What hast Thou in Thy House?
Notes of an Address by Frank Wallace at Findochty 1975
It is one of the most solemn facts that in Israel the first failure when they got into the land was in a house (Josh. 7—a tent is a house) and the first failure in the assembly was in a house (Acts 5). Further, in the last days the attack of the enemy is going to be upon the houses, evil men will “creep into houses, and lead captive silly women” (2 Tim. 3:6). In these last days the homes of the saints are under attack. This being so, I suppose this question of Elisha’s is a very pertinent one to ask all of us who are householders, husbands and wives, as to what we have in our houses.
The House of Achan (Joshua 7)
I want first of all to speak about this first failure in Israel because it not only affected the man’s house, it very solemnly affected all the saints. If there is one Scripture that proves indisputably that association with evil defiles it is the story of Achan and his sin. God commanded His people to take and to utterly destroy Jericho, and all the metals, precious and common, were to be for God, but there was one man who disobeyed, and on his own testimony he said, “I saw . . . I coveted . . . I took . . . and I hid”. If this question had been asked of Achan, ‘What hast thou in thy house?’’ he would have been bound to say, if he was truthful, ‘I have something in my house that ought not to be there, God said that I was not to take it’. When the inquiry was made and his sin was found out, this man’s home was utterly destroyed. Death, desolation and destruction came upon it because the word of God was disobeyed. What a solemn thing. It was not only that Achan had sinned, “Israel had sinned” (7:11), and oh the sorrow that was amongst the people of God (7:6).
What a sad thing this covetousness and disobedience is. Is this amongst us? If this question is asked of us , how would we reply? Are we disobedient? Are we marked by covetousness? Are we involving the testimony in disrepute because we have something in our homes that ought not to be there? That is for you to answer, that is for me to answer. It is a very solemn thing; the Lord is asking us this evening, ‘What have we in our homes?’ and He is waiting for us to answer the question.
The Home of the Shunammite Woman (2 Kings 4)
There are some delightful homes in Scripture. I am sure it must be one of the happy exercises in connection with the Scriptures to think of happy homes, one of which was the house of the Shunammite. Thank God there are happy homes today. This dear woman was very conversant with the movements of the man of God. This is a warning to us all that we are under scrutiny, people do watch what we do and where we go.
Elisha was perhaps unaware that he was under scrutiny, but this dear woman saw the man of God in his movements. He “passed by continually”. So she prepared a chamber for him with a table, a chair, a lamp and a bed. I am sure that was a delightful home. Here was a woman who was so concerned about the prosperity of the things of God that she said, ‘I want to help, and I will help by providing this home so that the man of God can rest there’ This was a delightful home where fellowship could be enjoyed.
Can we say this of our own homes, that persons can enjoy fellowship there? It is not simply that we have a nice home (thank God if we have), but it is a place where we can really enjoy fellowship, where we can talk about the things of the Lord to encourage, help and comfort one another. Is there real true encouraging fellowship in our homes? This is something very worthwhile to have. I believe that there is a distinction between a house and a home. We could have a beautiful building, nicely furnished, it may be everything we desire, but it might not be a home. Love, oneness, and being together constitute a real home, it is something that gladdens our hearts and makes us feel at rest, makes us feel that we are at home there. The very word itself indicates something to us that is fine, precious and encouraging. So when the man of God was invited into that place and he saw this dear woman’s care for him, he said, ‘This is very encouraging, refreshing, sustaining,’ and he appreciated this, and desired to bless her.
There was something in the home that was well worthwhile. We all know how tiring contact with the world can be. It is a continual struggle against evil and evil principles, continual whispering in our ears, the worldly conversation, obscene talk and the things we meet in day to day life. How distressing it can be to the conscience, and how weary we can become. How wonderful then to be able to go into a house where we can find rest. All who come to the Lord receive rest, “Ye shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29), He can give this pre-eminently, but oh how wonderful it is to find it in the company of the saints, in the homes, real rest and peace from all the wickedness in this hostile scene.
The House of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)
When we come to the New Testament we find a man and his wife, Ananias and Sapphira, guilty of collusion in evil. It was not something that they did spontaneously. We are all prone to failure, each one of us in unguarded moments can fall, we can commit sin, we know this all too well, but this was not an unguarded moment, this was premeditated, calculated, it was something that was done deliberately and what a terrible thing that was. In those days there was divine power to deal with the matter, and it was dealt with most effectively for the Lord’s glory. If it happened in our day we might have heard voices saying, ‘Well, this dear brother and sister have given a great deal of substance, we ought to be careful, if we lose this man and wife the testimony will be weakened’, but that never crossed the mind of Peter. There was power to deal with the evil and immediately afterwards Scripture says, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (v. 14), and so the testimony was strengthened.
Here was a home, and the Lord had blessed them, saved them, given them substance, and yet they were not satisfied, they wanted to create an impression, they desired a place and yet hypocrisy lay behind it. They wanted to be like others who brought money and laid it down at the feet of the apostles, those who had acted in self-sacrifice, they wanted to have the honour that attached to such an act, but they did not want to face up to the responsibilities, they did not want to be involved in self-sacrifice in the real sense of the word, they were really hypocrites and it was all exposed and judged. What a sad thing that a home should be devoted to cold, calculated, cunning deceit but the Lord was, and is, able to deal with such a house.
The House of Philemon (Philemon 1-25)
There are many homes in the New Testament and I am sure we will hear something about them before this week is over, but I only want to refer to one other, the house of Philemon. What a wonderful home this was. I am sure the saints were glad to visit, glad to go there. What does Paul say about it? “the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (v. 7). Philemon was a brotherly man, not standing on his own self-importance, pompous dignity, he was a man who was a brother in the real sense of the word, and when a man came into his home he was treated as a brother and received the refreshment that was in this home. Oh how much we need this, the refreshment that comes from spiritual contact, flowing from the appreciation of Christ and all the glories that belong to Him, drawing from what belongs to the Lord, and being able to impart to others.
If you had gone into the house of Philemon do you think you would be treated to the dissipation and failures of brother —, or innuendoes against brother — or sister —? There is no refreshment in that, that is the muck and the filth that belongs to this world, yet this kind of thing is a quite common conversation in the homes of the saints. I am not saying that right judgment has not got to be exercised, that is always permissible, righteous judgment, but the criticism that the world so often involves itself in ought not to belong to the Christian home. Sad to say we do hear of those who are lost to the ranks of the saints because of unwise criticism in the homes of the saints, where saints of God are spoken of in a way that is below the dignity of the glorious One, and below the dignity of the company that has been secured by Him. How careful we must be with our tongues in each other’s company. Philemon refreshed the saints. What a wonderful thing that was.
Those who have been in the East know the refreshing value of a drink of cold, clear water. What a good thing it is, and they would get this simple act of courtesy that means so much, but the refreshment to be obtained in Philemon’s house was something better, the bowels (or the souls) of the saints were refreshed by him, the saints would go away from Philemon’s home feeling a lot better than when they went in.
The assembly, the church, also met in his house (v. 2). In that place the saints would be seen going up to his home on meeting nights, and for the breaking of bread, and for the ministry of the word, meetings which, I believe, are essentially of assembly character. They met together in his home and they enjoyed the wonderful privilege of sweet fellowship centred in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not so much the refreshment that Philemon gave when they went to his home on those occasions, no, it was for a different matter, they were gathered to the name of the Lord, not to the name of Philemon, although in his house. There would be nothing in that home that was incongruous to that wonderful blessing of gathering to the Lord’s name. What a privilege for any home that the saints could meet there to break bread, to pray and to have the ministry of the word of God.
It is this kind of man, Paul said, that he had the utmost confidence in that he would receive the erring slave Onesimus (still a slave, but now a brother beloved). Paul could say, ‘I have sufficient confidence in you that your heart is large enough to receive this man back again and give him a proper place, first of all in the assembly, receive him as a beloved brother’, and oh, the wonderful grace of that dear servant of God, for he continued, ‘when you receive Onesimus, you receive me’. There is not any thought of man’s dignity attaching to the apostle, ‘When you receive Onesimus you receive me’. That is fellowship, and he went on to say, ‘Philemon, I know that you will do this, and you will receive him back also to his proper place as a slave without any thought of punishment because of what he has done, just forgive and forget it all’. That is one of the most wonderful things to find in any home, forgiveness. We are all marked by a spirit of unforgiveness naturally, there is always an unforgiving streak in us if we let it find expression, but, Paul says to Philemon, ‘Do not be marked by what is natural, be marked by what is spiritual and let forgiveness operate in your home and receive this person back home again.
I am sure you will agree with me that to visit the house of Philemon must have been a delightful experience, and if he was asked the question, ‘What have you got in your house?’ He could say, ‘First of all I am very privileged to have the assembly gathered in my house, secondly, I am privileged to have stores of refreshments spiritually (and I suppose materially) that I can give to the saints. I am also very thankful that following the example of Christ I have forgiveness in my home and I can extend that to those who require it’.
There are many other things that Scripture indicates in the homes of the saints that we might well emulate, which in these last days the enemy is ceaselessly attacking. Oh that there might be in our homes something that will be pleasurable for the heart of Christ. Let us all face this very simple question, and answer it, ‘What have we got in our homes?’