Joshua 2:11, “As soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath”
Our text – Joshua 2:1-24
Our theme – “God’s presence gives courage and boldness to those rightly related to Him”
God promised Abraham three things when he entered Canaan, centuries before the events recorded in the book of Joshua. In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham He would give him the land of Canaan and establish Abraham’s descendants in the land. Moreover, he promised that he would make Abraham a spiritual blessing to the entire world. Over six hundred years later God called Joshua to lead the nation of Israel in claiming the land that God had given them, fulfilling the first promise, which is the primary emphasis of the book of Joshua.
Humanly speaking, how difficult was the task that confronted Joshua and the people with regard to entering the land of Canaan? Secondly, what were some of the obstacles Joshua and the people faced? As the leader, Joshua faced following in the steps of a leader like Moses and leading a stubborn, stiff-necked group of people. They faced fortified cities, giants, and a flooded Jordan. Humanly speaking, everything Joshua and the people were called to do was far beyond their ability. From the crossing of the swollen and turbulent waters of the Jordan to conquering the fierce, powerful, and ungodly people who occupied the land. However, regardless of these obstacles by believing the promises of God, apply the principles of God’s Word, and counting on the presence of God’s person; Joshua courageously moved forward as any good military commander would do. However, he would need to plan a successful strategy for taking the land, and particularly the fortified city of Jericho.
Our study focuses more on the third promise, God’s concern for the whole world, Jews and Gentiles alike. Thus, our story is centered on one Canaanite woman named Rahab, who lived in Jericho. Let’s first look at Rahab’s faith, which is mentioned three times in the New Testament. First, in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:5-6, Rahab is given as the mother of Boaz: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse, the father of King David”; Secondly, we find Rahab mentioned in the New Testament she appears in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith.” “By faith the prostitute or harlot Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient (Hebrews 11:31), and thirdly, we see Rahab in the Book of James. He says of her, “Was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” (James 2:25).
Joshua 2:1a, And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men as spies secretly, saying, Go, view the land, and Jericho.
While Joshua had the promise of God’s deliverance, he had not been given instruction on just how God would defeat the enemies they would face. As a wise military leader, he was simply gathering information concerning the layout of the enemy’s defenses, the condition of their moral, and other factors that would be important to any military campaign. Moreover, he was not to presume on the Lord. He was to trust the Lord implicitly, but in that trust, he was also to use the resources God gave him: the training, the men, and the wisdom he had gained. (See Matthew 4:6-7). Why the secrecy? Obviously, the spies were to go into the land secretly, as spies do. Here, the reference to secrecy had to do with the people of Israel. He did not inform them that he was sending in the spies. Joshua was acting on behalf of God’s purposes and in the peoples’ best interests. He remembered the evil report of the spies from the preceding generation and the way this disheartened the people and he didn’t want them to unnecessarily get their eyes on the problems that would be coming.
Sometimes it is wise for the leaders to do what is needed to keep the eyes of their people on the Lord and His promises rather than on the problems. The need is to encourage one another. We sometimes have to face the problems, but we must learn to do so through the eyes of faith in God’s person, promises, principles, and purposes. This was a matter of discretion, God’s leading through studying, and knowing what was best in this particular situation. Sometimes it is good to call everyone’s attention to the problems, other times it is not. Please note the verse says, “Especially Jericho” which shows us Joshua was particularly interested in this city. Why was this? Jericho lay just five miles on the other side of the Jordan and was one of the most formidable fortresses in the land. Conquering this city would not only give them a strong foothold into the land, but conquering Jericho would split the forces of the Canaanites by coming into Canaan in the middle hindering their communication and supply lines. Thus, this would have a further demoralizing effect on the rest of the inhabitants of the land.
Again, this illustrates how after praying for wisdom, we all need to assess and evaluate our own situations: Where we are, where we need to go, God’s calling in our lives, our gifts and talents, our weaknesses, hindrances, and the circumstances and forces we are facing. Then, based on this information, establish plans, goals and objectives along with priorities and attack the problem accordingly, all the while resting in God’s intervention and direction. Start with the things that are the most important and work on them one by one. This includes our personal life (spiritual, physical, and educational needs), our family life (relationships, spiritual needs, etc., as a family), our church life, and personal calling and so on.
Joshua 2:1b, and they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lay there.
Through the history of Christianity, it has embarrassed many Bible interpreters that the two spies went to the house of a prostitute. Some have tried to say that Rahab was simply an “innkeeper,” but the language in the text is very clear. She was a harlot. Why did they go to the harlot’s house? Most likely, the Lord led the spies to her house because her heart was open to Him. Though it was an awkward place, it must be admitted that it was a perfect place to hide out and remain anonymous, and this was necessary because the city was on in today’s phraseology “High Alert.” More than likely, the two spies met her in the street where she could have been practicing her trade or perhaps, hearing of them, she was out looking for them as though she were drumming up customers, as was the custom of a harlot or even an innkeeper.
At this time she had come to believe that Israel’s God was the true God, but living in this totally depraved culture, it is unlikely she had such understanding of the Law of Moses. Rahab may have recognized the men as strangers, and because the whole city was on alert to the possibility of spies, and because of her convictions about the God of Israel, she may have concluded they were Israelites and invited them into her house for protection and to express her faith, but not for business.
This wonderfully illustrates God’s grace. He is no respecter of persons. He accepts and forgives us not because of what we are or might be, but because of His Son. Because of what He would do and now has done and will do through those who trust Him and act in faith. It matters not what we were or have been. What matters is who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, and whether or not we will put our trust in Him. This also points to God’s sovereign control over the affairs of men and how He directs the steps of those who rest in His provision or are looking to know Him better. God had worked in Rahab’s heart, He knew her faith, her longing to know God, and perhaps even to become a part of God’s people, so God sovereignty worked and brought the spies and Rahab together for their protection and her blessing.
God could have made the spies invisible, smote the people with blindness, or used angels, but He chose to use two men and one woman walking by faith with courage to act on their convictions and He chose to use the more normal circumstances of life. In order for us to trust the Lord, are we looking for miracles, the sensational, and asking for out-of-the-ordinary experiences before we will step out and count for the Lord? Or are we willing to step out in the normal situations of life trusting God to use us and lead us to ordinary people whose hearts He has prepared and touched?
Joshua 2:2-4, and it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither tonight of the children of Israel to search out the land. 2:3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, that are entered into thy house; for they are come to search out all the land. 2:4 and the woman took the two men, and hid them; and she said, Yea, the men came unto me, but I knew not whence they were:
In the culture of that day, there was a strong tradition of hospitality. If someone was a guest in your house, you had a strong duty to protect them and care for them. Even considering this, Rahab went much further than the respect of cultural traditions regarding hospitality. She put her own life on the line for these two men. The Bible simply reports Rahab’s lied; it does not praise it or excuse it. Perhaps if she had beforehand determined in her heart to not lie in obedience to God, He would have made a way for her to preserve the life of the spies without lying. Rahab’s lie is not justified, but it does show courage. Rahab expressed her confidence in Jehovah by confessing, “The LORD your God, he is God” (V. 11). The same facts that brought Rahab to faith in the Lord were known to all of Jericho. He had given the people many opportunities to repent and turn to Him, but at that point, only Rahab was rightly related to God. By hiding the spies and then helping them escape, Rahab consciously sided with the God of Israel and rejected the paganism that flourished in Jericho. Her decision placed her life in jeopardy, but her faith placed her in God’s secure hand.
So, how are we to deal with Rahab’s deceitfulness? The Scripture is clear that lying is sinful. God is known as a God of truth. He never lies. We are called to emulate him, and to be a people of truth. Even though some men and women of God did tell untruths (Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, David, and Peter), there are never commended for it. Rahab is commended for “welcoming the spies” (Hebrews 11:31) and helping them “when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction” (James 2:25). She is not commended for her lie.
Joshua 2:5-7, and it came to pass about the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out; whither the men went I know not: pursue after them quickly; for ye will overtake them. 2:6 But she had brought them up to the roof, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. 2:7And the men pursued after them the way to the Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they that pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
In these verses Rahab conceals the spies, lies to protect the soldiers, and sends the soldiers of the king on a wild goose chase. Because to do otherwise was an act of treason and punishable by death. The king believed her to be loyal and didn’t even have her home searched. At this point, we would do well to look at two New Testament verses and one Old Testament verse: Hebrews 11:31, By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spires in peace; James 2:25, And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way; Joshua 6:17 And the city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.
Why was Rahab saved? Because she had believed in the God of Israel. Hiding the messengers or spies was an outworking of her faith. To hide them was a calculated deception to protect them, just as many godly people hid Jews in European countries during World War II.
First, what Rahab did was a matter of faith. She had come to believe that the God of Israel was indeed “God in heaven above and earth beneath” (2:11) and she is listed in Hebrews 11, the faith Hall of Fame chapter.
Secondly, Rahab’s faith, which gave her strong convictions about God, caused her to act on her faith to the point of putting her life on the line. She knew eventually Israel would attack the city and destroy it because their God was the true God, and she wanted to be delivered and to become a part of Israel. She did not know a lot about Israel’s God, His laws of righteousness, or the way of salvation, but she knew He was the supreme God.
The Bible approves her faith, demonstrated by good works, but not her falsehood. So, what was she suppose to say? In our reasoning we must note that this was a matter of war. Deception is an important strategy in warfare. Espionage would be impossible without it. When Rahab hid the spies, she sided with Israel against her own people. It was and would be considered an act of treason!
Joshua 2:8-13, And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 2:9 and she said unto the men, I know that Jehovah hath given you the land, and that the fear of you is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 2:10 For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 2:11 And as soon as we had heard it, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you: for Jehovah your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath. 2:12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by Jehovah, since I have dealt kindly with you, that ye also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a true token; 2:13 and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and will deliver our lives from death.
Joshua 2:14-18, And the men said unto her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business; and it shall be, when Jehovah giveth us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. 2:15 then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. 2:16 and she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers light upon you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way. 2:17 and the men said unto her, we will be guiltless of this thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. 2:18 Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt gather unto thee into the house thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household.
In these verses Rahab told the two spies how the LORD dried up the Red Sea for the Israelites (Exodus 14:21-22; 14:26-30), and how God destroyed Sihon and Og, two kings of the Amorites (Numbers 21:23-24; 21:33-35). These mighty acts by the LORD showed Rahab and the inhabitants of Jericho of God’s:
(1) Power over nature was displayed.
(2) Power over the Egyptian army and death was displayed.
(3) Ownership of the Israelites, and
(4) Intervention for them was displayed.
The inhabitants of Jericho knew what had occurred at the Red Sea and they knew it wasn’t merely the product of Israel’s genius or some quirk of nature that parted the Red Sea. They also knew that after the parting of the Red Sea that Israel’s God made provisions for their needs. As believers in Christ, we are to be set apart and not conformed to the mold of this world. The Scriptures tell us that we are a peculiar people and as such we are to be different in every aspect of our lives. We must show our sincere concern for the souls of those who do not know Christ as Savior.
In these verses we should be able to see Rahab’s confidence and conviction in Israel’s God as the only true God and of His coming judgment on her people. As believers in Christ, this should remind us of God’s involvement in our lives. He is the sovereign God who holds all things together by the word of His power, who is at work in our lives. Rehab desired to be delivered through aligning herself with the God of Israel. We see in verses 12-13 that she was not only concerned about herself. Her concern also included her family or household. This is God’s number one plan for evangelism, our network of family, friends, and co-workers. Rahab also believed, as well as the people within the walled city of Jericho, and as she stated to the two spies that God would prevail against the Canaanites; that God had given Canaan to the Israelites; that a great fear of the Israelites had fallen on the land; that the inhabitants of the land were “melting in fear”; and that the people of Jericho’s hearts were melted and they were without courage. Rahab also believed:
(1) She and her family would die unless they found refuge in God (2:13);
(2) She acted upon her belief and repented;
(3) She committed herself and identified with God’s people;
(4) She helped them escape (Joshua 2:15-16);
(5) She let the spies down from her window by a rope;
(6) She advised them on a route of escape;
(7) She made a covenant agreement with the spies;
(8) The spies made a covenant with Rahab;
(9) She submitted to the terms of the covenant;
(10) She was saved – John 6:36, “… the one who comes to Me I will not cast out”
(11) She will be delivered physically from destruction, and
(12) Spiritually – we don’t have an account of Rahab’s salvation but that she was a believer is quite evident in that (a) She had faith before the spies came to Jericho based upon the word she had heard about God (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25); (b) Her faith came to completion when she committed herself to God and His people; (c) She was regarded as a believer by the Israelites because she was allowed to live among the people as one of them rather than as a slave, and (d) She was allowed to marry an Israelite, Salmon, a thing forbidden for unbelievers to do (Exodus 34:16).
Joshua 2:19-24, And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we shall be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. 2:20 But if thou utter this our business, then we shall be guiltless of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. 2:21 And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line (or cord) in the window.
Just before the spies left, they confirmed their agreement with Rahab: First, her house must be identified by a scarlet cord hung from the window. Second, she and her family were to remain in the house during the attack on the city. Third, the spies reassured her that they would be free of their oath guaranteeing her protection if Rahab exposed their mission. This story was much like the deliverance experienced in the last plague God brought on Pharaoh and on Egypt when He killed the firstborn in every household, but spared the Israelites because of the blood of the Passover lamb which had been sprinkled on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses.
Though it has not been identified as such, it seems the scarlet thread was a picture of Christ. In the days of Noah, there was safety and refuge for those who entered into the door of the ark. In Egypt there was safety and refuge for those who were gathered behind the doors that were sprinkled with the blood of the Passover lamb. For you and I, there is safety and refuge from eternal judgment, but only if we enter the right door: Jesus Christ alone. As He said in John 10:9, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved.” I submit to you that Rahab entered in through the door of Jesus Christ, along with her family.
Joshua 2:22-24, and they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. 2:23 Then the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun; and they told him all that had befallen them. 2:24 and they said unto Joshua, Truly Jehovah hath delivered into our hands all the land; and all the inhabitants of the land do melt away before us.
Joshua’s spies slipped away from Jericho, but they had to hide because a contingent of searchers pursued them. For three days, they hid in the high-cliff caves just west of Jericho until the posse from Jericho abandoned the search. Then they made their way back across the Jordan to Joshua. If they were like us when we have good news to share, the spies must have eagerly anticipated reporting to Joshua about their successful mission. However, the highlight of their report was their recounting what Rahab had told them.
She had said, “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” (v. 9). Victory was within Israel’s reach. Joshua and the men of Israel saw the words and actions of Rahab as a clear evidence of the sovereign providence and blessing of the Lord. Note their confidence, “Surely, the Lord has given all the land into our hands.” There are some obvious lessons from this passage for us today, such as:
(1) It demonstrates God’s concern and work to deliver one person or one family who will trust Him. It should remind us that God knows the hearts of men, women, children and will lead us to them if we are only available to be used by God. It also teaches the work of God must take place at both ends;
(2) It demonstrates God’s protection and provision of His servants to enable them to carry out their calling and purpose regardless of the circumstances. What hinders us in doing the will of God and fulfilling our calling is our own unbelief;
(3) It demonstrates how our faith should lead to action and ministry to and for others. Rahab reached out to both the spies and to her household;
(4) It demonstrates how God’s mercy and grace overcomes His wrath through the cross. Rahab was an Amorite and according to the law of Moses there was to be no pity or covenant with any inhabitants, only judgment (Deut. 7:2). Through her genuine faith, she became an exception;
(5) Rahab forms a type and pledge of God’s purpose to save the Gentiles who, though without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12), could come to God and be a partaker with Israel through faith in Jesus Christ;
(6) Rahab provides a lesson by noting the contrast with Israel as well as the other inhabitants of Jericho. It becomes a warning against the hardening of the heart in those who see and hear, but fail to respond by faith.
So, what two themes of the story of Rahab are true, personally and practically, for us today? First, God chooses to work through very ordinary and very unlikely people. He chose to work through Rahab, a Canaanite woman who was a prostitute or non-entity. Moreover, God continues to work that very same way as he always has. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “… but god chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Secondly, God chose Rahab as a wonderful model of saving faith. She is an example of what God has done throughout human history, calling all kinds of people to Himself, especially people like Rahab who are struggling with guilt, broken dreams, hopelessness and despairing circumstances. These are the people who make up the church of Jesus Christ.
If you feel your own foolishness, weaknesses, and baseness! If you feel despised, like a non-entity, like one of those “things that are not,” remember Rahab. God knew who she was and God chose her. She responded in faith and God exalted her. She became like a diamond set against the darkness of her time. My friend, God loves to take unlikely people and do amazing things with them. And if you feel disadvantaged, a victim of prejudice because of race, gender, or physical disabilities, God knows you and if you will allow Him to work in and through you, He will take your life and do something tremendous with it as He did with Rahab.