After forty sweltering years in the wilderness, Moses is about to die, and the people of Israel stand ready to enter the long-awaited Promised Land without him. Since a new generation has grown up in the wilderness after Sinai, Moses reiterates the Law in his farewell address, the book we know as Deuteronomy (literally, “second law”). The book, as one would expect, is full of imperatives—commands that God’s chosen people must obey as they live in God’s special place for them. Deuteronomy 10:20 contains four such instructions:
“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. (Deut 10:20)
Did you notice the third command, or more accurately, the second part of the second command? Moses commands Israel to serve God and cling to Him. Just outward service isn’t enough. Their service requires an accompanying heart attitude.
The Hebrew word translated cling (dabaq) is also rendered “hold fast” (ESV, NIV, NKJV) and “remain faithful” (CSB), but I love the word picture presented by cling in the NASB. It connotes desperation and tenacity.
My husband loves motorcycles, and the first time he took me for a ride, I found out just what clinging means. I wrapped my arms around him (not exactly a romantic gesture at that point in our relationship) and hung on to him as if my life depended on it—because it did (or so I thought)! I think that’s the idea Moses wants us to see. We must hold on to God—and nothing else—as long as we have breath in our lungs.
Understanding the picture of clinging isn’t all that difficult. It’s applying that picture that trips us up.
The Man Who Clung
Though dabaq shows up more than 50 times in the Old Testament, only one person is ever specifically described as “clinging” to God. He is a descendant of David and ancestor of Jesus: King Hezekiah.
“He [Hezekiah] trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor [among those] who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. (2Ki 18:1, 5-6 )
Hezekiah, in some ways, is a most unlikely candidate for clinging because, as far as Scripture records, he didn’t grow up in a godly home. His father, King Ahaz, was a wicked man, to put it lightly. The author of 2 Kings tells us he “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Kings 16:3), a weighty indictment. When the kingdom divided (after the death of Solomon), the northern tribes (known as Israel) went through kings and dynasties like water—without a single ruler who worshiped the true God.
The writer of Kings puts Ahaz in with their bunch. In perhaps his greatest act of abomination, he sacrificed his own child (Hezekiah’s brother or half-brother) to a pagan god by making him pass through the fire (2 Kings 16:3). He also made Judah (the southern kingdom) a place of rampant pagan idolatry. With no regard for Yahweh or His law, Ahaz basically started his own religion to imitate that of the Assyrians (see 2 Kings 16).
In spite of all this, however, Hezekiah must have learned the truth somewhere, for he came to power and demonstrated devotion to the true God by overhauling the wicked customs his father had observed. By looking at some of the reformations and actions of King Hezekiah, we can uncover what “clinging” to God looks like at street-level.
Break Down the High Places
Though Hezekiah is not the first good king to come on the scene in the southern kingdom, he is the first to tear down the “high places,” the altars left behind by previous pagan inhabitants. The author never goes into detail as to why the godly kings chose to leave them intact, but time after time we read that even the good kings did not tear down the high places (1 Kings 15:14; 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 15:35). But finally, Hezekiah does what we’ve been waiting for and destroys the bastions of temptation for the people, making their idolatry much more difficult and demonstrating a commitment to obedience to the Law of God.
If you and I want to cling to God, we must rid ourselves of the “high places” in our lives, the remnants of the flesh that still tend to trip us up. They may be a type of entertainment or an oft-frequented place; a certain app or social media platform; or perhaps even a person. The “high places” in our lives tend to loosen our grip on the Savior and dim our view of His glory. We cannot cling both to Him and anything else. Ultimately, our true loyalty will be shown (Matt. 6:24).
What high place in your life needs the axe?
Seek the Lord
Another unique trait of Hezekiah was his faithfulness in seeking the counsel of the Lord. Second Chronicles gives us this insight:
Every work which he [Hezekiah] began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered. (2Ch 31:21)
Unlike other, even godly kings, when faced with political or physical opposition, Hezekiah turned to God first. He brought his concerns before the Lord of Hosts. As a result, he saw Yahweh do some amazing things (like heal him of a deadly disease and take out the most powerful ruler in the world).
God’s still answering prayers today. A missionary recently visited my church and told of how a few months ago he was attempting to smuggle Bibles into a closed country. Because of his own and others’ desperate prayers, God miraculously worked to blind the custom officials’ eyes, thus sparing him from prison and allowing him to deliver the Bibles into the hands of believers and seekers hungry for the Word.
We’re not called to pray in only extreme circumstances. Clinging to God means continually running to the “throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in a time of need” (Heb. 4:16). It means that we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and that we cast our every care upon the One who cares for us so much that He gave His only Son for our redemption (1 Pet. 5:7).
I wonder what we’re missing out on because of prayerlessness.
Worship the Lord
A major change that Hezekiah brought to Judah was the reinstatement of the Passover Feast and sacrificial system. In short, he brought worship back. I imagine that this would have been quite the learning curve for the people who had gone decades without darkening the door of the Temple or eating unleavened bread. But Hezekiah clung to his God with such tenacity that he was willing to take on this difficult task of inviting the whole country (Northern Kingdom too) to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Clinging to God means worshiping Him as He commands and as He truly is. It means gathering with His people as He commanded in Scripture and worshiping Him with a heart that rejoices with trembling (Psalm 2:12). It means getting to know Him as He’s revealed in His Word, not making our own “version” of Him as fits our cultural moment. Satan wants us to buy the image of Jesus as the meek suffering Servant and reject the conquering King with a voice like mighty waters, eyes that burn like fire, and a sword coming out of His mouth. Jesus is both Lamb and Lion; and we must respond like John when he saw this image by falling on our faces as though we were dead (see Rev. 1:12-18).
What does your worship say about what you’re clinging to?
United We Cling
King Hezekiah didn’t get it all right. Though his example sparkles like a diamond amid a field of coal, he too was a sinner, and that comes out in his last fifteen years of life. However, many limbs down his family tree would come the One who would truly and perfectly cling to His heavenly Father. Though we’re called to remain faithful, we still fail. But we have hope because Christ did it perfectly on our behalf. In bowing our hearts to him as Lord, a great transaction takes place. Our failures transfer to His account, and His obedience becomes ours. On our own, we’ll never cling to God as we’re called to, but in Christ, our labor will not be in vain. We can know the joy of holding fast to the One who holds us in the palm of His hand.