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…
This strange and somewhat romantic story of Rahab and the spies forms an interesting episode in the Scripture narrative. The special interest lies in the nature of the incidents and the character of the chief actor. Nothing is told us as to any definite result from the visit of the spies affecting the after siege and capture of the city, except so far as this, that they learnt from Rahab the alarm of the inhabitants at the approach of the Israelitish host. It shows, however, that, confident as Joshua may have been that the Lord was fighting on his side, he did not abstain from taking all proper precautions to ensure safety and success. God commonly works by the use of means and instruments, and they who have most living faith in His protecting and delivering power will be most careful to be coworkers with Him in all prudent forethought and diligence. We may, perhaps, best develop the moral teaching of this narrative by keeping the conduct of Rahab most prominently in mind. Her honourable distinction is that, as far as we know, she alone in all that dark, guilty land of Canaan was disposed to recognise the divinity that guided the onward march of the Israelites, and to welcome them to their destined inheritance. Certain moral difficulties have been felt by many in reference to the honour given to her name in Scripture. Her character and mode of life has been felt to be a difficulty; attempts have been made to show that "harlot" may simply mean "innkeeper." But this interpretation will not hold good. Much of the point and worth of the narrative depends on our regarding her as one of a class on whom Christ bestowed His pity; "a woman that was a sinner." Her treachery to her own people is condemned; but this, despicable as under ordinary circumstances it may be, is to be justified on the ground of loyalty to the God of Israel. It is a Christian principle that the claims of God are supreme over all other claims, even those that spring out of the ties of nature and of nationality. Her falsehood is a difficulty. No need to attempt to justify this. A low moral standard and the pressure of circumstances may palliate it, but cannot excuse. A lie must always be offensive to a God of truth. No skilful casuistry can make this aspect of her conduct right. But she is commended in Scripture, not for her treachery or falsehood, but for her faith (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25) - for the fact that, hearing of the wonders wrought by Jehovah, she believed Him to be the only true and living God, and so was moved to escape from the corruption of her own doomed city and cast in her lot with His people. The following lessons seem to be suggested:
I. THE SIGNALS OF GOD'S GRACE MAY BE FOUND UNDER VERY UNLIKELY CONDITIONS. Here is a gleam of light in the midst of gross heathen darkness; a susceptibility to Divine impressions where it might least have been expected. The report of Israel's successes could scarcely of itself have produced it. In her that report awakened faith and the desire for a purer life, but in her neighbours it only roused the recklessness of despair. It moved her to seek deliverance: it made them only the riper for their doom. Why this difference? We trace here the secret working of that Spirit from the Lord who prepares the souls of men for higher revelations of truth. God directed the spies to her house because He had first put it into her heart to receive them kindly. Thus within the vilest and the most degraded there may be latent possibilities of good that only need the outward incentive to call them forth. God is often nearer to men, and they are nearer to "the kingdom," than we suppose. He who came "to seek and to save that which was lost" made Himself the "friend of publicans and sinners," not only because they most needed Him, but because He saw that they were most ready to welcome Him. His word awakened an echo in their hearts, when proud Pharisaic hearts were hopelessly closed against it. It discovered and quickened germs of better life in the midst of corruption and death. It kindled hope in the region of despair. To the self-satisfied rulers of the people He said, "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."
II. REPENTANCE MAY TRANSFORM A LIFE OF SIN AND SHAME INTO ONE OF HONOUR AND RENOWN. Rahab's sin was forgiven as soon as her heart turned to the Lord. There is a place for her in the commonwealth of Israel. Her faith saved not only herself, but her whole household (vers. 12, 18). She became the wife of Salmon, mother of Boaz, and thus ancestress of David and of Christ (Matthew 1:5, 6). A suggestive hint of the way in which the grace of God can "graft the wild olive tree m among the natural branches," and make it abundantly fruitful to His praise. It not only wipes out the reproach of the past, but developes from it a rich and glorious future. Faculties that have been wasted in the service of sin become effective instruments of righteousness. The history of the Church is full of examples. As in the case of Saul of Tarsus, so in less conspicuous instances, God has often entered the ranks of the enemy and brought forth from them living trophies of His power, who have henceforth served nobly the cause that once they destroyed.
III. THE REWARD OF GENEROUS TRUSTFULNESS. It is remarkable that this Canaanite woman should have had such confidence in the sanctity of a promise and oath (ver. 12). It is significant of eternal principles enshrined in the heart of man, which the most degrading conditions cannot wholly obliterate. Note here, not only a Divine Providence, but a law of human nature. There is trust on both sides. The woman meets the spies with generous kindness, takes their life under her protection, and they in return keep sacred watch and guard over hers. It is a valuable lesson for all time. "With what measure ye meet," etc.; "Blessed are the merciful," etc. The trustful soul is trusted. Love begets love. "For a good man some would even dare to die." Whatever noble quality you cherish and practically exemplify has power to awaken something similar to it in others. It propagates and multiplies itself, and that is its reward.
IV. IN THE DELIVERANCE OF THIS CANAANITE FAMILY FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF THE DOOMED CITY WE SEE A TYPE OF GOSPEL SALVATION. The Fathers, as usual, have carried the principle to a fanciful extreme in their use of these incidents. But the general features of the analogy are too plain to be overlooked. The rescue of Rahab and her kindred is certainly dimly prophetic of the gathering of a redeemed Church out of the Gentile world; and in the "scarlet cord," the sign of the covenant and the means of deliverance, we can scarcely help seeing a hint both of the blood of the passover and the "blood of the cross." How blessed the security of those who are under the protection of that sacred sign, that "true token!" In the "day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," with what joy will they lift up their heads, knowing that their "redemption draweth nigh." - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Joshua the son of Nun secretly sent two men out of Shittim as spies, saying, "Go, view the land, including Jericho." They went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and slept there.