February 12, 2023

How God Goes Ahead of Us (Joshua 2:8-13)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023) Topic: One Mission: I am Not Ashamed Scripture: Joshua 2:8–13

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Children's Lesson (click here) 

I. Door-to-Door Knowledge

Last time we were together I shared an illustration with you about working at a bicycle factory. Remember that? This morning, let me suggest another job: door-to-door salesperson. Okay. Try to contain your excitement. I know most of you would jump at the chance to make that career change immediately if you could... right? No. I can tell from your faces that you, like me, would rather dig ditches than be a door-to-door salesperson.

But there are two things that just might make a difference in terms of your initial estimation of that kind of work. The first would be what you know about a person's interest in your product. The second would be what you know about the opportunity your product represents.

Let's talk about that second idea for a moment. If you have a revolutionary product, one that could meet pressing needs for a large segment of the population, AND, you can offer that product to people at an amazing price, then you might just be more open to being a door-to-door salesperson, right? In fact, you might even be excited to get out there and start knocking.

But what about my first suggestion? What do I mean by knowing something about a person's interest in your product? Well, imagine that one of your associates was able to call all the homes on your target list a week before you went door to door, and of the fifty houses you planned to visit, he identified five individuals who expressed a need for just such a product, and therefore, they were very, very interested in you stopping by. Like the earlier suggestion, knowing this might change your openness to the work. But if your associate lost that original list, and you had no idea which houses were the five who expressed real interest, would that knowledge still encourage you as you knocked on all fifty doors? I think it would.

Hold on to that last idea as we look together at one of the passage from Our Bible Reading Plan schedule last week, Joshua 2:8-13.


II. The Passage: “For the LORD Your God, He is God” (2:8-13)

To set the stage for the main scene we'll be thinking about this morning, let me remind you that Joshua, the faithful assistant to Moses, who we first met as a young man in the book Exodus, and who was one of only two survivors from the older generation of Israelites, a generation God judged, this same Joshua (after the death of Moses) is now leading God's people into the land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants.

But the people here have not yet entered the land. They are camped on the east side of the Jordan River. As someone who was once on the receiving end of such orders, the beginning of chapter 2 describes how Joshua sent spies across the river and into Canaan with this mission according to verse 1: “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

That same verse tells us that these spies “went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” Now, we don't know how they met this woman, but clearly, given her occupation, it wouldn't stand out that strange men were going into her home. But somehow, word does get out that these strange men were stranger than normal; that they were, in fact, Israelites, and specifically, Israelite spies.

So when the ruler of Jericho finds out about this, he orders Rahab to bring these men out. What's interesting is that she doesn't comply with the ruler's command. Instead she hides the Hebrews on her roof and lies about them having left the city. Now, why in the world would this woman disobey her king and put herself at risk for the sake of foreigners? Look at verse 8 and listen to the conversation preserved here...

Before the men lay down [i.e., before they slept, OR maybe, before she hid them under the stalks of flax laid out on her roof, according to verse 6), she came up to them on the roof [9] and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. [10] For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. [11] And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. [12] Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign [13] that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

And if we continued reading, we would learn how these men did agree to spare Rahab and her family, and how she subsequently helped them escape, letting them down through her window, since her home was actually built into the outer wall of the city.

So what's important to highlight in this extremely interesting story? Let me mention three things:


1. Rahab Already Possessed a Knowledge of the True God.

Not only does Rahab know about the parting of the Red Sea that had taken place forty years earlier, but she also knows about Israel's more recent victories over the Amorite kingdoms on the eastern side of the Jordan. Obviously, word would have spread across the region, over the decades, about this large group of people, freed slaves who had left Egypt and were wandering in the wilderness. But now, this huge group was coming north, conquering local leaders, and making camp right across the River. It's not surprising that, in Rahab's words, the Canaanites' “hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man”. But there's more...


2. Rahab Also Confessed a Faith in This True God.

As Rahab herself makes clear in verse 9, “all the inhabitants of the land” possessed this knowledge about Israel and Israel's victories. But tragically, this knowledge didn't lead them to surrender to Israel and/or submit themselves to the God of Israel. But Rahab was different, wasn't she. Did you hear her confessions of faith? Verse 9, “I know that the LORD has given you the land...”. And even more clearly in verse 11...

...for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Wow! And as we've seen, that faith is on display she willingly risked her life for the sake of the Hebrews spies. But this leads to one final observation about this passage...


3. Rahab Acknowledged Her Need for God's Deliverance

Unlike her neighbors, Rahab was not going to fight against Israel. As we saw in chapter 6 (from our readings last week), the people of Jericho, when the Israelites eventually surrounded their city, had a whole week to surrender. They did not. They foolishly trusted in the strength of their fortifications (and we know what happened to those walls, don't we). But Rahab has already surrendered to God. She recognizes she is in the path of God's judgment and she is seeking rescue for her and her family. In her own words from verse 13, please “deliver our lives from death”. And mercifully, God does just that.

Now think about these three points. What would this story about Rahab have communicated to the first readers of Joshua? What does it communicate to us? Here's how I'd answer that question: I think it's clear from the story of Rahab that when God tells his people to “go”, they can rest assured that he's already gone on ahead, to prepare the way. Think about how incredibly reassuring it would have been for God's people to hear Rahab's testimony and about her faith-inspired actions (notably, her faith and actions would later, in James 2:25, be place alongside those of Abraham). But let's talk about why we should be just as reassured.


III. Going with Our Second Joshua

Think about this: Joshua 1 describes how God called Joshua and his people to “go”, being reassured by his presence, in light of all he had commanded them. Now, those same elements should sound familiar to us. Why? Because there was another Joshua (i.e., Yeshua) who said,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

Of course, the first Yeshua was called to destroy the seven nations of the land that God had judged, unlike the second Yeshua (i.e., Jesus) who called God's people, not to destroy, but to disciple all nations. And Jesus was not the one receiving the charge and the reassurance of God's presence. He was the one issuing that call to “go”, and reassuring God's people of his own presence with them.

What's extremely encouraging about that Commission in Matthew 28 is that the book of Acts not only describes how it was fulfilled in the first decades of the Church, but it also makes clear that when God tells his people to “go”, they can rest assured that he's already gone on ahead, to prepare the way. This is clear all throughout the book of Acts. We see this quite explicitly at times, like when (in Acts 10) an angel appears to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, in order to prepare him for a gospel declaration by the Apostle Peter. Less explicitly, we read two chapters earlier (in Acts 8), how the Ethiopian official just happened to be reading from Isaiah 53 when God brought Philip. More explicitly we're told this about a Gentile woman named Lydia in Acts 16:14, that, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” And when Paul was feeling discouraged in Corinth in Acts 18, Jesus reassures him with these words...

Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10)

These “people” were the sheep that Jesus talked about when he declared in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” You see, God was already at work in “many” Corinthian hearts, preparing them to hear and respond to the voice of Jesus; that is preparing them to hear and respond to the announcement of the gospel. That's why Paul, in spite of the opposition he was experiencing, must “go on speaking and... not be silent”.

Brothers and sisters, I suspect most of us struggle when it comes to sharing that same gospel. And I suspect we struggle for what we might call 'door-to-door salesman' reasons (not that I'm specifically talking about door-to-door evangelism here). What are those reasons? Maybe we're uncomfortable and/or afraid because others will view us simply as uninvited, unwanted sales-people; because others might, metaphorically, slam the door in your face; or maybe it's because we don't believe we're knowledgeable enough or persuasive enough to really do the job.

But how does that struggle, how does that picture change, how should our estimation change, in light of the truth that God goes ahead of us? Do you believe that God has people like Rahab in your neighborhood, at this very moment? Individuals who have already have seeds of know-ledge and faith? Individuals who are seeking deliverance; who are just waiting for (and being prepared for) contact with the people of God? Believer, that should give us great reassurance and encouragement! Even if we don't have a list identifying who those people are, we should be emboldened just knowing they're out there... because that's how our God works.

But remember that second idea I mentioned at the outset: your heart for reaching others is also connected to 'what you know about the opportunity your product represents'. Bearing with that less than ideal word 'product', do we genuinely believe that Jesus, and the Good News that announces his unrivaled position, his incomparable redemption, and his immeasurable grace (that that Good News) represents the greatest opportunity that could ever be offered to any human being? Eternal life with God, given as a free gift. It's stunning. It's astonishing.

In Joshua 2:18, Rahab's story also points us to this same redemption, where the spies instruct her to “tie [a] scarlet cord in the window”. This seems to be the spies' version of blood on the door frame, the very thing that spared the Hebrews during the Passover in Egypt. And we know from the New Testament how that Passover blood points us to a fulfillment in the blood of Jesus.

So by God's grace, Rahab was graciously “deliver[ed]... from death”. And by that same grace, we are empowered to declare God's gracious deliverance today. Do you recognize how the mouths that share these words of life today, are mouths once muted by sin; but have now been opened to praise Jesus as Savior and Lord? Do you recognize how God prepared your heart, so that when you heard, you responded with faith? We know firsthand how God works in a life! Be encouraged! He's doing the very same things in lives all around us. And like those Israelites east of the Jordan, he wants that fact to reassure us as we “go” in light of his promises.

Will you pray these three prayers in light of this truth: 1) “Father, deepen my appreciation of the gospel of grace”, 2) “God, help me to 'go' as you've commanded”, and 3) “Lord, remind me as I go that you've gone ahead of me.” Joshua may have led a conquest, but Jesus rules over a kingdom, having already conquered sin and death. May God find us faithful in extending that kingdom as we share the love of Christ and the message of Christ with those around us who, like Rahab once recognized, are still standing in the path of God's judgment.

other sermons in this series