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Joshua 2: Reasons to Trust and Fear the Lord Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 February 2008

If I am brutally honest, many, if not most, of my struggles in the Christian life come back to my lack of trust in the Lord.  The Bible teaches me that I should.  My theology teaches me that I should.  Even my own experience reveals to me that I should.  Yet, the struggle to trust and fear the Lord remains.  If things are going bad in my life, then the questions come.  If things get hard, then I start to wonder and doubt.  Or even if things are going good, I often find myself just waiting for the struggles ahead.  I need to learn how to trust and fear the Lord more.  This is one of the reasons why we come back to the text week in and week out.  The Bible is the great weapon that we have against doubt.  As we said above, the Bible teaches us to trust and fear the Lord.  In fact, the Bible even reveals why we should trust the Lord.  Over and over again the Bible calls us and equips us to turn from doubt and to trust our great God.

In Joshua 2, we are given some reasons to trust and fear the Lord.  As we consider the familiar story of Rahab the prostitute and her protection of the spies who were sent to Jericho by Joshua, I want us to see in the text three main reasons why we should trust and fear the Lord. 

First, God protects those who trust and fear Him (v. 1-7). 

We are told in the first three verses of the men being sent out and the trouble they encounter with the king of Jericho.  Look at those verses with me.  The king gets word that these Israelite spies have come to his city.  He quickly takes action and sends men to capture the spies.  Here we see the major conflict in the whole chapter.  Everybody, including us as the reader, knows that the spies are in Rahabís house.  It seems that they will surely be captured and their mission will fail.  The end of verse 3 is like the commercial break that leaves you hanging.  What will happen to these spies?  There is seemingly no way out for them.  Yet, the Lord protects them.  Look at verses 4-7.  The conflict is resolved by an unlikely source, namely Rahab the prostitute. 

This does not surprise us because we are familiar with the story, but it should.  The spies probably went there because foreigners were welcome and they could find out information about the city (the text leads us away from the conclusion that they went there for sexual reasons).  Yet, a prostitute is still an unlikely heroine of the story.  But this is precisely who the Lord uses to protect the spies.  We know it is the Lord who is protecting the spies because of Rahabís confession in verses 9-11, which we will look at in a moment.  We will also see in a couple of weeks the Lordís faithfulness in protecting Rahab and her family.  Thus, we should trust and fear the Lord because He protects those who do.

Yet, before we leave these first seven verses, something needs to be said about Rahabís lie.  Did Rahab sin when she lied to protect the spies?  This is not an easy question and different answers have been offered.  Let me briefly outline my answer.  The Bible clearly teaches that lying is a sin (Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 19:5, 24:28, 1 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:2, 1 John 2:21, Revelation 21:8).  Thus, we are hard-pressed to conclude that Rahabís lie is anything other than sin (although many will try to do so).  Yet, the Bible praises Rahab for hiding the spies (James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31).  It seems that the best way to resolve this tension is to recognize that the Bible praises Rahabís faith (Hebrews 11:31) that led to action (James 2:25), while not necessarily condoning the act of lying.  We can only speculate what would have happened if Rahab had not lied, but it is plausible that this would not have automatically led to the capture of the spies.  Granted, other arguments could be made for and against this interpretation, but it seems the best way to me to deal with the apparent tension. 1

Second, God goes before those who trust and fear Him (v. 15-24). 

Why is it that this Canaanite prostitute would help these spies?  We would expect her to willingly give them up to the kingís men.  Yet, she risks her own life to protect them.  Why?  Look at verses 8-14.  Rahab and the citizens of Jericho had heard about Israelís God.  She mentions two particular instances that had caused her and others to fear the Lord.  First, she mentions the Exodus.  We read earlier from the song of Moses after the Exodus (see Exodus 15:1-18) where it is recorded: The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.  Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away (verses 14-15).  Moses rejoices in the fact that the peoples will fear Israel and her God because of what He did to deliver them from Pharaoh and his army.  This is exactly what Rahab says has happened.  The people heard what God did and they were seized with fear. 

Second, she mentions the defeat of the two kings of the Amorites: Sihon and Og.  We read of this in Deuteronomy 21:21-35.  These two acts of the Lord went before Israel and caused the people to fear them and their God.  They led Rahab to conclude: for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.  Thus, Rahab helps the spies because she fears the Lord.  The Lordís reputation has proceeded Israel in the land.  He has gone before them and filled their enemies with fear.

However, we do see in our text that Rahabís response is different from the rest of Jericho.  Sure, they may have feared the Lord, but they were not willing to say of Him what she did.  In this sense, Rahab ceased to be an enemy of Israelís because she confessed her trust in and fear of the Lord.  She asks the spies to spare her and her family when they take the city.  Amazingly, she is desperate for their help even though their lives are in her hands.  Godís providence in this meeting of Rahab and the spies is unmistakable.  As we will consider in a moment, the role she plays in Godís plan of sending Christ and redeeming a people just adds to the wonder of this story.  We see with her and the spies that God goes before those who trust and fear Him.

Third, God delivers those who trust and fear Him (v. 15-24).

Because of Rahabís fear of the Lord and her help of the spies, she is promised deliverance from the invading Israelites.  Look at verses 15-21.  After Rahab gives them directions for avoiding the men of Jericho, they give her instructions for avoiding the coming invasion.  Their instructions are firm and they make it clear that she must follow them if she wants to avoid being killed.  It reminds us of Godís warning to Israel and His instructions for the Passover.  Rahab knows that judgment is coming for Jericho.  She knows that the city will be given to Israel.  The spies tell her that she can escape this judgment if she will keep her promise to them and follow their instructions.  In a couple of weeks, we will see that she does just that.  She and her family are spared.  They are delivered from Godís judgment.

The episode ends with the spies making it safely back to Joshua.  Look at verses 22-24.  The spies were sent out in verse 1 and after facing serious conflict, we see that they are delivered in these verses.  Through Rahab, the Lord took care of them and brought them safely back to the people of Israel.  They report to Joshua what they had learned while in Jericho and the plan to take the city moves forward.  Thus, with both Rahab and the spies, we see that the Lord will deliver those who trust and fear Him.

You might be wondering to yourself at this point: ĎSure God helped the spies and Rahab, but what does that have to do with us?  How does God protect, go before, and deliver us?í  Although this question could be answered a number of ways, I want to answer by speaking of our justification, sanctification, and glorification through Christ.  We, like Rahab, were enemies and foreigners.  We were outsiders when it came to Godís people.  Yet, the Lord sent Jesus to justify us.  Christ has gone before us in that He has paid for our sins on the cross.  The cross is the Exodus of the New Testament.  For at Calvary, Jesus defeated all our enemies and secured our justification.  So, when we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous and the enemy can do nothing but shrink back. 

Look at Romans 8:33-34.  Because God has gone before us in Christ, there is no charge that can be brought against us.   Because our Judge is also our Redeemer, we have nothing to fear from sin, Satan, and death.  Likewise, God has promised to protect us and keep us and persevere us (see Jude 24-25).  A future judgment is promised, but our protection is secure in Christ.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:9.  We are not destined for wrath.  We are destined to obtain salvation through Christ, to be sanctified into His image.  Just like Rahab, we have the promise of protection in Christ.  Finally, since we know that Christ had died to redeem us and God has promised to complete the good work that He has started, we have great hope in future grace.  We have great hope that we will be delivered from death itself.  Look at 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.  Paul says that we are promised glorification when this life is over.  On that day, we will be delivered indeed.  Thus, through Christ and our belief in His work at the cross, we see that God has gone before us, protects us, and has promised to deliver us.  All of this for those who trust and fear Him.

We began this morning by asking the question: why should we trust and fear the Lord.  I think from this chapter in Joshua we have seen some convincing reasons to do that.  Yet, as we close, I want us to step back a minute and put this story in perspective.  How does the story of Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute who feared the Lord, protected the spies, and was delivered from the invasion, play out?  You know the story of Ruth, the Moabite who follows her mother-in-law back to Israel and marries Boaz.  But did you know who Boazís mother was?  Rahab the former Canaanite prostitute Jericho.  Boaz and Ruth had Obed who had Jesse who had David, which makes Rahab Davidís great, great grandmother.  Not only that, but we know from Matthew 1, that it was through this line that another great King came, namely Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Kings. 

In other words, why is this story included in Joshua 2?  Because even at this point, God is sending Christ.  And think about it: she was a prostitute from the land of Canaan and the spies Ďjust happenedí to stay at her house and she Ďjust happenedí to fear Yahweh and risk her life to protect them.  God brought all of this together to send Christ at the appointed time.  So, in light of such glorious truth, the question is not why should we trust and fear the Lord, but how could we not?  How could we not freely trust Him with all of our lives?  May we remember Rahab, the prostitute turned follower of Yahweh, and willingly entrust our lives to our faithful Savior.  Amen.

1 For the other arguments see ĎExcursus: On Rahabís Lieí in David M. Howard, Jr., The New American Commentary: Joshua (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1998), p. 106-112.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 February 2008 )

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