Joshua Chapter Two
Rahab receives and hides two Israelites. (1-7) Rahab and the spies. (8-21) The return of the spies. (22-24)
Commentary on Joshua 2:1-7
(Read Joshua 2:1-7)
Faith in God's promises ought not to do away, but to encourage our diligence in the use of proper means. The providence of God directed the spies to the house of Rahab. God knew where there was one that would be true to them, though they did not. Rahab appears to have been an innkeeper; and if she had formerly been one of bad life, which is doubtful, she had left her evil courses. That which seems to us most accidental, is often overruled by the Divine providence to serve great ends. It was by faith that Rahab received those with peace, against whom her king and country had war. We are sure this was a good work; it is so spoken of by the apostle, James 2:25; and she did it by faith, such a faith as set her above the fear of man. Those only are true believers, who find in their hearts to venture for God; they take his people for their people, and cast in their lot among them. The spies were led by the special providence of God, and Rahab entertained them out of regard to Israel and Israel's God, and not for lucre or for any evil purpose. Though excuses may be offered for the guilt of Rahab's falsehood, it seems best to admit nothing which tends to explain it away. Her views of the Divine law must have been very dim: a falsehood like this, told by those who enjoy the light of revelation, whatever the motive, would deserve heavy censure.
Commentary on Joshua 2:8-21
(Read Joshua 2:8-21)
Rahab had heard of the miracles the Lord wrought for Israel. She believed that his promises would certainly be fulfilled, and his threatenings take effect; and that there was no way of escape but by submitting to him, and joining with his people. The conduct of Rahab proved that she had the real principle of Divine faith. Observe the promises the spies made to her. The goodness of God is often expressed by his kindness and truth, Psalm 117:2; in both these we must be followers of him. Those who will be conscientious in keeping promises, are cautious in making them. The spies make needful conditions. The scarlet cord, like the blood upon the doorpost at the passover, recalls to remembrance the sinner's security under the atoning blood of Christ; and that we are to flee thereto for refuge from the wrath of a justly offended God. The same cord Rahab used for the saving of these Israelites, was to be used for her own safety. What we serve and honour God with, we may expect he will bless, and make useful to us.
Commentary on Joshua 2:22-24
(Read Joshua 2:22-24)
The report the spies brought was encouraging. All the people of the country faint because of Israel; they have neither wisdom to yield, nor courage to fight. Those terrors of conscience, and that sense of Divine wrath, which dismay the ungodly, but bring not to repentance, are fearful forebodings of approaching destruction. But grace yet abounds to the chief of sinners. Let them, without delay, flee to Christ, and all shall be well.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Joshua》
 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.
Sent — Or, had sent: Two men - Not twelve, as Moses did, because those were to view the whole land, these but a small parcel of it.
To spy — That is, to learn the state of the land and people. It is evident Joshua did not this out of distrust; it is probable, he had God's command and direction in it for the encouragement of himself and his army.
Secretly — With reference not to his enemies, that being the practice of all spies, but to the Israelites; a good caution to prevent the inconveniency which possibly might have arisen, if their report had been discouraging.
Jericho — That is, the land about Jericho, together with the city. Heb. The land and Jericho, that is, especially Jericho.
Lodged — Or, lay down; as the same word is rendered, Joshua 2:8, composed themselves to rest; but they were hindered from that intention.
 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.
To night — This evening.
 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.
Probably Israel had but one friend in all Jericho: and God directed them to her! Thus what seems to be most accidental, is often over-ruled, to serve the great ends of providence. And those that acknowledge God in their ways, he will guide them with his eye.
 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 the woman — Or, But the woman had taken - and had hid them, before the messengers came from the king; as soon as she understood from her neighbours, that there was a suspicion of the matter, and guessed that search would be made. And this is justly mentioned as a great and generous act of faith, Hebrews 11:31, for she apparently ventured her life upon a steadfast persuasion of the truth of God's word and promise given to the Israelites.
Whence they were — Her answer contained in these and the following words, was false, and therefore unquestionably sinful; tho' her intention was good therein. But it is very probable, she being an Heathen, might think, that an officious lie is not unlawful.
 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.
Roof — Which was flat after their manner.
Upon the roof — That they might be dried by the heat of the sun.
 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.
Fords — Or passages, that is, the places where people used to pass over Jordan, whether by boats or bridges.
The gate — Of the city, to prevent the escape of the spies, if peradventure Rahab was mistaken, and they yet lurked therein.
 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
Laid down — To sleep as they intended.
 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.
Your terror — That is, the dread of you.
 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.
Melted — That is, were dissolved, lost all courage.
 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:
By the Lord — By your God who is the only true God: so she owns his worship, one eminent act whereof is swearing by his name.
My father's house — My near kindred, which she particularly names, Joshua 2:13, husband and children it seems she had none. And for herself, it was needless to speak, it being a plain and undeniable duty to save their preserver.
True token — Either an assurance that you will preserve me and mine from the common ruin: or a token which I may produce as a witness of this agreement, and a means of my security. This is all that she asks. But God did for her more than she could ask or think. She was afterwards advanced to be a princess in Israel, the wife of Salmon and one of the ancestors of Christ.
 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.
All that they have — That is, their children, as appears from Joshua 6:23.
 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.
For yours — We will venture our lives for the security of yours.
Our business — That is, this agreement of ours, and the condition of it, lest others under this pretence, should secure themselves. By which they shew both their piety and prudence in managing their oath with so much circumspection, that neither their own consciences might be ensnared, nor the publick justice obstructed.
 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.
Town-wall — Which gave her the opportunity of dismissing them when the gates were shut.
Upon the wall — Her particular dwelling was there: which may possibly be added, because the other part of her house was reserved for the entertainment of strangers.
 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 mountain — That is, to some of the mountains wherewith Jericho was encompassed, in which also there were many caves where they might lurk.
Three days — Not three whole days, but one whole day, and part of two days.
 And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
Said — Or, had said; namely, before she let them down; it being very improbable, either that she would dismiss them before the condition was agreed on; or that she would discourse with them, or they with her, about such secret and weighty things after they were let down, when others might overhear them.
Blameless — That is, free from guilt or reproach if it be violated, namely, if the following condition be not observed.
 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.
Into the land — That is, over Jordan, and near the city.
This line of scarlet — Probably the same with which she was about to let them down.
Window — That it may be easily discerned by our soldiers.
 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.
Upon his head — The blame of his death shall rest wholly upon himself, as being occasioned by his own neglect of the means of safety.
Our head — We are willing to bear the sin, and shame, and punishment of it.
Be upon him — So as to kill him.
 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.
In the window — Forthwith, partly that the spies might see it hung out before their departure, and so the better know it at some distance; partly lest some accident might occasion a neglect about it.
 And they 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.
Three days — Supporting themselves there with the provisions, which Rahab had furnished them with.
The ways — That is, in the road to Jordan, and the places near it, but not in the mountains.
 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:
Passed over — Jordan unto Joshua.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Joshua》
02 Chapter 2
Joshua . . . sent out . . . two men to spy.
The spies despatched
I. The position in which joshua and the Israelites were placed. It was a difficult task that had been performed by Moses; did not a harder remain? It was something to lead such a host through the wilderness. Surely more is required now the armour is to be put on, active service entered, and they brought face to face with their foes. But was not Joshua specially called to the onerous duty? Certainly he was! We have been called to a work individually, collectively. God has promised success in it; the work is that of dispossessing before possessing. We are to enjoy the companionship of God in it. Still, like Joshua, we have to depend on that word of promise. The comparison is in our favour. We have the example of all the generations from Joshua till the present. These have been strengthened by the life of Christ. In Him we have a volume of testimony confirmatory of our highest hopes.
II. That all these promises do not preclude the use of proper means. What are the feelings of a child when receiving a promise from an earthly parent? Does not the promise heighten affection, induce carefulness, and prompt to obedience? Who ever knew a child made neglectful by a well-timed promise? Is not man the same in all his relations--is he not still a man, though dealing with God? What are the effects of His promises--do they not in every way stimulate to increased affection and zeal? To expect without working is to tempt God--to work without expecting is to dishonour Him. In all that has been and is now doing in the world for God, we find the principle of co-operation prevailing. God works out His purposes by human instrumentalities--men, organised into Churches, in their collective or individual capacity, work, and God crowns with success. Man without God can do nothing. God without man does nothing, and although we have the assurance that through our instrumentality the fortresses of sin shall be vanquished, and the flag of our Master float upon the ramparts, we are bound care fully to consider our steps, and to use all our God-given powers to accomplish the object. We have our Jericho in the world. Adult world--juvenile world--spy the land, call into action all your powers; God will surely give you the land to possess.
III. The willingness on the part of the men to undertake the difficult work. They respond at once to the call of their leader, and trusting in God are honoured with success. With this spirit thoroughly in our Churches, what a large amount of work we should do. We seem to think the time for special workings and special deliverances has past. Nay, this is the time; that army on the east of Jordan is but a picture of ourselves. The work is before us. There runs a river between us and our work; yes, and we thank God for it. If we could, we would not on any account remove it. It is the right order of things. He that would do any work must cross it, and we may take it for granted the width, depth, and swiftness of the stream will be proportioned to the value of the work. Earnest Workers will cross it, manfully trusting in God, and these are the only successful workers. (J. H. Snell.)
Beginning at the right point
From military wisdom we may learn the moral wisdom of always striking first at the right point. Every thing turns upon the first stroke in many a controversy and in many an arduous battle. Why do men come home at eventide saying the day has been wasted? Because their very first step in the morning was in the wrong direction, or the very first word they spoke was the word they ought not to have uttered. With all thy getting, get understanding of how to begin life, where to strike first, what to do and when to do it, and exactly how much of it to do within given time. If you strike the wrong place you will waste your strength, and the walls of the city will remain unshaken. A blow delivered at the right place and at the right time will have tenfold effect over blows that are struck in the dark and at random: however energetic they may be, and however well delivered, they fall upon the wrong place, and the result is nothing. That is what is meant by wasted lives. Men have been industrious, painstaking, even anxious in thoughtfulness, and the night has been encroached upon so that the time of rest might be turned into a time of labour; yet all has come to nothing: no city has been taken, no position has been established, no progress has been made. Why? Simply because they did not begin at the right point. (J. Parker, D. D.)
An unexpected ally of the Lord’s host; or, Rahab and her faith
Imaginative writers have pictured Rahab as attired in gaudy costume, going about the city with her harp (Isaiah 23:16), and at this very time in pursuit of her evil trade. Others, following Josephus, have adopted so charitable an estimate of her profession as to suppose her to have been simply a tavern-keeper. May we not, perhaps, take a middle line, and venture to believe that one who had become a believer in the God of Israel had also, ere this, repented of and forsaken the infamous life which her title imports. She appears from the narrative to be supporting herself by her own industry, in the preparation and dyeing of flax. One thing is certain, and that is that pure and saving faith cannot exist with foul and deadly sins. In reference to Rahab’s faith, observe--
I. The wonder of its existence. Here dwells an unfortunate woman. She has had no spiritual advantages.--no Sabbaths, no Scriptures, no teachers--and yet in the base purlieus of a Jericho, in the heart of that poor harlot, like a fair pearl that lies within a rough shell among the weeds and rocks at the sea bottom, there is found precious faith, faith that finds utterance in a good confession (Joshua 2:11). Here is encouragement for those who are called, in the providence of God, to minister where worldliness and frivolity, and pride and bitter opposition to the truth prevail, Here, too, is encouragement for those who minister in uncouth regions, where sin and ignorance seem to shut out hope of blessing. Let missionaries and visitors in alleys and courts, in attics and cellars, which seem like nests of blasphemy and impurity, take heart. The unholy atmosphere of gin palaces, and even of houses like that in which Joshua’s spies sought refuge, cannot exclude the Holy Ghost, or nullify the Gospel message.
II. Its practical operation. A poetic faith may lift its possessor to the heavens in ecstacies. A talking faith may delight the hearers with glowing descriptions of supposed experiences and imaginary prospects. But the faith that saves is known by its works. Such a faith was Rahab’s. Her faith wrought with her works, and by works was her faith made perfect.
III. Its saving tendency. The characteristic of true faith is ever to tend towards salvation. Faith accepts the warnings of the Word of God as true, and leads men to flee from the wrath to come. Now we shall find this to be a marked characteristic in the faith of Rahab. It inclines her to seek salvation both for herself and for her kindred.
IV. Its rich reward. Vain are man’s promises of help except God approve the pledge. The oath of the spies to deliver Rahab and her house had availed her nothing had not God Himself, by a notable miracle, confirmed their word. Joshua held himself bound by the covenant of his representatives; but what was more, the Lord accepted Rahab’s faith and spared her house, or, when the walls of Jericho fell down, her house had fallen too, for it abutted on the wall. But it fell not, but stood unscathed amid the overthrow, a monument of Divine faithfulness and mercy. Nor will that faithfulness and mercy fail to save any, even the most unworthy, who has entered into the covenant of grace. “Our life for yours!” may every ambassador of the gospel say. If the conditions of salvation be observed, thy house and thy hope shall stand, though a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand. (G. W. Butler, M. A.)
A parenthesis of grace
Let us look at Rahab’s faith, and meditate on a few of its phases.
I. Consider the hindrances of her faith.
1. There were hindrances which arose from herself. She was the harlot Rahab. Her character was exceptionally evil. She belonged to a class than whom there are none more hardened, inaccessible, and hopeless. Moreover, she had found her calling profitable, and therefore, naturally speaking, would be the more firmly wedded to her evil ways. Moreover, Israel is coming to Jericho for the purpose of executing the Divine vengeance on the very evils of which she is guilty. The cry of the Canaanites has ascended to heaven; in long-suffering patience God has waited till now, but at last He has sent forth His hosts to consume them utterly. How much, then, was there, in herself, to keep Rahab from trust in Jehovah!
2. There were also hindrances to Rahab’s faith arising from her natural friends. The example of all her neighbours would encourage her in a path of unbelief. Her faith would make her an oddity in Jericho.
3. There were hindrances to her faith arising from her natural enemies. Israel, the people of Jehovah, were arrayed against her and her people, and were even now marching onward to their destruction. The mission of Israel is not one of mercy, but of judgment. Their feet are not beautiful upon the mountains, bringing good tidings of peace. They bring no gospel to the Canaanites, but war, disaster, and death are in their invincible path. How black was the outlook for Rahab.
II. Consider the opportunity of her faith. Faith always finds, or rather God always gives to faith, an opportunity for its manifestation. As in the day of Sodom’s doom, the Lord delayed till righteous Lot had escaped to Zoar, saying, “I cannot do anything till thou be come thither,” so now, if there is a single soul in Jericho groping after Him in the darkness of vice and heathenism, He will delay the march of His destroying hosts, to give that soul the opportunity which it requires and for which it longs. He can do nothing in judgment till that one soul in the doomed city is brought into a place of safety. Thus this pause in the Divine and just act of judgment, this parenthesis of grace, this long-suffering of God, is salvation.
III. Consider the operation of her faith. Rahab showed her faith by her works. We cannot, and do not, defend the deliberate falsehood by which she misled her fellow citizens in search of the spies; but we must remember that her whole training from childhood had been in lies, and that this was a sudden emergency. She was no well-instructed saint, walking under the light of God’s countenance, but a great sinner groping after Him. There is sufficient in her conduct to manifest a heart truly sincere and anxiously solicitous for the welfare of God’s people, willing to risk her own life to save theirs.
IV. Turn now to the confession of her faith. He that believes with the heart confesses with the mouth. All the believing add to their faith virtue, boldness in confessing the truth; all are witnesses. To the spies Rahab said, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land,” &c. She does not say, “I think,” “I suppose,” “I fear,” but “I know.” She believes as firmly in the promises of God as any in Israel. And as she believes in the promises of God, so she believes in the God of the promises. How clear and unmistakable is her confession of the name of Jehovah; how high, and exalted, and spiritual; how wonderful, in the mouth of one trained from infancy to worship stocks and stones, trained to think that the power of the different deities was local and circumscribed: “The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath”!
V. Next let us ponder the trial of her faith. Faith is always tested, that it may be manifested as Divine. Had Rahab sought to add anything to the instructions of the spies, had she consulted her own ideas as to the best means of ensuring her safety, she would have manifested her folly, and would have miserably failed. So trust in any other means than those which God has provided, trust in anything but the blood of the Lamb, is a manifestation of folly and a sure cause of failure.
VI. Consider also the solicitude of her faith. She was anxious not only about her own safety, but about that of those who were dear to her. She was not selfishly absorbed in looking after her own welfare, content if she herself escaped; but, with true affection, arranged for the rescue of her relatives. The work of Rahab, in bringing in others, is similar to that of every saved soul. After we ourselves are saved we are not to rest content; we are not to sit down in idleness and ease because all is well with us for ever. We are to bear on our hearts those who are still exposed to the Divine judgment; we are to be up and doing, instant in season and out of season, if by any means we may save some.
VII. Consider the reward of her faith. When the dread day of Jericho’s judgment came, what a joy must it have been to Rahab to know that all dear to her were safe. But who can tell the rapture of those who have saved a soul from eternal death, and covered a multitude of sins? Surely such a glorious reward, such a monument of everlasting renown, is worth labouring for, worth living for, worth dying for. Rut turning again to the ease before us, why did the multitudes in Jericho thus perish without pity? Was it because the cup of their iniquity was full? Yes, truly, for they had fearfully corrupted their ways. But, while many sins characterised the Canaanites, the Holy Ghost selects one sin as emphatically that which caused their destruction. Which sin? Unbelief. That which distinguished Rahab from the rest was not superior morality, higher intelligence, a more exemplary life, a better natural disposition, but faith in God. She believed; they believed not. Because she believed, she was saved; because they believed not, they perished. Even so, many sins may characterise you, and each one is like a millstone round your neck, fitted to drag you down to endless destruction, but your great, culminating, condemning sin is unbelief (Mark 16:16). But Rahab was not only rescued from the judgment of Jericho, she was also received into the number of God’s people. Even so the sinner who believes in Jesus is not only saved from wrath to come, but is received into the Church, the house of the living God, there to be instructed more fully in the ways of God; there to learn all the lessons that the grace of God can teach; to deny ungodliness and worldly lust; to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. (A. B. Mackay.)
The woman had an eye to see and an ear to hear. She knew better than to suppose that a nation of slaves by their own resources could have eluded all the might of Pharaoh, subsisted for forty years in the wilderness, and annihilated the forces of such renowned potentates as Sihon and Og. She was no philosopher, and could not have reasoned on the doctrine of causation, but her common sense taught her that you cannot have extraordinary effects without corresponding causes. It is one of the great weaknesses of modern unbelief that with all its pretensions to philosophy it is constantly accepting effects without an adequate cause. Jesus Christ, though He revolutionised the world, though He founded an empire to which that of the Caesars is not for a moment to be compared, though all that were about Him admitted His supernatural power and person, after all was nothing but a man. The gospel that has brought peace and joy to so many weary hearts, that has transformed the slaves of sin into children of heaven, that has turned cannibals into saints, and fashioned so many an angelic character out of the rude blocks of humanity, is but a cunningly devised fable. What contempt for such sophistries, such vain explanations of facts patent to all, would this poor woman have shown! How does she rebuke the many that keep pottering in poor natural explanations of plain supernatural facts instead of manfully admitting that it is the arm of God that has been revealed and the voice of God that has spoken. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
If we ask, How could Rahab have such a faith and yet be a harlot? or How could she have such faith in God and yet utter that tissue of falsehoods about the spies with which she deluded the messengers of the king? we answer that light comes but gradually and slowly to persons like Rahab. The conscience is but gradually enlightened. How many men have been slaveholders after they were Christians! Worse than that, did not the godly John Newton, one of the two authors of the Olney hymns, continue for some time in the slave trade, conveying cargoes of his fellow-creatures stolen from their homes, before he awoke to a sense of its infamy? Are there no persons among us calling themselves Christians engaged in traffic that brings awful destruction to the bodies and souls of their fellow-men? That Rahab should have continued as she was after she threw in her lot with God’s people is inconceivable; but there can be no doubt how she was living when she first comes into Bible history. And as to her falsehoods, though some have excused lying when practised in order to save life, we do not vindicate her on that ground. All falsehood, especially what is spoken to those who have a right to trust us, must be offensive to the God of truth, and the nearer men get to the Divine image, through the growing closeness of their Divine fellowship, the more do they recoil from it. Rahab was yet in the outermost circle of the Church, just touching the boundary; the nearer she got to the centre the more would she recoil alike from the foulness and the falseness of her early years. And yet, though her faith may at this time have been but as a grain of mustard seed, we see two effects of it that are not to be despised. One was her protection of the Lord’s people, as represented by the spies; the other was her concern for her own relations. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Faith in the human heart is a Divine work and a Divine wonder. Jesus wondered when He beheld the witness of it in the message of the centurion, and in the cry of the Syro-Phoenician, and sometimes it occurs among circumstances so strange and unlikely as to compel the wonder even of our hard hearts and dull minds. The faith of Rahab is of this class--strange, unaccountable on merely natural grounds. That this plant of heavenly renown should take root and spring up in such uncongenial soil is what we do not naturally look for. Her faith reminds us of a tree we have seen in the Highlands of Scotland. At the bottom of a wild glen stood a huge boulder, which towered high above those which had toppled with it from the mountain side, and it had a strange crown. On its summit, as if rising out of the rock, grew a young tree--green, vigorous, and healthy. From its peculiar position, it attracted the notice of every passer-by; it was the only tree for miles around, and there, in that wilderness, and on that rock, it grew, planted as it were by the finger of God. Even so the faith of Rahab is a great wonder, a tree of paradise, planted by the hand of God, in the midst of a wilderness of moral and spiritual desolation.
A mixed character
They are mixed characters and mixed actions in the moral sense; and just as we may take a conglomerate mineral and single out one ingredient for remark, so we may fix our minds upon one aspect of a complex action, disregarding all other aspects for the time, with admiration or condemnation. It is what we do continually. We speak highly of an author’s genius--without approval of his principles; we praise the skill of some diplomatist--whose policy we strongly condemn; we do not grudge our admiration to the powers of Napoleon--though we may believe him to have been a monster of iniquity. In a famous essay John Foster illustrates decision of character by a number of striking instances. He refers to the untameable soul of Milton as portrayed in “Paradise Lost”; to the sublime height to which Pompey was raised by his ambitious spirit; to the constancy of purpose with which a Spaniard pursued and at last accomplished his revenge; to the indefatigable industry with which a ruined spendthrift regained his fortune and died a miser. But none is so foolish as to accuse the essayist of commending obstinacy, ambition, revenge, or miserliness. Now, the same principle must be applied to an interpretation of Scripture. The unjust steward, e.g., was a bad man: he was selfish, unprincipled, a downright rogue. But withal he was prudent; he forecast the future; he directed his energies towards providing for it; and he succeeded. In his prudence, then, is he set forth as an example for us. (Sunday School Times.)
Our hearts did melt.--
The powers of evil in terror
I think that testimony stands yet. We, who are fighting Joshua’s battle to-day, should take to heart this word that has leaked out from the headquarters of the devil’s army; and the word is this, that with all the devil’s swagger, and bravado, and bluster, he is a bigger coward than we are, and that is big enough. He is really not so bold as he is trying to pretend. He knows that the doom is coming, and Rahab is the testifier; and she ought to know: she has been near him and is intimate with the latest information on that side. I say, I think that we should all take this. It stands here. This is a bit of the Word of God that “liveth and abideth for ever.” And its great value to you and me who are fighting to-day in the wars of the Lord under the heavenly Joshua is that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the fear of us and the terror of us are working yonder before we arrive. God is making a way for His conquering purpose before we thunder at the enemy’s gate. Therefore let us nerve ourselves. Therefore let us be strong. Therefore do not let us be daunted by the colossal and seemingly impregnable powers of evil. There is a trembling and a quivering in the devil’s host. “Your terror is fallen upon us.” Who would think it, to read the secular press? What nonsense clever men talk about religion, as if it were a feeble kind of thing, such as they would call in Scotland “a fozy turnip”--a half-rotten, effete, useless thing. “We are going to have reforms, and we are going to make things a great deal better, but we will have no religion.” Did ever anybody hear such addle-headed talking by clever men? No religion! Oh, indeed! You are going to bow out Jesus Christ? You ought to have been born a long while before you were, if you are going to do that. You have come into the world much too late to put it right without Christ. He is here, and He means to be here, and I trust we are all with Him. Oh, what encouragement there comes to us out of this! What encouragement--that the kingdom of darkness in all its domain is tottering to its fall, and it knows it! Strange it is that we who are serving under the heavenly Joshua, and have all these things to fortify us and to infuse strength into us, are so nervous and womanish. Oh, to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and to be strengthened by what we read here as to the condition of things in the enemy’s camp! They are just about to surrender if we would put on a bold front. (John McNeill.)
The Lord your God, He is God.--
Our God, God over all
I. The lord your God. I am aware that “our Lord” and “our Saviour,” and so on, are phrases that are frequently employed thoughtlessly, ignorantly, and profanely; but this does not render their value less. Whatever faith is in exercise, so that the believer can really claim his affinity, his relationship, it is most blessed so to do. Nay, more; there is no solid happiness and permanent peace for any child of Adam until that child of Adam can claim this relationship: “the Lord our God.” But oh! “wonder, ye heavens, and be astonished, O earth,” at this amazing condescension: that the great Eternal--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--should give to His elect family each of the Persons, and all the perfections and attributes of self-existent Deity, as the Church’s portion and inheritance.
II. He is God in heaven. AS for myself, the fact that Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, is “my God,” makes me look up to heaven and think of heaven with the utmost confidence; aye, without a scruple; aye, upon scriptural assurance of calling it my home. Now, mark two or three things arising out of this fact that “He is God in heaven above.” All the records of heaven written and kept by Him; all the enjoyments of heaven bestowed, communicated, imparted, in His presence; all the inhabitants of heaven His own choice, His own redemption, His own workmanship. He is absolute Sovereign “in heaven” of the fixed decrees of heaven; absolute Sovereign “in heaven” of all the glories of heaven; and absolute Sovereign “in heaven” of all the inhabitants of heaven. Oh! what security is here! “The Lord your God is God in heaven above.”
III. He is God in earth beneath. Here we have a solution of the mystery of His providence. He is God in earth, as well as in heaven; tell Him all about it. Go with thy sorrows, thy cares, thy domestic woes, thy bodily afflictions, thy circumstantial trials, thy matters of business, thy little things as well as thy great things; for “He is God in earth.” “The Lord your God is God in earth beneath.” Oh! I had saved myself a thousand sorrows if I had always lived upon this principle. I had saved myself a thousand woes, if I had lived as if there was “a God on earth.” (J. Irons.)
Bind this line of scarlet thread in the window.--
The scarlet line
In Scripture we find the blessing of God and the curse of God concentrated not only in individual souls, but also in cities. Thus Jerusalem is constantly set forth in Scripture as the city of blessing (Psalms 48:1-3; Psalms 50:2). On the other hand, Jericho is the city of the curse (Joshua 6:17). These two cities, then, are evidently representative cities. Jerusalem, the city of blessing, represents the Church of God, destined to eternal life. Jericho, the city of the curse, represents the world, alienated from God, and destined to destruction. And then what will Rahab represent but those who are gathered out of the one into the other, not on account of anything good in themselves, any natural excellencies or attainments, but by the grace of God, and according to His good pleasure. And specially does she, herself a Gentile, seem to represent those of the Gentiles who are brought to God. Rahab’s faith showed itself in this, that she recognised God. She looked above second causes. It was not Israel’s power and prowess, but God’s hand, which she saw (Joshua 2:9-11). All this throws much light on the nature of true faith. It shows us, first, that living faith carries us straight to God. Our hearts are very prone to get entangled in second causes--to look at the hand of man, and forget the hand of God. The language of faith is, “It is the Lord.” It elevates the heart above second causes, and enables it to rest, not, it may be, without many struggles, on the will an arm of God. Again, we see in this history that faith is the principle of a new life. Rahab’s life had been an unhallowed one, and she had sunk lower than many others in Jericho. But now through Divine grace she rises higher than all (Hebrews 11:31). And faith is always the same; the same in its object, which is God; the same in its principle, which is His grace; the same in its result, which is holiness of life. Rahab believed in the approaching doom of Jericho; she felt that its days were numbered. The true Christian now believes that a more awful and universal judgment is coming upon the world, and he flees from the wrath to come--flees to the only Refuge from the storm. But Rahab went further. She wished to have some assurance that her life, and the life of her family, would be spared. It is not wonderful that she should have desired this token; and we may well imagine what comfort she must have felt when the scarlet line was floating in the air at her window. Very solemn thoughts must often have weighed upon her heart--thoughts of the awful destruction which awaited her fellow-townsmen; but she felt no anxiety about herself and family. The scarlet line silenced every fear. And if it was natural in Rahab to desire a token of her safety, is it not even more natural in the true Christian to desire it? And one there is which is granted sooner or later to those who walk with God. It is not always given at once; often it grows up by degrees. But yet, sooner or later, it is given. The blood of Jesus secures pardon, and also produces assurance. But notice that there is a wide difference between the two. Forgiveness is one thing; the knowledge of forgiveness is another. Forgiveness of sin we must have, to be Christians. Assurance is a privilege which Christians should seek, and seek until they find, and then watch, that they may retain it. If, then, you would have the scarlet line floating at the window of your hearts, you must trust simply in Christ. This of itself is enough to bring, and does often bring, assurance; but if not, endeavour to walk with God. Be diligent in doing His will and work, and perhaps God will meet you then, and will crown some act of faith and self-denial and devoted service with a true token, a scarlet line of His assurance-love. Having proceeded thus far with the history of Rahab, we must say a few words about its conclusion. What a difference that little piece of scarlet line made! It was not a mere token arranged between man and man; it was sanctioned in heaven. God’s eye as well as man’s was fixed upon the scarlet line, and Rahab was protected. And if that scarlet line made so great a difference in her case, and secured her protection, oh, how much more shall the blood of Christ secure that of the true Christian I Is it sprinkled upon your heart? Does God’s eye see it there? Then all your sins, however many, are forgiven; all your enemies, however strong, will be overcome. But there is still one other point to be noticed in Rahab’s history. You will find it stated in Joshua 6:25, where it says, “She dwelleth in Israel unto this day.” So that from that time forth, though she had been a sinner of the Gentiles, she was put among God’s children, reckoned as one of His own Israel; and even, we learn from Matthew 1:5, so honoured of God as to be one of the line from whom Jesus was descended. And do we not learn from this how completely the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin? how real a thing is the forgiveness of sins? how great and entire is the change which the grace of God makes in the heart? (G. Wagner.)
I. The sovereign mercy of God was magnified in the previous character and position of the individual to whom it was vouchsafed.
II. The oneness, the primeval, constant, and continued identity of the way of salvation, from the blood that flowed upon Abel’s altar, and I doubt not upon Adam’s also, to “the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” By that line--as with Rahab, so with the Church--the messengers that brought it to her and taught it to her had already escaped; it had borne their weight, proved its efficacy; and the Church knows it to be strong enough still. She knows it to be the cable-line which rivets her to the anchor of hope, “sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the veil.” Ah! who that has ever tried it, who that has ever “fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him,” hath not found the promise fulfilled in his happy experience--“I will draw them with the cords of love, with the bands of a man”! Blessed Jesus! Thou art this “scarlet line,” dyed with the blood of propitiating mercy.
III. Another exemplary feature in the act of Rahab’s faith is its great simplicity. What could be simpler than tying a scarlet line in a window? Had the gospel assumed a more scientific and imposing form--had its principles been more elaborate and philosophical had it required years of study to comprehend it, and thereby attached some literary reputation to the ultimate adept in it--had it been like the rabinnical lore of the Hebrews, or the mythological mysteries of the Greeks, beyond the reach of the vulgar, and a consequent badge of distinction to the initiated--had its prophet required us to do some great thing--were its peculiar privileges obtainable only by the pomp of a ritual, the costliness of sacrifice, or the toil of pilgrimage--then the evangelical Sion had never been destitute of its thousands of devotees and ten thousands of disciples; but when it appears in the guise of a system of which a child can appreciate the beauty, and which only requires the spirit of a child to learn and entertain it--when “the wayfaring man,” as he runs upon his business may read it--when its elastic principles expand their comprehensive arms to the embrace of all men, and like the outstretched arms of its crucified Author upon the Cross seem to offer mercy on the right hand and on the left--when its whole system is summed up in a single sentence, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”--then the world turns its back upon the Church, is ashamed of the fellowship of children and vulgar and illiterate people, the simplicity of the truth is mistaken for vulgarity, and the house of God is eschewed and avoided, because, instead of the sumptuous drapery and tinselled garniture of the noble, the poetical, the dramatic, the speculative, and the vain, its only ornament and ensign is the Cross of Christ--its sole phylactery is “the scarlet line in the window.”
IV. Rahab’s act of faith extended a blessing, as every act of faith does, to the whole family. She gathered her father and mother and brethren and all her kindred into her house; and the emblem in the window spared them all. Yet I suppose it will scarcely be contended that it was the bit of thread that saved them, rather than the covenant of which that thread was the sign. But just as idle is the theory that the sacrament is salvation, instead of the sign of the Saviour; as inaccurate is the impression that faith itself saves, and not His blood and righteousness which faith appropriates. Why, there is no more saving merit in faith than there is in works--not a jot. I am not saved because I believe, but I am saved by Him in whom I believe. There is all the world’s difference between those propositions. (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》