Part One: The Conquest of the Promised Land
The Conquest of Jericho (Joshua 1:1-6:27)
The Journey from Kadesh Barnea to Jericho (Numbers 22:1-36:13)
In order to get to Jericho and the central regions from the Sinai Peninsula, Moses crosses over to the region southeast of Canaan, to the lands of Edom, then Moab, and finally Ammon. Because the Edomites were blood relatives of the Israelites, Moses avoided any fighting with them. On the other hand, since the Moabites and Ammonites were NOT blood relatives and had fallen into idolatry, Moses was ready to fight and annihilate the Moabite and Ammonite armies.
Spying Out the Land (Joshua 2:1-24)
Because Moses disobeyed the Lord, God has rejected Moses to be the leader of the Israelites when they invade Canaan. Moses ascended to the top of Mt. Nebo from where God showed him the land that He was going to give Abraham's descendants. There on Mt. Nebo Moses finds his final resting place.
Before Joshua invades Canaan, he needs some information about the land. Just as Moses had done earlier, Joshua sends spies on a reconnaissance mission to gather information about the cities they are about to attack. Two of them head for Jericho, the first city the Israelites are going to attack.
Naturally the spies are in grave danger being in enemy territory. News about their presence in Jericho reaches police headquarters. Soldiers scour the city to locate the spies. The spies had lighted upon the household of Rahab a local prostitute. Upon their discussion with Rahab the spies discover that Jericho is definitely in a panic. She claims that the hearts of the city have melted, like snow on a warm sunny day. The spies are assured of victory.
When it becomes too dangerous for the spies to be out in the open, they ask Rahab to conceal them from the authorities. How does she hide them (Josh. 2:6)?
After the coast is clear, Rahab informs the spies of what is happening. She instructs them to head west towards the mountains since the authorities have headed east. She feels that after three days they will be able to return to their camp on the other side of the Jordan River.
Before the spies leave, Rahab reminds them of the kindness she has shown them. She asks them to spare her and her family whenever the Israelites invade Jericho. The spies instruct her to drop a scarlet thread from her window which is located on the city wall. If she does this, then they guarantee her protection and the protection of her parents and other family members. If the scarlet thread is not there when they attack the city, then she will be responsible for her own death and for the death of her loved ones. She then let them down by means of a rope suspended from a window in her house because her house was right up against the city wall. The spies head for the hills and wait until the coast is clear before they return to the camp.
What led Rahab to side with the Israelites? The reputation of Israel and her God had greatly impressed Rahab. Until recently people believed that if one nation defeated another nation it was because that the god of the victorious nation was greater than the god of the defeated nation. (It is interesting that the Japanese believed this after the U.S. defeated them in WW2. Instead of taking advantage of this and promoting Jesus, we promoted materialism, the new god of Japan.)
Few of us appreciate the impact the fall of Egypt had upon the ancient world. Suppose a nation rose up and destroyed the United States, the world's only super power. Now suppose that same nation invaded Spain and launched an attack on France. Do you think that France would not be quaking in her boots? She would. Rahab is facing the same scenario and has decided to throw in her lot with the Israelites. She believes that the Israelites and their God will prevail over the Canaanites and their gods.
The Conquest of Jericho (6:1-27)
After 3 days the spies return to the camp and report to Joshua their findings, especially that the entire country is in a panic over the approaching invasion. Joshua has learned his lesson from what happened to Moses at Kadesh Barnea. Whereas Moses had the spies report to the entire congregation, Joshua makes sure that the spies report directly and exclusively to him. All he is going to relay to the Israelites is the next step they have to take.
I believe that this is the way the Lord regularly deals with His people. Jesus does not give us all the information about what is going to happen next. He doesn't always give us the big picture about what He is doing. Jesus knows that we could not handle it if He revealed everything in the our futures to us. We can handle it when it actually arrives; we just can't handle it beforehand. Why? God does not give us today the grace we need for tomorrow. He will give us the grace for tomorrow when tomorrow comes. No sooner and no later. What the Lord does do though is that He tells us where to step next.
I saw this dramatically illustrated when I was in Israel the last time. We were at this canyon which has been located as the traditional spot of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I don't know if it was the spot David was referring to when he wrote Psalm 23; however, it qualifies for this place as well as any other spot in Israel. I saw this Arab boy winding his way down a path which led down the side of this steep cliff. Behind him were 2 sheep. I couldn't believe that the shepherd boy was taking them down this precipitous path. If they didn't keep their eyes on where the shepherd boy was stepping, they would fall to certain death. They did though keep their eyes on each step the shepherd boy took in front of them. In the same way we don't need to know where Jesus is leading us; we just need to know each step He is taking so that we can follow Him. Otherwise, we too just might slip to certain destruction.
Now that Joshua has received his report from the spies, he prepares the battle plans for the conquest of Jericho. His plans are quite simple. His plan will be one of FAITH. He and the Israelite army are NOT going to prepare siege machines which will tear down the city wall. Rather God wants Joshua and the Israelite army to march around the city walls once a day for 6 days, and then seven times on the 7th day. In the middle of the procession would be the priests carrying the ark of the covenant, a symbol of God's presence and a promise that GOD was going to give them the victory.
The Israelites follow God's instructions. They march around the city once a day for 6 days and then 7 times on the seventh day, all in silence. Finally, on the 7th time around on the 7th day the priests blow the trumpets and Joshua cries out: "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!" He then tells the army that everything in the city is to be dedicated to the Lord. They are to retain nothing for themselves. This is the Lord's invasion, not theirs. They are simply instruments of His judgment. [Why complete destruction? Remember that the sins of the Amorites have been filled to the fullest (Gen. 15:16)].
After Joshua has spoken, the priests blow the trumpets again and the people shout. The city walls then fall down flat. Mass destruction ensues. The Israelite army totally annihilates everybody living in the city. The army spares only Rahab and her family. The rest is dedicated to the Lord, either for destruction or for use in the tabernacle.
Some question the validity of Joshua's account of the destruction of Jericho. One of those who did question it was Kathleen Kenyon, noted British archaeologist and atheist who conducted her own archaeological dig of Jericho in the early part of the 20th century. She was determined to prove the Joshua account wrong. To her surprise and consternation she unearthed walls around the city of Jericho BEFORE and AFTER the time of Joshua; however, she found NO walls at all during the time of Joshua's invasion. She refused though to accept the inevitable conclusion drawn from the evidence: the walls had fallen down flat. How did they fall down? Joshua provides the answer.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
The Land as a Symbol of Our Inheritance
Earlier God had promised Abraham that He would give the land between the Nile and Euphrates River to his descendants. Although the Israelites will not possess all this land until the days of David and Solomon, the conquest of Jericho begins the fulfillment of that promise. This land from henceforth is viewed as the inheritance God gave Israel. It still forms the basis of the Jews' claim today that the land of Israel belongs to them by divine right.
We shall see though that for the next 3000 years this inheritance does not live up to all the Israelites were hoping it would. For example, the name "Jerusalem" has the word "Salem" in it. The word "Salem" literally means "peace." If any city has ever been misnamed, it is Jerusalem. It was seen more strife and woe than any other city in history. The next world war is probably going to center on Jerusalem.
Peter highlights the inadequacy of this inheritance when he writes about the better inheritance we are going to receive as Christians. He compares our inheritance with that of the land of Israel: our inheritance will be imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, unlike the inheritance Israel received which was perishable, defiled, and did fade away (1 Pet. 1:4).
What is the inheritance we receive? The inheritance created and made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: resurrected bodies and a resurrected universe. This is the only inheritance which will NOT fade away.
Until we really live by the principle, that this is the only inheritance that will NOT fade away, then we are going to be miserable. Too many of us are like a man dying of thirst, covered with dirt, with parched lips and sun-baked skin. We are pumping furiously a pump which once a day yields ONE drop of water. It briefly quenches our thirst. Then we go back to thirsting again and pumping the pump furiously until finally it yields another drop of water.
Ten feet away is a stream with fresh running water. The water is clear, sparkly clean. When you plunge in, the water washes away all the dirt, heals the cracked lips and sun-baked skin. It completely quenches your thirst. Yet what do we choose to do? We choose to keep pumping the pump. How? By looking to things other than Jesus as our inheritance, to fancy cars, to clothes, prestige, applause, power, etc. And Jesus, that gushing stream of water, is only 10 feet away. Any inheritance other than Jesus will not quench your thirst and will ultimately not satisfy you. (Unfortunately many people quit pumping and still don't go to Jesus. They just give up.)
The Significance of Rahab
Rahab is significant first because she is another example of justification by faith (James 2:25). Rahab believed that the God of Israel was greater than the gods of Jericho. She believed that the God of Israel was going to give Israel the victory. Her response? She housed and protected the Israelite spies. Saying she believed Israel's God was powerful was not good enough. Her faith had feet. Housing and protecting the Israelite spies were demonstrable proofs that she trusted God. In the same way the only way we know we have faith is that our faith have feet. A faith that does not produce is not NT or OT faith. It is not the kind of faith that saves.
Rahab is significant second because she is only one of 4 women listed in Matthew's list of Jesus' ancestors; all the other ancestors Matthew lists are men. The four women include Tamar (who commits incest with her father-in-law); Rahab who is a prostitute; Ruth who was from the pagan country of Moab; and Bathsheba who committed adultery with David (Matt. 1:3-6).
Jesus does not choose the pure and lily-white to be His ancestors. He does not select the most virtuous of women to be his great-great-great-grandmother. Rather He chooses the down and out. Down and out who repented but nevertheless the down and out. If God chooses these to be His ancestors, how much more will He choose you and me to be His brothers and sisters! If God chose these women to be the "mothers" of His Son, then how much more will God choose you and me to be His sons and daughters.
Why does God choose people like Rahab, Ruth, and you and me? From a theological standpoint the answer is that He can choose whomever He wants to choose. If He chose only the high and mighty, they would think that they deserved to be chosen. The down and out don't feel that way.
From a practical standpoint God chooses us because we are the only ones who really do accept Him. It's wonderful though that after He calls the down and out, He makes us His sons and daughters. He gives us royal blood. We are now sons and daughters of the King of the universe. Being the son of the Queen of England would be nice; however, it does not begin to compare with being the son of our heavenly Father.