International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 19, 2011
Purpose: To nurture a courageous faith in the God who never forsakes God's people
Scripture Text: Joshua 2:3-9, 15-16, 22-24
Joshua 2 (NRSV)
I am showing the entire chapter so you can get a better picture of our chosen text. Today's text appears in BOLD type
(1)Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. (2)The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” (3)Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” (4)But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from.(5)And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” (6)She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.(7)So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
(8)Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof (9)and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. (10)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 two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. (11)As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. (12)Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith (13)that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (14)The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the LORD gives us the land.”
(15)Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. (16)She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.” (17)The men said to her, “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear to you (18)if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family. (19)If any of you go out of the doors of your house into the street, they shall be responsible for their own death, and we shall be innocent; but if a hand is laid upon any who are with you in the house, we shall bear the responsibility for their death. (20)But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be released from this oath that you made us swear to you.” (21)She said, “According to your words, so be it.” She sent them away and they departed. Then she tied the crimson cord in the window.
(22)They departed and went into the hill country and stayed there three days, until the pursuers returned. The pursuers had searched all along the way and found nothing. (23)Then the two men came down again from the hill country. They crossed over, came to Joshua son of Nun, and told him all that had happened to them. (24)They said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
What a difference a generation can make, forty years prior the Israelites were camped at the same location. That generation made a terrible mistake. (Numbers 25:(1 )While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. (2)These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. (3)Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel.)
Joshua had learned a valuable lesson from that experience as well as the one at Kadesh-Barnea. (Num. 13-14) This time the spies were sent out secretly, to spy out the land.
As out text begins the king (ruler) of Jericho has heard rumors of spies within the fortified city. Now Rahab owned a house that sat on top of both an inner wall and an outer wall; while her occupation would not be accepted in today's society, in Jericho, Baal's priestesses were all prostitutes. She was a successful business woman who was concerned for her family’s safety and was well aware of the success that the Israelites had on the other side of the Jordan. The camp of the Israelites was approximately12 miles from Jericho.
I know it is uncomfortable for some to accept what seems like savagery and brutality on the part of God's chosen people, but we should always take into account that all of the Canaanite people had heard the stories of God's people and how they escaped Egypt and how they had just recently destroyed two strong armies on the other side of the Jordan. Everyone in Canaan had a choice to believe and accept the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If they had done that we have every reason to expect God to spare them and bring them into His family, just as He did Rahab.
Rahab's path to salvation is not unlike ours, she believed and trusted. By her faith and by her deeds she was spared and given a special place in God's family. Hebrews 11:31 tells us “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.” And James 2:25 states“Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road?”
Rahab was not just a casual believer; she put her life on the line for a God she had only heard about. This paints a picture of the importance of witnessing to an unbelieving world, without the testimony of others Rahab would not have been aware of this God that rules both the heavens and the earth.
Rahab's faith and belief was also contagious, she assured the spies, and later they assured Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.” What God had promised He was about to deliver and all that God required was “trust and obey.”
God honored Rahab's faith and actions, and He also honored the covenant made by the spies to Rahab. That reminds me of the words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 16.19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Just as forty years prior the Jews enslaved in Egypt were spared by the sprinkling of blood on the doorpost, now Rahab was spared by tying a scarlet cord and hanging it out the window; you know that all of those who would have chosen to display the courage of Rahab would have also been spared. They had all heard the same tales (witness) as Rahab, but choose not to believe. Nothing has changed over the past 3500 years, salvation is available to all who believe and trust God. God's grace is available to all.