I’ve started digging into the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, and what I’m finding is a new understanding of a section of Scripture that I thought I understood well.
The book opens with God’s call of Joshua. Moses, the leader of Israel, has died and God is raising up Joshua to lead his people into the Promised Land. Joshua was what you might have called Moses’ intern. He was there early on in the journey out of Egypt, and he was one of the original twelve spies sent to scout out the land of Canaan. Joshua was also one of only two men that said Israel should move into the Promised Land right then, while the other ten spies said to steer clear.
Now, here we are at the beginning of the book of Joshua, forty years from when the original batch of Israelites were brought out of Egypt. That generation has died with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the only two ready to step into God’s promises.
Anyway, the book opens with God’s call and quite a firm statement of God’s faithfulness. He assures Joshua that there is no need to fear, for God will be with him. Many times in that first chapter, God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” And that’s what Joshua does. With his newly appointed leadership role, Joshua summons the people to pack up their tents because it’s finally time to move into the Promised Land (all I can hear right now is the Veggietales song, “We’re Goin’ To The Promised Land”…)
While everyone is preparing for the journey and the battle ahead, Joshua sends out spies–this time only two men. “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” (Joshua 2:1).
Whoa! Wait a second. Did that just say prostitute? I don’t know how many times I’ve read this story of Jericho, but reading it through this time that little fact made me stop. I mean, come on. Tell me that doesn’t sound a little sketchy to you. Two men sent out on a mission to spy out a city and they end up in the home of a prostitute? Sorry guys, but that’s not the kind of “land” Mr. Joshua was talking about.
But God’s weird that way. He uses people and situations that couldn’t possibly turn out well, infuses them with His grace, and accomplishes His purposes through means we would never consider. And in this case, God chose to use a prostitute.
We’re unsure of how the men came to enter her house, whether she called them or promised them help. Perhaps they had been spotted by the guards of the city and her door was the only one that opened to them as they ran for shelter. We don’t know. What we do know is that Rahab became God’s instrument. She knew who the men were and hid them from the king’s men. She lied on their behalf and then sent the guards running into the hills to catch the spies that had supposedly escaped. Once the coast was clear, Rahab brought the men down from the roof where she had been hiding them and states her intentions plainly, though they are not what we might expect:
“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 kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan…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” (Joshua 2:9-13, emphasis mine).
What started out as a seemingly sketchy situation has become a great testimony of faith. This prostitute from Jericho has proclaimed her faith in Israel’s God and seeks safety from the spies in the same way they sought safety from her. None of this was by happenstance. God in all of His knowledge and grace led His spies into the house of a woman of great faith, and He grafted Rahab into his family.
Later when Israel comes with trumpets and makes laps around the city as God instructed until the sturdy walls fall after the seventh lap on the seventh day, Rahab and her family are saved. God’s people take over the city and the land.
And I’m left to ponder God’s ways yet again. Never are they what I expect. He has this way of doing the seemingly impossible through people and circumstances we would least expect. I mean really, seven laps around a city brings the walls down? Who thinks of that stuff?! Only a creative God, who creatively pursues His people.
So, have you taken the challenge yet to dig into God’s word? It’s amazing what you’ll find there if you just open the pages and open your heart. It’s more than just stories or a historical account. It is meant to be a conversation where God speaks, we ask questions and ponder with Him, and listen for His response. Reading the Bible is not meant to be a passive thing. Even if you’ve read the thing a million times, there’s always something new to see and learn. Grab a pen and a journal and start digging in to this incredible love story. You’ll be amazed at how God works in and through it.
Live in His love!