Joshua, the Man and the Book #3 October 31, 2017

Welcome to our third lesson in the book of Joshua.

In the previous lesson I left you with a question and I hope you’ve thought about it since then.  The two men whom Joshua sent to spy out the city of Jericho, Caleb and Pinchas, did something that we find rather odd.  They went into an inn operated by Rahab, a woman of ‘ill repute’.

Now here’s a very interesting character who enters the story – Rahab.  This is a woman whose very name generally has evoked derogatory feelings throughout the centuries.  Jewish mothers name their daughters after Ruth, Esther, Sarah and others.  But nobody names their daughter, Rahab. Why in the world would the two spies go there?

Actually they had good reason to do so.  First of all, Rahab was an innkeeper.  Her home was built into the wall of the city and would be the first place they saw as they entered the gates.  Rahab, as an innkeeper and a prostitute, knew everybody and was known by everybody in Jericho.  If you want to find out what’s going on in a city, find the person who knows.  That’s Rahab.

In the very next verse we read that ‘someone told the king of Jericho’ that two Israelites had arrived in the city and the king’s reaction betrays his fear of the children of Israel.  How did word get to him so fast? Rahab may well have sent him the message. One thing is certain, he knew Rahab and knew immediately where the men were, but notice that he did not attribute any moral intent to their presence.  Instead he says that ‘they have come here to spy out the Land.’ 2:3

Now why in the world would he say that?  The king is worried. We realize later why.  Rahab declares to the spies in vs. 9-11: ‘I know the LORD has given you this land.  We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror for we have heard how the LORD made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things.  For the LORD your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.’

What is so interesting about this particular passage?

Three things: 1) Rahab, the innkeeper, the prostitute, is the first person in the Bible to declare that God is the only God in heaven and also on the earth.  This, in a manner of speaking, is her declaration of faith in the one true God.  2) She is the first non-Israelite person in the Bible to declare that the Land belongs to Israel by divine gifting.  3) she has just told the spies exactly what they needed to hear – the people of Jericho are terrified, they will not fight.

Jericho was a crossroads city on the ancient trade routes.  Rahab’s inn was ‘prime real estate’ in that setting.  Business travelers – to put it in modern terms – crisscrossed the area constantly and there’s no doubt she had regular clients who frequented her inn ‘Bed & Breakfast’.

Historical records indicate that Rahab was about 10 years old when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.  It is now 39 years later so she is close to 50.  All through the years she’s heard from travelers about the Exodus, about miracles in the desert, about this multitude of people who seem to have a Divine connection that no other people group has.  Word traveled quickly when Sihon and Og were destroyed.  Now, lo and behold, from the city walls, the people of Jericho can look across the river and see that very multitude camped opposite their city.  No wonder they were all terrified!

But Rahab apparently recognizes something in these two spies that is different from other men who have lodged at her inn.  They may be the first of her clients who didn’t want something more than a room from her.  Their manner intrigues her and she is drawn to desire what they had – a relationship with the God she recognizes as sovereign over heaven and earth.

Notice in verse 4 that Rahab hid the spies and then helped them escape through a window of her home that looks out beyond the city but before she did, she pleads with them to save her and her family when Israel enters the land.  They agree and give their word, instructing her to hang a scarlet cord from the window by which they escape.

Rahab

In Hebrew, the text says that she tied THE scarlet cord to her window, not “a” scarlet cord, indicating that THE scarlet cord had more significance than any old piece of red yarn or twine.  The Sages suggest a thought-provoking scenario.

Consider: her house (inn) was built into the wall of the city with a front door within the city and – very unusually – a window in the wall through which she could look out over the desert – and through which men seeking more than a room for the night, could climb up and enter surreptitiously.  Could it be that THE scarlet cord (or rope) was always there for the convenience of her ‘clients’?

After the visit of the spies, however, something appears to have changed.  THE scarlet cord previously used for ungodly purpose now became a source of protection and safety first for the spies and then afterwards for Rahab and her family.

There is a principle in Judaism which says that true and complete repentance can be described this way, ‘With this I sinned, with this I now do good.’  The Sages suggest that when Rahab used the scarlet cord to save the lives of the spies, it was symbolic of her repentance and desire to align herself with the God of Israel.

From ancient historical sources, we learn that Rahab did indeed join herself to Israel through faith in the one true God.  In due time, she became the wife of Joshua and among her descendants are the prophet Jeremiah and the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Kings 34:22).

***********

When you hear the name ‘Rahab’, what is your first thought? A prostitute? Or a woman of ill repute who in due time recognized and acknowledged the God of Israel and ultimately joined herself to Israel and became the mother of Joshua’s children?

In a negatively bent culture we are too easily inclined to remember what is wrong about certain people and not even look for what is right or how they may have changed later in life.  One thing is sure: Joshua would never have married her had she not utterly changed her way of life.

Yehoshua – Joshua – whose name means ‘the Lord saves’ takes Rahab, the former prostitute, to be his wife.  What a vivid picture in type and shadow of our Heavenly Father’s redemption offered to all who repent and turn to ‘the Lord [who] saves’.

Joshua – the Man and the Book #2 October 24, 2017

APOLOGY:  I just realized that though I wrote this over a week ago, I never clicked on the ‘PUBLISH’ button.  I am so sorry!  Here is last week’s lesson to be followed tomorrow by lesson #3.  Please forgive my ‘premature senior moment’!!

***********************************************

The second chapter of Joshua opens with an interesting statement that captures the attention of the Bible student.

The Joshua, the son of Nun, sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, ‘Go view the land, especially Jericho.’  Joshua 2:1

Sound familiar?

The children of Israel were then positioned on the eastern bank of the Jordan River opposite the city of Jericho.  Joshua has already been told – as we saw last week – to take the people into the Promised Land. He had already instructed the people to prepare themselves for in three days they were to begin the crossing.  His next move is to dispatch two men as spies to check out Jericho and bring back a report.  Joshua is acting in his capacity of military strategist and commander.

However, Joshua is wise and shrewd. He remembers well what Moses went through years earlier for he himself was one of the twelve spies spent by Moses.  The last thing Joshua wants is to go through the turmoil Moses dealt with when those twelve spies returned.  So let’s look at the difference between these two events.

First, Joshua sent two men, not twelve and he did so ‘secretly’, which means quietly and without attracting attention.  In fact, in Hebrew the word translated ‘secretly’ literally means ‘act like you’re invisible’. This is in stark contrast to Moses having sent twelve spies openly and publicly which produced no end of difficulties on their return.

From historical sources we are told that the two men sent were Caleb and Pinchas.  You will remember that Caleb was the only spy, along with Joshua, who returned to Moses some 39 years earlier with a good report about the Land.  This is the same Caleb, a man Joshua knows he can trust.

Who was Pinchas? Phinehas or Phineas – Pinchas in English translations – was a priest during the years of the Exodus and was a grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar.  He distinguished himself as a youth at Shittim with his zeal against heresy.  He was displeased with the immorality with which the Moabites and Midianites successfully tempted the men of Israel to inter-marry with foreign women and to worship Baal.  He personally executed an Israelite man and Midianite woman while they were together in their tent, bringing an end to the plague sent by God to punish the Israelites for sexually intermingling with the foreigners.  At the time of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land, Pinchas was appointed the third High Priest and therefore he was an ideal person for Joshua to choose to send into Jericho with Caleb.

Jericho_shittim

Secondly, Joshua sent them from ‘Shittim’, which was close to the bank of the river and therefore they could reach the city the same day.  Moses, by contrast, sent the twelve on a long journey and you can just imagine the kind of conversations among the twelve along the way before they even got to their destination. Did Joshua and Caleb back then begin to stand against negativity and fear even before the twelve entered the Promised Land on their arrival?  Very possibly.  You know how people generally are – when facing an unknown we tend to imagine all the things that could go wrong, don’t we?  It’s highly possible that ten of the spies went in with a preconditioned negative mindset.  When you and I face a situation about which we have negative or apprehensive feelings, do those feelings not color how we see the situation? Of course they do.

Thirdly, Joshua gave the two men very specific instructions: “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”  By contrast Moses gave the twelve a more generalized set of instructions.

So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab and lodged there.  Joshua 2:2

What???? Is that not rather odd?  Two godly men go into the house of a prostitute? What is going on here?

I’ll let you think about that til next week.  I promise you – the answer to those questions will be very interesting!

**********************

Ask yourself:

Am I generally more like Joshua and Caleb who saw the good in the Land despite the challenges?

Or am I more like the those who expected the worst and therefore that’s exactly what they saw?

Shalom and blessings to you til next week!

 

 

 

 

Joshua – The Man and the Book October 17, 2017

Welcome to a new series on Coffee and Commentary.  Over the next several weeks we will be looking into the life and times of Joshua, his prophetic significance as a prototype of the Messiah and the relevance of his book and the man himself to our present times.

For thirty-eight years, Joshua son of Nun was a faithful servant to Moses. Through times of joy as well as sorrow, Joshua watched, listened and learned as he attended to Moses’ needs and stood by him throughout the years in the desert. He was a young man when he began serving Moses, and a devout one, for we read in the book of Exodus, “And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp but his servant, Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the Tabernacle.” Exodus 33:11  Joshua was a man who loved the presence of the Lord.

He was devoted not only to the LORD but also to Moses. On one occasion, hearing that two men, Eldad and Medad, prophesied in the camp, “Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant since his youth, protested, Moses, my master, make them stop!” In response Moses corrected his assistant with these words, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all of the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them all.” Numbers 11: 28-29

It takes a special person to not only be content with a number two position but to actually flourish in it. Not too many stand in line to be second in importance; most prefer to be first. To make a career of being a servant is not appealing to the modern secular mind; it is not discussed as a desirable profession in high school or college career seminars. Yet servanthood is essential to true spiritual success.

Nowhere in the Torah do we get any hint that Joshua was vying for position or serving with a view to promotion. Nowhere does he indicate any desire to take over for Moses in the future. We detect no ambition, no self-seeking in Joshua’s relationship with Moses.

But as the Torah comes to its conclusion we read: ‘So Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, just as the LORD had said. The LORD buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab but to this day no one knows the exact place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. The sons of Israel wept for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. Now Joshua, the son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.’ Deuteronomy 34: 5-9

At the end of those thirty days, the children of Israel are positioned along the banks of the Jordan River. Their next step is to enter the Land but Moses has left them.

Consider: for forty years, they’ve been fed supernaturally. Their clothes didn’t wear out and neither did their shoes. Miracles were commonplace, a regular part of their life. In fact their very lives depended on daily miracles, many of them performed at the hand of Moses.  Now, their entire life is about to change dramatically.

Can you imagine the conversations as the thirty days are coming to a close? “What are we going to eat over there? Where will we get water? Will the natives welcome us or not? What kind of people are they anyway?  Do you think we can really trust Joshua? We’ve never seen him do a miracle! Why did Moses have to die now ??”

The thirty days are up; now what?

Joshua 1:1-3 It happened after the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses, my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all the people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Everyplace on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.

The servant of the servant of the LORD was now appointed leader. I try to think how Joshua must have felt. Me? Step into the shoes of Moses? Really?

Yes, really.

We tend to think of the death of Moses only as ‘punishment’ for his disobedience in striking the rock. I believe there is more to it.  It was the kindness of God that removed him.  Moses had finished his course. He had completed his mission. He was the deliverer and the lawgiver. He was a shepherd and a teacher. He had watched over the flock he led out of Egypt right up until the last one died. He was a ‘father’ to them. When Amalek rose up against Israel in the desert, Moses told Joshua to choose men and go out and fight while he went up on the mountain to pray. (Exodus 17)

The calling and anointing on Moses was not suited to what Israel needed to do next – take the Land. God had another man in mind to lead Israel into the next season of their national history.

The sons of Israel who mourned Moses were a new generation with different needs and different challenges . They had already been told they were to ‘take the Land’. The process would involve fighting for it, waging war, working hard. Their lives were about to undergo a radical change. They needed a different kind of leader.

Enter Joshua.

It was a monumental shift for all concerned but perhaps most of all for Joshua himself. But look at the gracious encouragement the LORD gave him.

‘No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.

Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you.

Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

Only be strong and very courageous;

Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;

Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.

For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.

Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’ Joshua 1: 5-9

Notice carefully everything that the LORD said to him.

  • No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. –Nobody will bring you down, Joshua. No Korachs, Dathans or Abirams will arise to challenge your authority like they did to Moses!
  • I will be with you just as much as I was with Moses. Moses may have left but I’m not leaving, Joshua!
  • Be strong and courageous! There would have been no need for God to command him to be strong and courageous if he already was!
  • Joshua, you will give the people possession of the Land. It will happen!
  • Only two things I command you – be strong & courageous. You can do this thing, Joshua!
  • Now let Me tell you how you do this thing – this Book shall not depart from your mouth: get in My Word, stay in My Word, Memorize My word; don’t look anywhere else for guidance or inspiration. All you need is in My Word.
  • You will succeed
  • Remember – this was My idea! Have I not commanded you? I called you and prepared you when you had no idea what was coming.
  • Do not tremble or be dismayed.. No cold feet, no upset stomach, no nervousness. I’ve got this, Joshua. Just follow Me and we’ll get this done. It’s a new season. You’re going to do things that have never been done before and see things you’ve never seen before, Joshua.

Joshua’s immediate response to what the LORD said to him was to give the word: Get ready, prepare your provisions, we’re going in! In three days!!

It is to Joshua’s eternal credit that he put aside his personal grief at the loss of Moses, overcame his hesitation, his fear, his anxiety, and rallied the people to move on into their destiny, though the unknowns were many.

What inspiration and/or exhortation do we draw from this first encounter with Joshua?

  1. He faithfully and unselfishly served another person’s ministry for decades, committed to doing whatever was necessary to enhance that other person’s success.  Do I care as much about other people’s success as I do about my own?
  2. When his ‘promotion came’, he didn’t throw a party. He trembled and was humbled at what lay before him.  God always meets the humble of heart and sends encouragement and support in one way or another, like He did to Joshua.  Joshua had learned from Moses that only by the grace of God do we accomplish our purpose.  Do I truly depend on God’s grace or do I think I can do fine on my own?
  3. The Word of God is the source of life, strength, courage, inspiration, guidance – everything we need.  The Lord’s direction to Joshua to immerse himself in the Word applies to each of us as well.  How about adopting the motto: ‘No Bible, no Breakfast!’  Do I start my day with God? With His Word?  It should be more necessary to us than that oatmeal or scrambled eggs!

Has the Lord impressed something else on you from this lesson?  Please share it below so we can all benefit and grow in Him.

Til next week, walk with God moment by moment.