Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Love a Good Spy Story

Reading: Joshua 1-6  
Spy stories are always filled with intrigue, and apparently it was no different in roughly 1400 B.C. when Joshua secretly sent two spies into the Promised Land. What is the very first thing we read about their trip?
So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (Joshua 2:1)
I suppose it would have been difficult to check into the local Holiday Inn as Israeli spies, so it is understandable that they chose to stay with a woman who wasn't much for social standards before her neighbors in Jericho.
But there is one more thing I noticed as I read Joshua 1-6 devotionally this morning. When God gave Jericho into Israel's hand, they were to devote the whole thing to the Lord. Nothing was to be spared... not even a robe from Babylonia, and a small savings account of silver and gold (Joshua 7:21). And yet, what is the one exception? The prostitute!
17The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. (Joshua 6:17-18)
What a story of grace. The holy God of Israel, on their very first victory in the Promised Land is going to teach them something about what it means to be devoted to the Lord, to regard God as Holy, and to give God what is His due (He gets everything from this first city... a kind of first fruits). And what does God choose to exempt? A prostitute. God's grace is evident right here in the very first act of total devotion to the Lord. Where His holiness is being revealed, it is a gracious holiness.
One might suggest that it wasn't a story of grace because, as we read, it was “because she hid he spies.” Hence, one could suggest it was because of what she did. Yet, it is clearly an act of total grace on God's part. For instance, why Rahab and not another prostitute? Simply because the spies entered her house. God could have sent them elsewhere. And God was under no obligation to negotiate with her... He could have had them destroy her too. (In which case I suppose we would just simply not have this story.) Yet, despite the possible backlash for saving one of the worst of Jericho's society; despite the potential misunderstanding as to why Achan (chapter 7) was in bigger trouble than Rahab, when all he did was go on a shopping spree instead of dedicating those things to God, but she was a prostitute; God was sovereign in lavishing His grace on Rahab, the prostitute.
This is the same God who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus who told the rulers of the Jews:
I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:31-32)
You might say that Rahab entered ahead of Israel... in fact, she was waiting there to demonstrate the utter mercy and grace of our holy God.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,