So Joshua is getting encouragement directly from the Lord himself and also from God’s people, repeating God’s word to him. Excellent. What else could encourage Joshua to believe God‘s promises? We’ll see a few more encouragements in chapter 2.
Let’s read the first verse of chapter 2 to find out what’s going on…
[2:1 ¶ And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.]
So the people are all in the place called Shittim, which is across the Jordan from Jericho. And Joshua sends out two spies. Now, you recall that I’ve wondered out loud a few times whether sending spies was alright. I mean, God commanded them to take the land. Did they really need spies? After a little more study, I still can’t say that it was bad that they sent spies. In fact, at Kadesh-barnea God himself told Moses to send the 12 spies – I just read that this week! Now, Moses also says in Deuteronomy that the people approached him and asked to send spies. So how do those two realities work together? Maybe the people came and asked for spies and God OK’ed their request, even though that wasn’t his first choice. Maybe God commanded Moses to send the spies. And before Moses could send them, the people came and asked as well. I don’t know. But God approved of sending the spies. At the very least he consented to send them. So we can’t definitively state that sending the spies was wrong. It’s an action that God allowed.
So, Joshua sends spies. And how many? 2. Not 12. 12 didn’t really work out before. Plus, they just need to spy out Jericho primarily. You probably don’t want 12 Jewish guys walking into the same walled city on the same day. Might be a little suspcious. So Joshua sends only 2 spies this time. And I’ll tell you what’s a little suspicious to me. That these guys ended up in the home of a prostitute. It’s very possible that this kind of establishment was sort of the only place that would allow the privacy these spies needed. Or it could be that these two young men – that’s what this book calls them later on – these two young men are in a place they shouldn’t be. Again, the whole issue of sending spies comes to mind. If Joshua had just went into the land without sending spies then we wouldn’t have this kind of issue. And let’s draw our attention to the danger that these spies face.
Let’s read verses 2 through 7.
[2:2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: 5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. 6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.]
So the king of Jericho hears somehow that these spies are there. I mean, after all, this is a walled city. I imagine that most everyone knew everyone else there. They would have noticed 2 new folks coming in. Especially since they could see the Israelite camp across the river and the whole city was on Red Alert. So, the lives of these two men hang loosely in the hands of a woman whose living is made from immorality. She would normally have no scruples about turning these men in. She could have told the king and they certainly would have been executed or held for ransom.
But Rahab, this immoral woman, actually lies to her king and hides the spies. What! These spies represent the enemy! Why would she help them? Let’s let her tell us in verses 8 through 13. Here’s what happens…
[2:8 ¶ And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, 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. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And 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. 12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.]
Rahab is a prostitute. She sells her body for a living. Throughout her life she had been disobeying God, engaging in acts that were unlawful and not in keeping with God’s holy character. But now she saw God’s mighty deeds on behalf of his people. She saw the reaction of her fellow countrymen. And — by faith as Hebrews 11 says — Rahab makes this confession that will change her eternal destiny – “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” This is apparently all she knows about this God of theirs. And it’s all she needs to know for now to respond in faith. To borrow again from Hebrews 11, he that comes to God must believe that he is. That’s what she’s confessing here. But not only that he is – that he exists. But she also needs to believe that he rewards those who seek him. Do we see Rahab doing that? Well, what does she ask? She asks for terms of peace with God’s people and really God himself. She asks for delivery from death. She has enough faith to know that this God is real and is the only true and living God. But she also somehow senses that this God can be entreated – that he rewards those who seek him. He’s not some unmerciful unfeeling being. He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding is lovingkindness. Rahab counts on this being the case and throws herself on the mercy of this God.
The spies swear to her, which wasn’t according to the Law, right? Israel had one law for the 7 nations to the west of the Jordan – kill them all. And yet the spies enter into a covenant with Rahab and her family. You might wonder if that’s OK. Well, listen. One of the huge purposes of God commanding his people to destroy the 7 nations was so that they won’t lead his people into idolatry. But here’s the thing. If Rahab is confessing an exclusive faith in Yahweh, where’s the threat of idolatry? There is none. So in this case, it seems that the spies did right. They extended mercy to Rahab… And really, they didn’t have much of a choice, did they? She was kind of their only help at this point. The gate was locked once those pursuers went out.
Now, the rest of the chapter shows Rahab letting the spies down through a window, since she lived in a house that was actually on the wall. We’ll talk in a few lessons about what perhaps happened to that house when the wall came down. But she lets them down through the window. They give stipulations to her — Her family needs to stay in her house and she needs to tie a scarlet thread to her window. She also needs to tell no one about this plan. She agrees and gives them directions back to Shittim and they leave in peace.
Eventually the two spies make it back to camp. And remember, we’re talking about encouragements to believe God’s promises. Listen to the encouragement the spies give Joshua in 2:24 – “…Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.” How much more encouraging can it get for Joshua? The spies whom he sent out – unlike the 12 Moses sent out 40-some years ago – bring back a comletely positive report. The land is their’s. God is going to keep his promise. And the text doesn’t say explicitly, but when the spies mention the inhabitants fainting, they would have surely mentioned Rahab — this once-immoral Gentile woman who believed the only true and living God.
So how did we see God encouarging Joshua that he would keep his promises? God gave direct verbal statements. He let his people repeat those encouraging commands to Joshua. And finally, God drew a godless Gentile to himself in faith through God’s people doing God’s will. These were all encouragements to believe God’s promises.