Joshua 22:5 (ESV) – Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lordcommanded you, to love the Lordyour God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
What unified the 12 tribes of Israel was not a shared economy, military, language, or diet. What unified them was their worship of the one true and living God in the land of Israel. The 9 ½ tribes West of the Jordan felt that their corporate commitment to God was being threatened by the actions of the 2 ½ tribes on the East side of the Jordan when Rueben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh made the copy of the brazen alter.
Thankfully, through some honest dialogue between the two groups, both speaking and listening, they were able to clear things up before the catastrophe of a civil war broke out. But the tribes West of the Jordan were so upset by what they perceived to be treachery, blasphemy, and apostasy that they were prepared to engage their brothers in war (see v.12). This was due to the ferocious love that the 9 ½ tribes had for the Lord their God.
This type of commitment to Christ is just as important for us today. Do you love the Lord supremely? Everything hangs on this peg of undying truth. All the law and the prophets. The Old Covenant and the New. “With all your heart and with all your soul,” Joshua said. A very distant cousin of his would one day say “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
There are lots of things that compete with the supreme love we should have for the Lord in ourhearts. Some are somewhat understandable; some not. Money, lust, prestige, pride, respect – these are the baser things that often compete with the Lord for our supreme love. But for you it may be something respectable like your wife, husband, children, grandchildren, objective truth, etc. For you and me both, my friend.
I remember being very convicted about this many years ago. I remember telling my children in family devotions that I wanted them to know that as much as I loved them, I loved the Lord infinitely more. Or at least that I wanted to learn how to love the Lord even more than I loved them, let’s say it that way. We were reading through Revelation 19:1-5; it’s the picture of eternal punishment for those who place their hope in this world and this life. I explained to them whose side I was on and that if they sided against God, that I would be a part of the group that said concerning them, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (v.5).
I don’t know what impact that had on them. They’ve never said anything to me about it. I remember it being very quiet during that particular time of family worship. But it did have a massive impact on me. As difficult as it was for me to say those words, and yet even more horrific to really consider them, I knew that my love for my children was a serious rival of my love for the Lord. This is through no fault of their own. Now, I’ve got to work through this heart issue with my grandchildren. You may not adopt my methods. You may not even approve of them. But for all my fumbling and bumbling, I knew radical action was in order for me should I hope to really to grow in grace.
I’m so thankful that God’s love for me does not depend on how perfect my love for him is. So deeply thankful. I’m so grateful that for Christ’s sake he has forgiven and accepted me. But I am also thankful that God has been slowly but surely teaching me the satisfying joy of learning how to love him supremely and how, in learning how to love him supremely, how to also love my growing family in a satisfying and gratifying way.
I have “miles to go before I sleep,” as an accomplished poet once said. Miles to go. But I’m finding God’s strength to be sufficient for every next right step. I fall so very short of his standard of perfection. Sometimes the effort is neither easy nor fun. There are real dips in the road. The vale of deep darkness is very deep and very dark. But there is real pleasure to have; there is joy in the journey. God’s rod and his staff really do comfort his people as the eternal feast that awaits comes closer and closer into view.
I’m praying for each of you that you would grow in this same grace and become a bit more genuine in your love for the Lord today than you were yesterday.