Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Scouting Jericho

Joshua 2:1-24

“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.” (Joshua 2:1) 

It is critical that one has valid information in order to make good decisions.  Forty years before, Joshua had been one of the twelve spies sent to spy out the the entire land from Kadesh Barnea to the border of Lebanon.  They were to see what the land was about and how strong the defenses were.  After thirty days of travel and observation, all but Joshua and Caleb had been overwhelmed by the immensity of what would be required and persuaded the entire congregation not to try.

Rather than risking the same thing, Joshua only sent two spies, and their destination was only the city of Jericho.  After all, they could only attack one city at a time.  By breaking the job down to tasks they could conceivably handle, he insured there would be no rebellion this time.

When my Dad built the church building at Sunset Hills, the people could not imagine ever having enough to build the entire building.  Dad announced that they begin building as soon as they had enough to pay for the concrete floor and foundation, about five thousand dollars at the time.  The people could envision that amount and quickly raised most of it.  When they saw construction start they got excited trusted God enough to give enough to build the outer walls before the floor was completely finished.  Seeing the walls being built, they could believe it was possible to build the roof and raised the money.

Finally the entire building was finished even though at no time had the church had more than eight or ten thousand in their account.  They had never had to ask for other churches to help them.  Seeing God provide in such a way caused the faith of many to grow by leaps and bounds.  I am amazed by the number of churches which have started a building project and gotten discouraged by the enormity of the project, often resulting in church splits or closures.

Moses’ spies effectively went to figure out how much was needed for the entire project, while Joshua’s only worried about how much was needed for the floor.  By taking it a step at time, they would be able to take the entire land much quicker than they could have envisioned.  It is an important concept.  As the saying goes, “every journey starts with a single step.”

“And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came ms, en in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.  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. 

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: 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.

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.  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.” (Joshua 2:2-7)

Rahab was a prostitute.  She was undoubtedly unpopular among the “good” people of Jericho.  Nobody would be surprised that strangers stayed at her house, or that they tried not to call attention to their presence.  It was an obvious place to hide.  Unfortunately somebody realized they must be Israelites and reported them to the king.  At the risk of her own life, Rahab hid them and lied to the officers who came to investigate, claiming they had left about sundown, just before the watchmen shut the gates.  If they were quick they could probably catch them, although she didn’t know which way they had gone.

Believing the spies were from Israel, the officers sent troops toward the crossing of Jordan to try to catch them before they could cross the river.  The watchmen immediately shut the gates in case they were hiding somewhere instead.

“And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 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.  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.

 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. 

Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token: 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.” (Joshua 2:8-13)

After the officers were gone, Rahab came and talked to the spies, telling them that the entire city had heard how God had lead them across the Red Sea, and how they had defeated two major countries.  They were almost paralyzed with fear, convinced they could not defeat Israel, because God would give them the victory.

Believing the same thing, Rahab did something none of the others did.  She hid the spies, then asked them to save her and her family when they conquered the city.  While the others tried to prevent God from doing what they believed he would, she acted on her belief.

“And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. 

Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.  And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way. 

And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.  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 bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.  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 will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.  And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. 

And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.” (Joshua 2:14-21)

Agreeing to spare her family, the men instructed her to tie the rope she let them down the wall with in the window when they came to identify which house to avoid.  They would not take responsibility for anyone who was outside the house.  She didn’t wait for them to attack, but tied the rope in the window immediately.  She wasn’t taking any chances of forgetting.

“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. 

So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them: And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.” (Joshua 2:22-24)

The spies were thoroughly convinced that God would give the victory, especially by the attitude of the people, who had given up hope.  They got back to Joshua just as he was ready to move down beside the Jordan.

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