Read Joshua 22 and 23 this morning. My food for thought? One word repeated three times. A word when used as an adjective is, I think, most often viewed unfavorably in our individualistic, you-got-to-stand-on-your-own-two-feet cultural way of thinking. My sense is that nobody wants to be viewed as clingy.
If our 18 month old becomes clingy, we tend to view it as something we have to help them grow out of. If it’s an adult we describe as clingy, we’re thinking they’ve become too attached, or too dependent on someone or something. Again, a condition to be corrected.
But as I noodle on the use of the word cling in this morning’s reading, it seems that the condition of being clingy isn’t necessarily a bad thing if we’re clinging to the right thing.
Joshua 22 opens up with the Canaan Conquest Campaign for the most part complete. God’s chosen people have moved into God’s promised land. All that remains is the “clean up.” For the most part, the major battles have been fought, most of the previous tenants removed, and the new landowners have divvied up the territory among themselves. As Joshua puts it, the LORD had given them rest just as He promised (Josh. 22:4). And so Joshua dismisses the two-and-one-half tribes of Israel who’s possession was already given east of the Jordan. And in sending off the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, Joshua gives them this charge:
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your 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.”
(Joshua 22:5 ESV)
Be careful to obey the LORD your God. Love Him. Serve Him. Cling to Him.
The CSB says remain faithful, but I don’t think that really captures the intensity of the charge — sounds too passive. The CSB even notes in the margin that a more literal translation would be hold on. Hold on to the LORD. Embrace Him (MSG). Hold fast to Him (NASB, NIV, NKJV). Hold firmly to Him (NLT). Cleave to Him (KJV). Stay close, really close! Cling to Him.
The two and half tribes had fought the good fight. They had stepped up and engaged in the conflict. But now they would return to the everyday, mundane things of raising a family and working the land. And as they part, Joshua says to them, “Cling to the Lord.”
Then, in chapter 23, “a long time afterward” when Joshua is “old and well advanced in years”, he’s still talking about being clingy as he winds down his leadership of Israel.
“Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. . . . For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, . . . they shall be a snare and a trap for you . . .”
(Joshua 23:6-8, 12a, 13b ESV)
I’m thinking that we were made to be clingy. To attach ourselves to something. If not to our God, then to ourselves or, to something else around us. If not holding fast to walk in His ways, then to being trapped in the world’s ways. If not wholly determined with a holy determination to hold on, stay close, and worship Him alone, then to run the very real risk of slipping away and eventually clinging to worthless idols which can’t sustain us, grasping fruitless pursuits which ultimately never pay off.
Cling to the right things. Cling to the right way. Cling to the One worthy of our clinginess.
By His grace. For His glory.