The book of Joshua chapter twenty-four records for us the last words of Joshua. He’s an old man, around 110 years old (23:14; 24:29). As a final act, he gathers all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and they present themselves before God (24:1). This could only mean that they were gathered at the place where the tabernacle was then set up. The ecclesia had come together for Joshua’s last exhortation.
After reminding them of their history and all that God had done for them, he says those famous words in verses 14-15,
“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood [the river Euphrates], and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
How many of you have this verse in some form of artwork in your home? We do. It’s the perfect complement for any godly house. What is it that is so compelling about what he says? “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Is it the conviction? His surety of faith in God? His willingness to stand alone at all costs? It’s a moment of pure leadership by Joshua.
When you think about his audience though it’s somewhat surprising what he says and how he challenges them. This is the group that had following him over the Jordan. They had waged warfare against the mighty Canaanites in the land. They had stood with him through thick and thin. They were believers. They were the ecclesia. It would be like me standing before you and challenging you to put away your false gods and make the choice to serve the Lord.
Now under such a charismatic leader as Joshua, who would say no? At a Bible School it’s all too easy to say yes but that’s not where the real test occurs. It’s when the Bible glow wears off that is important. Joshua knew human nature. That it was forgetful. That the mind of the flesh has a short attention span for the things of the spirit. He is trying to instill in them this “but as for me” attitude. Driving it home to them three times before they commit to the covenant.
Maybe what is so compelling about Joshua’s words is we know we should have that same “but as for me” attitude. We must be willing and able to stand in faith by ourselves. Here’s a bit of a paradox in ecclesial life though. We need each other desperately in our walk but we cannot be reliant on any one singular person.
This was one of my first tests as a young man, just newly baptized. There was a brother in the meeting who made a huge impact on my life. He was a mentor. Somebody I looked up to in the truth. Someone who I thought would always be faithful… but he wasn’t. He made some terrible choices and in consequence was disfellowshipped from the meeting. I was crushed. It was all a façade. It’s a terrible feeling. I distinctly remember having that urge just to run away and disappear because it hurt so bad. But eventually it brought home to me a very important lesson. You cannot be so reliant on anyone one person for your faith.
It may be hard to contemplate but what would you do if the whole ecclesia decided to serve other gods? What if every brother and sister around you gradually and eventually left the truth? Would you have the same “but as for me” attitude as Joshua?
That’s what we want to contemplate this morning. This phrase “but as for me”. It’s a very simple Hebrew phrase. We are relying on the English translators to be consistent but there are some other great examples of this. I want to start off this morning with a bad example in King Joash but then turn in an opposite direction and consider some other personalities in scripture who also said “but as for me…” Finally, we’ll consider this challenge in the Lord Jesus Christ’s life and what an example he is for us.
Joash – An Example of Failure
It might be best to start off with an example of failure in this regard. There’s nothing like the sad story of King Joash for such a sharp contrast. You may recall the history of the kings of Judah when wicked Queen Athaliah took the throne and sought to kill all the king’s sons. She would have succeeded too if it had not been for Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, who hid Joash from the slaughter and kept him safe under the care of Jehoida the priest until he grew and became king. His summary of being good or bad is given to us in 2 Chr. 24:2 and it is like no other.
“And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”
It’s unique because I know of no other king whose righteous days were qualified by being attached to the length of days of another. What happened? All the days of Jehoida, Joash was faithful and was a leader in repairing the house of the Lord. But when Jehoiada died we read what happens in verses 17-18,
“Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.”
It’s shocking to learn that Joash had never really stood on his own. His faithful actions were only under the influence of Jehoida the priest. When Jehoiada died the real test came and he failed. So much so, that he ended up murdering one of Jehoiada’s sons who prophesied against him. A sad story but one which makes us ponder how reliant we may be on others? If they were to pass what would happen to us? Would we stay strong? Would we have that “but as for me” attitude? Joshua might have been the same having been so close to Moses, but he wasn’t.
Contrast of Joshua and Joash in Psalms
When Joshua said “but as for me” I don’t think he was being brash or arrogant. It was not just some bravado. That’s not what this phrase is about. It truly expressed where his faith was at. It expressed his one desire to be with God no matter what anybody else did around him. There was no other place Joshua wanted to be then in the house of God, in his presence (Ex. 33:11). This attitude is beautifully expressed in Psalm 5:4-8. David and Joshua had the same mindset. You’ll notice our phrase “but as for me” at the beginning of verse 7.
“For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. (5) The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. (6) Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. (7) But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. (8) Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.”
There are many temptations that would draw us away from the ecclesia. It could be that one would have false reasoning that it would be better if they stayed away. That though is not the “but as for me” attitude. There was nothing the Psalmist desired more then to be in God’s house worshipping.
It’s also in Psalm 26:8-12,
“LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. (9) Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: (10) In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. (11) But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me. (12) My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations [ecclesia] will I bless the LORD.”
There it is again in verse 11, “but as for me… I will walk in mine integrity”.
Joash could not have said this. He fell victim to the temptations that came upon him and was found in company with bloody and deceitful men. He forsook the ecclesia of God, the habitation of his house. It’s sad but true that there’s a Joash in every ecclesia and it is best for us to contemplate this and make sure it is not us.
Let’s turn our thoughts though to some more positive examples who also said “but as for me”. Samuel was just such a character. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 12:23-25. The people had demanded of Samuel a king and Samuel had warned them against such a thing, yet they were insistent. This grieved Samuel and he saw it as a great wickedness (v. 20). He then says these words in verse 23-25 which, if you listen closely, you’ll hear lots of echoes to Joshua.
“Moreover as for me, [but as for me] God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: (24) Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. (25) But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”
What a great deal of patience and loving care Samuel had for the children of Israel. He must have felt very alone at the moment. Everybody was against his advice. He must have felt disrespected and underappreciated. Most of us would have just given up and walked away. Not Samuel, because he had that “but as for me” spirit that would continue to pray and teach.
Jeremiah was the same way. So often we feel like responding in kind when we are mistreated or undervalued. Not Jeremiah. Even though he was mocked in Jeremiah 17:15 he turns around in verse 16 with a “but as for me” response.
“Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now. (16) As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.”
Jeremiah faced much discouragement, but it was the “as for me” mindset that made him stay. The ESV says “I have not run away from being your shepherd”. Samuel and Jeremiah are such great examples of the type of attitude we are to have in the face of despair or discouragement.
Now we might be mistaken that the “but as for me” attitude is self-centered. It isn’t. If you think about these examples, they are really self-sacrificing. Jeremiah shows this beautifully in chapter 26:12-15. He is being threatened with death and this is how he responds.
“Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. (13) Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. (14) But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.””
You see Jeremiah’s only concern was for the word of the Lord and not for himself. The truth is the truth and no matter what happens to us we must stand up for it. What a wonderful display of faith and courage. Truly Jeremiah had the spirit of Christ.
Jesus Forsaken by Family and Friends
The next example is found in Micah 7:7 but it is a little obscured in the KJV. Most modern translations have “but as for me” instead of “therefore I”. Here it is in the ESV starting at verse 5 for some context.
“Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; (6) for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. (7) But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”
In the face of such tensions between neighbors and family Micah says he would be patient for God. He would wait upon the God of my salvation. There’s a key element in our “but as for me” attitude. When all seems against you there is patience and peace, waiting for God.
Now is this the sentiments of Micah or is he prophesying of another? I would suggest to you that this is a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the spirit of Christ in the prophet. A careful reading of the following verses (v. 8-10) will bear that out for you, but the real proof is that verse 6 is quoted by the Lord Jesus in Matt. 10:35 about himself. Then in Matt. 10:37 Jesus says,
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
There’s the real test. No matter what relationship we would hold so close it cannot take us away from the most important relationship we have in the whole wide world with our Lord.
The thing is, Jesus faced this exact same thing in his life. It was his temptation. Many times, he would see negative reactions to his teaching and he must have said to himself “but as for me”. Consider when he was teaching night in day in overcrowded conditions and his mother and brothers came to take him away because they thought he was crazy. The crowds told him his mother and brothers were outside seeking him and he responded, “who is my mother, or my brethren?” Do you think that was easy for him to say? Of course, it wasn’t, it was hard. His feelings are expressed in Psalm 69:8-13,
“I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. (9) For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. (10) When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. (11) I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them. (12) They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards. (13) But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
We’ve already seen this in Samuel. When all is against you the only thing you have left is prayer. Our only service is to call upon the Lord.
While his estranged family would have been hard for him, he also faced the abandonment of his disciples during his deepest time of need. Judas, Peter, everyone. He knew it all beforehand too as Zechariah prophesied. Turn with me to Matthew 26:31-32,
“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”
Now when Peter heard this, he emphatically gave his “but as for me” assurance in verse 33,
“Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”
“Yet will I” … “but as for me I will never be offended.” These turned out to be empty words. His good intentions would collapse under the pressure. A feeling we too often experience in our own lives. We have every intention of being faithful, but we fail. It’s easy to say, “but as for me”, but will we still say that when the pressure is applied?
“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.”
That has to be the loneliest sentence in the Bible. There is Jesus all alone. Nobody else stood with him… but it had to be this way. He had to face the cross alone, by himself. He had to demonstrate that “but as for me” spirit.
Even though his nation, the people he came to save, rejected him, he said “but as for me… I will not cease to pray for you and teach you.”
Even though wicked men plotted against him deceit and violence, he said “but as for me… I will walk in my integrity.”
Even though his family and friends abandoned him, he said “but as for me… I will wait upon Yahweh.”
So now as we partake of this bread and wine in renewing our covenant to Christ let us hear the words of the greater Joshua, “but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Let’s make sure, brothers and sisters, we are part of his household.