A recent publication of Crossway that I asked to review is Donald S. Whitney’s little book Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.). It came in the mail Friday and I thought I would share an excerpt from the first chapter this evening.
The chapter is titled “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord” (with the sub-title, “Family Worship in the Bible”), taken from the familiar verse in Joshua 24:15. After treating the family worship of Abraham and Moses (and subsequently Job, Asaph, Paul, and Peter), Whitney gets to Joshua, where he has the following to say:
Have you ever considered how infrequently people gathered for congregational worship in the centuries comprising nearly the entire Old Testament? Even after the tabernacle and temple were built believers did not gather in large groups to worship God as often as is sometimes assumed. Only after the Babylonian exile, late in Old Testament history and hundreds of years after Solomon built the temple, did the local synagogues develop and people begin to worship God congregationally on a weekly basis. Of course, with the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, most believers are now privileged to experience the riches of being in God’s family through regular participation in a local church.
But God was worthy of worship in the days before regular congregational worship as he is now. Those who believed in and loved God, people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and others, wanted to worship God in their days as much as people do today. Keep that thought in mind as you read the famous words of Joshua 24.
And then after quoting v.15 – Joshua’s exhortation to the people, along with his own example – Whitney writes:
How would Joshua and his house have served the Lord? Part of serving the Lord for them back then, just as it is for us now, is worshiping the Lord. But in a day when congregational worship was so infrequent – after all, for many Israelites it involved a trip of several days to travel to the tabernacle – regular family worship of some sort would have been a part of carrying out Joshua’s resolve, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (pp.19-20).
As we experience the blessed freedom of public, congregational worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we also remember that true worship begins in our own hearts and in our own homes. May we have Joshua’s resolve for our personal families, even as we gather with the family of God on the morrow.