The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.
JOSHUA 7:10-12 (ESV)
Every marriage has started with a proposal. We all know the story. The husband plans a special day, location, and moment to drop to one knee and ask one of life’s most profound questions. “Will you marry me?” The words before that question might be profound and beautifully crafted, but they will always pale in comparison to the importance of what comes next. Anybody who has experienced this life-altering event – and left it with a fiancé – can tell you that few words could ever carry the weight of that “Yes.”
More than a synchronizing of calendars around a future date or a handshake agreement on a financial partnership, becoming engaged represents a promise of full partnership. It means committing to a fundamental change in identity and lifestyle. For example, if your fiancé were to say “Yes” and fulfill all of the obligations of marriage, but withheld her heart from you, we know that marriage would become a hollow shell. Surface activity alone cannot sustain a healthy relationship; the heart matters. Neither can a relationship work if your fiancé were to give his “Yes” but continue living as he did when he was single. We call this disconnect between word and deed infidelity. In marriage, it is all of us or none of us.
When God comes to redeem His people, He offers a proposal on similar grounds. He has never settled and would never settle with giving us part of Him and desires us to enter into a relationship with us of great joy and fulfillment. This is the power and the promise of His covenant, and there is no shaking His word or plan.
But God will not be satisfied with a loveless relationship or a cheating fiancé. He is a god of consistency, so an inconsistent “Yes” to Him will always be a “No." As Kathryn Greene-McCreight writes of His covenant proposal, “A response is required: either a yes or a no. And it must be a lived response, not merely a verbal response, nor a cognitive response. It involves our very being.”
In Joshua 7, the Israelites have a problem with their “Yes.” God has revealed to them His nature and has laid out His desire to know His people, but some of them have abandoned the stipulations of His covenant. A small group among them hides a cheating heart. It has tried to show faithfulness while covering a love and trust in the things of the enemy. Idolatry and infidelity dwell among God’s people. He will not abide until they are cast out.
This was the heart of God in the Old Testament, and it is still the heart of God today. Jesus has come to offer you fullness of life in relationship with him, and the kind of covenantal love he offers – total and eternal – requires a great response. All of him deserves all of you. There’s freedom here. Just as a successful marriage proposal is met with a joyful affirmation, we too respond to God with smiles and tears. In the end, covenant with God isn’t about proving our love to Him. It’s about fully believing and embracing His love for us. So the question is worth asking, again and again: is God’s “Yes” your “Yes” too?
When I sat to write today’s prayer I kept coming back to this incredible poem by Malcolm Guite. I could try to put something original here, but I don’t think it would touch the power and conviction and hope of his words. This poem takes the form of prayer, so for today, read each line slowly and thoughtfully, making its plea your own.
“Cleansing the Temple”
Come to your Temple here with liberation
And overturn these tables of exchange
Restore in me my lost imagination
Begin in me for good, the pure change.
Come as you came, an infant with your mother,
That innocence may cleanse and claim this ground
Come as you came, a boy who sought his father
With questions asked and certain answers found,
Come as you came this day, a man in anger
Unleash the lash that drives a pathway through
Face down for me the fear the shame the danger
Teach me again to whom my love is due.
Break down in me the barricades of death
And tear the veil in two with your last breath.
Take time today to think about the proposal God offers you. How have you seen the joy and fulfillment found in relationship with Him? As you see with fresh eyes this life He gives, consider what sinful things or habits linger to tempt your heart from Him. What do you need to cast out of your temple?