The first chapter covers the commission and exhortation of Joshua from the LORD—capital letters—himself. And the chapter ends with Joshua telling the officers of the people that in three days they are going to cross the Jordan and take possession of the Promised Land, just as God had told them they should.
So, they’re going in in three days’ time, but in the meantime, look at what Joshua orders in verse 1, ‘Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.”’
This is striking. There’s a very wise and biblical approach that Joshua takes here, and it’s a pattern you see throughout scripture. Joshua has been promisedthat the land is theirs and that they are going to have success. And yet Joshua knows that God uses means. And so, he knows that the means—the method, the way—that God will bring them success in this campaign is through thoroughand intelligentstrategy. And part of that involves spying out the land.
And notice that he tells them to especially spy in the city of Jericho. Jericho was a key city, a key area for them to defeat, this was their first real challenge—Jericho—so they need to especially look at what the situation is there.
Now from verse 12, Rahab asks for help. And again, this is not opportunistic or crass, this is an honest pursuit from Rahab’s perspective to protect the ones in her care. Look at verse 12, ‘Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”’
And the spies are happy to do so! This is lovely isn’t it? Verse 14, ‘Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”’
And with that they’re off. Verse 15, ‘she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall.’
But we don’t hear of what happened to the spies next until we’ve been told of where Rahab had advised them to go. Again, here we have more evidence of Rahab’s good intentions for these men, ‘”Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”’
But look at what we have in verse 17… it’s a reply to the request of Rahab, there are some provisos to this agreement,
‘”This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
It makes total sense that the men set these boundaries. I think this comes back to the principle that we discussed near the beginning of this sermon… God uses means. Yes, promises are made, but there must be methods, ways in which these promises are fulfilled. And so, just as God did with Joshua in sanctioning the use of means with his sending out of the spies. The spies do with Rahab… they have made her a promise and here will be the means through which this promise shall be fulfilled…
- She must tie a scarlet cord in the window, so that they can see which house hers is.
- If this onehouse is going to be the one that’s not destroyed, her whole family need to be inside it. And that means if anyone is not in it, they won’t survive.
- She’s got to keep up her side of the bargain, the whole reason they’re blessing her in this way is because of her kindness to them, she’s got to not stop doing that.
And in verse 21 Rahab agrees to those terms. We read that ‘she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.’
They do what she says, they stay in hills for three days—verse 22—and then they go back—verse 23.
And look at this confident assessment and confirmation that they clearly feel that God really is keeping his promises, verse 24, ‘they said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”’
Now. There’s a lot there. We’ve touched on this idea of the fact that God uses means. And I want to talk a bit about that… This is an important doctrine in the Christian life. One of the clearest application of the doctrine of means is in the means of grace...
God wants to be gracious to his people, he wants to show love to them that they don’t deserve, and I suppose God could just fill us with grace—we could grow in grace as we just lay in bed. But that’s not the way he’s decided to do it, he has created means—ways, methods—through which grace can be imparted to us.
What are the means of grace? Well, the means of grace can be boiled down to preaching, baptism and communion. But that can be extended out a bit to include:
- Prayer—both public and private.
- Church discipline
- Use of our gifts in the church
- Personal ministry to individuals in the church
These are all common means that God uses to impart his grace to us. Through us doing these things God gives us grace. It is not us earning God’s favour, it is God showing us favour in the context of these means.
I hope that what you can see from that list is that every single one of those means of grace takes place within the context of being a member of God’s church.
My application to you if you have not yet come to Christ, is come!
And my application to you if you have already come and joined, is, think, can you come and show more commitmentto God’s church?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you taking every opportunity to come under the light of the preached word?
- Have you been baptised?
- Do you regularly show up to the Lord’s table?
- Do you come to prayer meeting and pray at prayer meeting?
- Do you pray in private?
- Do you worship with us on a Sunday morning and evening?
- Are you in good communication with the elders and with other church members, so they can encourage and challenge you in your walk with God?
- Do you give to the church?
- Do you use your gifts in the church?
- Are you taking every opportunity to spend time with others from the church?
- Do you tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Do you work one-to-one with others in the church, opening the Bible with them in order to encourage them?
As preachers sometimes say, “Put yourself in the way of grace”. Yes, it’s only God who gives grace… but he uses means, methods, ways. So, do these things.