But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.
This morning’s verse is part of Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelites. It is during this address that Joshua will give the Israelites the choice of whom they will serve: the LORD Who has performed miracles in their midst or the false gods of the peoples living in the Promised Land. That is the most often quoted passage in this book, I think, and there are teachings in abundance on the concept. Before Joshua puts the decision to them, he tells them which choice they should make and which they should not make.
The but at the beginning of this verse links it to what preceded, setting this verse up in contrast to what has just been said. Joshua previously told the Israelites to be very firm … to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses. Since that statement agrees with this morning’s verse, it is not what this verse is contrasting. Joshua follows up his exhortation to keep and do the law with warnings not to mix and mingle with the nations still left in the Promised Land or to engage in the same worship as them.
Instead, Joshua tells the Israelites that they are to cling to the LORD [their] God. Cling is one of those Bible Words that gets my ears tingling and my curiosity piqued. So I looked it up in the concordance. And it turns out that the verb used is the same verb used to describe how a husband and wife are supposed to relate to one another. The man is to be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Joshua is telling the Israelites that they are, to paraphrase a bit, be married to God.
In the Modern Westernized World (MWW), marriage has fallen into disrepute. I saw a movie trailer that seemed to be advertising a movie about marriage being an obsolete concept. While the MWW has lost respect for just about everything — especially marriage — there are places where people marry and stay that way; where the vows of not parting until death separates them are held sacred and kept. It was to a culture of this type that Joshua said that they were to hold fast to God in basically the same way a husband holds fast to his wife.
As a husband, that is some powerful imagery. This imagery not only gives me an idea of what I should want things to be like, but the verb has as another potential meaning (not in the way it is used in this verse, but as it is used elsewhere) of pursuing closely. The concepts bound up in this word choice are evocative. I am given the idea that I should hold fast to God; that I should be coming to Him with my rough days and with my summary of what happened today. I should seek out His presence and His company. And, as is the case with the relationship between husband and wife, there is a way that I can pursue Him to which He will respond and many ways to pursue Him to which He will not respond. Just as my wife receives certain actions and words as gestures of love, so, too, does God receive certain actions and words in that way. Just as my wife may perceive things that I think are acts of love as nothing really worth noting, so, too, does God.
There is a key difference — one of many — between God and my wife. God knows my intent. My wife does not always know what I am on about. God can see, as plain as day, that my words or actions are prompted by love for Him and He understands that my attempts to properly communicate that love will often be clumsy. This does not mean that He leaves me that way, but that He comprehends.
Joshua’s exhortation to the Israelites is to cling to the LORD. The same exhortation comes to me this morning. Things have been rough in many ways in recent times and I have not heeded this instruction as I should. I need to cling to the LORD [my] God. I need to yearn for Him in a fashion similar to (but not exactly the same as) the yearning I have for my wife.
Father, thank You for loving me and seeing my feeble love for You and my sad attempts at expressing that love. Please stoke the fires of love both for You and for my wife (since both are on my mind after this morning’s time) and help me to express that love in ways that can be received by the beloved.