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Joshua 2:1-12 -

Rahab and the spies.

Three points demand our attention in this narrative. First, the conduct of Joshua; secondly, of the spies; and thirdly, of Rahab.

I. JOSHUA 'S CONDUCT . Here we may observe that—

1. He does not despise the use of means. He was under God's special protection. God had promised ( Joshua 1:5 ) that he would not fail him nor forsake him." He had seen miracles wrought in abundance, and was destined to receive other proofs of God's extraordinary presence with him. Yet he does not rely on these, where his own prudence and diligence are sufficient. We must learn a similar lesson for ourselves—

(a) in our external undertakings,

(b) in our internal warfare.

In both "God helps those that help themselves." We must "work out our own salvation," because it is "God that worketh in us," by ordinary as well as by extraordinary means. To pray to God for special help or direction, without doing our best to use the means placed within our reach, to exercise our reason, and to see His directing hand in the external circumstances of our lives, is mere fatalism. To expect to be freed from besetting sins, to triumph over temptations without effort on our own part, to have victory without struggle, perfection without perseverance, is mere selfishness and indolence.

2. The use of ordinary means, where possible, is a law of God's kingdom. God might have written His gospel in the skies. He might have proclaimed and might reproclaim it in voices of thunder from heaven. He might make it an irresistible influence from within. But He does not. He uses human means. Jesus Christ, like His prototype, sent His disciples two and two to go before Him. ( Mark 6:7 ; it is implied in Matthew 10:1 ; Luke 10:1 ). Human influence has ever since been the means of propagating Divine truth. And not only so, but to use extraordinary means when ordinary would suffice was a suggestion of the devil, peremptorily rejected twice by Jesus Christ ( Matthew 4:4 , Matthew 4:7 ; Luke 4:4 , Luke 4:12 ); and this, because this world is God's world as well as the other: reason and prudence, though subordinate in importance, yet are as much God's gifts as faith.


1. They preferred duty to reputation. The only house they could enter without suspicion was a house whither, under ordinary circumstances, it would have been impossible for them to go. So Christ's disciples must not fear the comments of the evil-minded when duty calls upon them to incur suspicion. To give needless cause for slander is a sin: to shrink from seeking the lost for fear of it is a greater. Compare Boaz ( Ruth 3:14 ) with the spies here, and both with Jesus Christ ( Luke 7:37 , Luke 7:38 ). Ministers of religion, physicians, and the purest-minded Christian women do not fear to visit the lowest haunts of vice for the temporal or spiritual welfare of those who inhabit them. It is well that their garb should proclaim the fact that they are on an errand of mercy. All needful precautions should be taken to preserve their reputation. But often they will have to put reputation and all in God's hands, when duty calls, and they may be sure that all is safe with Him.

2. They went unmurmuring on a task of the utmost peril. So must God's messengers now take their lives in their hands when they visit the sick, either to serve their bodies or their souls. The missionary confronts a similar risk when he carries to savage nations the good tidings of salvation by Christ. If He preserve them alive, they thank Him for His goodness; if not, the blood of such martyrs is still the seed of the Church. Men do and dare all for the sake of the temporal reward of the Victoria Cross. The messengers of Jesus Christ ought not to be less willing to risk all that is worth having in this life for the Eternal Crown. How rare is this spiritual gallantry, as we may call it! Yet it is rare only because genuine faith is rare. We believe in rewards that we can see. The unfading crown excites few longings, because it is of faith, not sight.

3. They did not recklessly expose themselves to danger. When Rahab bid them conceal themselves, they did so. They willingly accepted her aid in letting them down from the wall, and her advice in concealing themselves in the caves of the mountains. In so doing they did but anticipate the command, "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another" ( Matthew 10:23 ). Thus St. Peter concealed his residence from the disciples ( Acts 12:17 ); St. Paul was let down in a basket from the wails of Damascus ( Acts 9:25 ; 2 Corinthians 11:33 ); St. Cyprian retired from his see for awhile that he might still continue to guide it while his guidance was needed. So now, to expose one's life unnecessarily is suicide, not sanctity.


1. Her faith. This is commended in Hebrews 11:31 . It was manifested by her conduct, as St. James tells us in Joshua 2:1-24 :25. For

(a) she incurred danger by acting as she did. This was a proof of the sincerity of her profession. For no one willingly incurs danger for what he does not believe. And

(b) the reason for her acting as she did was faith in God. It might not have been a strong faith. It was certainly a faith which had not had many advantages. She could have known little about Jehovah; but she recognised His hand in the drying up of the Red Sea and the discomfiture of Sihon and Og. Then

(c) the seems to have lived up to her light. To be a harlot was no very grievous offence in the eyes of a people who regarded that profession as consecrated to the service of the gods, as was the case in Babylonia, Syria, Cyprus, Corinth, and a host of other places. Yet she was not idle, as the stalks of flax imply, and perhaps, in spite of her impure life, the guilt of which she had no means of realising, she might have been one of those ( Proverbs 31:18 ) who "seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands." And so she was permitted to "feel after God and find him" as other sinners have been, through His merits who cried, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

2. Her unselfishness. She receives the men, knowing the danger she was in. She risks her life rather than give them up. She takes every care for their safety by her prudence and the excellent advice she gives them. As the next section shows, she had a regard, not merely for her own safety, but for that of her kindred. And this is a proof that she had striven to a degree after better things. For it is well known that nothing more deadens men and women to the gentler impulses of our nature, nothing has a greater tendency to produce cruelty and callousness to suffering, than the systematic indulgence of sensual passion.

3. Her falsehood. As the notes have shown, this was of course a sin, but in her case a venial one. Even Christian divines have held it to be a debatable question whether what Calvin calls a mendacium officiosum, a falsehood in the (supposed) way of duty, were permissible or not. And though this casuistry is chiefly that of Roman Catholic divines, yet Protestants have doubted whether a lie might not lawfully be told with the intent of saving life. In Rahab's time the question had never arisen. Heathen and even Jewish morality had hardly arrived at the notion that the truth must in all cases be spoken. Sisera requested Jael, as a matter of course, to do what Rahab did. Jonathan deceives his father to save David's life, and he is not blamed for doing so ( 1 Samuel 20:28 , 1 Samuel 20:29 ). David deceives Ahimelech the priest ( 1 Samuel 21:2 ). Even Elisha appears not to have adhered to strict truth in 2 Kings 6:19 , and Gehazi is not punished so much for his lie as for his accepting a gift which his master had declined. Jeremiah, again, tells without hesitation the untruth Zedekiah asks him to tell ( Jeremiah 38:24 27). How, then, should Rahab have known that it was wrong of her to deceive the messengers of the king, in order to save the spies alive?

4. Her treachery to her own people. This, under ordinary circumstances, would also have been a sin. But here the motive justifies the act. It was not the result of a mere slavish fear of Israelite success. It was due to the fact that she recognised the Israelites as being under the protection of the true God, who would punish the idolatry and impurity of the Canaanites. Resistance, she knew, was vain. Jehovah had given them the land. There could be no harm in delivering her own life, and and the life of those dear to her, from the general slaughter. Besides, neither as a probable consequence nor in actual fact did the escape of the spies, through Rahab, affect the fate of Jericho. Not as a thing probable from her action, for the report of the spies, though it might supply Joshua with valuable information, could not bring about the fall of Jericho. Her conduct was not like that of Ephialtes at Thermopylae, or of Tarpeia at Rome. Nor did the report of the spies actually bring about the fall of Jericho, for it was effected by supernatural means. In conclusion, it may be remarked that Rahab was in a sense the "first fruits of the Gentiles." She was justified by faith, not by works, in the sense in which St. Paul uses the words. That is to say, her former life had not entitled her to the favour of God, though her work in saving the spies was effectual as an evidence of her faith. She was forgiven, saved, numbered among faithful Israel, and became a "mother in Israel." And as a "woman that was a sinner," she was a type of those whom Jesus Christ came to save, who, "dead in trespasses and sins, were quickened" by the grace and mercy of the true Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ.


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