Friday, June 17, 2011

Knowing Whom to Trust

For the past few weeks we have reviewed the beginning of Joshua's leadership over the nation of Israel. We shall continue reviewing God's movement for Joshua as the leader and the Israelites by focusing on Joshua 2:3-9, 15-16, 22-24.

Joshua directed two spies to go from Acacia Grove to the city of Jericho and survey it (Joshua 2:1). It was not because he did not have faith in God. He did not know God's plan yet and was planning a military strategy. How the two men were chosen is unknown, but they had to be faithful to Joshua. The fact that they were going was not announced to the congregation according to the Scripture. How they got over the Jordan is unknown. Joshua used his experience as a spy when Moses sent spies to survey the entire land of Canaan (Numbers 13). A spy was selected from each tribe and the report was given to the entire congregation. It proved to be of ill consequence.

The two spies lodged in a harlot/prostitute's house when they arrived in Jericho. The fact they went there was in fact good strategy because no one would find it unusual that strange men would be seen entering such an establishment. Still the men's presence was reported to authorities, and the king of Jericho promptly sent word that they were to be brought before him. It is clear the men's mission had been uncovered.

The king had cause to fear for he felt the enemy was at his door. When he inquired of Rahab the harlot, not only did she deny the two spies were in her house, but that she had seen them leave the city earlier about dark and with quick pursuit the spies could be overtaken. In reality, she had hidden them on the flat roof of her house, under stalks of flax. She had lain these stalks of flax on the roof to dry in the sun and appears to have one of the good characteristics of a virtous woman (Proverbs 31:13). The king knew the strangers were from the Israeli settlement on the east bank of the Jordan River. His soldiers went in that direction in their search for the spies.

Before Rahab laid the two spies under the stalks of flax she expressed her faith in God. '...I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard ...' (Joshua 2:9-10a). Rahab further reveals the victories of the Israelites due to God and professes her faith in God and his promise to His people. She bargained with the spies to hide them and protect them, as long as she and her loved ones would be spared when the Israelites took the city. The spies replied with the words, 'Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business...' (Joshua 2:14). She had pawned her life for theirs at the risk of the anger of the king. She had also made provision for that of her family. No mention is made of a husband or children, but it does mention her parents and brothers and sisters (Joshua 2:18). She trusted God to protect her and her family. So she hid the spies under the flax.

Jericho was a fortified city surrounded by walls. Her house was built on two sides of the wall. It was now time to send the spies on their way. Rahab knew the land best. She put a cord (scarlet thread) out her window down the wall. She sent them to the mountain, off the path of the pursuers, and directed them to stay there for three days until the pursuers stopped their pursuit (Joshua 2:15,16).

When the Israelites returned in battle they were to protect Rahab and her family because they would be aware of three conditions she must keep in order to be protected. 1. She must tie the scarlet cord out her window as a mark. This will give them notice that no soldier will perform violence against any occupant or the house. This was like a sprinkling of the blood on the door post, which secured the firstborn from the destroying angel (Exodus 12). 2. No one was to advertise the Israelites' business nor the fact that a scarlet cord could be hung out the window as a saving mark upon the house and its occupants. 3. All of her family must be within the house. The Israelites would not know her family if they were not within the place made safe for them.

The escape plan worked. The spies spent three days in the mountains near Jericho, and returned to camp without being discovered. But what was most important was the positive report they gave to Joshua. He was encouraged that God was with him. They had gone to survey the land and bring back information that would aid Joshua and the army in mapping a strategy for battle; however, they brought back a different report. Their report contained nothing about war strategy; rather it was a report on what God had already done. They related their adventure with Rahab and announced that God had already kept His Word. The inhabitants of Jericho had given up and were ready to surrender after hearing of what God had already done for Israel.

Rahab's faith was invisible to men, but she justified her faith and made it known to all men by receiving the messengers and sending the spies out another way. (James 2:18, 25). Although she simply wanted to be saved from the doomed city of Jericho, she was rewarded and became the wife of Salmon and one of the ancestors of Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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