International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Joshua 2:3-9, 15-16, 22-24Lesson Title: God Protects
The land which Joshua was called upon to conquer was occupied by powerful and ungodly people. There was no evidence that the Canaanites would easily surrender and give up their land. In fact, evidence to the contrary had already been established. “And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners” (Numbers 21:1). Joshua’s first act of obedience to the Lord was to prepare to enter Jericho once he had crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 2-6). Part of that preparation involved Joshua sending two spies to obtain information about Jericho. It is somewhat interesting that Joshua would send two spies since he and Caleb were the only two spies out of the twelve Moses sent to spy out the land who brought back a good report (Numbers 14:6-9). It is a guarantee that the two Joshua sent were God-fearing men who would tell the truth. Humanly speaking, Joshua could not naturally expect that any of the people in Jericho would offer aid or help them in their mission (Joshua 2:1). But Joshua would see from the very outset of entering Canaan that God was protecting and looking after His children. He does the same today.
The two spies sent to “view the land” (Joshua 2:1) would have walked five miles from the camp of Israel to the swollen Jordan River. After crossing the Jordan they would have walked another 6 miles and entered the back side of Jericho. Once inside the city, they “came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there” (Joshua 2:1). It is evident that the spies are divinely directed by God to this particular house. For those who might question why God would send these men to the house of a harlot, think about it. What better and safer place could they stay? No one would question two men coming into a harlot’s house, staying for a while and then leaving. That was the normal pattern. In fact, when the king was told about it, he believed it (Joshua 2:2).
God’s Protection and Rahab’s Deception (Joshua 2:3-7)
It must have been the talk of Jericho that the Israelites were camped just a few miles on the other side of the Jordan River. Needless to say everyone was on heightened alert and news of two strangers in town was quickly investigated by the king. “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.” The king knew the two men had visited Rahab’s house and he wanted to know where they were no doubt to question them concerning their reason for being in Jericho.
Up until this point things had went according to plan. No doubt the Jordan River was difficult to cross but obviously God protected the spies and brought them safely across. But now, their cover is blown, they are in enemy territory, and the king wants to see them. Add to that they are in the home of a prostitute which is not the place a spy would select for his best security. However, Joshua is not in charge of this mission and the spies aren’t in charge of this mission. God is in charge and everything will be all right!
“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: 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.” These verses record the action of Rahab and the lie she told in order to protect the lives of the two spies. It is a bone of contention with those who criticize the Bible. Rahab did lie when she said, “…I wist not whence they were.” She lied again when she suggested that the king’s men “pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.”
How can you justify Rahab’s lie? We shouldn’t attempt to justify her lie, but we should consider it and how it fits into God’s protection of His people. First, the Bible condemns lying (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 12:22; Ephesians 4:25). Lying is wrong. Lying is a sin. But let’s be reasonable here, it is highly unlikely that Rahab had ever read Leviticus 19:11 or any other passage in Scripture. So, how do we deal with Rahab? Honestly, I do not know. Some suggest she lied before she put her faith in Jehovah and that may or may not be the case. It is almost impossible to pin point the salvation of Old Testament believers. Others suggest that it was a time of war and military strategy involves deception. Second, Rahab is not the only individual in the Old Testament who used a lie for the sake of protection. In Genesis 12:11-12, Abraham lied about Sarai being his wife in order to protect their lives while in Egypt. In fact, that happened again in his family when Abraham’s son, Isaac, lied and said his wife Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26:7-9). David lied to Ahimelech and told him he was on a mission from King Saul when actually he was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 21:1-2).
There are episodes in the Old Testament where lies were used for the purpose of protection. That doesn’t make it right but it happened nevertheless. Here is another thought to ponder. Rahab didn’t lie primarily for her own protection. In fact, by lying she put her life in greater danger. When the king came to her house in verse 3, if she had given up the spies she would have been a hero in Jericho. It may help us understand if we remember that Rahab is called a “harlot” when she is mentioned in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 but never called a liar. “Harlot” reminds us of the life she once lived before she put her faith in Jehovah. God forgave her lifestyle and her deeds such as lying and she is remembered for her faith. God never honored Rahab for her lie. God honored her for her faith.
Note: This passage is not a proof text for situation ethics. Do not use it to say it is right to do wrong in order that good might come. That is not the message in this text. Extreme situations should never be used to set the standard for normal behavior. Sadly, that is the way that most people function in the world today.
These verses record the details of how Rahab protected the lives of the two spies. She “brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of the flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.” As for me, I would rather God use these verses to help me understand Rahab’s lie than spending all these words telling me about Rahab’s roof material! But, I’m not God! And He has His purposes.
“Flax” was not on every roof in Jericho. It was the reward of the hard working individual and the presence of it and quantity of it “laid in order upon the roof” seems to indicate that Rahab’s profession and lifestyle was producing a comfortable living. That just makes this story all the more amazing. Even as she is putting together a string of lies, she at the same time is being dealt with by the grace of God. She is showing mercy to her enemies and defying her own country and king. She is being dealt with by the God of Israel and this woman who knows nothing of faith and mercy is yielding slowly but surely to God’s divine intervention.
The king’s men take Rahab at her word and they “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.” Obviously, Rahab did not have a reputation for being a liar or the king’s men would not have believed her. All of this as mysterious and hard to understand as it is still speaks of the hand of God in the life of Israel, the two spies, Rahab the harlot, and in a merciful kind of way, even the people of Jericho.
Note: The bottom line is that Rahab’s deception resulted in the spies being protected from death and their report aiding the Israelites victory over Jericho. You and I must once again trust God’s justice, mercy, and wisdom in these matters. Remember, forever and always, God will do right.
God’s Protection and Rahab’s Confession (Joshua 2:8-9)
After Rahab had sent the kings men on a useless search for the spies, “before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 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.” What a tremendous confession and testimony from a lost woman who had no special revelation from except what she knew of Him working in history. Rahab said, “I know.” What she is about to confess is not speculation or hearsay. Rahab’s knowledge of God is based upon facts, not feelings. But how did Rahab know what she knew about the LORD and His activities in history? Could it possibly have been from some of the men that visited her establishment? Did some of the men who came to her speak of what the LORD had done in Egypt? Yes. That is the most likely source.
Question: Does it bother you to think that God can use means you and I would never think of using to protect His people and to get truth to unbelievers? If so, you are probably thinking normal. God let Pharaoh (the devil) raise Moses, change his diapers, education him in the schools of Egypt (not Christian school or home school) and then used Moses to defeat Pharaoh and drown his armies in the Red Sea. Again, this is not a license for you to live contrary to God’s Word and use ways and means God does not approve it. But it is a reminder that you are not God and His ways are above our ways. And, remember, forever and always, God will do right!
First, Rahab knew “the LORD had given the land” of Canaan to the Israelites. Not only had Rahab heard about the exploits of the nation, but she used the word “LORD” which is Jehovah, the self-existing One. It is amazing that God has revealed Himself in such a marvelous way to a woman who should have never heard about Him and never known Him. “Hath given” means the will of God is going to be done. It is a settled issue.
Second, Rahab confessed the “terror” or fear of the “inhabitants of the land.” This attitude of the Canaanites is confirmed again in Joshua 5:1, “…neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel." Jericho was under condemnation and judgment. It is doubtful that all the inhabitants of Jericho knew what Rahab knew, but by her own words the inhabitants were afraid of what was coming. God was committed to protecting Joshua and the children of Israel but the Canaanites were ripe for judgment and Rahab knew it. She may not be able to stop the coming judgment but she knew where to find protection. Do you?
God’s Protection and Rahab’s Actions (Joshua 2:15-16)
Between verse 9 and 15 of our text, Rahab continued to confess what she had heard and what she knew about Jehovah God. Although she had never met God personally or been taught about God theologically, she responded to what she knew faithfully (Hebrews 10:17). She believed God had dried up the Red Sea and she believed God had defeated Israel’s enemies. Again, this is amazing because the parting of the Red Sea had taken place 40 years prior to the time Rahab lived! During those 40 years the people of Canaan had plenty of time to repent, but they hadn’t. In Genesis 15:13 and 16, God said to Abraham, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years… But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Rahab was an Amorite and many of the people of Canaan were Amorites. God gave the people of Canaan 420 years to decide whether or not to turn to Jehovah God. Rahab believed and the others “believed not” (Hebrews 11:31).
She also recognized God as the “…God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:12). She believed in one God in a pagan land that worshipped multiple gods! She knew God could “deliver” through any means He desired (Joshua 2:13). And, she wanted that deliverance not only for herself but for her family (Joshua 2:14).
In Joshua 2:14, Rahab asked for assurance from the spies that when Israel crossed over the Jordan and came to Jericho that she and her family would be spared. The spies gave her their word that “…when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee” (Joshua 2:14).
Rahab used a “cord” called a “scarlet thread” in verse 18 to let the spies down to the ground. Her action protected their lives and her instructions to them were “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 mountains were less than five miles from Jericho and would provide a safe place for the spies until the danger of their capture was over. Before the spies left Rahab’s house they agreed to protect her and her family when the time came for Jericho to be taken (Joshua 2:17-18).
God’s Protection and the Spies Information (Joshua 2:22-24)
The words of this verse confirm that the spies trusted Rahab’s plan and did exactly as she said. “But found them not” are words of protection. Who could have masterminded and put this plan together and made it all work without flaw but God?
When the “two men returned” they “came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them.” What must Joshua have thought as they repeated the events of the past days? He must have been encouraged and filled with new courage and strength as he listen to detail by detail of God’s protection. The same should be true of us when we read today’s text and all the intricate details of God’s purpose and activity in protection His people and even sinners like Rahab.
“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.” Can you not sense the confidence in their words? How different this information and report is compared to those spies sent to Canaan by Moses who came back and said, “…we saw giants” (Numbers 13:25-33). “Do faint” is probably the one piece of information Joshua was most interested in hearing. The attitude of the enemy is always important. The Canaanites knew they were coming and they were fearful of what was about to take place. Remember, these Canaanites had 420 years to repent. Had they responded to what they knew and heard about God they could have known the same deliverance Rahab and her family would know.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Where God guides, He always provides.” That phrase is still true and always will be. When God’s children walk in His will and obey His commands we need not fear the past, present, or the future. God will protect and take care of His own.
Joshua, the children of Israel, the spies, the king of Jericho, the king’s men who pursued the spies, the patrons who visited Rahab’s business, and the citizens of Jericho are all a part of our lesson text today. Joshua, the children of Israel, the spies, and Rahab were protected by God. The others had their opportunities and their fate depended upon their reactions to what they knew about God. There is no security and protection for anyone outside of God’s saving grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you secure? There is a greater judgment coming than what happened in Jericho. Are you ready? May Rahab’s testimony be yours, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31).
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