“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
What Joshua calls the people to here is not some kind of a strong feeling, but to action. This is a command. And it is one they needed to be “very careful” to obey. This suggests that loving the Lord may not be something that comes easily. Is this really the case?
Well, think about your own life. Do you feel good about the Lord all the time? Perhaps, but again, that’s not what Joshua’s commanding. Do you do something with those feelings that would indicate clearly that you are committed to Him at a level deeper than mere feeling? That’s the real question here.
You see, as the next couple of verses indicate, loving the Lord is a commitment that requires certain actions. If we love the Lord there are going to be some things we are definitely going to do eagerly and regularly. There are also some things we are not going to do. In fact, we’ll go far out of our way to avoid them. We’ll put in place strong guardrails to keep ourselves from even daring to wander toward that path.
We do this because, as Joshua warns, failure to do so will result in our leaving in place challenges and snares that will make our journey through life much more difficult than it will otherwise be. They may not trip us up right away, but they do plant seeds that will grow into thorns and vines that will slow us down to a crawl in our efforts to move forward in life.
So then, what does it look like to be very careful to love the Lord? We take care to do the things that He wants and not those that we might otherwise prefer. We study His words carefully so that we know which things He wants and which He does not. We diligently build a relationship with Him the way we would with any other person: We spend time with Him in deep, meaningful conversation (that is, prayer). We regularly examine our hearts to see where we might be committing ourselves more fully to things other than Him, own up to this, repent of it, and follow Jesus’ lead in putting Him back in the first spot.
This isn’t easy work–indeed, it’s not easy to do anything diligently for a lengthy period of time–but it does bear the kind of fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control) that will make our lives a bouquet of blessing to all who encounter us. Let us be very careful, then, to love the Lord.