KEEPING A FIRM GRIP ON THE TRUTH! - Joshua 23

Tehillah/Psalm 63:8 “My being has closely followed You; Your right hand did uphold me.

Shabbat shalom family – powerful expression and declaration of a steadfast faith indeed! This verse is from a Psalm of Dawiḏ when he was in the Wilderness of Yehuḏah, and he expresses the diligence of his pursuit and the nearness of attaining that which he longed for in seeking יהוה and thirsting for the presence of יהוה, and holding fast to the vision and hope of seeing the power and esteem of יהוה, while being hotly pursued by his enemies and one thing we can certainly learn from Dawiḏ is that he knew how to praise and lift up His hands to יהוה and bless His Name. The Hebrew word used for ‘closely followed’ is דָּבְקָה – ‘daḇeqah’ and is from the primitive root word דָּבַק daḇaq – Strong’s H1692 and means, to cling, cleave, keep close, closely pursued, fasten its grip, joined, remained steadfast. The root word for ‘being’ is the Hebrew word נֶפֶשׁ nephesh – Strong’s H5315 meaning, ‘soul, living being, life, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion’. This is a wonderful expression of a determined and faithful pursuit of faith – Dawiḏ fastened his grip and remained steadfast in his active obedience with his all – and clung to יהוה, and in so doing He declares a powerful truth – the Right hand of יהוה upheld him!!! Tonight I want to encourage you to ‘cling’ to יהוה and in so doing – see how His Right Hand - יהושע Messiah – who is the Way and the Truth and the Life – will uphold you!

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not look around, for I am your Elohim. I shall strengthen you, I shall also help you, I shall also uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.’

Kěpha tells us to pass the time of our sojourning in fear of Elohim, knowing that we were redeemed from our futile way of life inherited from our fathers (Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 1:17-18) and we are told in:

Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 10:20Fear יהוה your Elohim. Serve Him, and cling to Him, and swear by His Name.

We have discussed what fearing Elohim means earlier this year and have looked at what it also means to swear by His Name during our weekly Torah readings, and tonight in a message called, “KEEPING A FIRM GRIP ON THE TRUTH!”, I would like us to be strengthened and encouraged to do just that and understand the need for us to be ‘clinging’ to יהוה, as we look at the very strong encouragement and warning that Yehoshua gave to all Yisra’ĕl in one of his “farewell’ addresses to Yisra’ĕl. Please turn with me to Yehoshua/Joshua 23 (Read).

In this address Yehoshua briefly reviews what יהוה had done and what He continues to do and what He would still do for His called out and chosen, set-apart people. He gives a very sobering exhortation to remain faithful to יהוה, and gives a severe warning of the consequences of not being faithful!

And so tonight I simply want us all to be encouraged and strengthened to remain faithful and the book of Yehoshua is always a great book to do just that; and so I want us to briefly take a deeper look at this chapter and highlight some key aspects that ought to remind us of who we are and who we serve, with the primary focus of this message being a call to make sure that we are clinging to יהוה.

In verse 1 we are told that it came to be after a long time that יהוה had given rest to Yisra’ĕl from all their enemies. Yisra’ĕl had now been in the Promised Land for around 30 years, which included the years of conquest – so they had settled into their new home and יהוה had given them rest. The word used here for rest is from the primitive root נוּחַ nuaḥ – Strong’s H5117 and is written in the causative tense, making it clear that it was יהוה who had caused them to rest – and this is very important for us to understand! As we call on His Name – the One who causes us to be – and walk in His ways – then He is the One who causes us to rest. Rest is a promise to walking in Messiah as we walk according to His easy yoke and are guided and led forth by His instructions (Torah):

Mattithyahu/Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I shall give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your beings. 30 “For My yoke is gentle and My burden is light.”

Those who do not walk in the Torah have no right to claim His rest!!!

This rest that was given also can be rendered as a people who had been caused to ‘settle down and be quiet’, and this is what true peace and contentment in Messiah brings through an obedient lifestyle. True peace or rest cannot come through a compromised lifestyle – in fact if there is any compromise present in our lives then there will be a continual uneasiness and tension that eats away and brings worry, fear and doubt! True rest is obtained and built on Truth, and when we all have His Kingdom as our main focus and priority – seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness – then we can and will begin to experience the peace and rest that we ought to have with each other, and be strengthened to hold fast to it as we look forward to the fullness of the promised rest, from our enemies, that is coming when our Rest Giver comes again!

Yehoshua recognising that he was old and would not be around much longer, needed to remind Yisra’ĕl, who were at rest, of all that יהוה had done in order to strengthen them to ‘remain’ in the rest they were enjoying; and to do this takes responsibility and great diligence in guarding the rest by guarding and doing the commands of Elohim!

One of the greatest dangers we see from repeated historical accounts, as well as our own lives I am sure, is that when everything seems to be going fine people generally tend to let their guard down, and in the process drift away slowly from the One who has caused them to be at rest! Yehoshua was a great leader, and recognised the pitfalls that lay ahead for this nation who would not be able to turn to him when he was gone, but had to take ownership and responsibility of guarding the Truth with their all. Yehoshua their leader would soon not be with them anymore, and while he, as a man, would soon be a distant memory, what they needed to recognise is that there was something vitally important that was not far off, nor was it to ever become a distant memory – and that was the Torah – which was to be in their hearts and in their mouths – to do it:

Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 13:14For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart – to do it.

When יהושע was about to be delivered up, He too encouraged His taught ones to hold fast and encouraged them in order that they would not stumble, and that by His going away, He would send them The Helper – that is His Spirit – that His Word would dwell in them and cause them to hold fast to obedience:

Yoḥanan/John 14:26But the Helper, the Set-apart Spirit, whom the Father shall send in My Name, He shall teach you all, and remind you of all that I said to you.

Yoḥanan/John 16:7But I say the truth to you. It is better for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you at all, but if I go, I shall send Him to you.

Yehoshua reminded Yisra’ĕl that it was יהוה who was fighting for them, and the remnant of those nations that remained would be driven out by יהוה, so that they would possess the Land. There was a requirement of course – and that was that they were to be very strong to guard and do all that is written in the Torah, and not turn to the right or to the left, lest they find themselves mixing with the nations!

The word used in verse 6 for ‘very’ is - מְאֹד meoḏ – Strong’s H3966 and means, ‘muchness, force, speedily, utterly, abundance, exceedingly, great, and might as in strength’. This word is mainly used in Scripture as an adverb in expressing the idea of exceeding to the highest point! The word used for ‘strong’ is חָזַק ḥazaq – Strong’s H2388 and carries the meaning, to grow firm, fasten upon, strengthen, take firm hold of and can have the concept of ‘grasp between your ears, get a firm handle on the matter’.

This instruction carries with it an intensity that must be applied in diligently guarding to do what we have been commanded to and in:

Iyoḇ/Job 27:6My righteousness I hold fast, and I do not let it go. My heart does not reproach me as long as I live.

Here Iyoḇ uses this word חָזַק ḥazaq – in expressing how he has a firm grip on righteousness and was not going to let go!

We all by now should know what the word for ‘guard’ is - שָׁמַר shamar – Strong’s H8104 means, ‘keep, watch, present, attend to, pay close attention, guard’ and the basic idea of the root of this word is ‘to exercise great care over’.  We are to exercise great care over His Torah! When used in combination with other verbs the meaning is ‘do carefully or diligently’, i.e. perform carefully by paying strict attention as to what must be done, as it expresses the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, statutes, etc.

The root word for ‘do’ is עָשָׂה asah – Strong’s H6213 and carries the meaning of ‘to do, make, carefully observe to do, practice, work, execute’. A derivative of this root is the word מַעֲשֶׂה ma’aseh – Strong’s H4639 and means ‘a deed, work or acts, accomplishments’. The Acts or Ma’asei of the Apostles speaks of the deeds or acts of that which the Apostles did and records their ‘acts’ of obedience – their ‘doing’ of the commands and not just hearing!

 

The message is clear – to remain in the rest – diligently do what is required of you and do not turn away from the Truth and keep away from evil!

Mishlĕ/Proverbs 4:26-27Consider the path of your feet, and all your ways are established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Miḵah/Micah 6:8He has declared to you, O man, what is good. And what does יהוה require of you but to do right, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your Elohim?

Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the entire matter: Fear Elohim and guard His commands, for this applies to all mankind!

Yehoshua further instructs that in walking ‘straight’ and not turning aside to another way – they were to keep their mouths pure and their lives clean, by not even making mention of the names of the other nations mighty ones, nor swear by them, nor serve them, nor bow down to them!

The command to not mention is from the root word זָכַר zaḵar – Strong’s H2142 which means, remembrance, call to mindand what Yehoshua is saying here is that we are not to remember or even give thought to the name of other mighty ones – they should not come into our mind and occupy our thinking processes, lest we end up serving them, which we must not do at all – we are to serve יהוה only and swear by His Name!

Shemuʼěl Aleph/1 Samuel 7:3And Shemuʼěl spoke to all the house of Yisra’ĕl, saying, “If you return to יהוה with all your hearts, then put away the foreign mighty ones and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts for יהוה, and serve Him only, so that He delivers you from the hand of the Philistines.

The way Yisra’ĕl would be able to carry out these instructions was very clear and it is the same for us still today – and that is to CLING to יהוה.

The root word used here for ‘cling’ in Hebrew is דָּבַק daḇaq – Strong’s H1692 – the same root word used in the verse we opened with as Dawiḏ declared that he ‘closely followed’  יהוה. Clinging to יהוה expresses our total reliance upon Him – which is very opposite to independence that the world teaches and promotes ! We are to be dependent upon יהוה, and we can be, as we know that He fights for us and His Word does not fail! And because we fear, serve, cling to and worship a faithful and lovingly committed Elohim we must do everything within us to diligently love Him with our all:

Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 5:3For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands, and His commands are not heavy

Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 2:3-5And by this we know that we know Him, if we guard His commands. 4 The one who says, “I know Him,” and does not guard His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever guards His Word, truly the love of Elohim has been perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.

Clinging to יהוה and guarding His commands go hand in hand – you cannot do one without the other, and the truest expression of our fervent love for Him is to cling to Him by doing what is required and obeying His Torah, keeping a firm grip on the truth and not letting go – and to do that one must be awake and alert and sober at all times – being fully ready and equipped to love:

Romiyim/Romans 13:10 “Love does no evil to a neighbour. Therefore, love is completion of the Torah.

This word used here in Romiyim/Romans for completion is πλήρωμα  plērōma – Strong’s G4138 and comes from the word πληρόω  plēroō – Strong’s G4137 which means, to make full, complete, accomplish, and this means, in essence, to fully meet what is required, and not to finish and be done with! This same root word is used in the words spoken by Messiah in:

Mattithyahu/Matthew 5: 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete.

The people who think that the Torah has been done away with actually, “THINK NOT”!!! They do not understand what Messiah is saying here – He is telling us clearly that the Torah has not been done away with – on the contrary, what He is saying is that He came to fully meet its requirements and these requirements of Torah are still applicable as He made it clear that not one jot or tittle shall pass from the Torah until all is done – until heaven and earth pass away! Now heaven and earth are still around and so is the Torah!!!

If you are not guarding the Torah then you are not properly clinging to יהוה:

It says, concerning Ḥizqiyah, in:

Melaḵim Bet/2 Kings 18:5-7He put his trust in יהוה Elohim of Yisra’ĕl, and after him was none like him among all the sovereigns of Yehuḏah, nor who were before him, 6 and he clung to יהוה. He did not turn away from following Him, but guarded His commands, which יהוה had commanded Mosheh. 7 And יהוה was with him – wherever he went he acted wisely. And he rebelled against the sovereign of Ashshur and did not serve him.

Dawiḏ declares in a Psalm all about the greatness of the Torah and His love for guarding it:

Tehillah/Psalm 119:31 “I have clung to Your witnesses; O יהוה, do not put me to shame!

 The fact is clear – if you are not clinging to יהוה, then who or what are you clinging to? Or, what is your ‘hand’ busy with? The Torah is to bound upon your hand as you cling to יהוה and ‘DO’ what is required of you in accordance to the plumb line of the Truth of His Word – if you are not then your hand may in fact be gripping on the what the world has to offer!

All through Scripture we see this continual truth and theme that clearly tells us that ‘clinging’ to יהוה and the ‘guarding and doing’ of His commands is done together – if you are not guarding and doing His commands then you are not clinging to Him and therefore your hands will certainly be in danger of turning to what they nations have to offer and cling and do what they do!

If you turn and cling to what the nations have to offer and compromise your need to guard the commands by clinging to man-driven forms of worship practices as your means of worship, then what Yehoshua is saying here is that יהוה will stop driving those nations out! And these nations will become whips on your sides and thorns in your eyes – your ability to see clearly will get affected and you will end up being enslaved to their customs and traditions!

The question that many need to carefully consider today is… “What are you holding fast to… Truth or Tradition?

In responding the hypocritical and religious Pharisees, Messiah said in:

Marqos/Mark 7:6-9 “And He answering, said to them, “Well did Yeshayahu prophesy concerning you hypocrites, as it has been written, ‘This people respect Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain do they worship Me, teaching as teachings the commands of men.’ 8 “Forsaking the command of Elohim, you hold fast the tradition of men.” 9 And He said to them, “Well do you set aside the command of Elohim, in order to guard your tradition.

Just stop and imagine the scene for a moment here – The religious Pharisees and some scribes were challenging יהושע about the fact that His taught ones did not wash their hands according to the traditions of the elders and יהושע answers them with these words, words that I am sure were not taken very well! He basically called them a bunch of ‘actors’ who were putting on a show in holding fast to man-made traditions while neglecting to guard and cling to the commands of Elohim! Vain worship!!!!  I am sure that they did not take these words very well, as many who hear the same rebuke today will not either! Today this same vain worship is still happening as man will stubbornly ‘hold fast’ to their traditions, oral laws of man, catechisms of the church and doctrines of man; and will give יהושע ‘lip service’ of vain worship while their hearts are far from Him – He was thus telling them and is telling all those today who hold fast to vain traditions, that the Torah is far from them for it is clearly not in their hearts and mouths to do it!!!

In Ḥazon/Revelation we see some stern words from יהושע regarding the holding fast to the wrong things:

Ḥazon/Revelation 2:14-15But I hold a few matters against you, because you have there those who adhere to the teaching of Bilʽam, who taught Balaq to put a stumbling-block before the children of Yisra’ĕl, to eat food offered to idols, and to commit whoring. 15 “So you also have those who adhere to the teaching of the Nikolaites, which teaching I hate.

The Greek word used here for ‘adhere’ is κρατέω  krateō – Strong’s G2902 which means, to be strong, rule, clinging, hold fast, and it is the same word used in Marqos/Mark 7:8 for ‘hold fast’, and this word carries with it the intensity of be very strong in holding on – and in the negative sense it reveals that this kind of holding fast to false traditions and teachings is as result of becoming so hard headed that you will not let go of them! So many today are holding fast with major pride and stubbornness to traditions and commands of men that they simply refuse to let go of and are therefore unable to see clearly and unable to lovingly and obediently cling to יהוה and guard His commands.

The encouragement from Yehoshua here is very clear – obey, do not mix your worship and remain steadfast – because we all know that every word of יהוה has NEVER failed concerning the good words which He has spoken concerning us; and we are warned too that should we fail to do what is commanded, then every evil word which He has spoken will come upon us!!! This was intended to alarm them and cause them to not get settled in their own comfort zones – and knowing the fate of the unrighteous is an encouragement in itself for us to want to walk in righteousness, aměn!

Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25And it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all this command before יהוה our Elohim, as He has commanded us.

So just as we are to cling to יהוה, we must at the same time be on our guard to not allow anything that is not from Him to cling to us:

Tehillah/Psalm 101:3 “I set no matter of Beliya’al before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It does not cleave to me.

Romiyim/Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Shrink from what is wicked, cling to what is good.

 Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 3:12-15Look out, brothers, lest there be in any of you a wicked heart of unbelief in falling away from the living Elohim, 13 but encourage one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened by the deceivableness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Messiah if we hold fast the beginning of our trust firm to the end, 15 while it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

As you consider this powerful address of Yehoshua to all Yisra’ĕl, may you be strengthened to hear the encouragement to ensure that you are a set-apart, royal and chosen one who clings to יהוה; and as you carefully consider this clear instruction it may be that you recognise that in order to do it diligently and faithfully there may be some traditions and commands of men that you have to let go of in order to get a firm grip on the Truth!

Perhaps there are some ‘things’ that you are or have been unwilling to ‘let go of’  - be it traditions of men or material possessions that have no eternal value - and as a result has or is causing you to ‘lose your grip’ and not hold firmly to the truth. Following Messiah involves a letting go and surrendering of your all and grabbing hold of the Truth with both hands! Keeping a firm grip on the Truth is the call – are you doing that?

We have The Helper who teaches us and reminds us of what the Word says – now let us cling with our all, fixing our eyes on the Truth and not letting go for anything or anyone that tries to lead us away from the truth; and may we be as fervent in our clinging as Dawiḏ was!!!

 

If we truly love יהוה, then we will cling to Him – if we are not clinging to Him, then our love is not real!

Romiyim/Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Shrink from what is wicked, cling to what is good.

Clinging to יהוה is not just a stiff literal obedience; but it also involves and earnest seeking of His face in doing our utmost to know Him and therefore embrace His commands as that which separates us and identifies us as His. It is not a matter of “I have go to obey”, but rather it is a “I get the privilege to obey and show my love

If one tries to do things their own ways then they are unable to cling to יהוה!

 

In the ancient pictographic alphabet the word דָּבַק daḇaq – Strong’s H1692 is written as:

quphbeitdalet

Dalet - דָּ:

In the ancient script this letter is pictured as dalet, which is a ‘tent door. It can also have the meaning of a back and forth movement, as one goes back and forth through a tent door and so speaks of an access point. It can also carry the meaning of ‘dangle’ or hanging as the tent door would hang from the roof pole of the tent. It speaks a great deal in terms of understanding the door of the tent of appointment as the only means of access. We also recognise that יהושע Messiah is The Door, and whoever enters through Him, shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out and find pasture.

The commands are also commanded to be put on our doorposts as a continual reminder that we are to guard His commands, as we go out and come in, submitting under the authority of The Door, through which we have been given access to being built up as a spiritual House for Elohim.

 

Beyt – בַ:

In the ancient script this letter is pictured as beit, pictured as a ‘tent floor plan’, and means, ‘house’ or ‘tent’. It represents ‘family’ and the importance of those who are inside the tent as opposed to the tent structure itself. We, as living stones are built up in the Master, and are the Dwelling Place of Elohim.

 

Quph - ק:

In the ancient script this letter is pictured as quph, a ‘horizon’ and depicts the elements of ‘time’, as it pictures the sun in its rising and setting. It therefore carries the meaning of ‘circle’ or ‘to go around’, representing for us both, appointed cycles or times as well as eternity. This can very well picture for us ‘consistency’ in guarding the commands without compromise, as we do not neglect to adhere to the commands of the House!

 

As we consider this word דָּבַק  daḇaq – Strong’s H1692 which means, to cling, cleave, keep close, stick to, follow closely, stay with, joined to, joined together, in the ancient lettering, we can clearly recognise how we are to be steadfast in our complete commitment in guarding the rules of the House, so to speak!

As we end with the Tehillah/Psalm I quoted from at the beginning, be encouraged in ‘KEEPING A FRIM GRIP ON THE TRUTH!

 

Tehillah/Psalm 63 “A psalm of Dawiḏ when he was in the Wilderness of Yehuḏah. O Elohim, You are my Ěl; I earnestly seek You; my being has thirsted for You; my flesh has longed for You In a dry and thirsty land without water. 2 Therefore I have had a vision of You In the set-apart place, to see Your power and Your esteem. 3 Because Your kindness is better than life, my lips do praise You. 4 Therefore I bless You while I live; in Your Name I lift up my hands. 5 My being is satisfied as with marrow and fat, and my mouth praises You with singing lips. 6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. 7 For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing. 8 My being has closely followed You; Your right hand did uphold me. 9 But those who seek to destroy my life, go into the lower parts of the earth. 10 They are handed over to the power of the sword; they become a portion for jackals. 11 But let the sovereign rejoice in Elohim; let everyone who swears by Him exult; for the mouth of those speaking lies are stopped.

Shalom!