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.
Spies are a part of the unhappy machinery of war. They are counted as necessary as the general, or as the boy who blows the bugle. It is with an army and in a war that Joshua is now to display Jehovah, and he must employ all the arts of the soldier. It would have gone hard with the two spies if they had not been so strangely housed. Rahab took her own life in her hands not to endanger theirs, She was artful, she was brave, she was noble, she was mean; she received them at her door in peace, she let them out at her window by stealth; she sent her own townsmen an idle chase by the river, and she sent the strangers in safety to the hills, just because she knew that the men were Israel's spies.
I. Rahab's words (Joshua 2:9-11) let us know the feelings with which the Canaanites regarded Israel in the wilderness. The fame and the fear of Israel's name had preceded the people like the wind travelling before a thunderstorm. It was a thing of mystery—a nation that fed from the night and drank from the stones; it was a phantom host that fought no one knew how. Still Jericho was determined to resist. It might be in vain, but its king would try his sword against this spiritual thing that called itself the people of Jehovah. There was a different spirit in one breast in Jericho, and it was the breast of a woman. As sailors have found a mere timber of a ship hopelessly but faithfully pointing to the northern star, so from amidst the fragments of what was once a woman's life, as they drifted in the dusk along the streets of Jericho, Rahab's heart was trembling away towards the star that should come out of Jacob and the sceptre that would rise out of Israel. There is a lesson for us here. Surely there is a Diviner duty for us than, like the wind, to chase the withered leaves of a blighted life along our streets, if only far enough from our church doors. Surely there is manlier work for men than to trample on the faded flowers of the forest.
II. Thus from an unlikely quarter we are taught of the power of faith. In the affray of war Rahab sat up there with her hope, trimmed to burning like a lamp, as unafraid as the man in the tower when the storm is round the lighthouse.
III. We have also explained to us the nature of faith. Rahab did not know what the word "faith" meant, but the thing itself was in her heart, and it found expression, not in words, but in works.
Thus it befell the spies at Jericho; and after three days in the mountains, they took their report to Joshua. He heard what they had to say, and in the night the tribes of Israel struck their tents, and in the dawn of the morning the tall grey cloud above the ark of Jehovah was feeling its way down to the fords of the Jordan.
Armstrong Black, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 153.
References: Joshua 1:10-15.—Parker, vol. v., p. 61. Joshua 1:16, Joshua 1:18.—Ibid., p. 71. Joshua 2:11.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 385; Parker, vol. v., p. 273. Joshua 2:21.—J. M. Ashley, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 169; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 109; W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 54; Parker, vol. v., p. 80.
And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men 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.
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 shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew 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.
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.
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.