Welcome to the third installment in the scripture Study. While Joshua is not actively moving into the promised land yet, we do see some action happening in this segment which covers the well-known story of Rahab and how she hides the two men that Joshua sends to spy out the land of Jericho. If you missed the previous installments you can check out part one (Joshua 1:1-9) and part two (Joshua 1:10-18) by following those links.
Rahab Hides the Spies
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For 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 who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
Verse 1: Joshua sends out two men to scout out the land that has been promised prior to moving the Israelites across the Jordan River. While Joshua was promised the land and that he would be able to conquer all who stood against him (See Joshua 1:5-9) it was still good military wisdom to not walk in blindly. Joshua took the first steps by trusting God’s command to go into the land and ordering his people to be ready to move in three days (See Joshua 1:10-11) but he also took action to prepare for success. The easy thing would have been to write off anything that he would encounter because God promised it to him. Are there promises that God makes in the Bible that we just assume will come our way if we wait passively for them to arrive? Are we praying prayers with the hope that God will move the mountains in our lives without us having to take a single step to skirt around or climb over the mountains? Many times in the Bible we see that act of faith, the men and women taking the steps toward their goal, before God steps in and rewards their obedience.
Verses 2-5: A few notable things took place in these verses. First of all, the king of Jericho had an awareness of the spies that entered into their city. So he had a good network of information in his city, and it is easy to imagine that outsiders within a walled city might attract some attention. Second, it is likely that Rahab ran an inn or some other establishment and that these men would have been directed to her place. While Rahab is known as a prostitute, or harlot, it is very likely that this was a former offense and something that she likely repented of prior to the arrival of the spies. So while she was no longer committing that sin, she was still likely to be labeled as such by the community because men and women historically have a hard time forgiving and forgetting the sins of others, especially scandalous ones. Here Rahab has a direct order from her king to disclose the location of these two men and she opts to honor God rather than the king of Jericho, as will be seen in the following verses. While the Bible is clear that we should not bear false witness (See Exodus 20:16) and should honor and submit to our leaders (See 1 Peter 2:17, Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:13), the gray area comes when the will of God and the will of our leaders are in opposition to each other. While Jesus told Pilate that he only had the authority to crucify Jesus because it was in alignment to God’s will (See John 19:11), we also see the Apostles in the New Testament going against orders from the Government (See Acts 5:17-42) stating “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore we, as Christians, are clearly called to submit to our government so long as what we are being asked to do is in accordance to God’s commands. Daniel and his friends knew the difference when he was commanded to worship Nebuchadnezzar (See Daniel 3, 6) and Rahab understands the difference here. In choosing to disobey the king of Jericho, she is choosing instead to honor God and His chosen people.
Verses 9-11: Here we see Rahab confess to the two Israelite men that the whole kingdom of Jericho has heard of God’s works and are afraid of the Israelites. Many times God allows things to work out in an unexpected way, such as when he hardened the Pharaoh’s heart again and again, in order to bring greater glory to His own name. In today’s world it is easy to lust after fame and fortune, and a lot of emphasis is placed upon entertainment. People get paid millions of dollars to play sports or sing songs in front of crowds. People get paid thousands of dollars to come and speak to audiences in cities. The trap comes when we want these things to further our own name and our own causes rather than to bring glory to our God. We are people designed to do great and wonderful things. We are capable of doing even greater things than Jesus did during his time on this earth (See John 14:12). If we go in the name of God, with the intent of bringing the glory to Him rather than ourselves, who can stand against us? (See Romans 8:31)
Verses 12-14: Rahab pleads for merciful dealings and receives far more than she could have ever imagined in return. Jesus himself traced his descendants back through Rahab (See Matthew 1:5), one of the many testaments to how God uses the people that no one would ever expect. Here we see Rahab not only asking to have her own life spared, but also for her family members. While it commonly falls to the male of the household to be responsible for the care of the family, this here is a demonstration of the way every one of us should be praying. Pray for the care of our family, those under our own roof and those who live apart. Pray for those saved and for those who are not saved. An active prayer life, full of prayers for those who we love and care for, can bless them even if they never know it. For every unanswered prayer, there is a story of a person who prayed for their spouse, child, or parent for years or decades before the Holy Spirit brought them to know Christ.
I’ll close by restating something mentioned two weeks ago as part of looking at Joshua 1:9:
Imagine what we could do if, instead of being afraid or discouraged we told God about those concerns and trusted Him to handle them? God fulfilled promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many others even if it was not always in the timing expected. How might our lives change if we stopped kind-of believing that God hears our prayers and kind-of believing that He may answer them and start living secure in the knowledge that God hears and God will fulfill His end of any promises He has made? Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. Your God is with you wherever you go.