Thou and Thy House
There are two houses that occupy a very prominent place in Scripture, namely the house of God, and the house of God’s servant. God attaches immense importance to His house, and rightly so, because it is His. His truth, His honour, His character, and His glory are all involved in the character of His house, and hence it is His desire that the impress of what He is should plainly appear on that which belongs to Him.
Now while many will concede the importance of the principles connected with God’s house, comparatively few give a due measure of attention to the house of next importance, the house of God’s servant. However, as there is nothing like bringing the holy authority of God’s word to bear upon the conscience, I shall quote a few passages of Scripture that show very clearly how important the house of the believer is in the eyes of God.
The first house mentioned in Scripture is that of Noah: “And Jehovah said to Noah, Go into the ark, thou and all thy house; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen. 7: 1). Now it will be said that Noah was a type of Christ––the righteous head of a saved family––saved in virtue of their association with him. All this is fully granted, but Noah’s typical character does not in any way interfere with the principle that I desire to show from this and other passages, namely, that the house of every servant of God is, in virtue of its connection with him, brought into a position of privilege and consequent responsibility. God did not reveal a salvation for Noah which was of no avail for Noah’s house. The same Ark that lay open to him, lay open to them as well. Why? Was it because they had faith? No, but because he had, and they were connected to him. God says to Noah “for thee have I seen righteous before me”, yet the result is ‘Go into the ark, thou and all thy house’.
The next Scripture to which I shall refer occurs in the life of Abraham: “And Jehovah said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing? Since Abraham shall indeed become a great and mighty nation; and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice, in order that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham what he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18: 17–19). Let every Christian parent solemnly ponder the lesson of this Scripture, namely that it is the man who knows how to command his house who is worthy of God’s confidence. With Noah, it was his privilege to have his house brought into the place of safety; with Abraham it was his responsibility to command his house. Why wouldn’t God hide His purposes from Abraham? Was it because of his personal holiness or faith? No, but simply because “he will command his children and his household”!
The question for every Christian parent’s conscience is this: Am I counting upon God for my house, and ruling my house for God? Consider an incident in Jacob’s history: “And God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel” (Gen. 35: 1). Now this would seem to have been addressed to Jacob personally, but he never thought for a moment of disconnecting himself from his family, either as to privilege or responsibility, and so it is added, “And Jacob said to his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and cleanse yourselves, and change your garments; and we will arise, and go up to Bethel” (vs 2, 3). Here we see that a call to Jacob put Jacob’s house under responsibility. He was called to go up to Bethel, to God’s house, and the question immediately suggested itself to his conscience as to whether his own house was in a fit condition to respond to such a call.
Turn to Exodus where we find that one of Pharaoh’s four objections to the full deliverance and separation of Israel had specific reference to the children: “And Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh. And he said to them, Go, serve Jehovah your God. Who are they that shall go? And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters; with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we have a feast of Jehovah” (Ex. 10: 8,9).The reason why they must take the children with them was because they were going to have a feast of Jehovah. Nature of course would exclaim, ‘But what can these little creatures know about a feast of Jehovah?’ The reply of Moses is simple: “We will go with our young … for we have a feast of Jehovah”. They had no idea of seeking one thing for themselves, and another for their children. They dreamed not of Canaan for themselves and Egypt for their little ones. What shall my child say to me, if I tell him that I am earnestly seeking Christ and heaven for him, while at the same time, I am educating him for the world? Which will he believe? Which will exert the more powerful influence on his heart and life––my words, or my acts? The appeal to every Christian parent is beware of leaving your children in Egypt! Pharaoh would have the little ones left with him––in the world––while ‘ye [that are] men’ serve Jehovah (see v11).
Faith does not rest, however, with bringing the little ones away from Egypt, but counts upon God to bring them into Canaan. Here Israel signally failed. After hearing the discouraging report of the spies, they murmured against Moses, crying “Why is Jehovah bringing us to this land that we may fall by the sword, that our wives and our little ones may become a prey? Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” (Num. 14: 3) So what is the divine answer? It is this: “Your little ones, of whom ye said they should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land that ye have despised. And as to you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness” (vs 31, 32). They did not trust God as to their children! How faithless! Faith takes my children away from Egypt in anticipation of Canaan. Of course we cannot make them Christians––that is God’s work, and His alone––but I am responsible to “bring them up in [the] discipline and admonition of [the] Lord” (Eph. 6: 4). To say that I am counting upon God to bring my children to Canaan, and yet all the while educating them for Egypt, is a deadly delusion. The proof that I am trusting God for my family is my training them in accordance with my hope for them.
I now pass on to that memorable resolution of Joshua: “As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah” (Josh. 24: 15). Observe, that he says ‘me and my house’. He felt it was not sufficient that he himself should be personally free from all defilement, but he looked at the moral condition of his house as well. Though Joshua was not to worship idols, yet, if his children did so, would he be guiltless? No! Furthermore the testimony would have been as much marred by sin in his house, as by himself sinning. This principle we see very clearly in the sad case of Eli: “And Jehovah said to Samuel, Behold, I do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house; I will begin and make an end. For I have declared to him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he hath known: because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam. 3: 11–13). Whatever the personal character of the servant of God may be, if he fail in the due regulation of his own house, God will not hold him guiltless. Eli’s terrible end was that he broke his neck about the house of God because he did not break his heart about his own house. In a word, had he treated his house as part of himself, and made it what it ought to be, he would not have called down upon himself the heavy judgement of Him whose principle it is, never to separate the words “Thou and thy house”.
So much for the Old Testament, what about the New? Is the same principle of “Thou and thy house” maintained? Or does the Holy Spirit in this section of God’s Word exclude a man’s house from the privileges and responsibilities attached to it in the Old Testament? Let some Scriptures be quoted as proof that this is not so: “But into whatsoever city or village ye enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there remain till ye go forth. And as ye enter into a house salute it. And if the house (not merely the master, note) indeed be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matt. 10: 11–13). Again, consider the Lord’s words to Zacchaeus: “To–day salvation is come to this house, inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19: 9). So also in the case of Cornelius: “Send [men] to Joppa and fetch Simon, who is surnamed Peter, who shall speak words to thee whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house” (Acts 11: 13, 14). Again, with the Philippian jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts 16: 31). Look at the qualifications for overseership: “conducting his own house well, having [his] children in subjection with all gravity; (but if one does not know how to conduct his own house, how shall he take care of of the assembly of God?)” (1 Tim. 3: 4, 5). See what Paul had to say to one of his brethren: “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 1: 16). Why? Was it because of the actions of this house towards the apostle? No, but because ‘he has often refreshed me, and has not been ashamed of my chain’. In all these Scriptures, we find the same great truth maintained, namely, that when God visits a man with blessings and responsibilities, He visits his house with the same. This is the truth contained in the words “Thou and thy house”.
The head of the Christian household is the representative of God, hence ‘If any one does not provide for his own, and specially for those of [his] house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than the unbeliever’ (see 1 Tim. 5: 8). I can never form a correct judgement of a man from seeing or hearing him in the Christian assembly. He may seem a very spiritual person, and teach very beautiful and very true things, but let me go home with him, and there I learn the true state of things. The state of a household is inseparably linked to the state of its head. Now the house of a man of God should be ruled for God, in His name, and for His glory. It will not do for me to be going one way, and my family another! The word is “Thou and thy house”. We are surely not left here merely to bring up families. We are left to bring them up for God, with God, by God and before God.
The Spirit of God devotes considerable space in the NT to the conduct of the occupants of our houses. Husbands and wives, parents and children, servants and masters––all are dealt with ( Eph. 5–6, Col. 3, 1 Pet. 3). Elsewhere we read of the behaviour and character appropriate to the older men and the younger men, the older women and the younger women (Tit. 2: 1–6). Furthermore Scripture is full of more general instructions regarding the behaviour of one professing to be God’s servant. The Christian then is well–furnished with the necessary information as to the conducting of his house. Let there be no doubt, the whole affair, from one end to the other, should distinctly bear the stamp of God’s presence and authority. A Christian’s house should be a miniature representation of the house of God, not so much in the actual condition of the individual members as in the moral order and godly arrangement of the whole. Indeed if we patterned our houses more on God’s house, where love is exercised through righteousness, then there would surely be a brighter testimony towards man, and greater glory for God. Just as the impress of God’s character is to mark God’s house, so it is to mark our own houses. Let Joshua’s motto be our motto: “As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah”.