Joshua 2;1-14 ~ The Beauty of Betrayal
So I would not say that I live vicariously through my children. They’re obviously very young, but even now, Kyla and try to discern their natural gifts and abilities along with their interests to decide which activities we should devote our time and money to. For Abigail, we’re trying out ballet, and so far she seems to be loving it. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not exactly into ballet myself. I do however take great interest in trying to befriend the other parents and share the gospel with them. A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with another mom about football. Her husband was a big football fan as well, then we got to talking about his favourite team, which is the Seattle Seahawks. Then that got me going on about how I lived in Washington state as a kid and
One thing that every true fan despises is a fair-weather fan, or bandwagon fan. These are the fans that just so happen to have a different favourite team every couple of years. And it just so conveniently works out that the new team which they have “randomly” chosen, happen to be the new team on a hot streak that is favoured to be the champion. You see, these “fans” never really have the heart break and disappointment of the seasons that end up being a wash, or a rebuilding year. Every year, every few weeks for some, they betray the team and the fans that they had once previously aligned themselves with. They betray them all for the gain of pride. They gain the personal pride of always knowing victory, always being a winner. They always have the bragging rights, but they’re traitors. And even though I’m just talking about a silly game, betrayal still puts a bad taste in our mouth because of the selfishness and lack of loyalty to anything but one’s self.
If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Joshua chapter 2. We will be looking at an act of betrayal in our passage this evening. Now, I am in no way condoning the horrible offence of being a fair weather fan, but rather than condemning this particular act of betrayal, we’re actually going to see an element of beauty in it. So let’s read together from Joshua chapter 2, beginning in verse one.
[READ Josh. 2:1-7] The Israelites are just entering into the promised land. The next city that lies in their path is Jericho, so Joshua sends two spies to scope things out. In terms of defence, Jericho was a fortress. The wall we always reference was actually a double ringed system. The outer wall was 6 feet thick and the inner wall was 12 feet thick. Now when the spies enter the city, we read that they went into the house of a prostitute named Rahab. There is no indication that there were any impure motivations in this action. It was strategic because here house was built on the wall. This would have afforded them opportunity to study the wall as well as make a quick escape if need be. However, in spite of their efforts to be good, stealthy spies, they weren't. In verse 2 we read that the king not only knows that there are spies in the city, but he knows they’re from Israel, and he knows where they are. So the king goes to Rahab’s home to capture the men. But rather than dutifully handing over the spies who are planning to invade her city, Rahab hides them.
Aiding and abetting enemy spies is the ultimate act of betrayal, it's high treason. Rahab lives in the city of Jericho, which means that hundreds or thousands of other people live there too as a community, a group of people who depended on one another and made their livelihood together. Meanwhile, a nomad nation is moving into the land and pushing people out. And of course by pushing out, I mean that God is utterly decimating everyone in their path. He already gave them victory over the Egyptians, King Sihon, and King Og. We’re told in the book of Numbers that Og’s army was devoted to destruction and left with no survivors. Remember that this is not even a warrior nation. Israel at this point has been wandering the desert for forty years. They’ve either grown up in the wilderness or they were young slaves in Egypt. And yet, they’re unstoppable, and they are coming Jericho’s way. If you live in Jericho, the one thing you have going for you is the fact that you actually live INSIDE Jericho and its massive defenses. Even that would not give complete confidence considering that the God of the Israelite's cast such destructive plagues and split the sea in two for His people. So if being in this city is the one advantage you have, then the last thing you want is for the enemy, to get in. Not even two spies. You want that line of defense to remain fully intact. But Rahab hides them and helps them escape. Whether they had crucial information or not, the significance of this act is the statement that Rahab’s actions make. She basically says to all of the people living with her, “You are going to lose. I am going to separate myself from you and not lose. And not only that, but I am going to actively help the people who will conquer you.” Rahab moves from alignment to opposition with Jericho, the ultimate act of betrayal.
But why would she betray her people in this way? Let’s look at her defense, look back at the text beginning with verse 8 [READ Josh. 2:8-11] Rahab states that she knows God has given the land to the Israelites. She know that God is with them and will give victory to them. How does she know that? Does. She alone possess this insider information? Verse 10 “For”, or “because”. Rahab is able to make that statement about God’s deity because “we heard” of His deeds and “our hearts melted”. Notice the plural pronouns. Jericho as a whole was overrun with fear when they all heard about the works and testimonies of true deity of the God of the Israelites.
This is where Rahab’s decision lies. The decision at hand has much more at stake than physical victory or defeat. She could have remained loyal to her people, relied on their defences, and hoped for victory. The other choice is betrayal. Betray everyone she’s ever known, oppose them, and align herself with another people. But it was about much more than people and physical victory. It was a decision about truth. Because Rahab knew that the Israelites’ God was the true God, then everything, including the land and people of Jericho rightly belonged to Him. Rahab was choosing between a people or a God, physical security or spiritual security. It wasn't a simple decision between loyalty OR betrayal. She would inevitably have to choose betrayal AND loyalty at the same time. She already knew what waited for her in Jericho. Even though these were the people she knew and depended on, she was only someone to be used. But what if, for the first time, she were not to serve a people, not an empty idol, but the one true God, the true maker and ruler of heaven and earth.
[READ Josh. 2:12-14] Immediately following Rahab’s confession, Scripture also tells us of her plea for her rescue and the rescue of her entire family. In order to not miss the point and the true beauty of this story, then it’s vitally important for us to understand one thing; this was not a works-based salvation and rescue. It was not a “quid-quo-pro”, I scratch you back and you scratch mine type of arrangement. Look at verse 12. “As I have dealt KINDLY with you…” Our understanding of the word “Kindly” is crucial. It should not be mistaken for niceness here. The Hebrew word used here means loyalty, or loyal love. So literally, “As I have dealt LOYALLY with you.” This is the question, as I have already shown that I’ve thrown my lot in with you, please show loyalty to me also. Please claim me. There is no doubt here as to the genuineness of Rahab’s faith.
We also know Rahab had a true faith for another reason, we have a comparison. In Joshua chapter 9, the Israelites encounter the people of Gibeon, the Hivites. The Hivites lived in the land of Canaan, but did not want to fight the Israelites. So they feigned humility. They lied about who they were and where they were from. Israel entered into a covenant with them under these false pretences. With their cunning, they tried to buy peace. However, when their deception was discovered, they were made to be slaves. Instead of buying freedom, they earned a forced servitude.
To the contrary, Rahab was not made a slave. If anyone would be, you would think it would be the prostitute. Just imagine how that conversation unfolded amongst the Israelite elders. “Joshua! Your spies did what? They promised rescue to a prostitute??? What kind of spies are they? Fine… Fine, I guess we won’t kill her. She can live. But she is NOT staying in part of the camp!” It’s one thing to save Rahab, but it’s a completely different thing to claim the prostitute as your own. That’s exactly what happened, full adoption, full absorption of all her wrongs. How do we know this? Turn with me to Matthew chapter 1. [READ Matt. 1:1-6] Rahab was not just a survivor who was allowed to live out the rest of her days with the Israelites and only partial inclusion. She was not a solve like the Hivites. She was adopted as a daughter of Israel, married a son of Israel, and not only had children but was part of the ancestral line of King David and the eternal King of Kings, Jesus Christ. She was one of only four women that were specifically mentioned in the lineage of Christ. A big difference between the Hivites and Rahab. The Hivites lied and tried to earn safety and wound up slaves while the prostitute fully aligned herself with the true God and was granted redemption and adoption. And so we see the difference between works and faith.
As I’ve studies these passages and read different commentaries, I was kind of surprised by the number of of scholars who argue that Rahab wasn’t actually a prostitute. They argue that the word which is interpreted as harlot or prostitute can also mean “innkeeper” Therefore, she must have been an innkeeper because it just wouldn’t make sense for God to include a prostitute in the lineage of Christ. It wouldn’t be fitting. Others argue that even if she had been a prostitute, that she must have surely long repented and redeemed herself from that sin before this encounter with the Israelite spies. But there are some problems with those interpretations. First of all, in that culture, women were not innkeepers. It didn’t happen. The only women who kept guests were wives of innkeepers and of course prostitutes. We know she didn’t have a husband because when she asked for the rescue of her family, she asked for her parents and siblings.There was no mention of a husband or children. Different passages in the New Testament use Greek words that also portray her as a prostitute, not an innkeeper.
The fact that Rahab was a prostitute is not something we should play down. On the contrary, it's something that as Christians, we should proudly embrace and proclaim because therein lies the true beauty of this story. It’s the Gospel! It's the fact that we all, like Rahab are filthy prostitutes! We see all throughout Scripture that “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). The prophet Isaiah says “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6) There is no distinction between us and Rahab. Even if the only sin we’ve ever committed in our life was to steal one cookie from the cookie jar, then that sin alone has made us completely impure, guilty, and deserving of a punishment and owing a debt that we can never repay. So we see there is no difference between a cookie thief and a prostitute.
Prostitution is a despicable act. As with any sexual act, you become one with something. Within marriage, there is purity, love, trust, and commitment. Outside of marriage, you become one with none of the other pure things. You become United with everything that is a part of that other person. The greater that web grows, it only further diminishes the trust, faithfulness, commitment, and purity that the act SHOULD be carrying with it. A prostitute has not simply lost all of those good things, but has willingly sold them for a price. They surrender those good things for something else that they want. Betraying the good to become one with impurity. That’s not just prostitution, that’s the essence of sin, every sin. We’re all prostitutes. So back to my earlier statement, Rahab’s prostitution is something we should be proud of because it proclaims our guilt and shame, and more importantly our redemption and adoption.
Our decision is not between loyalty OR betrayal. We will all do both. But who will we betray and who will we align with. We cannot be loyal to the world and God as we cannot serve two masters. We cannot bend the rules of morality to save face or fit in but also say that we are only in the world and not of it. The world will always attempt to persuade that Christians are the traitors, that we in fact are the ones who distort good and actually do harm. We have betrayed them, but that is actually the one thing which we should never be deceived into bearing guilt for. Yes, we are separated from the prince of darkness and adopted by the one true God! And you can be too. Our betrayal is not guilt, but joy, freedom, hope, and an invitation to all! Come be saved from certain death. Come have true life. Come and taste the beauty in betrayal!