Joshua... sent out... two men to spy.I. THE POSITION IN WHICH JOSHUA AND THE ISRAELITES WERE PLACED. It was a difficult task that had been performed by Moses; did not a harder remain? It was something to lead such a host through the wilderness. Surely more is required now the armour is to be put on, active service entered, and they brought face to face with their foes. But was not Joshua specially called to the onerous duty? Certainly he was! We have been called to a work individually, collectively. God has promised success in it; the work is that of dispossessing before possessing. We are to enjoy the companionship of God in it. Still, like Joshua, we have to depend on that word of promise. The comparison is in our favour. We have the example of all the generations from Joshua till the present. These have been strengthened by the life of Christ. In Him we have a volume of testimony confirmatory of our highest hopes.
II. THAT ALL THESE PROMISES DO NOT PRECLUDE THE USE OF PROPER MEANS. What are the feelings of a child when receiving a promise from an earthly parent? Does not the promise heighten affection, induce carefulness, and prompt to obedience? Who ever knew a child made neglectful by a well-timed promise? Is not man the same in all his relations — is he not still a man, though dealing with God? What are the effects of His promises — do they not in every way stimulate to increased affection and zeal? To expect without working is to tempt God — to work without expecting is to dishonour Him. In all that has been and is now doing in the world for God, we find the principle of co-operation prevailing. God works out His purposes by human instrumentalities — men, organised into Churches, in their collective or individual capacity, work, and God crowns with success. Man without God can do nothing. God without man does nothing, and although we have the assurance that through our instrumentality the fortresses of sin shall be vanquished, and the flag of our Master float upon the ramparts, we are bound care fully to consider our steps, and to use all our God-given powers to accomplish the object. We have our Jericho in the world. Adult world — juvenile world — spy the land, call into action all your powers; God will surely give you the land to possess.
III. THE WILLINGNESS ON THE PART OF THE MEN TO UNDERTAKE THE DIFFICULT WORK. They respond at once to the call of their leader, and trusting in God are honoured with success. With this spirit thoroughly in our Churches, what a large amount of work we should do. We seem to think the time for special workings and special deliverances has past. Nay, this is the time; that army on the east of Jordan is but a picture of ourselves. The work is before us. There runs a river between us and our work; yes, and we thank God for it. If we could, we would not on any account remove it. It is the right order of things. He that would do any work must cross it, and we may take it for granted the width, depth, and swiftness of the stream will be proportioned to the value of the work. Earnest Workers will cross it, manfully trusting in God, and these are the only successful workers.
(J. H. Snell.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Rahab.Isaiah 23:16), and at this very time in pursuit of her evil trade. Others, following Josephus, have adopted so charitable an estimate of her profession as to suppose her to have been simply a tavern-keeper. May we not, perhaps, take a middle line, and venture to believe that one who had become a believer in the God of Israel had also, ere this, repented of and forsaken the infamous life which her title imports. She appears from the narrative to be supporting herself by her own industry, in the preparation and dyeing of flax. One thing is certain, and that is that pure and saving faith cannot exist with foul and deadly sins. In reference to Rahab's faith, observe —
I. THE WONDER OF ITS EXISTENCE. Here dwells an unfortunate woman. She has had no spiritual advantages. — no Sabbaths, no Scriptures, no teachers — and yet in the base purlieus of a Jericho, in the heart of that poor harlot, like a fair pearl that lies within a rough shell among the weeds and rocks at the sea bottom, there is found precious faith, faith that finds utterance in a good confession (ver. 11). Here is encouragement for those who are called, in the providence of God, to minister where worldliness and frivolity, and pride and bitter opposition to the truth prevail, Here, too, is encouragement for those who minister in uncouth regions, where sin and ignorance seem to shut out hope of blessing. Let missionaries and visitors in alleys and courts, in attics and cellars, which seem like nests of blasphemy and impurity, take heart. The unholy atmosphere of gin palaces, and even of houses like that in which Joshua's spies sought refuge, cannot exclude the Holy Ghost, or nullify the Gospel message.
II. ITS PRACTICAL OPERATION. A poetic faith may lift its possessor to the heavens in ecstacies. A talking faith may delight the hearers with glowing descriptions of supposed experiences and imaginary prospects. But the faith that saves is known by its works. Such a faith was Rahab's. Her faith wrought with her works, and by works was her faith made perfect.
III. ITS SAVING TENDENCY. The characteristic of true faith is ever to tend towards salvation. Faith accepts the warnings of the Word of God as true, and leads men to flee from the wrath to come. Now we shall find this to be a marked characteristic in the faith of Rahab. It inclines her to seek salvation both for herself and for her kindred.
IV. ITS RICH REWARD. Vain are man's promises of help except God approve the pledge. The oath of the spies to deliver Rahab and her house had availed her nothing had not God Himself, by a notable miracle, confirmed their word. Joshua held himself bound by the covenant of his representatives; but what was more, the Lord accepted Rahab's faith and spared her house, or, when the walls of Jericho fell down, her house had fallen too, for it abutted on the wall. But it fell not, but stood unscathed amid the overthrow, a monument of Divine faithfulness and mercy. Nor will that faithfulness and mercy fail to save any, even the most unworthy, who has entered into the covenant of grace. "Our life for yours!" may every ambassador of the gospel say. If the conditions of salvation be observed, thy house and thy hope shall stand, though a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand.
(G. W. Butler, M. A.)
I. Consider the HINDRANCES of her faith.
1. There were hindrances which arose from herself. She was the harlot Rahab. Her character was exceptionally evil. She belonged to a class than whom there are none more hardened, inaccessible, and hopeless. Moreover, she had found her calling profitable, and therefore, naturally speaking, would be the more firmly wedded to her evil ways. Moreover, Israel is coming to Jericho for the purpose of executing the Divine vengeance on the very evils of which she is guilty. The cry of the Canaanites has ascended to heaven; in long-suffering patience God has waited till now, but at last He has sent forth His hosts to consume them utterly. How much, then, was there, in herself, to keep Rahab from trust in Jehovah!
2. There were also hindrances to Rahab's faith arising from her natural friends. The example of all her neighbours would encourage her in a path of unbelief. Her faith would make her an oddity in Jericho.
3. There were hindrances to her faith arising from her natural enemies. Israel, the people of Jehovah, were arrayed against her and her people, and were even now marching onward to their destruction. The mission of Israel is not one of mercy, but of judgment. Their feet are not beautiful upon the mountains, bringing good tidings of peace. They bring no gospel to the Canaanites, but war, disaster, and death are in their invincible path. How black was the outlook for Rahab.
II. Consider THE OPPORTUNITY of her faith. Faith always finds, or rather God always gives to faith, an opportunity for its manifestation. As in the day of Sodom's doom, the Lord delayed till righteous Lot had escaped to Zoar, saying, "I cannot do anything till thou be come thither," so now, if there is a single soul in Jericho groping after Him in the darkness of vice and heathenism, He will delay the march of His destroying hosts, to give that soul the opportunity which it requires and for which it longs. He can do nothing in judgment till that one soul in the doomed city is brought into a place of safety. Thus this pause in the Divine and just act of judgment, this parenthesis of grace, this long-suffering of God, is salvation.
III. Consider THE OPERATION of her faith. Rahab showed her faith by her works. We cannot, and do not, defend the deliberate falsehood by which she misled her fellow citizens in search of the spies; but we must remember that her whole training from childhood had been in lies, and that this was a sudden emergency. She was no well-instructed saint, walking under the light of God's countenance, but a great sinner groping after Him. There is sufficient in her conduct to manifest a heart truly sincere and anxiously solicitous for the welfare of God's people, willing to risk her own life to save theirs.
IV. Turn now to THE CONFESSION of her faith. He that believes with the heart confesses with the mouth. All the believing add to their faith virtue, boldness in confessing the truth; all are witnesses. To the spies Rahab said, "I know that the Lord hath given you the land," &c. She does not say, "I think," "I suppose," "I fear," but "I know." She believes as firmly in the promises of God as any in Israel. And as she believes in the promises of God, so she believes in the God of the promises. How clear and unmistakable is her confession of the name of Jehovah; how high, and exalted, and spiritual; how wonderful, in the mouth of one trained from infancy to worship stocks and stones, trained to think that the power of the different deities was local and circumscribed: "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath"!
V. Next let us ponder THE TRIAL of her faith. Faith is always tested, that it may be manifested as Divine. Had Rahab sought to add anything to the instructions of the spies, had she consulted her own ideas as to the best means of ensuring her safety, she would have manifested her folly, and would have miserably failed. So trust in any other means than those which God has provided, trust in anything but the blood of the Lamb, is a manifestation of folly and a sure cause of failure.
VI. Consider also THE SOLICITUDE of her faith. She was anxious not only about her own safety, but about that of those who were dear to her. She was not selfishly absorbed in looking after her own welfare, content if she herself escaped; but, with true affection, arranged for the rescue of her relatives. The work of Rahab, in bringing in others, is similar to that of every saved soul. After we ourselves are saved we are not to rest content; we are not to sit down in idleness and ease because all is well with us for ever. We are to bear on our hearts those who are still exposed to the Divine judgment; we are to be up and doing, instant in season and out of season, if by any means we may save some.
VII. Consider THE REWARD of her faith. When the dread day of Jericho's judgment came, what a joy must it have been to Rahab to know that all dear to her were safe. But who can tell the rapture of those who have saved a soul from eternal death, and covered a multitude of sins? Surely such a glorious reward, such a monument of everlasting renown, is worth labouring for, worth living for, worth dying for. Rut turning again to the ease before us, why did the multitudes in Jericho thus perish without pity? Was it because the cup of their iniquity was full? Yes, truly, for they had fearfully corrupted their ways. But, while many sins characterised the Canaanites, the Holy Ghost selects one sin as emphatically that which caused their destruction. Which sin? Unbelief. That which distinguished Rahab from the rest was not superior morality, higher intelligence, a more exemplary life, a better natural disposition, but faith in God. She believed; they believed not. Because she believed, she was saved; because they believed not, they perished. Even so, many sins may characterise you, and each one is like a millstone round your neck, fitted to drag you down to endless destruction, but your great, culminating, condemning sin is unbelief (Mark 16:16). But Rahab was not only rescued from the judgment of Jericho, she was also received into the number of God's people. Even so the sinner who believes in Jesus is not only saved from wrath to come, but is received into the Church, the house of the living God, there to be instructed more fully in the ways of God; there to learn all the lessons that the grace of God can teach; to deny ungodliness and worldly lust; to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
(A. B. Mackay.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Sunday School Times.They are mixed characters and mixed actions in the moral sense; and just as we may take a conglomerate mineral and single out one ingredient for remark, so we may fix our minds upon one aspect of a complex action, disregarding all other aspects for the time, with admiration or condemnation. It is what we do continually. We speak highly of an author's genius — without approval of his principles; we praise the skill of some diplomatist — whose policy we strongly condemn; we do not grudge our admiration to the powers of Napoleon — though we may believe him to have been a monster of iniquity. In a famous essay John Foster illustrates decision of character by a number of striking instances. He refers to the untameable soul of Milton as portrayed in "Paradise Lost"; to the sublime height to which Pompey was raised by his ambitious spirit; to the constancy of purpose with which a Spaniard pursued and at last accomplished his revenge; to the indefatigable industry with which a ruined spendthrift regained his fortune and died a miser. But none is so foolish as to accuse the essayist of commending obstinacy, ambition, revenge, or miserliness. Now, the same principle must be applied to an interpretation of Scripture. The unjust steward, e.g., was a bad man: he was selfish, unprincipled, a downright rogue. But withal he was prudent; he forecast the future; he directed his energies towards providing for it; and he succeeded. In his prudence, then, is he set forth as an example for us.
(Sunday School Times.)
Our hearts did melt
The Lord your God, He is God. —
I. THE LORD YOUR GOD. I am aware that "our Lord" and "our Saviour," and so on, are phrases that are frequently employed thoughtlessly, ignorantly, and profanely; but this does not render their value less. Whatever faith is in exercise, so that the believer can really claim his affinity, his relationship, it is most blessed so to do. Nay, more; there is no solid happiness and permanent peace for any child of Adam until that child of Adam can claim this relationship: "the Lord our God." But oh! "wonder, ye heavens, and be astonished, O earth," at this amazing condescension: that the great Eternal — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — should give to His elect family each of the Persons, and all the perfections and attributes of self-existent Deity, as the Church's portion and inheritance.
II. HE IS GOD IN HEAVEN. AS for myself, the fact that Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, is "my God," makes me look up to heaven and think of heaven with the utmost confidence; aye, without a scruple; aye, upon scriptural assurance of calling it my home. Now, mark two or three things arising out of this fact that "He is God in heaven above." All the records of heaven written and kept by Him; all the enjoyments of heaven bestowed, communicated, imparted, in His presence; all the inhabitants of heaven His own choice, His own redemption, His own workmanship. He is absolute Sovereign "in heaven" of the fixed decrees of heaven; absolute Sovereign "in heaven" of all the glories of heaven; and absolute Sovereign "in heaven" of all the inhabitants of heaven. Oh! what security is here! "The Lord your God is God in heaven above."
III. HE IS GOD IN EARTH BENEATH. Here we have a solution of the mystery of His providence. He is God in earth, as well as in heaven; tell Him all about it. Go with thy sorrows, thy cares, thy domestic woes, thy bodily afflictions, thy circumstantial trials, thy matters of business, thy little things as well as thy great things; for "He is God in earth." "The Lord your God is God in earth beneath." Oh! I had saved myself a thousand sorrows if I had always lived upon this principle. I had saved myself a thousand woes, if I had lived as if there was "a God on earth."
Bind this line ofPsalm 48:1-3; Psalm 50:2). On the other hand, Jericho is the city of the curse (Joshua 6:17). These two cities, then, are evidently representative cities. Jerusalem, the city of blessing, represents the Church of God, destined to eternal life. Jericho, the city of the curse, represents the world, alienated from God, and destined to destruction. And then what will Rahab represent but those who are gathered out of the one into the other, not on account of anything good in themselves, any natural excellencies or attainments, but by the grace of God, and according to His good pleasure. And specially does she, herself a Gentile, seem to represent those of the Gentiles who are brought to God. Rahab's faith showed itself in this, that she recognised God. She looked above second causes. It was not Israel's power and prowess, but God's hand, which she saw (vers. 9-11). All this throws much light on the nature of true faith. It shows us, first, that living faith carries us straight to God. Our hearts are very prone to get entangled in second causes — to look at the hand of man, and forget the hand of God. The language of faith is, "It is the Lord." It elevates the heart above second causes, and enables it to rest, not, it may be, without many struggles, on the will an arm of God. Again, we see in this history that faith is the principle of a new life. Rahab's life had been an unhallowed one, and she had sunk lower than many others in Jericho. But now through Divine grace she rises higher than all (Hebrews 11:51). And faith is always the same; the same in its object, which is God; the same in its principle, which is His grace; the same in its result, which is holiness of life. Rahab believed in the approaching doom of Jericho; she felt that its days were numbered. The true Christian now believes that a more awful and universal judgment is coming upon the world, and he flees from the wrath to come — flees to the only Refuge from the storm. But Rahab went further. She wished to have some assurance that her life, and the life of her family, would be spared. It is not wonderful that she should have desired this token; and we may well imagine what comfort she must have felt when the scarlet line was floating in the air at her window. Very solemn thoughts must often have weighed upon her heart — thoughts of the awful destruction which awaited her fellow-townsmen; but she felt no anxiety about herself and family. The scarlet line silenced every fear. And if it was natural in Rahab to desire a token of her safety, is it not even more natural in the true Christian to desire it? And one there is which is granted sooner or later to those who walk with God. It is not always given at once; often it grows up by degrees. But yet, sooner or later, it is given. The blood of Jesus secures pardon, and also produces assurance. But notice that there is a wide difference between the two. Forgiveness is one thing; the knowledge of forgiveness is another. Forgiveness of sin we must have, to be Christians. Assurance is a privilege which Christians should seek, and seek until they find, and then watch, that they may retain it. If, then, you would have the scarlet line floating at the window of your hearts, you must trust simply in Christ. This of itself is enough to bring, and does often bring, assurance; but if not, endeavour to walk with God. Be diligent in doing His will and work, and perhaps God will meet you then, and will crown some act of faith and self-denial and devoted service with a true token, a scarlet line of His assurance-love. Having proceeded thus far with the history of Rahab, we must say a few words about its conclusion. What a difference that little piece of scarlet line made! It was not a mere token arranged between man and man; it was sanctioned in heaven. God's eye as well as man's was fixed upon the scarlet line, and Rahab was protected. And if that scarlet line made so great a difference in her case, and secured her protection, oh, how much more shall the blood of Christ secure that of the true Christian I Is it sprinkled upon your heart? Does God's eye see it there? Then all your sins, however many, are forgiven; all your enemies, however strong, will be overcome. But there is still one other point to be noticed in Rahab's history. You will find it stated in Joshua 6:55, where it says, "She dwelleth in Israel unto this day." So that from that time forth, though she had been a sinner of the Gentiles, she was put among God's children, reckoned as one of His own Israel; and even, we learn from Matthew 1:5, so honoured of God as to be one of the line from whom Jesus was descended. And do we not learn from this how completely the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin? how real a thing is the forgiveness of sins? how great and entire is the change which the grace of God makes in the heart?
I. THE SOVEREIGN MERCY OF GOD WAS MAGNIFIED IN THE PREVIOUS CHARACTER AND POSITION OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO WHOM IT WAS VOUCHSAFED.
II. THE ONENESS, THE PRIMEVAL, CONSTANT, AND CONTINUED IDENTITY OF THE WAY OF SALVATION, from the blood that flowed upon Abel's altar, and I doubt not upon Adam's also, to "the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel." By that line — as with Rahab, so with the Church — the messengers that brought it to her and taught it to her had already escaped; it had borne their weight, proved its efficacy; and the Church knows it to be strong enough still. She knows it to be the cable-line which rivets her to the anchor of hope, "sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the veil." Ah! who that has ever tried it, who that has ever "fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him," hath not found the promise fulfilled in his happy experience —"I will draw them with the cords of love, with the bands of a man"! Blessed Jesus! Thou art this "scarlet line," dyed with the blood of propitiating mercy.
III. ANOTHER EXEMPLARY FEATURE IN THE ACT OF RAHAB'S FAITH IS ITS GREAT SIMPLICITY. What could be simpler than tying a scarlet line in a window? Had the gospel assumed a more scientific and imposing form — had its principles been more elaborate and philosophical had it required years of study to comprehend it, and thereby attached some literary reputation to the ultimate adept in it — had it been like the rabinnical lore of the Hebrews, or the mythological mysteries of the Greeks, beyond the reach of the vulgar, and a consequent badge of distinction to the initiated — had its prophet required us to do some great thing — were its peculiar privileges obtainable only by the pomp of a ritual, the costliness of sacrifice, or the toil of pilgrimage — then the evangelical Sion had never been destitute of its thousands of devotees and ten thousands of disciples; but when it appears in the guise of a system of which a child can appreciate the beauty, and which only requires the spirit of a child to learn and entertain it — when "the wayfaring man," as he runs upon his business. may read it — when its elastic principles expand their comprehensive arms to the embrace of all men, and like the outstretched arms of its crucified Author upon the Cross seem to offer mercy on the right hand and on the left — when its whole system is summed up in a single sentence, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" — then the world turns its back upon the Church, is ashamed of the fellowship of children and vulgar and illiterate people, the simplicity of the truth is mistaken for vulgarity, and the house of God is eschewed and avoided, because, instead of the sumptuous drapery and tinselled garniture of the noble, the poetical, the dramatic, the speculative, and the vain, its only ornament and ensign is the Cross of Christ — its sole phylactery is "the scarlet line in the window."
IV. RAHAB'S ACT OF FAITH EXTENDED A BLESSING, AS EVERY ACT OF FAITH DOES, TO THE WHOLE FAMILY. She gathered her father and mother and brethren and all her kindred into her house; and the emblem in the window spared them all. Yet I suppose it will scarcely be contended that it was the bit of thread that saved them, rather than the covenant of which that thread was the sign. But just as idle is the theory that the sacrament is salvation, instead of the sign of the Saviour; as inaccurate is the impression that faith itself saves, and not His blood and righteousness which faith appropriates. Why, there is no more saving merit in faith than there is in works — not a jot. I am not saved because I believe, but I am saved by Him in whom I believe. There is all the world's difference between those propositions.
(J. B. Owen, M. A.).