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Basic Bible: Rahab and the Spies

Joshua 2:2-9, 15, 16, 22-24

In preparation of the conquest of Canaan, Joshua sent out two men to spy out the land with specific instructions to report upon the city of Jericho. The two men were sent out in secret but their presence in Jericho and their mission there was no secret (v. 2). The king of Jericho learned that the spies had lodged at the house of Rahab, the harlot. The king dispatched a party to arrest the men.

When the king’s men came knocking on the door, Rahab had a decision to make: she could turn the men over or she could hide them. Turning the men over to the ruling authority would seem to be a proper course that could result in Rahab’s being seen as cooperative and in her receiving favorable notice by the king. Hiding the spies could be very risky. If caught, she would suffer the same consequence as the spies — possible execution. If not caught, Rehab could expect to receive favorable treatment by the children of Israel, if and only if, Israel were to conquer Jericho.

We know what decision Rahab made and we know that it was the right decision. Rahab hid the two spies and sent the king’s men on a wild goose chase. In verse 9, Rehab reveals the reason for her decision. Rehab knows that the Lord has given the land to the children of Israel. Rehab hid the spies because she knew that when all was said and done the king of Jericho would not be around. The king would have perished. The king had no future and his favor was a non factor.

How did Rahab know these things? There is no record that God spoke to her directly. Rahab heard how that God caused the sea to hold back its waters while the children of Israel passed through it. She heard how that Israel defeated the kings on the eastern side of the Jordan. She heard and she believed. She believed the God of Israel to be the God of heaven above and in the earth below.

Belief determines one’s behavior. In this instance, belief led Rahab to place herself and her family at the mercy of the God of heaven and the God of earth below. Because Rahab believed and acted upon her belief, she and her family were spared when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

Joshua 2 concludes with the safe return of the two spies and their report to Joshua. From a military standpoint, their report had little value. No strategic information was gathered. The spies spent a few hours in the house of Rahab and three days hiding out on a mountain.

The spies reported the words of Rahab: “the Lord hath given you the land.” This was old news. God told Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua the same thing. The spy mission, however, was hardly a failure. Joshua instructed the spies to view the land, even Jericho. The spies obeyed and reported what they found. They found something for which they were not looking — faith, the faith of Rahab. They found one who believed in the God of heaven above and of the earth below. They found one who believed God would deliver upon His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They found Rahab, a hero of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 along with others who believed God and acted upon their belief. The spies did not return to the camp of Israel empty. They returned bubbling over with faith — faith that God would deliver upon His promise.

As a consequence of the spy mission, Rahab’s faith was made known to Joshua and Rahab and her family did not perish with the others when the children of Israel conquered Jericho. Rahab was delivered by faith, not of works. In deed, one could argue that her works (her occupation, her lying to the king’s men) were contrary to the law which God gave Moses. Faith in God trumps all. God wants men to know Him. God was not willing that Rahab should perish and God wants us to know that He is the way He is. God is the rewarder of all who place their trust in Him.

Consider again the purpose of the mission. Was it to gather strategic information for Joshua? That did not happen. Was it to boost the confidence of the children of Israel? That happened, but any bounce in confidence resulting from the report would be small relative to the exhilaration that which the people would experience when God piled up the waters of the Jordan (3:16). Was the real purpose of the mission to spare Rahab? Yes, the mission reveals God to all who His word. God has placed the account of the spies and of Rahab in His scripture for our benefit. God wants men to know Him as a rewarder of them who place their trust in Him. God reached out to spare Rahab. God is not willing that any should perish. God has called all believers to go to and to reach out to all who will hear and believe. Let us declare the love which spares men from eternal damnation.

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