, the most recent Christian film from Sherwood Pictures, the appeal is made for men to make a resolution to fulfil their responsibilities as husbands and fathers. This has hit a chord with men worldwide. I am grateful for this. One of the major themes that the film drives home is that of men being courageous (hence the title of the move). I don’t dispute that courage is necessary. I heartily endorse this disposition for men to “man up” and do what God requires. I would simply add that such courage must be the result of a most important vertical perspective: faith in God. When such is the disposition then such courage will be manifested by humility rather than by a testosterone fed hubris. Our wives and our children and our grandchildren need for us to be faithfully courageous.
As a community of faith we have over the years increasingly come to appreciate the biblical truth that parenting is not a coin toss. God has given promises to His covenantal people with reference to their raising a godly seed—for a thousand generations. I aim in this study to share some of these promises with you, as well as illustrating the truth of promise-believing, covenantal childrearing from the fairly well-known scene recorded in Joshua 24.
As Joshua neared the end of his life (23:1) he made the bold claim that his mind was made up: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” The fact that Joshua was near the end of his life does not mitigate his faith-filled statement but rather strengthens it. Joshua would soon die, yet he fully expected multigenerational faithfulness. So should we.
On 6 June 2012, some two weeks prior to the penning of this study, BBC celebrated its 40th anniversary as a church. Regardless of how you identify a generation (anywhere from 25-40 years) BBC has only just begun.
On Father’s Day 2012, five young families stood before the church to covenant to raise a godly seed. This study developed from a desire to convince sceptics that morning, and to encourage the already faithful, that believing parents should believe God for believing children!
Parents who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ have every reason to believe that their heavenly Father wants their children—and grandchildren—to also have Him as their heavenly Father. Believing parents: God wants you to believe this and then to behave like you believe it. I trust that this study will prove to be a means of God’s saving grace to you and to your seed. In other words, I pray that you will be convinced from Scripture that you must raise a godly seed. God expects it, so should the church and so should you.
The Purpose of the Covenant
The purpose of the covenant, succinctly stated, is the glory of God.
Joshua 24 records Joshua’s covenantal challenge to the children of Israel. That Joshua intended this to be understood as a covenant is clear from v. 25, where we are told in no uncertain terms that “Joshua made a covenant with the people that day.”
The Israelites had crossed the Jordan, and had fought successful battles in their God-given task of inheriting the Promised Land. According to 21:43-45, “the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers.” God had been glorified in the process (see 2:9-13).
As indicated, Joshua was now “old, advanced in age” (23:1-2). He knew that his time on earth was coming to an imminent end. With this reality in view, he gathered the people of Israel, along with their various leaders, to challenge them to commit themselves to corporately reaffirm their covenant to serve Yahweh. He was concerned for their well-being, but most importantly he was passionate for the glory of God. He knew by experience that God is worthy of all honour, glory and praise.
Joshua, as a covenant-keeping member of God’s chosen nation, was deeply committed to the fulfilment of God’s purpose of being glorified through this people—for perpetual generations. But Joshua also knew that the people must be earnest in their commitment to keep covenant. It was for this reason that he gathered the nation to cut a covenant with God. He was adamant “that the people [be] made to feel accountable to God.”2 So it must be for believing parents.
As the new covenant Israel of God we too must occasionally reaffirm our covenantal commitment to faithful living before God, for His glory. And part of that commitment has to do with a concern for the glory of God in all the earth for perpetual generations. This is what a parent dedication is all about. That is why this message is not solely for those who are raising children. It is for those who have already raised children and it is also for those who have not or will not. As a local church, we are all in this together.
Over the past 50 years, through archaeological finds, we have a good idea of how covenants were established in the ancient world. Such treaties have been discovered and they all seem to follow a formalised pattern—the same pattern as that set forth in Joshua 24.
First, there was a preamble indicating the one ordaining the covenant. We find this in v. 2a: “Thus says the LORD God of Israel.” It is important for us to note that this reaffirmation of the people’s covenant was initiated by God. He demanded a public declaration of faithfulness on their part in the light of His proven faithfulness. The people needed to be reminded of who alone was the true God. In the midst of so many idolatrous options, God’s people needed this revelation. And so do parents today. Don’t buy into the gods of this age!
Second, there was a prologue in which there was a brief history of what had preceded the covenant. We find this in vv. 2b-13. This served to remind the people of the greatness of the God with whom they were reaffirming their covenant.
Third, demands were then made on the people with whom the sovereign was entering into covenant. We find this in vv. 14 -15. Here Joshua, in the place of God, informed the people of God’s demands upon them. Simply put, they were to serve Him exclusively. They were to be a community of faith that created a culture centred on Yahweh. Let me pause here to make the point that every family creates its own culture. And believing parents are responsible to create a God-centred culture and to then protect that culture. Failure to do so will have dire consequences. It is probably such failure that has yielded deep scepticism regarding—or even unwillingness to believe—the promises of God with reference to the raising of a godly seed. But promise-believing, of course, is manifest in promise-keeping. As Wilson notes, “Claiming promises without labour is nothing but presumption. The heart of covenant keeping is promise believing.”3
Fourth, sanctions (curses) were pronounced in the event of breaking the covenant. We see this very clearly in vv. 19-20. Joshua warned the people that this was a serious matter and that they had better not enter into covenant if they were not intent on keeping it. R. L. Dabney, a wonderful pastor and theologian of the 1800s once said that, when in God’s providence a couple conceives a child, a spark is ignited that will last for eternity. That is a solemn thought. Will such a “spark” live under God’s blessings or under His judgement? Or perhaps a more sobering thought: How will that spark die?
Fifth, in such covenants provisions were made with reference to where the covenant would be archived and where it would be read. Verse 26a informs us that this covenant written into “the Book of the Law of God,” which was presumably then kept in the tabernacle. Parents, your commitments are being housed in the hearts of God’s house today, the local church.
Finally, ancient covenants required witnesses, and we see that this too was provided as we read in vv. 26b-27. The “large stone,” which was “set . . . up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord” was identified by Joshua as “a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us.” There was no going back now.
Related to this is an interesting phrase in v. 28 which informs us that once the covenant was reaffirmed, “Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.” They would be separated, until the next time that they came together for a holy convocation. But, in the meantime, their words of covenantal commitment were being taken seriously. Therefore, whether absent from each other present together, the terms of the covenant were to be fulfilled. The same holds true for us as parents.
Your covenant to raise your children for Christ is made before witnesses. As the covenant recorded in Joshua was made before a stone, which “heard” the words, so the covenant we make is made before both the Living Stone as well as before living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5). That is, your covenant declaration is made before Christ and His church.
Though much of our parenting is done out of the sight of our fellow church members, nevertheless God is watching and our accountability remains—both to Him and to His people.
Let me make some further applications from this scene of covenant renewal to the matter of covenantal commitment of believing parents in the raising of children.
First, note that this was a renewing of a covenant rather than the inaugurating of one. Nevertheless it was important that this be done. Likewise when parents stand before the local church congregation to declare their covenantal intentions they are simply renewing the covenant that they made when they joined the church. At least, this is true at BBC. Every member of the church has agreed to the church covenant, which states in part,
We will endeavour to bring up such as may at any time be under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example to seek the salvation of our family and friends.
Not every parent at BBC has stood before the congregation for a parent dedication. Nonetheless, all parents are still accountable to raise a godly seed. Children are a gift of God and He expects for His gifts to be cared for in His prescribed way. In other words, every child is to be raised in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Some might immediately respond, “But what if my child is not elect?” Let me simply point out that the text makes no distinctions. It simply tells us that all the children whom God gives to us are to be raised for Him. The secret things belong to God—so leave them alone. But the things that are revealed belong to us. Pay attention to them. Believe them. Obey them.
We should expect this outcome, exhort this outcome, exemplify this outcome and aid this outcome.
Second—and in many ways this is the most important thing—this was a covenant between parents and God. And He instituted it. This was not manmade; it was God-ordained. God’s covenant is perpetual. We have every reason to believe that, normally, God saves entire households.
Deuteronomy 5:1-4 makes it quite apparent that the Lord’s covenant was made not only with the current generation, but with subsequent generations too.
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgements which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire.”
And the remainder of Scripture is replete with references to God’s multigenerational intentions. Consider just a few sample texts.
- Deuteronomy 7:9—Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
- Psalm 102:28—The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.
- Psalm 103:17-18—But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.
- Isaiah 59:21—“As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”
- Isaiah 65:23—They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
- Jeremiah 32:38-40—They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.
- Ezekiel 37:24-25—David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgements and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever
- Luke 1:48-50—For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
- Acts 2:39—For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.
- Acts 3:25—You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
- Acts 16:15—And when she and her household were baptized
- Acts 16:31-34—So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptised. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
- Luke 18:15-16—Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
- 1 Corinthians 7:14—For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
- Ephesians 6:1-4—Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Third, we need to reflect on the powerful demonstration of God’s power in saving us. This gives us great encouragement that God can save our children as well. The knowledge of the grace of God in our lives will motivate us to live for Him; and this of course will have profound implications for our children.
Fourth, we must never treat lightly the claims that God has on us both by virtue of creation and the new creation. We must seriously consider the “options” and then choose the only real option! Really, whom or what will you serve? Don’t answer that question lightly. Whom or what you serve is precisely whom or what you teach your children to serve.
Fifth, it is a serious thing to break our vows/covenants with God (see Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). And the most likely place where this curse will come will be to our homes.
Finally, what was the purpose of this covenant? The purpose was to declare fidelity to the Lord, to the glory of the Lord, as the nation entered a time of new beginnings. Parents, the purpose behind your covenantal commitment must be the glory of God. Just as your marriage vows was the beginning of a life to be lived for the glory of God, these vows you make in parenting are intended for the glory of God in the raising of a godly seed.
The Promise of the Covenant
There was a wonderful promise implicit in the cutting of this covenant, and that promise was the grace of God. The grace of God would ensure that the covenant was kept.
It may sound somewhat redundant to speak of a covenant in terms of a promise, but it is not intended to be so. It is true that a covenant is a promise. But that is just the point. Unfortunately religious language sometimes loses its meaning. The fact is that God has made a covenant to save His people (they are after all His covenanted people). But here Joshua made a promise in the light of that covenant. He promised to lead his household to covenantal faithfulness. And he seems to have been rather passionate about it. Somehow he became persuaded by it. How?
In a nutshell, Joshua obviously believed that God was faithful to His Word. And therefore he took God at His Word. This is not merely the response of a testosterone overdosed Bruce Willis-type military commander. No, rather this was a faithfully courageous man. Joshua believed God and therefore made his bold declaration. Again, at the heart of covenant-keeping is promise-believing. Joshua believed the promises.
You will recall that it was Joshua and his sidekick Caleb who, alone of the twelve spies, believed that the land could be conquered by God’s people despite the formidable presence of intimidating giants. They believed this because they believed in the people’s God. They believed that since God had promised this land that He was well able to give them the land.
But sadly, because of a fog of unbelief that had settled over the nation, the children of Israel wandered for forty years rather than warring for a few years. But after four decades of chastening, Joshua, at the age of 80, led the nation to claim what God had promised them. His faith, like that of Caleb, was intact.
We, the church of the 21st century, must overcome a culture of doubt and unbelief that seems to plague us, especially with reference to raising believing children. The key to believing children is believing parents. Will we lay hold of God’s promises? Will we believe God for the salvation of our children, or will we listen to the naysayers that tell us that the giants are bigger than God’s Word? Will we focus on the challenges or will we focus on Christ? Will we be obsessed with the problems or will we be obsessed with God’s promises? Will we believe God or not?
Matthew Henry states it well, “The great thing which will either facilitate or hinder general compliance with the mind of God respecting family religion is, what consideration men have of their families—whether they consider them as constitutions for this world, or for the world to come.”4 Which world are you preparing your children for?
The Place of the Covenant
The place in which the covenant was made highlights the goodness of God. The place of this covenant was the city Shechem. For several reasons, this was a significant place to make this promise. As we will see, “Shechem was not only the geographic centre of Canaan; it was in some respects the moral heart of the nation.”5
A Special Place
Shechem had previously figured importantly in Israel’s patriarchal history. In fact it was here where Yahweh “appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land’” (Genesis 12:6-7). In response to this promise Abraham, built an altar to the Lord. This was a form of covenantal commitment. Now, some 600 years later, God’s people had experienced this very promise being fulfilled. Small wonder that it was here that the Lord, through Joshua, called upon His people to reaffirm their covenant. God had proven faithful to them and He would continue to do so. For the past 15-20 generations the Lord had kept His Word; they had every reason to continue to trust and to serve Him. And so do you. There are examples in this church of having raised followers of Christ. There are examples of God’s faithfulness to His promises. Pay attention to such.
It was here that Jacob built an altar to the God of Israel upon his return from his two-decade sojourn in Mesopotamia (Genesis 33:18-20). Jacob was reaffirming to be covenantally faithful after the Lord graciously delivered him from the hand of his brother Esau. Parents, take heart that, in spite of failures, God does not change. Lay hold of His grace and go forward.
Shechem was also a place of sadness. When Jacob settled down there, his daughter Dinah was taken advantage of sexually. The result was the bloodthirsty, murderous revenge meted out by Levi and Judah upon all the men of Shechem (Genesis 34). But after this episode God moved Jacob onward in his journey back to Bethel. And as He did so, Jacob made his family put away their foreign gods. They responded by burying their idols under the terebinth (oak) tree by Shechem (Genesis 35:1-4). It is quite likely that it was at this very oak where this covenant was now being reaffirmed. Parents, you must be vigilant in your fight against the idolatrous assault upon the godly culture that you are seeking to build in your family. Put them away!
As I trust you can see, what parents do today as they commit before the local church to raise a godly seed has many parallels with the covenant that was reaffirmed in Shechem.
As believing parents we are called to intentionally raise our children to serve the Lord. This means that we are to intentionally raise them to be saved, to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are to do so in the context of the community of faith. In a very real sense, as members of the church, we covenant before God and one another to raise our children to know Christ. And the local church is our Shechem.
It is a special place. It is a special people who have experienced the sovereign grace of God in the everlasting covenant. We see the church as a body of people that has experienced the grace of God, not because of anything in the people themselves but rather simply because God chose to bless those people in Christ. And this gives us hope when it comes to raising our children for the Lord.
Let us not forget that godly father Abraham was not always godly father Abraham. Even in Joshua 24, Joshua reminded the people that Abraham came from a home of idolaters. There is every reason to believe that he himself was an idolater (v. 2).
In an apocryphal book the story is told of how Abraham, at age 14, turned away from the idolatry of his family at great personal cost. That is mythical. The fact of the matter is that Abraham was likely an idol-worshipping pagan until God in His grace laid hold of him and turned him to Himself.
Dale Ralph Davis, in commenting on the phrase, “then I took your father Abraham” in v. 3, writes,
That is the grace of Yahweh. It all started there—in unexpected, unimaginable, unexplainable grace. Abraham rose out of the desolate pit and miry bog of paganism only because Yahweh touched him. “Abraham did not emerge from profound ignorance and the abyss of error by his own virtue, but was drawn out by the hand of God.” He then says, “That there is a people of God at all hangs on the single thread of the mere good pleasure of God, who, for no apparent reason, took hold of our father Abraham, the sinner.6
Parents, let this church serve as a constant reminder to you of God’s amazing grace in your own life and in the lives of those around you, and let this encourage you that the same grace is available to your children. In other words, let the local church encourage you to lay hold of the gracious promises with reference to the salvation of your children.
But also observe that the prologue does not end with Abraham. In other words, God’s mercies did not end with His call to Abraham. The salvation of father Abraham was only the beginning of His grace. Joshua recounts many memorable events in which the LORD delivered His people. And if you read between the lines (by reading the fuller biblical records of these events) you will quickly observe that God was gracious to His people in spite of their failures. In other words, failure need not be final; rather, the power of God can be manifested even in such a mess.
Parents, remember that the local church is a special place which has plenty of failures! We have sinned and yet the Lord continually brings us to the place where repentance and faith is also our experience. Take responsibility for your failures and then humbly and hopefully lay hold of the promises of such a powerfully gracious and graciously powerful God who loves to save!
Be encouraged: The God of Shechem is the God of BBC. He has not changed and His purposes and His promises have not changed. Neither has His power to save.
A Serious Place
God had commanded Moses that when the children of Israel entered Canaan, the Land of Promise, they were to have a covenant renewal ceremony. Moses was to divide the twelve tribes into two groups with one group of six standing on Mount Ebal and the other group of six standing on Mount Gerizim. The group on Mount Gerizim was to bless the people (by pronouncing God’s covenantal blessings for obedience) while the group on Mount Ebal was to pronounce the covenantal curses (in the event of disobedience). See Deuteronomy 27:11-26; Joshua 8:30ff.
What is interesting, for our purposes, is that Shechem was situated right in the middle of the valley formed between these two mounts. Therefore, in a very significant way, Shechem was the place that heard the terms of the covenant before the nation of Israel entered Canaan. Shechem was already a witness to a serious declaration of covenantal commitment. And now it was once again the place for another serious covenantal reaffirmation.
It should not be missed how Joshua reinforced just how serious this covenant was. The people responded to Joshua’s challenge (coupled with his faithful courage) with the passionate refrain, “We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (v. 18). But Joshua knows that “even an enthusiastic burst like this is not to be trusted. He must go deeper; he must try to induce them to think more earnestly of the matter, and not trust to the feeling of the moment.”7 Joshua knew that words can be cheap and so he did something very strange: He tells them that they could not serve the Lord!
In essence, Joshua was reminding them just how holy God is. He reinstructed them that, since God is faithful, they can expect His judgement if they break their covenant. He was very wisely helping them to seriously consider before they speak. In the words of Solomon, Joshua was saying, “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. . . . When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. . . . Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-5).
Davis notes, “Yahweh is not a soft, cuddly Santa in the sky who drools over easy decisions during invitation hymns. Joshua seeks to put down that blathering self-confidence that makes emotional commitments rather than shutting its mouth and counting the cost.”8
If these people would keep covenant, their only hope was to do so in dependence upon God. It was a superhuman task, for which the grace of God was necessary. As one commentator wrote, “Take care how you undertake what is beyond your strength!”9
Parents, church members, we have wonderful promises from God, and yet we can only claim them by faith; faith which is the gift of God. Ask for grace that you might act in faith. As Casting Crowns sings, “We were made to be courageous, and it starts with us tonight. The only way we’ll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands. Make us courageous. Lord, make us courageous.”
The local church ought to be a serious place with an increasingly serious membership. That makes a wonderful context in which to make and keep covenant. Those who are committed to faithfully believing the promises of God with reference to raising a saved and godly seed will appreciate the context of scriptural seriousness in such a local church. They will also participate in the task of strengthening that church’s seriousness.
The last thing that believing parents need is a church that plays fast and loose with truth. The last thing that parents who want to raise a saved and godly seed need is a church that refuses to lay hold of the covenant promises of God in an effort to appease those who are disobedient. The last thing they need is a church that is not serious about identifying what is worldly and what is godly. This is precisely what Joshua did here when he challenged the people that God expected for them to choose whom they would serve.
Joshua highlighted that they were surrounded by false gods—but gods nonetheless. So whom would they serve? Would they follow the false gods and lead their children to do the same, or would they choose to serve the LORD God? This is a very serious choice for, as a matter of fact, they would serve somebody.
Just as Shechem was situate between the blessings and the curses so every family raises their children in such a context. On one side are the blessings of taking God’s promises seriously and thus living faithfully, and on the other side are the curses that fall on unfaithfulness. Sadly, the church for far too long has bought into the lie that God does not intend to bless our children with salvation, and so believers have adopted the covenantal curses as the norm. It is time to repent of this irreverent thinking. Instead, we must boldly—because faithfully—lay hold of the goodness of God and take Him at His Word. His promises of salvific blessings from generation to generation are not written as poetic license, but are rather revealed for His people to lay hold of and to expect.
A Sanctified Place
Shechem was one of the cities appointed for the dwelling place of Levites (of the family of Kohath). It was place where the priests lived. It was a city that was set apart for God’s appointed priesthood. It was sanctified (see Joshua 21:20-21).
The local church is a sanctified place, with a sanctified people. It is not a perfect people, but it is a priestly people. Let that be an encouragement, for priests, by definition, are those who both stand between man and God and between God and man. they represent God to man and man to God.
As we are well aware, every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest of God. And that means that the local church is filled with those who can represent God to man and man to God. Practically, that means that in your parenting responsibilities you are surrounded by those who can intercede to God on your behalf in prayer, and who can speak to you on behalf of God as they point you to His Word as you raise a godly seed. Don’t take that lightly. Look at those who have done it and who are doing it and seek their help. As the Scriptures tell us, there is safety in the multitude of counsellors. Get advice from those who know what they are talking about.
A Safe Place
Finally, Shechem was also a place of safety. If an Israelite accidentally took the life of another then he could flee to one of the six designated cities of refuge and remain there, protected by the judges, until the death of the reigning high priest. Upon the high priest’s death, the individual was completely pardoned. Shechem was a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7).
Therefore this covenant renewal was being made in a place of refuge, in a place where mercy was expected to be exercised. It was being made in the environs of grace.
The local church is likewise a safe place. It is a place where parents can feel safe from condemnation and where they can feel secure in the counsel that they receive. In other words, the local church is a wonderful place, a wonderful people, in which parents committed to raising a godly seed can find refuge from the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil.
The world is filled with plenty of enemies of your child’s soul. It is not a friend to grace and it is not a friend to godliness. Your children are exposed to the lies of the evil one with reference to their true relationship to their Creator as this is attacked by the lie of evolution. Your children are the target of hedonistic philosophies which teach them that if it feels right then it must be right. Your children are the target of a satanic autonomy which repeats the same lies of Eden: “You will be like God.” And parents are not immune from such attacks and lies either. There are plenty of so-called experts who are quick to give advice on childrearing, but so much of it either contradicts or scorns the Word of God.
Thankfully, there is a refuge for both parent and child in the local church. Utilise it!
The Perpetuity of the Covenant
After the last hymn had been sung, the people departed for their possessed land. They might forget what they promised, but the stone would not. Neither would the Stone, who one day would be seen by Daniel as cut out of the mountain (Daniel 2:34, 45). That Stone was Christ. That Stone was the Rock that attended the nation of Israel throughout their history. The Stone, the second member of the Trinity, heard their commitment. He would hold them accountable. Thank God He did!
Parents, the Lord Jesus Christ is on your side. He wants your children to come to Him. He invites them—indeed, commands them—to come to Him. To paraphrase the words of Douglas Wilson, saving faith is not like those rides at a funfair where you have to be a certain height to participate. Rather, God’s everlasting covenant includes children. Believing parents, believe that your children are included; and then be faithfully courageous, anticipating that your children will accompany you to heaven. That is not presumption; it is faith—and faith pleases God.
- Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises: A Handbook for Biblical Childrearing (Moscow: Canon Press, 2011), ??. ↩
- Donald H. Madvig, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1981), 3:365. ↩
- Wilson, Standing on the Promises, ??. ↩
- Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 3 vols. (Nashville: Royal Publishers, Inc., 1979), 1:58-59. ↩
- A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Joshua (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), 418. ↩
- Dale Ralph Davis, Joshua: No Falling Words (Geanies House: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 189. ↩
- William Garden Blaikie, The Book of Joshua (Minneapolis: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1978), 393. ↩
- Davis, Joshua, 201. ↩
- Blaikie, The Book of Joshua, 393. ↩