Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Joshua 1-4 Rahab gives the spies a friendly welcome

From Joshua 1-4

Q. How do we respond to people different from us?

The five books of Moses anticipated the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham regarding the Promised Land. Now (either about 1400 or 1220 B.C.), through a string of military victories under Joshua, Israel conquered the land and divided it among the twelve tribes. In these battles it became evident that God fights for his people when they are “strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25) and put their full trust in him. At the close of the book, Joshua charged the people to remain faithful to God and to obey his commands, and the people agreed to do so. “As for me and my house,” said Joshua, “we will serve the LORD” (24:15). Although anonymous, the book appears to contain eyewitness testimony, some of which may have been written by Joshua himself.

(The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

Josh 1.1-9; Story; God commissions Joshua
Josh 1.10-18; Story; Joshua assumes command
Josh 2.1-24; Story; Rahab hides the spies
Josh 3.1-17; Story; Israel crosses the Jordan
Josh 4.1-24; Story; Twelve memorial stones from the Jordan

Passage and comments
Israel is about to enter the promised land. So Joshua sends some spies in to have another look. It seems a sensible thing to do before they invade.
2 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. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 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.” 4 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. 5 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.” 6 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. 7 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. (Josh 2.1-7)
Its questionable their motives in going to Rahab the prostitutes house, but at least they would expect she would welcome them into her house. But like the King of Jericho, Rahab knows something bigger is about to happen. Unlike the King, she has chosen sides. She denies knowing where they came from and tells the kings men they have gone out. They believe her and leave.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, band that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 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.3 11 And gas 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. 12 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 13 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.” 14 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.” (Josh 2.8-14)
She tells them the reason why she has helped them. They have heard of what the LORD has done to the Egyptians and the Amorites. She knows the ‘writings on the wall’ and recognises the power of God. Her actions are not unique. The Gideonites recognise the same, but unlike the Gibeonites, Rahab is honest with Joshua’s men and with Joshua’s God.

With this in mind she makes a covenant with them, so that when they conquer Jericho they will spare her and her family. She is to leave a scarlet cord in her window, when Joshua’s army see it they will know to leave her and her family alone. They agree and leave.

Story of Israel
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Joshua made good on his spies promise and Rahab and her family was saved. For a long while this story is remembered through Israel’s history. It is an example of a Gentile helping the Jews and getting saved as a result.

Story of Jesus
After Jesus died and rose again, the story is briefly referred to by James and the author of Hebrews. James is correcting people who claim to be believers, but who do not show their faith by their actions.
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:25–26)
The point James is making is that by her actions Rahab was showing that she was righteous. Thats what ‘justified by works’ means here. In Hebrews Rahab is remembered for her faith.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Heb 11:30–31)
Both James and the author of Hebrews remember Rahab as an example of faith in action.