Beloved, grace and peace to you in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the Holy Triune God. Isn’t it amazing that God receives us and loves us, all for Christ’s sake? Well, tonight we are going to conclude the Lord’s Day by worshiping God in His word.
The passage under consideration this evening is Joshua chapter two. I was debating with myself either to take this chapter in one sermon or in two sermons. I opted to take the whole thing all at once. Well let’s see how things go. I hope I did not bite off more than I can chew. 😊 Hear God’s perfect word, read.
Joshua 2:1. Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. 2 It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have 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, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 “It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that 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 hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate. 8 Now before they 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, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted 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 utterly destroyed. 11 “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, 13 and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. 19 “It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 “But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” 21 She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window. 22 They departed and came to the hill country, and remained there for three days until the pursuers returned. Now the pursuers had sought them all along the road, but had not found them. 23 Then the two men returned and came down from the hill country and crossed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they related to him all that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”
Let’s ask God the Holy Spirit to help us understand His word tonight. Pray.
The Holy Spirit gives us a few place indicators or land indicators. Remember the book of Joshua is God’s record of Him making good on His promise to bring His chosen people into His Promised Land. (Gen.13:14-18) This place represents the heavenly Promised Land that we will enjoy in the eternal estate, the new heavens and the new earth. (Heb.11:1-41)
In the book of Numbers, we see that God’s people are a pilgrim people living in the enemy’s land. After that, the book of Joshua God’s shows us that we are going to a place where we will no longer be pilgrims but rather true citizens. (Phil.3:20-21) We are going home, to rest, and to worship, no enemies there, only spiritual family and holy angels and holy God.
Shittim. Let’s look at the first place indicator.
Joshua is camped at Shittim. I think some of the translations have this the Acacia Grove. I am not sure what kind of acacias these would be. I know there is a type called “umbrella acacia” that have the canopy shape of an umbrella. In a desert type land, it makes sense to place your camp near any kind of trees for shade and relief from the heat. This was common at this time.
Genesis 18:1. Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. (I Kg.4:25)
I Kings 13:14. So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” (I Kg.19:4-8)
And where there is a grove of trees there is very likely a source of water also necessary for the people. (Mic.4:4, Zech.3:10)
Beloved, ultimately spiritually speaking the Lord is our shade. The Lord preserves us from the heat. The Lord is our life-giving water. (Ps.121:5-7, Jer.2:13, Jn.4:10-14, Jn.7:37-42)
We learn that Joshua is living on the word of God; it is making him wise, wise to govern God’s people. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge. (Prov.9:10) Mediating on the Scripture is able to make us wise. (2 Tim.3:15-17) Do you need knowledge and wisdom on the best and most God glorifying way to live? Oh beloved, let’s daily feed on the word of God.
This place was on the east side of the Jordan river. (Num.32:19-22) They are looking across the river at the Promised Land. Beloved, we all have to cross the Jordan River of death in order for us to arrive at the Promised Land where Christ is now preparing a place for us. We spend our life here and now – looking across the river. Very soon we will be carried to the other side. (Jn.14:1-6, Dt.11:31, 12:10, Josh.21:44, I Chron.17:9, Job 3:17)
Let me see if I can get the promised land in your minds eye. Think of an upright rectangle. Draw a vertical line top to bottom 2/3 in from the left side, the west side. So, on the left is 2/3 of the land and the other side is 1/3 of the land. Near the top of the line is the sea of Galilee, from that lake runs the line of the Jordan River south all the way to the bottom of the land into the Dead Sea.
On the right side of the river which is the east side of the river you have these tribes, Manasseh at the top, Gad in the middle, and Rueben at the bottom. All the other tribes have their land on the eastern side of the river with the Mediterranean Sea on the western coast of the Promised Land.
The Promised Land is on the west side of the river.
Jericho. Now across the river about seven miles into the Promised Land we have the city of Jericho. It was in a fertile valley with a tropical climate. In the OT is was referred to as the City of Palm Trees. (Dt.34:3)
Maybe 10 to 15 miles to the southwest was the city of Jerusalem. And outside of the city of Jericho you began to have hills and mountains. So even though you would have to travel downward to get to Jerusalem, in reality you were walking upwards at an incline. Jerusalem was at 2,700 feet above sea level.
Joshua wants to know about Jericho especially. This was a walled city and evidently Joshua believed this city was key in his conquest of the Promised Land. If he could destroy the walled city, then there would be no place of refuge for the enemies of God to hold out in.
Joshua will be required to fight many battles. And in a sense, his entire calling was to battle. In a spiritual sense the same is true with every believer. (Eph.6:10-18, Jn.16:33, Phil.1:21, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim.3:12, Gen.3:15)
Practically speaking some battles are more important than others. Jericho was the first battle for the Promised Land. Often, the first in anything is the most important in the acquisition of anything. Christ’s first public battle after He was commissioned to office was His combat with the devil in the wilderness where He used the word of God to defeat the word of Satan. (Mt.4:1-11) And then our Lord Jesus continued to fight battles His entire earthly ministry culminating with the final battle upon Calvary’s Cross. The war was won. (Col.2:13-15)
Next the Lord tells us that Joshua sent two spies into the land to gather certain information in order to facilitate a successful subsequent invasion of the land.
A few things here. One, this is very logical. Remember Joshua is a military leader of God’s people. God calls him to fight and conquer His enemies physically in war. So as a wise commander Joshua wants to know where the water is, what the food resources are, are there any trees to build siege works, where are the people situated, what are their defenses and things like this.
You remember earlier in chapter one God told Joshua that he would be successful in his conquest of the Land.
Joshua 1:5. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.
After that Joshua told all the elder leaders of all the people get all your physical preparations in order before we go across the river. (Joshua 1:10-18)
The spies and the preparation represent God’s ordinary means or His ordinary providence whereby He governs us. Most often you win wars by military strength and skill. Most often you feed and clothe yourself by work to acquire food and water and clothing. These are ordinary means to an end.
Then when God says, I will be with you, I will not fail you, He is indicating that He will make those ordinary means successful. The war preparations will be blessed by God. The food preparations will be blessed by God. He will grant success to the means.
This is why God can say to Israel that He will “give” them the Promised Land. (Exod.6:8, Gen.12:7, 26:2-5, 13:15, 15:7)
All is gift, all is the grace of God. God gifted the promise. God gifted the means to receive the promise. God gifted the success of the means and thus the acquisition of the promise.
Think of it this way. Our salvation is all a gift by God’s promise. God the Father gives Christ as the grounds of our salvation. God gives us faith as the instrument to receive Christ. We must believe, but the faith is a gift of God. Thus, all is grace. (WLC 32)
Later in the book of Joshua we will see that God is free to use extraordinary government with a miracle causing the walls to come down. But most often He governs all things through ordinary secondary causes like spies and like material preparations, working, fighting, and so on. (WCF 3.2-3, WCF 5.1-3)
What is a bit interesting is that Joshua only sends two men.
If you remember forty years earlier Moses chose twelve men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to go and spy out the Promised Land in Canaan. (Num.13:1-33)
You know the story. The men went in and this is what they found. Negatively they said that the men of Anak lived there. They were very large men, like giants. And the cities are fortified. But positively they had abundant grapes and pomegranates and it was an exceedingly fruitful and beautiful land just as God had promised.
But ten of the men focused on the dangers and they said, we felt like insignificant grasshoppers next to the enemies of God. They told Moses to disobey the word of God and not enter the Promised Land. They said if Moses did enter then all of the women and children would be killed and that they probably should have stayed in Egypt! (Num.13:1-33, Num.14:1-11)
Only two of the spies gave a good report to Moses and told Moses that he should obey the word of the Lord and enter the Promised Land. And that God would give them victory just as He said He would. These were the two faith spies…
Number 13:6. From the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;
Numbers 13:8. from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea (Joshua) the son of Nun;
God told the unbelieving men that they would die in the wilderness and that the women and children would enter the Promised Land. And God told the two believing spies Caleb and Joshua that they also would enter in.
Beloved, impossible salvation is only impossible for men, nothing is impossible for God. Those other ten spies should have remembered Egypt and all the plagues and Pharaoh and his army and the Red Sea. Could God not do the same to the Canaanites? Of course. They were unbelievers as Hebrews 3 and 4 says. Let’s believe that God can do the impossible, save His people to live with Him forever.
Now fast forward forty years Joshua sends two spies into the land. Perhaps Joshua just handpicked two men that he knew were true Believers and would be faithful to the word of God. And indeed, they were faithful. We are not told who they were, but God knows. Beloved, I believe that is most of the experience of God’s people. We are anonymous to the world and to the church as we serve God in Christ. But we are known to God. (Mt.25:34-40)
This is meant to motive us in our service of the Lord.
I Corinthians 15:58. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Now we come to the person in this historical narrative that I am calling the heroine. Rahab is the female hero of this account. She is incredibly brave. And through her believing bravery the people of God have their victory. Again, we know that God gives the blessing. But it is undeniable that He uses His people to carry out much of His work in the world.
Rahab means large or broad. Evidently her parents thought she was a big baby. Whether or not she grew up to be a big woman who is to say. Not all big babies grow up to be big adults. But she is a “large” person historically. God the Holy Spirit places her in the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews chapter eleven. (Heb.11:30-31) She had large or great faith. Amazing. Especially amazing given where she is and who she is.
And I would say the even larger truth about her is that she is a progenitor of Jesus Christ!
Rahab is in the lineage of the Messiah. Rahab is the great-great grandmother of king David through whom comes Jesus! Amazing Grace!
Matthew 1:3. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.
Now our text tells us that the two spies came to Rahab’s house, the house of a prostitute. Let me spend a few minutes on this without being indelicate. There are some that say, Rahab was not really a prostitute she was really an innkeeper like an ancient hotelier.
Joshua 6:17 and 25 calls Rahab a “zanah” in Hebrew, this means a fornicator or an adulterer. In context, for material recompense. To confirm this fact, in the NT Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 both refer to her as Rahab the “pornay”, a prostitute.
Now we can understand why some would want to soften this and make her an innkeeper. It is strange isn’t it. Where God speaks boldly, we want Him to speak softly. And where God speaks softly, we want Him to speak boldly. Oh, we lament that ancient disease of wanting to be lord over the Lord. (Gen.3:5)
You can see even from the context of the story that it does appear as if she ran something of an inn. Thus, the men are welcomed in. But we cannot be dogmatic here. Even non-innkeepers in this day were accustomed to taking in traveling strangers as a form of ancient hospitality. (Judges 19:14-20, Gen.18:1-5)
Rahab is a Gentile. She is a Canaanitess. One of their main false gods was Baal, which I believe means Lord. He was a fertility false god. They also worshiped Asherah a false fertility goddess. The idea of fertility is important to these people living off herds and flocks and crops.
Associated with their false worship was gross immorality which in part is why her former profession was not shocking to them. (Dt.23:18, Gen.38:22) They as a people were grossly immoral. I would argue modern Americans are really not offended with immorality because we ourselves are comprised personally. In polite company we say that we are, but in reality, we are not.
But by the time we see Rahab in our passage she has become a Believer in the Lord. She is a Believer in the one true and living God of the Bible.
Within our passage she gives a verbal testimony of her faith in the Lord.
Joshua 2:9. and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted 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 utterly destroyed. 11 “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth,
This profession of faith is similar to Ruth the Moabitess. Ruth says the Moabites are not my people, their gods are no longer my gods. She says the Lord God He alone is my God, and Israel is my people. (Ruth 1:8-17) Oh beloved no one that comes under the shadow of God’s wings for protection shall ever lack it. Jesus turns no one away that come to Him for salvation. (Jn.6:37)
Remember this, Rahab’s son Boaz will in fact marry Ruth! (Mt.1:5)
I also know she is a true Believer for an undisputed fact because the NT tells us that she is a Believer. Because both James and the writer to the Hebrews puts her in the list of those that had forward looking faith in the Messiah. Though what she would have known was surely in a shadow and seed form in comparison to what we know living in an epoch of much greater and clearer revelation of Christ.
She had saving faith in Christ and thus she was justified.
Hebrews 11:31. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
And her faith was justified as true faith by her good works of hiding the spies.
James 2:25. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Beloved the Rahab we are looking at in Joshua chapters two and six is no longer a prostitute. She was a prostitute, but she is washed clean and holy now.
I Corinthians 6:9. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Christ is in the saving sinners business Beloved. These are the people Christ came to seek and to save. (Mt.21:31-32, Lk.7:47-50)
Matthew 21:28. But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
She is no longer a true Gentile; she is a Jew after the heart. She is later engrafted into the people of God. (Eph.2:12-21, Rom.2:27-29)
Rahab is a foretaste of Gentile inclusion into the people of God – in Christ. Rahab is part of the great gospel promise that runs through the Bible. Rahab is a daughter of Abraham!
Genesis 28:14. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen.12:3, Rev.5:9, Mt.28:18-20, Gal.3:22-29)
V.2.-7. While I believe she is a former harlot, but in scripture she retains the sad title to show us the mercy of God in Christ. This is similar to the man in the NT referred to as Simon the leper. (Mt.26:6-13) Well, Jesus was staying with him, something forbidden under the Old Epoch. (Lev.13:1-59) So, this means that he was a former leper. Christ had healed him. He retains the sad title to show us the great power and mercy of Christ. (Lk.17:11-19, Mk.1:40-45, Lk.11:17-19, Num.12:10, 2 Kg.5:1-27)
We do have another current sin of hers record for us – she lies.
Somehow the king of Jericho finds out that the spies have come into Rahab’s house. He sends men to get them. They question Rahab. She lies to them.
All lying is a sin to God. God says that He hates lying lips. Remember God is Truth. The first liar is the devil. He is the father of lies. The Bible sends the end of all liars will be the Lake of Fire.
Now you may say, well how can that be since God blessed her lie. No. God blessed her faith in Him. God did not bless her lie. God cannot bless that which He hates. Just because God records a sin does not mean she condoned her sin. (Exod.20:16, Titus 1:2, Heb.11:31, James 2:25)
Her lie, as a true Believers, shows us the remaining weakness and corruption of all true Believers. (Rom.7:1-25) Clearly, she did not know what else to do, so she resorted to a lie. This is similar to the Hebrew mid-wives lying to Pharaoh about not killing the Hebrew babies. They lied. The babies were preserved. God blessed them because they believed, not for the lie. (Exod.1:15-21, 34:7)
Think of Abraham he lied his wife. Sarah lied about laughing. Peter lied about knowing Christ. The fear of man. Those in Christ are forgiven, but this is still our corruption.
What Rahab knows is that the spies are on a mission for the Lord and His people. And that very soon by all of this God intends to destroy Jericho.
One of the reasons for this is obviously they are Canaanites living in Canaan and God is going to expel them and give Israel the Land. Remember all things belong to the Lord to distributes as He sees fit. So, this is not theft by Israel.
Jericho is an example of God’s sovereign divine justice and wrath or vengeance upon sinners. Jericho is like Sodom and Gomorrah, an example of God’s just anger, His destruction of the sinner. In fact, God puts Jericho under the ban after He destroys it. God adds a warning curse to anyone that will try to rebuild what God has torn down. Listen to Joshua in chapter six.
Joshua 6:26. Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.
Now unbelieving Man is always at war with God. About five hundred years, around 850 BC, after God destroyed Jericho for their sin, (and the wages of sin is death – Rom.6:23), during the reign of King Ahab, a man named Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.
And God’s word of curse came true He lost his firstborn son Abiram, and when he set up the gates, he lost his youngest son Segub. (I Kg.16:34)
Beloved God cannot lie. Every word of the Lord is true. The curses. The blessings. No sinner can stand against God and prevail.
Now I want to conclude this sermon on a positive note. This chapter, yes, is about the destruction of God’s enemies. But primarily it is about the salvation and preservation of God’s people – both Jews and Gentiles.
V.12-20. Rahab asks the spies if the people of God would have mercy on her and her family. The spies put her under and oath. And then they give her an inspired promised of salvation, mercy, and life.
Oh Beloved, in the NT the true Joshua will also come to Jericho. This time not to judge and destroy, but rather to seek and to save. Jesus dined with Zacchaeus in Jericho. (Lk.19:1-10). Jesus healed two blind men on the way to Jericho. (Mt.20:29-34) Christ’s story of the Good Samaritan takes place on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, from the cursed city to the blessed city. (Lk.10:30-37)
Beloved, all those God saves in Christ, He preserves in Christ.
There is no longer any divine condemnation for those in Jesus. (Rom.8:1)
The war with heaven is over. Christ has made peace for us.
The battles we endure here and now are soon to be over. Our bodies may suffer for a time. But our soul eternally safe in Christ.
Like Rahab hanging the scarlet cord from her window, when God the Father sees us, He sees us with the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts of our soul – He passes over with His wrath, and He visits with His mercy.
Oh, what a Savior of sinners. Like Rahab. Like us. Now in Christ we are the sons and daughters of God. (Jn.1:10-13)