“Several years ago my husband and I got rid of the TV. Over the last year my husband has been traveling a lot for his job. Since this has happened, he has started watching TV and movies again because TV and movies are everywhere as you travel. I have seen him slowly give up his godly convictions and be pulled back into the world and its entertainments. He says there is nothing wrong with it and even gets angry if anyone encourages against these things.
“I pray for him all the time. I know God can get to his heart. I just don’t understand God’s timing. It breaks my heart, and I worry now about the kids. We still do not have TV at home, yet when my husband is home he has a little hand-held video game player that also plays movies. He spends most of his evenings with it, so the kids see Dad’s heart drawn to this.
“I want my kids not to be drawn into this, and I also want to be a submissive, loving spouse. What can I do, though, to protect the kids and submit to my husband? I know that I can’t be his ‘Holy Spirit.’ I can’t make him stop desiring the world’s entertainment. I just wonder if only one parent (and being the parent who is not to be the leader) can make enough of an influence on the kids that they will choose to follow God wholeheartedly and not turn to the world’s pleasures. Do you have any ideas on what I could do?” Excerpts from a concerned mom’s e-mail (used with permission)
Because my articles are addressed to the fathers, I am not answering this mom’s questions. However, I want to use her situation, which is quite common in the e-mails I receive, to try to grab fathers’ hearts and attention. I would love to see the solution to this mom’s problem be a husband who is convicted of his sin, repents, draws close to the Lord Jesus Christ, and brings his family along with him. We men have to see the seriousness of our personal choices on not only our own lives but also on the lives of our families.
One reason e-mails like this are such a heartbreak to me is that they remind me of the problems Israel encountered in Joshua, chapter seven. After the God-given victory of the Israelites over Jericho, Israel is defeated by the much smaller city of Ai with a consequence of thirty-six Israelite lives lost. How could Israel experience such a conquest of Jericho but humiliation by Ai? This story presents an example to us of how God’s people are defeated both by their love of the world and by their disobedience to God.
Before Israel attacked Jericho, they were told that they could only take silver, gold, brass, and iron and then put it into the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 6:18-19). The Lord was very specific in His command. Conquering the city would have been a horrific job because it involved killing everyone except Rahab’s family. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to carry out those commands, particularly regarding the young and old. Some of the Israelite soldiers may even have questioned what they were told to do. However, those were God’s instructions.
In Joshua chapter 7, we read that the Lord’s anger was kindled because Achan took from Jericho that which was accursed. Achan confessed: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (Joshua 7:21). Achan loved the world; he looked, he coveted, and then he disobeyed the Lord’s direction.
Were there any consequences for Achan or his family? Following Achan’s confession and retrieving of the forbidden items, they took his family and everything he owned to the valley of Achor. Then we read: “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones” (Joshua 7:25).
I wish with all my being that I could tell the mom who wrote the e-mail that her husband’s choices would not impact the children. However, I honestly believe that the terrifying and heartbreaking reality is that every father has tremendous influence in the lives of his family, and he can cause them great suffering—even destruction. That is the price of leadership and the way God has ordained it.
I also can see that God had a greater purpose in Achan and his family’s death than simply punishing Achan. I think He was using them as an object lesson for the rest of the nation. The Israelite men not only were to stone Achan but also his whole family, children included. I can hardly imagine the agony those men experienced as they killed Achan’s family. I expect out of that pain, though, was born a prayer in each man’s heart that would go something like this: “Lord God, please may I follow You wholeheartedly and never bring this on my family.”
Now let’s look at a stark contrast found in Joshua 5:13-15. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”
The captain of the Lord’s host was likely the Lord Jesus Christ because, if he had been an angel, Joshua would not have been permitted to worship him. Joshua has his face in the dirt worshipping the Lord, and the Lord tells Joshua to do something strange. He commands Joshua to take off his sandals because it is holy ground. Joshua is already showing he knows this is a holy moment and that complete reverence is called for, yet that wasn’t enough. Joshua’s sandals would have had the “dirt of the world” on them, and they were to be removed.
Joshua didn’t argue. Joshua didn’t say, “But Lord, I’m already lying on my face in the dirt. What is wrong with my sandals?” Joshua chose to obey what his Lord told him to do at that moment and as he led Israel.
Can you picture the delight of the mom mentioned at the beginning of the Corner if her husband were to say he has recognized the destruction in his life and his children’s lives of his worldly pursuits? What a joy it would be to her to have her husband stop watching TV when he travels and throw out his hand-held video game player. What would her heart do if he desired to lead his family in worship and spend time with them? No longer would she be torn by her biblical command to submit versus wanting to have a family who follows God wholeheartedly. Don’t we fathers want more in life than to pursue personal pleasure and then reap the consequences of it?
Dads, what I am convinced is needed is the fear and realization that our families will be blessed or suffer as a result of how we lead. God is not to be blamed. We aren’t robots, but we are to make right and obedient choices. It isn’t our wives’ fault that they aren’t praying enough for us, or that they aren’t submissive enough. We own fully the choices we make. If a dad is saved, the Holy Spirit will be convicting of sin. Dad will either listen and obey, or grieve the Holy Spirit by pursuing the world and the lust of the flesh.
As fathers, we can choose to be a Joshua who obediently removes his sandals soiled by the world. We can bless our families through this kind of leadership. However, we can also choose to be an Achan, who ignores God’s command while destroying himself and his family. As fathers we have a choice set before us: we can follow Achan’s example or Joshua’s. May deep conviction from the Holy Spirit be at work in all of our hearts as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ.