Tuesday, April 29, 2014 0 comments

Joshua 6: Following Instructions and the Battle of Jericho

As the Israelites get to Jericho, Joshua has a vision.  He sees a man standing with a sword drawn in his hand.  This must have been a threatening sight because Joshua felt compelled to ask the man whether he was on their side or not.  The man said, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.”  The host doesn’t mean “crowd”; it means “army.”  Joshua might have bristled at this because he might have considered himself captain of the Lord’s army, but he realizes this is either Jehovah or a representative from Jehovah, so he falls down on his face with reverence for the divine manifestation.

The man tells Joshua next to take off his shoes because he’s on holy ground.  This is similar to when Moses was told to remove his shoes at the burning bush.

After that, the scriptures say the Lord tells Joshua the battle plan and what they are to do, so they are pretty sure the man was Jehovah. 

The Lord’s instructions are quite unusual:
3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. (Joshua 6:3-5)
As I have noted in a previous post, this is a style of preparation for war which no one would ever have seen before and which we still do not fully understand today.  Some think the Lord knocked the walls down when the people shouted.  Some think the trumpet blasts weakened the walls, some think the marching weakened the walls.  Some think a natural explanation would prove it wasn’t a miracle, but I think that doesn’t take into account the fact that the Lord was the one who gave the battle plan in the first place. 

There are diagrams online of Jericho’s archeological excavations and it shows Jericho was built on a mound with one lower wall built on a retaining wall, then a sloping-up strip of ground, then another wall.  It looked like the wall was made of mud brick.  I have read elsewhere that vibration has been used in a lab environment to loosen soils in columns and bins, so it is possible that all the vibration from marching and blowing trumpets and shouting helped destabilize the walls just enough to cause them to fall down.

Again, whether or not there is a natural explanation, the fact remains that the Lord gave them the battle plan.  This is a great story because it shows us that if the Lord gives you the plan of attack, it takes faith to carry it out, especially when it sounds like something very different from what you expect.

Something interesting I noticed when I was reading was that there was a difference between what the Lord told them to do and what they did.  When you read the Lord’s directions, it seems to say that the seven priests were to carry their trumpets all seven days but only to blow a long blast on the seventh day.  When the text tells what the Israelites did, it says the seven priests blew on the trumpets all seven days.

Why the difference?  At first this seemed like disobedience to me, but when I thought about it, I realized that when the Lord told Joshua the priest were to blow a long blast on the trumpet, He didn’t say how long was “long.”  That meant they had to think about it.  Is 20 seconds “long”?  Is a minute “long”?  Maybe to the trumpeters, but is that really long enough?  Is a day “long”?  And too they would be most anxious to follow the directions as best they could and they might worry that if the trumpeters didn’t blow long enough they wouldn’t have met the Lord’s conditions for the walls to come down.  So, I surmise they decided to have the priests blow the trumpets the full seven days just to be safe.

This shows us that the Lord may give two types of commandments—the kind that are specific and the kind that are vague where you have to try to figure out for yourself what to do.  We’ve been asked to return to the temple often.  How frequent is “often”?  We’re asked to have family home evening.  What happens in family home evening?  We’ve been asked to strengthen our families.  How is that to be done?  (Can you think of any other commandments that are vague like this?)  We know what an easy answer might be if we’re trying to do the minimum, but if we really want the blessing promised for those commandments, we might want to take a page out of Joshua’s book.

Friday, April 25, 2014 0 comments

Stories of Great Faith from Caleb and His Family

I want to share some blocks of verses that show us a number of incidents of how faithful Caleb and his family was.  If you remember, Caleb and Joshua were the two spies sent in with ten other Israelites to spy out the land of Israel.  Caleb and Joshua were confident the Israelites could drive out the inhabitants with the Lord’s help, but the other ten were scared and scared the rest of the Israelites.  As a result, the Lord decreed the Israelites would not inherit the land in that generation and they died during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. 

Okay, let’s look at Caleb’s story as the land is being finally distributed:

¶Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea.
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.
Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God.
10 And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.

11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.

12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.
13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
14 Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.  (Joshua 14:6-14)

So here we see Caleb coming to Joshua, reminding him of how he had been faithful to the Lord and Moses had promised him that he would have the land he had walked on when he had spied out the land 40 years before. 

I love verses 10 and 11.  He calls attention to the fact that the Lord had fulfilled promises in his life that he would live to inherit the land.  It was a very long time coming, but it did come, and therefore it was a very big deal.

Somehow, fulfilled promises from the Lord seem that much more precious when they take time. You may have seen this in your life, whether it is something in your patriarchal blessing that takes years to come to pass, or some other prophetic declaration that you have clung to, or a commandment you have doggedly kept in hope of someday receiving the blessing.  I have a few long-term promises I've seen fulfilled in my life and I have a few I'm still waiting on.  One promise all of us members of the church get to look forward to is the promise of eternal life.

For Caleb, no doubt seeing that promise fulfilled made it that much easier for him to exercise faith that the Lord could help him conquer the land.
Caleb is still raring to go.  He says, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.” (v12)

What a great attitude!  He’s willing to take on the Anakims (the giants) and the fortified cities because he trusts the Lord will help him.  Even at 85 years old!  (And his 85 years old is still as hale-and-hearty as his 40 years old because of how he’s been blessed.)

I think in this chapter about Caleb we are meant to learn that Caleb had this faith and obtained his inheritance because he “wholly followed the God of Israel.”  (Notice, his obedience is mentioned three times in these verses.)
We should recognize that phrase “Give me this Mountain,” since President Eyring used it in a conference talk recently called “Mountains to Climb"  and he also references a talk Present Kimball gave about it with the same title, “Give Me This Mountain. 

Here’s the next part of the story of Caleb:

13 ¶And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua, even the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.
14 And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.  (Joshua 15:13-14)

The children of Anak are the Anakims referred to before.  Caleb does just what he knew he could do with the Lord’s help—he chased them away.  The big scary giants that everyone were so frightened of turn out to be cowards themselves. 

This is a useful lesson for us today.  There are tasks that look hard but which are not really as hard as they look, yet we won’t find that out until we pluck up our resolve and get started. 

Here’s the next part of Caleb’s story and it involves his daughter:

15 And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher.
16 ¶And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. (Joshua 15-17)

This sounds really strange to us—we wonder why Caleb would make this offer because it sounds like he has no consideration for his daughter’s feelings at all.

Actually, I suspect it is a sign of Caleb’s faith and probably his daughter’s faith as well.  Caleb would have strong feelings about whom his daughter would marry.  He’s a faithful man, strongly committed to following the Lord, as we have pointed out already.  He would want his daughter to marry a man with that same kind of faith.  She would want a good husband as well.  I suspect they both reasoned that if they made that promise, since the battle was in the Lord’s hands, the Lord could (and would) give the victory to the man whom Achsah should marry.  I doubt Caleb would have made that offer without getting Achsah’s okay on it too.  She had the same faith as Caleb; she learned it from him.  And that is probably why this was recorded in the scriptures; it is faith on the same level as that of Rebekah going with Abraham’s servant to marry Isaac sight unseen.

So who wins the victory?  It so happens it is a man named Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.  This is a man so closely connected to Caleb’s family that he would have had much opportunity to see and know Caleb’s daughter Achsah and also much opportunity to observe and learn their faith.  We must conclude that Othniel loved Achsah, otherwise he would not have tried to win her.  We must also conclude that he himself had an excellent measure of faith, believing it was possible to conquer Kirjath-sepher and that the Lord would deliver it to Israel, otherwise, again he wouldn’t have tried.

So then, the story continues with Achsah going to Othniel as his bride:
18 And it came to pass, as she came unto him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou?
19 Who answered, Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.   (Joshua 15:18-19)
Achsah convinced her husband-to-be to ask for land from her father and then she asks for springs for them.  She’s got a lot of influence with both Othniel and her father if she can ask them to do things and give her things.  But she didn’t get that influence with pettiness or greed or tantrumming.  She got that influence by a very long history of trustworthiness and wise decisions. 

Interestingly, the south land she was referring to (which had been given to her and Othniel) was very dry wilderness.  She didn’t complain about that land; she just wanted more resources to help her cultivate it.  She was willing to take a difficult, uninviting place and put in the hard work to make it fruitful.  Likely she had the faith that having obtained that land, the Lord could help her and her husband cultivate it.

To finish the story of Caleb’s family, we go to Judges:

7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 ¶Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
10 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years... (Judges 3:7-11)

Because of Othniel’s faith to fight Kirjath-sepher, he had faith the Lord would help him overcome the king of Mesopotamia and he became the first of Israel’s judges after Joshua died. 

So we see that Caleb’s family had this same faith in God Caleb had, which faith gave them strength to do difficult things.  If this family ever had a family motto, it probably would have to be “I can do all things through the Lord, who strengthens me.”

I could use more of that kind of faith in my life.  Where do you want that faith in your life?
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1 comments

Why Lamb’s Blood on the Doorposts?: Passover Symbolism

3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:….
And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.  (Exodus 12:3,6-7, 12-13)
We might ask ourselves, why put blood on the door posts and lintel of the houses?  Why not on the walls or the roof or something like that?

I think it was supposed to teach something about how we get back to our heavenly home by making an earthly parallel.  We know the blood of the lamb represented the blood of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us.  The Israelites could only be safe if they went into their home, going through these doors.  In the same way, to return to our heavenly home and gain eternal life and safety, we have to go through Christ.  Christ is the gateway because of his atoning sacrifice.

Monday, April 21, 2014 0 comments

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue and the stone cut out without hands


My husband and I were reading Daniel 2 for our family scripture study, and my husband brought up an interesting question about the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue that eventually is broken in pieces by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands.  He said, “I have wondered why the Lord gave that dream to Nebuchadnezzar.”

I started to think about it and seemed to me that the dream may have been an answer to a question that Nebuchadnezzar had.  Can we get an idea of what this question might have been?

The dream essentially depicted a succession of earthly kingdoms and their relative comparison one with each other, ending with a symbolic representation of how the Lord’s kingdom would supersede them all.  This suggests Nebuchadnezzar had been pondering whether Babylon as a kingdom would be permanent or temporary, and if temporary, how long Babylon would last, and how it would compare with the other kingdoms afterward.   This would be a perfectly natural and legitimate issue for a ruler to think about, considering the effort they put into acquiring territory, creating order, and administering laws.  They would wonder how long it would last and how they would be remembered in history.

That the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar this dream shows that the Lord knew his thoughts and questions and wanted to answer them.  It shows us that the Lord may give revelation in dreams to whomever He wishes, whether the receiver is converted or not.  We also see that this dream was directly related to Nebuchadnezzar’s stewardship as a king.  It gave him perspective about his role on the world’s stage.  He learned his kingdom was quite glorious by worldly standards in comparison with other later kingdoms, but that it still would be broken in pieces by the Lord’s kingdom and agency.  (Quite a mixed message, huh?)

Another question then arises from the first question.  Why then did Nebuchadnezzar require his wise men to tell him the dream as well as the interpretation of it?  It sounds like a petulant command of a man determined to trap his wise men.  From their complaint “There is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean,” (Daniel 2:10) they clearly think it unreasonable to expect them to read his mind.

However, we don’t know what powers these astrologers and magicians claimed for themselves.  We might suppose they claimed to speak for the Babylonian gods and to interpret omens to show the will of the gods.  If so, Nebuchadnezzar would have wondered how he might be able to tell whether they really could do as they said.  With this dream, Nebuchadnezzar realized he had been given something to know for sure about the will of the gods (or God) and he would surmise to himself, “If they claim to understand the will of the gods, then they should be able to have the gods tell them the dream and interpret it without me telling what it is, and if they can’t, then they don’t really know what they claim to know.” 

I don’t think Nebuchadnezzar was testing God here.  I don’t think he was yet to the point that he was identifying who was God among all the gods he knew of.  But I think he knew there was some source of divine intelligence out there that had communicated with him and he was trying to figure out who else had that personal connection.  I think I was testing his wise men to see who among them had a similar (or better) relationship with that divine source (who we know to be God). 

The dream also means something to Daniel, a Jew captive in Babylon.  It shows him that the power of Babylon is only temporary and eventually the Lord will triumph over all earthly powers.  It is a message of encouragement, and it is all the more powerful, coming as it does as a dream to a gentile king. 

How does this help us today?  I think it shows us that God can communicate with rulers of nations even today and answer their questions about their stewardships.  Of course, they may still make choices that aren’t the best and which bring unhappy consequences.   Nebuchadnezzar had to learn from going mad for seven years that God had power over him to exalt him or abase him.   Still, it is wonderful to know that God does not leave leaders alone to flounder.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 0 comments

Patterns of Eden in Exodus

As I was reading my way through Exodus, I noticed there was mention of the tabernacle and doing things with it before the chapters wherein is described the making of it.  I thought that was odd.  It meant that the chapters had not been arranged in chronological order as I preciously thought.  That meant that there was some other order that was being used for an instructive purpose. 

After some more thought, it seemed to me that the stories of the children of Israel’s sins had been lumped together and set before the stories of their faithful obedience to Moses’ (and God’s) instructions.  This made me think that perhaps the stories had been arranged in a manner to create a type of the Fall of Adam.


Children of Israel
Garden of Eden/Adam and Eve
Stories of the people leaving Egypt, Creation of the Israelite people
Creation of man
The giving of commandments for the temple’s construction
The creation of a paradisiacal earth and the first commandments to Adam
The making of the golden calf while Moses was absent
(The Fall of Israel)
the Fall of Man
The excuses of Aaron
Adam accounting to God
Moses’ plea for the people
(Reminder of Christ’s atonement to prevent immediate destruction )
Providing a Savior for man
Moses and Levites punishing the wicked people with death
Physical death

The tabernacle is moved outside the camp of Israel (Even though it wasn’t supposed to have been built yet)
(God’s presence is removed )
Spiritual death
(rough correspondence to Adam leaving the Garden of Eden)
God to only show his back parts to Moses
Spiritual death (though attenuated for the prophets)
Moses puts a veil over his face when with Israel
Spiritual death and rejection of the higher law
Repetition of giving the commandments, giving the lower law
Giving the law of sacrifice

Command to gather offerings for making the tabernacle
Giving the law of sacrifice
People give offerings for tabernacle construction
Obedience to the law of sacrifice

It seems the Book of Exodus, taken in a broad view, is meant to show how Israel was following the same pattern as Adam and Even had in the Garden of Eden.   We also recognize that it has many elements of the temple narrative. 

Cool, huh?
Thursday, April 17, 2014 0 comments

Rahab Hides the Israelite Spies: Joshua 2

The story in Joshua 2 of Rahab the harlot hiding the Israelite spies stuck out to me recently when I was reading it and I found a lot of interesting things in it.

1 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.

Keep in mind that in Numbers 13-14, Moses first sent the 12 spies to look at the land and 10 brought back an evil report and 2 (one of whom was Joshua) were excited to go in.  The people were intimidated and refused to go into the land to possess it, so the Lord declared they would not live to inherit the land.

It is now 40 years later and here Joshua sends in two spies to view the land, but he sends them secretly, concealing their mission from the rest of Israel.  It is possible that he didn’t want the people to know, lest they be scared again if they heard of scary conditions. 

It is really interesting to me that Joshua decided to send the two spies in the first place.  His reason for sending them out is “Go view the land, even Jericho.”  What did he want them to see?  What did he want them to find out?  We can’t really tell.  Again, this sending of spies is odd because Joshua himself had been sent as a spy throughout the land 40 years before.  He knew the land was good.  He had seen it.  So why send spies again?   Some have called this doubt or over-caution, but I suspect that he acted according to spiritual impressions that someone needed to be sent into the land.  I think it shows how Joshua didn’t lean on his own understanding, but trusted in the Lord.  He did not know why or what would come of it, so this could be why his directions to the spies were so vague.  “Go view the land, even Jericho” would hopefully circulate them around enough that whatever they needed to be there for would become more obvious as time went on.   And we see what came of it.  Somehow the spies found one person who believed, and that led to her and her family being saved out of all the people of Jericho.   

Now, why did these two men go to a harlot’s house and stay there?  Israel was supposed to stay pure, right?  Perhaps staying with a harlot was a strategic measure designed to conceal their real motive for being there--viewing the land.  If they stayed with someone else, people might ask all kinds of questions, but if they stayed with a harlot, everybody would just assume the usual reason for strange men visiting a harlot.  And remember just because they visit her doesn’t mean anything has to happen.  

 2 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.

If the two Israelite men had hoped to escape notice, it seems that they failed.  Someone saw them come in, identified them, and passed that info up the chain of command to the king of Jericho.  It is interesting to me that the purpose for the Israelites being there was known as well.  The front of visiting a harlot didn’t fool whoever was watching, or.. there may have been a spy in the Israelite camp for the king of Jericho. 

If you look at it another way, Rahab’s house was located on top of Jericho’s wall (v15) and it is possible that there were soldiers stationed on the wall as well who happened to notice the Israelites coming in.

How is the king of Jericho going to react to the news of Israelites in his city?  Probably not well.   

3 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.
4 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:
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.

At this point we will have noticed that Rahab has unexpectedly taken the side of the Israelites (whom she’s never met) instead of that of her own people (whom she’s lived among all along).  We should be asking ourselves why she is doing this.  What motive would she have?  We’ll find out.

A lot of commentators come down on Rahab for lying to king’s messengers, but if you check everything she says, she tells the truth, but with such broad strokes that the specific information about the spies’ location is concealed.
“There came men unto me” – Very true.
“but I wist not whence they were” – This is also true; she wouldn’t have known where they came from before they told her.
“about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark,…the men went out” – Yes, the men went out--they were outside on the roof.  And because the Jericho men run outside Jericho to search and shut the gate, the statement that they went out about the time of the shutting of the gate becomes true too.
“whither the men went I wot [know] not” – If she told them to go up to the roof and hide, then she might generally know where to look, but she wouldn’t know exactly where they went, so this is true too, broadly speaking.

Okay, so this gets rid of the hostile men of Jericho, but it causes another problem—the gate is shut and the spies can’t get out through the gate now.

There is something else that I want to bring up that might give us an additional clue about Rahab.  Notice it says she hid the men with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.  She has all this flax.  It isn’t a roofing material; it’s a food-and-fiber agricultural product.  (Flax fiber is used to make linen, and flax seed is a very good grain to eat.)  And there is enough flax on the roof that two men can hide among it.  And it’s all organized, laid in order. Where did she get all this flax?  It is possible she had a little side business going on of growing flax and she had just harvested a crop.  

The other possibility is that the flax could have been the brought to her by her customers to pay for her…um.. services.  But then she’d still have to do something with that flax—either process it herself or sell it.  And that’s still a side business.

The fact that the flax is laid in order on her roof and there is so much of it is what makes me think this was a side business of hers.  Laying it out in order could be part of drying it or exposing it to the elements (which is called “retting” and it breaks down the outside of the plant so the fibers can be more easily processed).  This means she knew what she was doing with it, which further suggests it was a side business. Usually retting is done in the fields, and the fact that she is doing it on the roof of her house makes me think that it was her way of securing her crop.  The whole city was shut up because of the Israelites, expecting to be put under siege, so she would definitely want that flax with her.

Yep, that flax really makes me wonder..  was she a harlot growing flax on the side, or was she a flax farmer who had turned to prostitution just to stay alive?

8 ¶And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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:
13 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.

It must have really floored those Israelite men to hear a harlot bearing testimony to them that she knew their God was the God of heaven and earth.  And just think, out of all the people they could have stayed with, they found this one woman who believed.  (It really makes you wonder how they decided upon her.  Was her place most convenient?  Did she find them?  How did they connect?  We may never know.)

As a prostitute, Rahab heard from her customers about Israel and their victories.  She saw how frightened the people around her were.  Rahab hadn’t actually seen any of the miraculous events happen that they told about, but she believed them.  (This showed faith in things not seen which were true.)  In spite of her harlotry she recognized that Israel’s God was the God of the whole earth and that God had given Israel the land.  She realized that her people’s time was coming to an end and that they would eventually be destroyed.  She could have fought this conclusion--it seems that just about everybody else around her were in denial about it--but she seems to have decided to honest with herself.  And too, consider that Rahab had this house on the top of the city wall, in what seemed to be a very safe place.  She could have put trust in the strength of the city wall, yet instead she took it for granted that the Israelites were going to win because God would help them.

(It is so odd too that Jericho’s inhabitants were so afraid of Israel and they told these stories about Israel’s God and yet they didn’t believe enough to join Israel or surrender to them.) 

So here’s where we see Rahab’s motive for taking the side of the spies against her own people.  She believed in the power of the God of Israel, so it was right to protect those who were His people and there was the possibility of finding favor with God thereby.  Her belief was strong enough that she essentially was willing to put her life on the line to conceal them.

It is touching that she asks for her family to be saved as well, even though she lives separate from them.  And notice that she asks for an oath (a covenant) to make it sure.

Now, this is where we might wonder how Rahab would live after being saved.  If she lives among the Israelites afterward, they aren’t going to let her continue her prostitution.  That side business with flax is going to become really important to her.  

Did she know about Israel’s standards of morality when she asked for that covenant that she and her family be saved?  We don’t know for sure.   I’m going to speculate some here.  Among the other things that we know she heard about Israel, she may have heard about Israel’s strict commandments as well.  Keep in mind, the Canaanites practiced a form of idolatry that sacralized prostitution, so to them, hearing of the Israelites’ penalties of death for immorality would be incredibly shocking and disturbing.  But maybe Rahab was open to those commandments and wanted to live them. 

If she did know about those commandments, her flax side business might represent some major faith to find some other way of making a living so that she would eventually be able to live with the Israelites.  If she didn’t know about those commandments, then her flax side business was a very very lucky thing to have.

14 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.
15 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.
16 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.

The spies have pretty strong faith too, as you can see by their assured reply, “when the Lord hath given us the land” (emphasis added). 

How lucky that Rahab lived on the top of the city wall so that she could help the spies get outside the gates by going out the window and down the wall with a cord.  If she had lived anywhere else, this might have been a different story.

Having obtained the promise from the spies, she is now highly invested in their safety.  If they don’t get back to Joshua safe so they can inform him of the token of the scarlet cord, she still dies. 

17 And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18 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.
19 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.
20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
 21 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.

The sign of binding the scarlet cord in the window makes this story Rahab’s version of the Passover.  (And it just so happens that the Israelites celebrated Passover themselves in between the time the spies return to Joshua and when the Israelites conquer Jericho, so there is more than a symbolic connection here.)   I notice that Rahab put the scarlet cord in the window immediately.  She didn’t wait until she saw the Israelites surrounding the walls to do it.  I like how she didn’t procrastinate.

Also notice that she had to persuade her parents and her siblings to stay in her house with her to be safe.  She seems to have succeeded convincing at least part of her family, since Joshua 6:23 says that her father, mother, and brethren were saved.  Compare Rahab’s story with that of Noah, who built an ark and saved only his immediate family.  Also, compare her story to the story of Lot, who was only able to save himself and his two daughters, even though he warned his sons-in-law, and his wife turned back.

Think about how much faith Rahab’s family had to have to listen to her warning and instructions.  They sacrificed everything they had and were for the chance of being saved, and they had to come live for a time in the house of a harlot and live under that association in order to be saved.  And they had to be very patient because it took time for the Israelites to conquer Jericho.  (It took far less time than a siege would have, but it still took time.) They had to wait about 19 days in her house for the Israelites to conquer Jericho.   I tallied what the Israelites did during that approximate 19 days:
·      3 days for spies to hide from pursuers (Joshua 2:22)
·      3 days to for Israel’s officers to muster the host (Joshua 3:2)
·      1 day for the spies to return
·      1 day for the Israelites to sanctify themselves (Joshua 3:5)
·      4 days for the Israelites to heal up after newly circumcising themselves and to keep the Passover  (Joshua 4:19-10)
·      6 days for the Israelites to circle Jericho
·      1 day for the Israelites to circle Jericho, blow their horns, and have the walls come down
That last 7 days may have been very difficult for Rahab and her family, to watch Israel marching around the city without attacking.  It would be a style of battle preparation that they had never seen before.  It would be hard for them to take seriously.

Through all of this, Rahab and her family had to have great faith not just in the trustworthiness of the spies, but also that Joshua and the Israelites would honor the agreement as well.

Since she and her family stayed in her house, which was on top of the Jericho’s wall, we know their part of the wall had to stay up when the walls came tumbling down, otherwise they would have been injured in the wall of it.

22 And they [the spies] 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.
23 ¶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:
24 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.

In terms of a reconnaissance mission, the spies’ visit to Jericho might be said to be unsuccessful, since the two men hid most of the time.  They might have been worried after their 3 days hiding from pursuit.  They could have been concerned about how the Israelites would take Jericho with its city walls, but fascinatingly they tell 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.”  They certainly get points for enthusiasm.

It seems to me that the spies’ mission was intended by the Lord to find Rahab and to save her and her family more than achieve any real military objective.  That can tell us something about the Lord’s care for the one and how He can save people who we would not think would be receptive to the message of the gospel.

So how is Rahab remembered?  Interestingly enough, when Rahab’s name is mentioned in the Old Testament, it is usually with distaste.

4 I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.
 5 And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Psalms 87:4-5)

Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm. (Psalm 89:10)

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9)

Because Rahab had that association with harlotry, I think the prophets used her name as a symbol or stand-in to refer to those who were unfaithful to the Lord.  Rahab was not actually “broken in pieces” or “cut,” but the wicked cultures from which she came definitely were.  It’s kind of sad that they used her name like that.

On the other hand, Rahab is cited the New Testament as a woman of faith!

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. (Hebrews 11:31)

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (James 2:25)

Consider these manifestations of her faith:

--She had confidence in an unconfirmed reality of the power of the God of Israel.  Her belief was based merely on reports, which may even have been exaggerated on the negative side, and yet she believed.  (That’s like someone joining the church even when the only thing they have read is ‘anti’ literature.)
--She extrapolated from these points of faith that her and her people’s days were numbered.  This was a very unpleasant notion to think about, yet she did not shy away from it.  This was faith that events not yet seen would happen.  And yet she did not despair.  She had the faith to take whatever chance she could find of avoiding destruction.
--She was loyal to an unverified relationship.  Even though Israel’s God would not be pleased with her profession as a harlot (and she may or may not have known this), she believed and saved the spies (representatives of that God) in order to create an obligation that might allow her to seek safety God’s people.
--She had faith in an unsubstantiated promise.  She had no way of knowing whether the spies would keep their promise to save her and her family, but she did her part to extract that promise and to qualify for salvation under its conditions.

Can you think of ways that our faith may be similar to hers?

 When I read this story, I can see lessons from the different perpectives of the characters.   
  • When we look at it from Joshua’s perspective, it is about following spiritual promptings and seeing how it leads to the salvation of a family. 
  • When we look at it from the perspective of the two spies, this story is about doing what you can to fulfill a mission from a prophet and then seeing how the Lord provides help from unexpected directions. 
  • When we look at it from the perspective of Rahab, this story shows us that God reaches out to save individuals who choose to have faith in Him, even when those individuals are some of the lowest of the low, even when their destruction is a mere 19 days away.  God’s arm is stretched out all our lives long and it is never too late to be saved.  (And of course, the sooner we lay hold on His salvation, the better!)