Theme: Rahab and Her Encounter with the Spies
This week’s lessons describe how by faith Rahab became an unexpected recipient of the grace of God.
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. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 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.” 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. 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.” 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. 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.
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 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. 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. 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. 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 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.” 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.”
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
Rahab’s story is set in the midst of a greater story, and this greater story is that of the conquest of the land. And, moreover, it’s entwined with another story which is also part of that greater story, and that is the story of the sending of the spies. Now Joshua had been commissioned, and he stood with the armies of Israel on the banks of the Jordan ready to go in. He sent two spies ahead of him, and they went to Jericho. I find it interesting that he sent two spies. I’m sure that was not accidental. You’ll recall that 38 years before, Moses had sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Ten had come back with an unbelieving report that they would not be able to conquer the inhabitants.
But there were only two spies who believed God’s promise of victory. I think Joshua must have been thinking back to that. He wanted two that had faith in the God of Israel, and who would find out what they needed to know, and who would return with a believing report. So the spies went off to Jericho, and there they met Rahab. Afterward, they came back with the report that the people of the land had hearts that were failing them with fear because of the presence of the Jewish people on the far banks of the Jordan.
It’s really a very interesting story. If God was the one who sent the spies, we have to understand that it wasn’t primarily for the sake of bringing back information about Jericho that the spies were sent because, of course, God knew all about Jericho. He knew what He was going to do, and the battle didn’t depend upon any particular strategy hinged upon the geography of the land or anything like that. If God was sending the spies into Jericho, the obvious reason why He was doing that was to save Rahab because He had one of His children there in this pagan city, a woman who had come to believe on Him. And it was through her meeting with the spies and the arrangements that were made that this woman’s life was spared, as well as the lives of all of her family, when the Israelites eventually did overrun the city and destroy it utterly in accordance with God’s command.
So isn’t it interesting that the first great story in Joshua is a story of God’s saving of this pagan woman? What that really means is that the first real story in a book of vicious conquest is a story of God’s grace. From the Israelites’ point of view this is a marvelous story because it’s a victory. But from the Bible’s point of view it was a judgment. This was no little altercation; this was a massive invasion, and it was an invasion flowing from the judgment of God because of the sins of the people of the land. Way back in the book of Genesis, when God was speaking to Abraham about the land that He was going to give, He spelled it all out. He named the tribes, and then said, “But that’s not going to happen for a long period of time yet because the iniquity of the Amorites is not full.” At that point they hadn’t come to full term in judgment; but now they had. As all those years had gone by the iniquity of the people had increased, and judgment was coming.
Why might Joshua have sent only two spies into Jericho? Why is that important?
There could be different reasons for wanting to send spies into an area before a military operation. But from the lesson, what was the real reason these two spies were sent into the city? What does this teach us about God?