Week 2: The Start of the Conquest

Theme: God Welcomes All

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. -Hebrews 11:31

Introduction: The book of Joshua begins with Moses death. Little time is wasted at this point due to the fact that not only have the Israelites been wandering in the desert; they have been delayed even more. As they wait on the Eastern side of the Jordan river for the old generation these men and women must have been experiencing excitement and expectation, yet tremendous fear from what they knew of the people beyond the Jordan. The book of Numbers, chapter 13, tells the story of God’s call for Moses to send out 12 spies (one from each tribe) into the new land to “see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many [...]” (Num. 13:18). So the spies went off, took a look around at the land called Canaan, and reported back to Moses and Aaron.

What they saw was incredible! “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Num. 13:27-28) The fear of the spies seemed to stand out more than the quality of the land and the size of the fruit because Joshua and Caleb (two of the spies) were the only ones confident that God could give them victory over such large and powerful people. The rest of the spies could not believe that God is able to give them the power to overcome such terrible odds.

But God is in fact able to deliver what He promises. He reminded the Israelites over and over that this land would be theirs, and that He in fact would go before them to deliver. Joshua remembered this promise quite well, and that is why he is now called to lead the charge into Canaan.

Joshua 1 reads very similar to our key passage last session. God speaks to Joshua and affirms his calling for Joshua to be strong and courageous. He reminds him that no man will stand in his way as he takes the Promised Land. He reiterates that He is with the Israelites, and that He goes before them. All Joshua and the people have to do is obey and walk forward.

This is where Joshua takes charge. He responds to God’s promise by commanding the Israelites to prepare for the conquest. The first few men sent into the land are spies tasked with checking things out, but regardless of what they find, the Israelites are going in.

This week we will be discussing an interesting way in which God provides safety and success for the Israelites. We also learn something about God’s character to welcome and use an outsider in his plan.

Key Passage: Joshua 2:1-14

1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.

8 Before the men lay down, 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.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

Questions:

  1. What are the key words and phrases that stand out to you in this passage, and why?
  2. What kinds of things has Rahab heard about the Israelites that makes her act the way she does?
  3. What do you believe are Rahab’s hopes for hiding the spies? What are her fears?
  4. How do you find yourself relating to Rahab, and the position she finds herself in?
  5. Read further ahead to Joshua 2:21. How does Rahab respond to the promise that the spies give her?
  6. How can you respond to the promises God gives you as he welcomes you into His plan?
  7. What other passages in the Bible mention Rahab? What do they teach us?