We’re in the book of Joshua
and we’ve said that the Bible gives us lines of application that make this ancient book, the OT, potently relevant to us.
For a start the Bible is of course about God who doesn’t change, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And more specifically, Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, says that the OT is about him. So we’re always asking where is Jesus in this text? where’s he being predicted and foreshadowed. He’s always there. The OT is about him. And in this passage we see that Jesus is mighty God and merciful refuge.
The OT is also about us. written for us, the New Testament says. It’s story is Fulfilled in us!
The OT is about God rescuing a people by sacrifice from slavery for a promised land. Israel were slaves in Egypt.. God rescued them and here in the book of Joshua we see God giving them their land/home/rest - it’s theirs but they have to fight and overcome enemies to take possesion of it.
And that story is like a blue print, a prototype, a rehearsal in anticipation of THE GREAT overarching story of human history. God rescuing a people (his worldwide church) by the sacrifice of Jesus from slavery (to sin and death) for a promised land (eternal life). And so we learn things about Us and God from the OT prototype. Here in Joshua we learn that just like Israel God gives us our full promised inheritance - he gives us eternal life - the moment we turn to him, the moment we became Christians BUT in this life - our Christian life - we have to fight and overcome enemies - all that is godless in our world and in our hearts - to take possession of that promised inheritance. The promise of God is received by the activity of faith.
We’re in a FIGHT
We have to get this.. Are you fighting?
Don’t think that you can just cruise. God’ll forgive me that’s his job. The promise of God is received by the activity of faith.
You know I think many of us give up fighting because we feel weak, fearful and overwhelmed by the battles or we just get despondent. It’s too hard and we feel like God is hard on us. We feel like he’s let us down, like he doesn’t love me.
Well I think Joshua 2 might help us if we feel like any of that.
Cos it says 2 things
- (to the weak and overwhelmed it says) Know that Your enemies are terrified because Jesus is mighty
- (to the despondent and angry it says) Remember that Your God is SO merciful. because Jesus is our refuge.
- Know that Your enemies are terrified. jesus is mighty!
v1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.”
Joshua is not being faithless, sending out spies instead of immediately crossing the Jordan. Having the promises of God doesn’t release us from acting wisely. There was precedent for sending spies into enemy lands. Moses, under God’s instruction, had sent 12 spies into Canaan 40 years earlier. Joshua had been one of those spies. One of only two who argued for entering the land - the other ten sowed fear among the Israelites with tales of giants and vast walled citadels and their hearts melted with fear, they refused to enter the land.
So Joshua must have chosen well for this reconnaisance mission. 2 spies.
Go look over the land - especially Jericho. Why Jericho? Jericho was the entry point to the rest of the land. The first obstacle. But as we will see, God had another reason why he wanted an advance party in Jericho.
So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Why did they stay in a brothel - these were godly men? Anonymity? Lots of men coming and going - No questions asked? Some commentators try to protect the spies’ reputations by claiming that Rahab was in fact an inkeeper. But the text does call her ‘Rahab the Prostitute’. Others claim that she used to be a prostitute but the name had stuck. I think there’s evidence that we’ll see in the text that that could well be the case. Maybe she’d found them in the city and welcomed them in? Certainly God had brought them to her door.
v2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” The spies have been spotted! They’ve been seen entering Rahab’s house. And pretty soon armed police are knocking at her door. These guys are toast. Their cover blown. They’re on the wrong side of town. In the house of a woman of questionable morals. The police are at the door and spies don’t get treated well in Jericho. they’ll be tortured for information and executed.
But then something remarkable happens.
4 the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.
At great personal risk Rahab the prostitiute spins out a yarn about how ‘the spies were here, yes, but they’re long gone.. almost certainly no longer in the city. you better get a move on if you want to catch them.’
You can’t believe that the police didn’t search the house. If they’d found the spies she would have been doubly guilty - a traitor.
It makes me think of the Opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Inglourious Basterds - which drawn out masterclass in tension and building suspense. It begins with Nazis approaching and entering an Idyllic farmhouse and - following Hitchcock’s decree that you tell the audience there’s a bomb under the table long before it goes off - Tarantino pans down to reveal that there are Jewish refugees hiding beneath the farmhouse’s floorboards. Centimetres from the Nazi jackboots. The scene builds and builds..
Was that what it was like for Rahab and the spies?
The spies are well hidden (v6) and the gestapo finally leave.
Why does Rahab do this? Why does she take such a risk for people she doesn’t even know?
Well she tells them. She gives the spies the priceless military intelligence that they have come for.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.
The morale and confidence of an army is as, if not more important than the resources at their disposal. When Moses’s 12 spies 40 years earlier returned with news of the strength of the Canaanite armies it was the Israelites who’s courage failed and who’s hearts melted with fear. But here - the tables are turned. It is the powerful Canaanites who are crumbling at the Israelite threat. But why? The Israelites are not numerous, they’re poorly armed and inexperienced at war.
v10 Here’s why the Canaanites melt like icecreams on a hot day.
10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
You have a massively unfair advantage, says Rahab to the spies. The reason we are afraid of you is because you have a Mighty God on your side. It’s plain to see - WE are toast.
Skip to the end of the passage v24 and when the 2 spies came back to Joshua They said to [Him], “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”
Be strong and courageous. Your enemies are terrified because the Lord is mighty
So often we feel desperately weak and fearful in the face of our battles. Speaking up for what is right in our workplaces we feel isolated. Working for justice in our communities we feel overwhelmed. Sharing the gospel with our friends we feel foolish. Fighting our apathy and addictions in order to grow we feel powerless. The church feels fragile, we feel weak. We melt.
But look look- Your enemies are terrified….terrified .. that you might speak, that you might start that project that beats in your heart.. terrified that you might share the gospel with a friend, or read your bible, or start getting praying friends around you to kick start your spiritual growth. terrified because they have seen how Jesus opened up a way through the sea, by his death and resurrection for all who believe in him to be forgiven and have life, they have seen how HE has thoroughly defeated our greatest enemies sin and death who he has completely destroyed. Their hearts melt and courage fails because Jesus our God IS God in heaven above and on earth below. He is mighty.
Be strong and very courageous says Jesus to you. Because I am with you and I will never leave you nor forsake you. Enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Fight the battles that you must fight to inherit your Rest.
Know that Your enemies are terrified
2. Remember that Your God is rich in mercy - Jesus our refuge .
‘Go look over the land, especially Jericho’
Joshua didn’t send the spies especially to Jericho just because this was the strategic entry point to the land, OR because it was the place where they would glean the crucial intelligence that their enemies were melting with fear. There was a deeper reason for the spies being sent to Jericho that even Joshua was not aware of. The spies didn’t get spotted just because of their sloppiness or because of canaanite vigilance - there was a deeper reason for the spies being spotted. The spies didn’t enter the house of Rahab the prostitute just because a brothel was the perfect cover for strangers or because it was the first place they found a welcome. There was a deeper reason for them coming to that house. God is at work here..
The reason for it all was Rahab. God sends the spies to Jericho; allows the spies to be hunted down; leads the spies to stay in that house for the sake of Rahab for the sake of her refuge.
Let’s ask the question again: Why does Rahab, at great personal risk, hide the spies and deceive the police? Is it just because she’s weighed things up, knows that Jericho doesn’t stand a chance against the LORD and is tactically changing sides? Well, the rest of Jericho have heard of God’s might and are melting with fear. But they make no effort to make peace with this God. There’s no delegation sent out to surrender to the Israelites. Fear alone doesn’t break defiance.
But Rahab, in contrast seems to have gone much further than her fellow Canaanites. She, like them has heard of his might, but she goes further and recognises his majesty and appeals to his mercy.
She recognises God’s majesty. At the end of v11 in what sounds like a declaration of faith she says ‘It’s because the Lord your God IS God in heaven above and on the earth below’
There is no other god, she says.
Is this true faith, true belief? - well faith shows itself in action - a changed life and changed allegiance.
Remember I said earlier that there’s an indication in this passage that Rahab the prostitute is no longer a prostitute. v6 tells us that she had hidden the spies under the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. Flax was a plant that was industriously harvested, dried in sunshine and used for spinning and weaving cloth. In the last chapter of the book of proverbs - The woman of godly character - works with wool and flax. Has God’s grace been at work in Rahab’s life to make a prostititue a woman of character?
The passage makes no judgement on whether she was right or wrong to lie to the police at her door. Did necessity make it legitimate? Certainly the courage and conviction that she shows in defying her own government and nation for the greater good of protecting God’s spies is further evidence of a change of allegiance.
And her appeal for her whole family to receive God’s mercy needn’t be seen as presumptious but as further evidence that she had perceived the infinite mercy and willing grace of God. And she wasn’t disappointed.
Rahab miraculously had become a christian. In the NT in Hebrews 11 and James 2 Rahab is commended for her actions rooted in her faith.
It’s amazing that with no church, no Bibles, no believers around her - out of a pagan cuture and an immoral life Jesus has sought this woman out - not because of anything in her, not because she is inherently good, but out of his sheer kindness. She hears of God’s might and by grace she bows to his majesty and appeals to his mercy.
And having become his child she now receives God’s refuge. The spies are in Jericho for Rahab. To make the covenant with her in vv17-21 which will guarantee her family’s safety .
She must tie a red cord in the window of her house - which is in the city walls. It’s the sign that this house is covered, protected, a refuge. She must bring her family into the refuge and they are only safe inside. They mustn’t venture out.
It’s vivid language that unmistakably takes us back to Noah and his ark - the refuge through the flood. And more so takes us back to the passover - when the Israelites in Egypt had to paint a line of red blood from a sacrificed lamb on their door frame and shelter in the house so that they wouldn’t die when the angel of death passed over. The lamb died in their place. The lamb was their refuge.
An incredible picture pointing forward to it’s fulfilment in Jesus. the lamb of God who sheds his blood to defeat our enemies who were against us - sin and death. He dies in our place and we take refuge in HIM!
are you angry with him in the face of your battles. It’s too hard and he’s too hard on you. you feel like he doesn’t love you.
Just Remember the kindness and mercy of Jesus your refuge.
Jesus first came for me - when i was 12 years old - he called me to be his. He showed me that he’d died for me that i could be forgiven. And he has been my refuge ever since. In his kindness he has pursued me in all my wilful wanderings - to protect me and bring me back. And as Psalm 23 says: Surely his goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.