<< Joshua 2: Rahab and the Spies >>
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. 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. 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. Joshua ii. 21-23.
AFTER the thirty days mourning for Moses on the plains of Moab were passed, Joshua, like a judicious leader, lost no time in carrying out his glorious mission. The Jordan was in sight, and air miles beyond Jordan stood the formidable city of Jericho. The king and people were intensely hostile from dread, and probably from detestation. They were the outpost of that terrible system of idolatry and sensuality based upon communications with the impure dead, by which Canaan had bees altogether polluted.
The Baals, which are joined to the names of places all over the land, indicate the numerous seats of the idol-worship of the Sun-god perpetuated under that name.
Then Molech, horrid king, besmeared with blood,
Of human sacrifice and parents tears,
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that passed through fire
To this grim idol.
Ashtoreth, the Moon-goddess, Chemosh, Dagon, and many others, all various compounds of lust and hate, had their shrines in numerous places, and not only influenced their followers to impurity and iniquity, but to the practice of both in the name and with the sanction of religion.
Communication with spirits, with devils who were regarded as gods, constituted the especial abomination of the Canaanitish nations, and made their existence as intolerable to the world as a terrible cancer is to the body. The safety of humanity required the dreadful excision from the world of those who kept manifestly open the dread avenues of the hells, and were the obstinate spiritists of ancient timer.
In Deuteronomy xviii. 9-12, we read, When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of these nations. There shall not be found among you ally one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, a sorcerer, an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord; and BECAUSE OF THESE ABOMINATIONS THE LORD THY GOD DOTH DRIVE THEM OUT BEFORE THEE.
The imperfections and perversities of our fallen nature are such that, in spite of the holiest truths and holiest influences of the purest religion, we often fall into errors and evils we bitterly regret. But when evil is made into a system, with sanctions from the eternal world, when each circle has its demon, and its medium, and the mysterious utterances are taken for the voice of an angel, if not of God, then the influx from hell is terrible indeed. The stream is wide, the devastation awful, and if such practices are persevered in, the end will be as it was with the Canaanitish nations, ruin and death.
Jericho stood, then, over the Jordan, with its walls and battlements blocking the way of the Israelitish host. Joshua knew that this strong place must be overcome, or no advance could be effected, and the whole enterprise would be arrested. He sent prudently two explorers forward. He knew the necessity of accurate information, and he waited until his Spies had returned and related their experience. They met with Rahab, a kindly hostess whose house was on the wall. She was inwardly convinced that Israels God was God indeed. She loathed the abominations of her people, and she took sides with the servants of the Lord of heaven and earth. She not only sheltered the men, but she said, 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. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt: and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites that were on the other side of Jordan. 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. Now, therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my fathers house, and give me a true token.–Josh. ii. 9-13.
The men engaged with her that if she aided their escape and kept their secret, hung out of her window a scarlet thread, and collected her family consisting of father, mother, and household under her own roof, both she and they would be preserved unharmed in the destruction of the, city, and their engagement was kept. She and her fathers household were saved when the city was destroyed; and afterwards she was married to Salmon, a distinguished man of the tribe of Judah and ancestor of David.
Having thus got the interesting circumstances attending Rahab end the Spies before us, let us consider the spiritual lessons involved in this portion of the Divine History; for I trust that the spiritual counterpart of the various events which have distinguished Israels journey thus far will have prepared us abundantly to remember that their pilgrimage and their conflicts are the divine description of the struggles and progress of all who do their Christian work in the regenerate life.
To regard the subject in the true point of view, we must reflect that our mental states may he divided into two classes–those of the external man affecting our words and works, and those of the internal man affecting our principles, motives, and sentiments.
The progress of Israel in breaking from their bondage, and journeying through the wilderness represents the work of religion so far as it consists in reforming the external man: bringing the outward life into order and obtaining a copious supply of heavenly instruction.
The advance of Joshua and the Israelitish host into Canaan represents carrying the work of religion into the interiors of the soul, into the heart and its affections.
We all know that the conduct may be quite correct and amiable, so far as all outward observation goes, and yet pride, ambition, envy, covetousness, malice, guile, contempt of others, scorn, and self-seeking may in a thousand ways keep the inner region of the soul a hidden den of horrors and of pain.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
Hence the work of Israel in conquering Canaan represented the work of the Christian led by the Lord Jesus, the Divine Joshua, overcoming the hidden lusts and passions of the inner man. The giants, the strong armies, and powerful cities which had to be subdued, represented the lusts and strongholds of sin in the interior foldings of our subtle, secret natures.
Jericho was the first of these bulwarks of wrong. It stood right in the way of the army. It had strong walls, and was straitly closed, so that every possible resistance should be made, and the progress of Israel should be arrested.
This first strong city was called Jericho, or as the word means in Hebrew his moon, which name was probably derived from Moon-worship, and, from its practice there, would symbolize a sentiment of a system which stands in opposition to the: purification of which we have spoken.
According to widespread notion and practice, we may be religious and bad-tempered, religious and selfish, religious and malicious, religious and proud, religious but bitter, religious and unjust to those who in State politics or Church politics think different from ourselves.
The persuasion which hinders the work of religion in the heart is a spiritual Jericho. It is a strong and formidable city it blocks the way against the army of heaven; it has a variety of bulwarks and defenses. But Joshua, our Joshua, the Lord Jesus, is determined to overthrow it, and all the true Israelites follow Him.
He first sends two messengers to spy secretly. The Lord appointed two, Moses and Aaron, to lead the people. He sent out His disciples two and two to preach (Luke x. 1). Two things flow out from Him ever, love and wisdom; two things He wishes ever to be received by us, faith and charity. And these two explorers represent the influences of faith and love applied in the soul, to ascertain the real condition of the obstacle to the Lords government in the heart.
They found the city was not uniform. Generally it was bad. There was, however, one kind heart, one who feared the Lord, there. She was in the city, yet not fully of it, her house was on the wall. She is described by an opprobrious name. But when we remember the abominations that prevailed over the land, impure. rites being made religious, probably the same name might truly designate all the females, but the very young.
The true Church is the Lord’s bride the Lord’s wife.
At the end of a Church when false doctrines reign; all have departed from this pure relation, and are represented as committing mental adultery.
This circumstance was represented by the literal actual condition of Jericho, when the best person in it was called by that unhappy name. The Church at its end was also represented by the two women who were concerned in the marvelous judgment of Solomon of which we read; Then came there two women that were harlots unto the king and stood before him.1 Kings iii. 16.
We know the two were inwardly very different beings, though spoken of by the same name.
Of the Samaritan woman who heard the Lord gladly, He said, Thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.–John lv. 18.
These things were literally as stated, no doubt, but they were expressive also of spiritual facts. All who are united to falsehood instead of truth, are spiritually described as not having their proper husband. But there are two great differences amongst them. There are those who love falsehood because their deeds are evil, and there are others who love falsehood only because they have been taught to believe it true, and they know no better. This latter class can be brought into a new and better state. They are only outwardly joined to an old and evil superstition, and are not inwardly in the love of it. They are represented in this divine narrative by Rahab, who, though a harlot, inwardly feared the Lord, and whose house was upon the wall (ver. 15). Such have many errors, but they are so far right that the Lord can deliver them, and unite them to His Church. Walls especially represent doctrine. The doctrines of the true Church are meant when it is said, They shall call thy walls salvation, and thy gates praise. The false doctrine that our salvation does not depend upon purifying the heart, but upon mere instantaneous belief of what a preacher vividly proclaims, this is the wall of Jericho
The two messengers turning in and lodging with Rahab represent the reception of truth and love by one in the way to be saved, and the welcome which is given to them. They were placed in the roof, and hidden amongst stalks of flax which were laid in order.
The same spiritual circumstance is doubtless intimated by bringing them up to the roof of the house, as was intended by our Lord when He said in the Gospel, And let not him who is on the house-top come down to take anything out of his house. To place on the house-top is expressive spiritually of making an object of supreme regard, lifting into the interiors of the mind. Among the flax that was set in order, would mean among such truths as were clearly seen and accurately arranged, as things supremely regarded. Flax, from which linen garments are made, would represent the separate truths from which a spiritual heavenly system is wrought. The fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
The prevarication of Rahab in denying the men to be there, and sending away the officers of the king with a falsehood, represents the fear and weakness of a soul not yet confirmed in the truth.
She saw, however, that her safety lay with Israel, and, therefore, she at once threw in her lot with them, and looked to them for safety.
The circumstance thus presented to us in the case of Jericho is verified also in the case of every fallen Church, of every decayed system of superstition. The majority, probably, love to have it so. They love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. But there are also many who pray for better things, and will embrace the light when it is suitably introduced to them. They look for the light and hail it when it comes, that it may be manifest that their works are wrought in God. The two malefactors crucified with the Lord Jesus illustrate the same truth. They were both outwardly joined in the same condemnation, yet how different they were both railing somewhat at first, but when they looked at the Divine Sufferer, and felt His sacred purity and majestic pity, how the heart of one was melted, while the other railed on. Such are the Rahabas of all times. They are enclosed in the meshes of a perplexing and unworthy system which has been hallowed to them by the recollections of childhood and associated with parents and friends, venerable and dear, yet they see higher and holier light has come in, and their best affections leap to the light. They have many a struggle, but happily at last the truth makes them free, and they become free indeed.
While experience enforces upon us the conviction in relation to any body of persons united in any project, or in any bond however pure, that all are not actuated by the same pure purposes; all is not gold that glitters; it is a consolatory and cheering maxim that sometimes in bushels of chaff there are many grains of wheat, and when these are culled out and planted and watered they will be the germs of fresh harvests. There shall be a handful of corn in the earth, upon the top of the mountains: the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. Ps. lxxii. 16.
The Spies going into the mountains and tarrying there three days represented the strengthening of faith and love by interior devotion, while evil excitements are around, until they are fully prepared for the trials which are to follow.
In the rescue of Rahab, though she had many faults, the discriminating mercy of our Heavenly Father at Jericho was shewn, as it was in the deliverance of Lot from Sodom.
Each single soul is cared for. The angels told Lot that nothing could be done until he was gone from the devoted city, and bade him escape for his life, and flee to the mountain. So is it in the judgments of the eternal world. He who seeth not its man seeth, who looketh not on the outward appearance but looketh upon the heart. (1 Sam. xvi. 7), provides that all the outward coverings of circumstance and seeming should be removed, and what the inward character is should be unveiled, for all is known to Him.
The sign which the men required Rahab to display at her window had a deep spiritual significance. Colors are symbolic. Such as partake of red, the color of fire, represent states which relate to love, the fire of heaven. Colors of a colder cast, the blues, greens and whites though bright, are the symbols of states of a character more intellectual.
Scarlet, as a secondary red, represents brotherly love, the affection next in value to the love of God. Without this heavenly duality there is no saving state. By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.–l John iii. 14. He who thinks he loves God but does not love his brother is but a self-deceiver. If he has not the lower virtue of love to those around him, whom he sees, he can never really have the higher love to the Lord, whom he has never seen. It is a bad sign when there is no scarlet thread seen bound at the window. Above all things put on charity, said the Apostle, which is the bond of perfectness. There be these three, faith, hope, and charity, and the greatest of these is charity. Such, then, was the meaning of the requirement from Rahab, Thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window.
Scarlet was one of the three sacred colors to be offered to the Lord, and to be used in the clothes of service in the holy place, and in the holy garments for Aaron (Ex. xxxix. 1). A scarlet thread was placed on the hand of the most important child born to Judah from Tamar. In the offering of the cleansed leper it was commanded that cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop should be used (Lev. xiv. 4.) to represent the rational thought, the loving affections, and the painful but salutary truths, which have all to bear their part in the return to health of the spiritual leper. Sins against charity are represented by the scarlet of the bad man, Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa. l. 18);
while the same bright color in the cloth of scarlet covering the table of shewbread was a sign that all true love to the Lord manifests itself in love: to the neighbor.
In all the souls, then, that can be saved there must be the scarlet thread displayed in the intellectual window; or in other words, whatever may be their defects in other respects there must be kindly sentiments in all their thoughts. They must be disposed to think tenderly of every sufferer and desire to do them good. The Lord in the judgment will regard those only as His who have been ready, according to their ability and best judgment, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and free the captive. The King says to them, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.Matt. xxv. 40 The same gracious and important lesson is taught in the circumstance, that John, the apostle of brotherly love, was the one selected to behold the descent of the New Jerusalem. It is not without a beautiful import that it is written, I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.Rev. xxi. 2. If there were more Johns, more would see the golden city coming down from God to men.
Rahab was, lastly, to bring her whole household, father, mother, and brethren into her own house, and not to utter the business in any wise to the citizens of Jericho, or she would peril her safety. And in this circumstance we may perceive the representation of decision of character. We who sever ourselves from the evil must have no part nor lot with them; we must have no divided mind, or tell the business of heaven to the adherents of the kingdom of darkness; we must cast no pearls before swine; but resolutely close our house against the evils around, and wait in humble confidence for the salvation of the Lord. Then shall we assuredly find that when ruin and death are around, the walls of superstition and falsehood crumbling on every side, and the sensual and the vile sinking into the miseries they have made, Joshua will save Rahab, and her fathers household, and all that she has alive, and she will dwell in Israel, or in other words, the Lord Jesus will preserve His own, and plant them in His Church, where they will be saved and happy with the whole Israel of God.
Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)