Joshua 2 - Rahab audio (4MB)
Joshua has received the call of God. If he’s to be a good leader he needs to show courage. But he also needs to show wisdom. They’re still on the east side of the Jordan, not yet in the Promised land and he’s working out what to do first. So before embarking on a campaign of war he decides to find out the lay of the land. So he sends a pair of spies to check it out.
But before we look at this little spy adventure let’s just stop to think about what they’re about to do and why. In Deut 31 God tells them, through Moses: “3The LORD your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. ... 4The LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them.”
At first glance this seems like a terrible thing the Israelites are about to embark on. Their mission is to drive out the inhabitants of the land; to utterly destroy them. Yet as we see in that passage it’s actually God who’s doing the destroying. It’s God who’s going before them to dispossess that people of the land.
Still, we need to understand why God is doing this. And we’re actually given two reasons why it’s necessary. The first is back in Genesis 15:16. There God is speaking to Abraham, promising that he’ll bring his people back to the land of Canaan to take possession of the land that God has promised will be Abraham’s descendants’ forever: “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The Amorites, the people of the land were guilty of a variety of practices that God describes as wicked. There was sexual depravity and there was gross idolatry, including the sacrifice of children to the god Molech. In Deut 9 God tells them: “5It is ... because of the wickedness of these nations [that] the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you.” God’s holiness can’t allow them to remain in this land that’s to become his special possession.
You know, we see the wickedness of these people in miniature in the story of the destruction of Sodom. Do you remember how God told Abraham he was going to destroy that great city and Abraham was horrified, just as some of us are. So Abraham says “What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? You wouldn’t destroy it then would you?” And God says “No, for 50 righteous people I’ll spare it.” Then Abraham proceeds to haggle until he gets the number down to 10. But there aren’t even that many. In the end Lot leaves with his wife and his 2 daughters. His sons-in-law stay behind because they don’t believe him. And even his wife dies because she turns back to look, perhaps with regret, and dies. So in the end there are only three righteous enough to escape God’s judgement.
And now the time has come for God to judge all the people of Canaan for their wickedness.
But there’s a second reason why the Canaanites need to be driven out. Joshua explains it perhaps most clearly at the end of his life as he’s instructing those who will take over the leadership in his place: “23:13If you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, know assuredly that the LORD your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the LORD your God has given you.” The people of the land would be a snare and a trap. They’d lead them astray from worship of the living God to worship of idols. And as you read through Judges and the rest of the Old Testament you find that’s exactly what happened until in the end God had to send them out of the land into exile.
But back to our spy adventure. Joshua has some idea what to expect in the promised land. He was one of the twelve who’d been sent to spy out the land under Moses, 40 years before, but he needs the people to hear what these new spies have to say. So he sends them to see what’s going on just over the mountain range.
Well, just over the mountains is Jericho. A fortified city that stands at the entrance to the land, as a sentinel, a fortress designed to keep invaders out. But it’s more than that. It stands as a symbol of everything the land stands for. It’s a sin filled city just as the whole of Canaan is full of sin. And at the centre of our story is a person who may stand for all the wickedness of the city. Her name is Rahab and she’s a prostitute.
The two spies are sent secretly to spy out the land. Clearly they’re not up to James Bond’s standards, because no sooner have they arrived than they’re recognised as Israelites and the King is told. In the meantime they’ve found a convenient place to hide: in Rahab’s brothel. I guess if you’re a prostitute you don’t mind having a couple of paying guests even if they are clearly spies.
But then the story starts to get interesting. The king sends out his counterespionage squad to bring these spies in. And his intelligence is pretty good. He knows exactly where they are. At this stage you'd have to say they’re goners. But all is not lost. Rahab has a surprise for them, and for us. Here she is, a sinner as bad or worse than all the rest, yet something’s going on in her mind and heart. She’s heard about these Israelites and especially about their God and she’s become a believer. So she covers for them. She tells the kings men that they’ve gone already. They’d better pick up their feet and start chasing them. If they’re quick they just might catch them before they get back to the Jordan. So off they go and the city gates are locked after them.
So that’s one danger over but they’re still locked inside the city. Will they get away safely to tell Joshua what they’ve seen?
Our narrator isn’t going to answer that question straight away because he has something more important to tell us. And it comes out of the mouth of Rahab, the prostitute. In fact Rahab makes what amounts to an enormous statement of faith. She gives
Three striking confessions about God.
The Might of Yahweh
They’d heard what God had done to rescue his people. The crossing of the Red Sea, the destruction of the two Amorite Kings. She knows that Yahweh has given the whole land over to the Israelites. Listen to what she says: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you.”
But it’s more than just God’s Power.
The Majesty of Yahweh.
She acknowledges that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, is different from all other gods. They were gods of regional areas, but “11[Yahweh] your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.” She understands the majesty of God. She knows that he rules over the whole creation.
And she seems to understand something else as well.
The Mercy of Yahweh
She trusts that God is a merciful God so she asks that they’ll spare her when they return to conquer the city.
Just think about that statement. She’s living in a house that’s actually built inside the city wall! That’s some wall! Without cannons and modern weaponry it was virtually impregnable. Yet Rahab’s in no doubt that the Israelites will succeed in taking the city. Why? Because she believes that God is with them and nothing can stand in his way. We need that sort of faith don’t we?
Well, the men make her a promise. She and all her family will be safe as long as they’re in this house and as long as she hangs the crimson cord, that they're about to use to climb down to the ground, from her window.
The Crimson Cord.
Let’s just think for a moment about this crimson cord. Does it remind you of anything? Think about the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. What did they hang from their door posts? Not a crimson cord but the blood of a lamb. Is this crimson cord meant to remind us of that act of grace by God, in rescuing a fairly ungrateful people from the bonds of slavery? What was the condition for their survival as the angel of death passed over the land? They had to remain in the house with the blood on the door. It seems to me that God is providing us with an echo of that rescue in the rescue of Rahab and her family. Just as the Israelites were safe, within the houses in Egypt where the blood was on the door, so within Rahab’s house her family would be safe.
As we’ll see when we get to the destruction of Jericho, Jericho was to be set apart, made holy, as a place devoted to God, just as the land of Israel would become a land set apart, as a place where God’s blessing, his protection could be enjoyed forever. So Rahab’s family were in a sense the first to enjoy that protection and blessing that the whole nation would enjoy once the land had been conquered.
And we mustn’t forget that we’re brought into this pattern of salvation history through the blood of Jesus Christ, so that today we too can enjoy God’s blessing and protection, not within the land but within the church of Jesus Christ. We remain safe as long as we stay firmly rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ.
The Spies’ Report
Look at what an impact Rahab’s faith has on the spies and in fact the whole nation of Israel. The spies return and tell Joshua and the people “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.” Rahab’s words have had quite an impact. They could well have looked at the walls of the city and been discouraged, but Rahab’s faith has rubbed off on them. The spies are now convinced that nothing can stop them.
Finally I want us to think for a very short time about
The Faithfulness and Grace of God
Rahab is not just some random character who happens to be the right place at the right time. In fact, if you think about it, this spy adventure isn’t at all necessary to the overall narrative. It doesn’t add anything to the story of the battle of Jericho. So why is it here? Well because it teaches us something about the faithfulness and grace of God. Rahab stays in the city, trusting that God will keep his promise and she’s kept safe.
But the grace of God goes far further than just her safety. She’s a prostitute living in a heathen city, but God chooses her to demonstrate that his grace extends to all peoples, irrespective of their nationality or their righteousness. Do you realise that? Listen to what else we know about Rahab. After the battle of Jericho she and her whole family are brought into the nation of Israel. Rahab marries Salmon, the son of Nahshon, a prince of the tribe of Judah. And her great, great, grandson is David. What greater evidence of the grace of God do we need than the fact that one of Jesus’ ancestors was Rahab, a heathen prostitute: unworthy of anything before God, yet raised to prominence by God’s grace, cleansed by her faith in God, symbolised by that crimson cord with its echoes of the blood on the door post and ultimately of the blood of Christ that truly cleanses us of all our sin.
This story of the conquest of the land is a story of God’s sovereignty and power, driven by his holiness, yet mixed with his amazing grace at every step.