Todayâ€™s passage is very unique in the Bible. It is the story about two Israelite spies sent by General Joshua and a prostitute Rahab. At a glance people might imagine some sort of disgraceful story between them. But in fact it is not such a base story. It is a very spiritual story that displays the obedience of Joshua and two spies and the faith of Rahab. The Israelites were in a critical situation confronting the Jordan River, the defence line of the first strong fortified city Jericho to the promised land. The two spies and Rahab, their human differences were extreme like the difference between friend and foe. But their faith in God made them one. Through them Godâ€™s history could make a leap and advance greatly. Letâ€™s take a closer look at this story.
First, Joshua sent two spies (1-2). Look at verse 1. â€œThen Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. â€˜Go, look over the land,â€™ he said, â€˜especially Jericho.â€ General Joshua was commissioned with the task of crossing the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. God commanded him to be strong and courageous. Joshua had given a hard direction to the three and half-tribes to fight for their brothers, leaving their wives and children behind. He did it in obedience to God for the sake of the whole community of God. Now Joshua was sending two spies into the very heart of the strongest enemy territory, saying, â€œGo, look over the land.â€ What a difficult direction to give! Spies are spies whose survival really becomes unpredictable. What would happen to their families when they were caught! Though the job was very risky, Joshua must have been following the Spirit of God in him. And in his judgment it is very important to get the information about the enemyâ€™s situation for the success. General Joshua was strong in heart and wise in mind and courageous in action. In the end we see the result that the report of the two spies was convincing the Israelites with the sureness of victory.
Then what was the response of the two men who was appointed as spies? Verse 1b says, â€œSo they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.â€ It is written, â€œSo they wentâ€¦â€ Their response was â€œsoâ€, not â€œbut.â€ This kind of â€œsoâ€ is truly a beautiful response (Ge 12:4; Jn 2:7; Lk 5:5). This â€œsoâ€ is a new history-making â€œsoâ€ in oneâ€™s life, community and nation. We cannot imagine all the turmoil and agony that went through their minds when they received the direction to spy out the enemy land. There are various kinds of choices and selections. Yet, to be selected to be spies can belong to the worst category. It is harder when other lives are related to them. Despite all these factors, their response was simply â€œso they went.â€ This was another sparkling act of obedience written in the Bible, through their names were not recorded. They could do so because they surely entrusted all things to God.
They entered the house of a prostitute and stayed there. They had not been told specifically which place to go to. Most probably, when they were obedient and prayerful, God led them to the most proper place to get the necessary and important information for the upcoming battle. They were staying there. We donâ€™t know what kind of contract they had made with the prostitute innkeeper Rahab. Maybe they agreed to pay more for staying the night. Anyway, they were allowed to stay there. Later it turned out that it was the most secure place for their lives. Meanwhile things did not go smoothly. It was reported directly to the king of Jericho: â€œLook! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.â€ It caused a national emergency. All the high officialsâ€™ cars headed to the kingâ€™s residence. Through the emergency meeting, the best kinds of policemen or soldiers were chosen to be dispatched and act promptly and capture the Israelite spies immediately. They flooded into Rahabâ€™s house to arrest the spies. They talked with Rahab. Rahab had hidden the spies, but we can imagine what was going on in the hearts and minds of the spies: â€œIs the prostitute Rahab reliable? What if she changes her mind in fear and confesses the reality?â€ It was a situation full of suspense and uncertainty. They could have wondered, â€œWhy did God put us in this gut-wrenchingly difficult situation?â€ Anyhow, undergoing all these situations was their part of mission. They also, as they were coming back, had to stay in the hills three days still in danger of being caught. At the end we see that they were men of mission completed.
As we know, our life itself is adventurous and suspenseful, not to mention doing the work of God. We cannot be in a secure situation all the time. There are human securities, but our lives can be truly secure in obedience and trust in God. May God help us to learn the obedience and trust and life-risking spirit from the Israelites spies so as to overcome all life suspense and complete Godâ€™s given-mission.
Second, Rahab welcomed and protected the spies (3-24). As we thought, the king of Jericho was alarmed. From the king a message was sent to Rahab: â€œBring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.â€ The king had to protect the nation and his people. So the kingâ€™s command was urgent and necessary for the sake of the whole nationâ€™s defence and survival.
Then what was Rahabâ€™s response? Look at verses 4,5. â€œâ€¦She said, â€˜Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I donâ€™t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.â€ Wow! She was not afraid of the kingâ€™s message. The message was delivered by the kingâ€™s emergency agents who came to arrest the Israelite spies with full armament and a carefully-thought out plan. Their saying must have been harsh and threatening: â€œWhere are they? Bring out the spies! This is the kingâ€™s first class command.â€ In this situation any woman or man, could have been trembling and spoken the truth to save her life. The opposite consequence was unthinkable. However, surprisingly she was not daunted at all. She even manipulated the nationâ€™s officials. She told a lie as if it were true. Her coaxing skill even through lying seemed to be excellent. She did not leave even any room for their doubt. If she had said, â€œThey did not come here,â€ it would have caused them to suspect her right away. But she said, â€œYes, the men came to me, but left at duskâ€¦â€ She even gave them a direction, a hopeful direction, â€œGo after them quickly, (before the city gate was closed). You may catch up with them.â€ At her saying, the government agents were completely deceived. Verse 7 says, â€œSo the men set out in pursuit of the spiesâ€¦and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.â€ At a glance, she looked a first class liar with a flint-like face. Furthermore she was a traitor humanly speaking. Verse 4 says that the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. Again, verse 6 says in parenthesis, (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) Rahab had hidden the Israelite spies under the stalks of flax on the roof. Rahabâ€™s hiding the spies and protecting them even lying was her distinctive act. Rahabâ€™s act had to be evaluated rightly.
Now she herself discloses the reason for her unusual and questionable act. The story is written in the following verses. Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, â€œI know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on usâ€¦â€ First of all she mentioned the LORD, the God of Israel: â€œI know that the LORD has given this land to you.â€ Thatâ€™s an amazing knowledge that came from her faith in the LORD and the history of God. This faith brought her great fear first. She said, â€œâ€¦a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear of you.â€ She continued to speak about Godâ€™s work in her, â€œWe 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. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyoneâ€™s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.â€ She said of particularly two events, the LORDâ€™s drying up the water of the Red Sea and the Israelitesâ€™ defeating two kings of the Amorites. It is amazing that hearing of these two events produced faith in her to know that the LORD, the God of Israel is God in heaven above and on the earth below. She did not see these miraculous works of God, but just heard. This hearing brought forth the marvelous faith in the LORD that he is the true God, the God of heaven and earth, whereas many of those who even experienced this great work of God could not put their wholesome faith in him.
Here we can think of the God who dried up the water of the Red Sea. In truth what happened was that when Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, all night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. â€œThe waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry groundâ€ (Ex 14:21-22). The LORD dried up one part of the Red Sea to make a way for the Israelites to walk on it. This God could dry up the whole water of the Red Sea. No god could attempt to do such a thing, even to think of it. When one truly believes this event with a right mind and heart, he can believe that this God is the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. As for Rahab, just hearing of this one work of God was enough to believe. Rahab did not say that the LORD was just the god of the sea like Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. No. She said, â€œThe LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below.â€ He is the God of the sea and earth and heaven and the whole universe. This God enabled the Israelites, who were the former slaves, to completely destroy two powerful kings of Amorites east of Jordan. Rahab believed this God of heaven and earth, and believed that he is the Sovereign Ruler of history. He rules all nations, establishing kings and deposes them. Rahab feared this God. This fear was healthy fear that came from her faith in the LORD, the true God. Here we must know that her faith was not based on her feelings, but on the history of God.
When Rahab had this faith and fear, she could clearly know on which side she had to stand. With this faith she could see the destiny of her nation Jericho and all her people including the king. In a matter of time Jericho and all its people would be gone without a trace. It was sure that the land would be given to the Israelites. Everything including her life would be in the hand of the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, the Creator and the sovereign Ruler of history. When she thought of this God, it was unquestionable and not a matter of choice that she had to stand on the side of the LORD and his people. She had to hide the Israelite spies. When she feared this LORD, she had no fear of the king or any other his subjects. Rather she could have courage and wisdom to hide and protect the spies of Godâ€™s people even putting her life at steak. What she did was her act of faith (Heb 11:31).
Now we see that her faith was related to her very personal matter, that is, the salvation of her and her loved ones from death. Look at verses 12, 13. â€œNow then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.â€ Now she believed that the God in heaven above and on the earth below is the God of judgment and salvation. So she made an earnest request to save all her family members from death. What a beautiful request! In the end her faith not only saved her but also all her family members from the destruction and death.
And the way to be saved was to tie the scarlet cord in the widow, through which she let the spies down, and to bring all the members into the house and stay there. Her house would become the ark of salvation. It is the implication that the people of this world are saved through the blood of Jesus, and being in Christ Jesus is the only saving and safe place from the power of sin and death and eternal condemnation.
Rahabâ€™s faith not only influenced all her family members but also the Israelites unwittingly. God used her faith to convince the Israelites that God had surely given the whole land of Canaan into their hands. Through her faith they were lifted up with the spirit of conquest and victory at the critical time of Godâ€™s history. The Bible evaluates her faith more and gives more credit to her faith. Because of her faith she even included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ by being the great, great grand mother of King David. She is shining in the history of God because of her faith and act of faith mentioned in Hebrews.
She had been a prostitute, only giving shameful influence to those near her and many others. Her life was less than nothing. But through her faith in the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, she stood on the side of God and her life destiny was completely changed as a truly blessed one and a blessing now and forever more. May we believe that faith stands above all and oneâ€™s faith and act of faith makes a difference regardless of human conditions.
In todayâ€™s passage we thought of General Joshua and two spies and Rahab. All were in the critical times and all showed their distinctive acts of faith, even if it meant risking their lives. Many times in life we are placed in between two sides, good and evil, right and wrong, or God and the world. And we have to decide on which side I should stand. May we be able to stand on the side of God especially at critical times with faith and serve the history of God, so that our lives may be truly meaningful and remain forever in Godâ€™s history.