He reined in his horses and stood in his chariot, gazing at an ancient bridge over a small river. It was a Saturday near Rimini in northern Italy. The river was little more than a muddy creek and Rimini only an obscure village. But the history of the whole western world hung in the balances that January day.
The year was 49 BC. The river the Rubicon. The man Julius Caesar. With his 13th Legion, Caesar had conquered all of Gaul (modern France). Jealous of his success and fearful of his popularity, his archrival Pompey and the Roman Senate ordered him to disband the Legion and come home. Now with his troops he stood on the banks of the Rubicon. Roman law strictly forbade any commander to lead a standing army across this stream. If Caesar crossed the Rubicon, it was an act of treason. Both he and his men became outlaws and would be hunted down and executed.
Caesar paused only a moment, then made his decision. Crying “The die is cast,” he laid his whip to the team, plunged his chariot across the bridge and led his men on to Rome. They seized control of the government and the rest, is history.
Since that day “to cross the Rubicon” means to make a huge decision that affects all of life, a decision from which there is no retreat. It is to pass a point of no return. There is no going back.
Centuries before Caesar, Joshua crossed a Rubicon of his own on the map of his life. In this speech at Shechem he recounted God’s mercies to Israel. Then he ended with a passionate appeal to the nation to choose once and for all whom they would serve. “You have wavered off and on, off and on, off and on long enough. But now, today, right here, once and for all, decide whom you will serve.” His own decision he announced boldly. “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!”
This Rubicon every husband and father ought to cross! Like Joshua, each person needs to make a:
Personal Decision: ‘As for me … (I) will serve the LORD’
Without waiting for a show of hands to see which way the crowd would go, Joshua declared his personal commitment to God. “I will serve the LORD.” Joshua knew he could not speak for the whole nation, for his whole tribe, or even for his whole clan. Each person had to stand on their own before the Lord. But Joshua could speak for himself. And he did. He stated his decision and said that, if they chose differently, it would not change his. If the rest of the nation turned back to the heathen gods their fathers worshiped in Mesopotamia beyond the Euphrates, or if they embraced the gods of the nations around, it mattered not to Joshua. He would serve the Lord!
To make Joshua’s decision a person must know about the Lord.
A little girl came to her mother one day with a question. “What is God like?” Her mother hesitated and then said, “You had better ask your Dad.” She did. He hemmed and hawed and finally got away without answering. Later her parents found a sheet of paper on which their daughter had written. “I asked my mother what God is like. She did not know. I asked my father, who knows more than anyone else in the whole world, what God is like. He did not know. If I had lived as long as my mother or my father, I think I would know something about God!”
If your child asked you about God, would you know anything to say?
To make Joshua’s decision a man must trust the Lord. He must transfer all his trust from other gods and things to YHWH.
To make Joshua’s decision a man must serve the Lord. Joshua did not decide just to know the Lord or just to trust him but to serve him. He did not ask for reserve duty in God’s service but put himself on active duty. Joshua was not one of those men who settle for an “in law” relationship to God (i.e. who is related to God only by marriage, who gets his religion second-hand through his wife). He was not content to sing, “Take my wife and let her be/ Consecrated, Lord, to Thee!” (Strong, All the Master’s Men, 170). Joshua committed himself to personal service!
Many fathers commit themselves to believe about the Lord. Of those, some fathers commit themselves to trust the Lord. But few fathers commit themselves to serve the Lord. This is a decision to keep deciding to serve him, following up the initial decision with a hundred small choices in the right direction every day!
How about you? Have you decided to serve the Lord?
Paternal Decision: ‘As for … my house, we will serve the LORD’
Joshua recognized his role as spiritual leader of his family. And he accepted that responsibility. He did not hesitate for a moment to decide that, as far as he could, he would see that his whole family served the Lord with him. He could not make his family members serve God by decree but he could use his influence to lead them in that direction. Joshua would not be a god-father but a godly father!
It is wrong-headed for parents to claim, “I will not force religion on my child. I will let him choose whether to go to church, because if I make them go they will turn him against God when they get older.” What father worthy of the name lets his child choose whether to brush their teeth or bathe? Or whether to do their homework or when they should go to bed? No father keeps his child away from the doctor because he fears that the trip might turn the kid against doctors. He takes the kid to the doctor because it is in the kid’s best interests. So it is with church (Ziglar, Confessions of a Happy Christian, 36-37). A father teaches his children how to walk, talk, eat, swim, drive, and work. Why should he fear to teach them how to serve the Lord?
“One child lost to the faith usually becomes a family lost to the faith, and not many generations later a whole community of unbelievers is set in motion because of some earlier neglect of parental duties” (Carl F. H. Henry, cited by Briscoes, in Family Book of Christian Values, xv).
A fourteen-year-old preacher’s son in Atlanta ran a daily newspaper route. He formed a partnership with an older friend who drove a convertible. The lad sat in the back and threw the papers. On the route, however, lived a retired army colonel who wanted his paper put on his screened-in porch. There was a problem. In fact, there were two problems. The colonel owned a pair of Dalmatians who did not like paperboys. It became a war of wits every day to see whether the preacher’s kid could sneak up and put the paper behind the screen door without the dogs hearing him and coming on the run.
The teen came home talking about it. His six-year-old brother heard all the talk but did not know anything about Dalmatians except that they were horrible and fierce animals. One day the six-year-old came in from school with a friend, puffing, and out of breath. He gasped. “We came down the street … by the colonel’s house … and those ‘Damnations’ almost got us!”
Listen! The real “damnations” are after the children. And they will get them, too, unless fathers “stand up, stand up” for Jesus and lead their children to serve the Lord! No matter how successful a man becomes in business, no matter how powerful, wealthy, or famous he becomes, if he loses his family through neglect he has failed!
Nothing would break my heart more than to come down to the end of my days and have my children and grandchildren mock “the old man” for his peculiar ideas about God and God’s Book. So, I do my best to lead them to know, trust, and serve the Lord. I try to teach them. When they lived at home I woke at night and went to their rooms to pray over them. Now they are gone I still wake in the night and pray for them. I try to show them what it means to serve the Lord. That is the Rubicon I crossed along with Joshua. It is the Rubicon every husband and father ought to cross today!
Not every man here is grown. No every grown man is married. Not every married man is a father. But every man needs to make this decision for the future.
How about you?
Public Decision: ‘Joshua said to all the people’ (24:2)
It is better to make decisions privately than not at all. But it is best to make them publicly. Openly and clearly, before friend and foe, before believer and unbeliever, before the whole congregation of Israel, Joshua came out for the Lord.
On Sherman’s march to the sea he came to Atlanta. A little grandmother met him and his troops with only a broom in her hands. “What did you think you could do with a broom against Union rifles and cannon?” someone asked. “Nothing,” she replied. “I just wanted to make it clear whose side I was on!”
Make clear whose side you are on! Run up your colors! Take a stand! Let your decision be known publicly.
Making a decision publicly SEALS IT. If a person makes a commitment privately, they can back out of it easily because nobody else knows. There is no one to hold them accountable. But if they decides publicly, others know and expect them to carry out their commitment.
Making a decision publicly ENCOURAGES OTHERS to make the same decision.
How about it?
One single decision can affect generations to come. In 1940 my mother and father became Christians. My dad said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Because my dad decided to follow Christ, I became a Christian. Because I am a Christian, my children became Christians. Because my children are Christians, my grandchildren are becoming Christians. One decision made in 1940 has impacted four generations and 75 years and likely more. A decision made today can determine things for generations to come.
You stand at a Rubicon. Will you cross?
Some say, “I’ll think about it!” The Englishman John Ruskin once said, “One of the worst diseases to which the human mind is liable is the disease of thinking!” (Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources, 333). He meant that thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking about something, but never deciding and never acting, is a disease. And it can be fatal!
There is a time for thinking but thinking that does not lead to decision and end in action has no value! The decision is urgent. “Choose you THIS DAY who you will serve.”
There is no doubt what the decision should be. Every man here should take his stand with Joshua and me. Come saying publicly, “It matters not what others do. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!”