Orienting Faith

C. Michael Wren, Jr.

Book Introduction:  The book of Joshua is a record of a people called by God to accomplish his mission in the world.  In the process, it instructs us on this God whom we serve and on how to fulfill the calling He has given us.  For more help understanding the larger context of the teaching section this Sunday, review the lengthier “Book Introduction” posted for the June 3 lesson.   

Lesson Introduction: The author of Hebrews provides us with the classic definition of faith: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (ESV).  He then provides us with the classic illustration of faith in the lives of Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.  Faith is an essential attribute for the servant of God to possess, for as the author says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” (11:6).  But just like a compass, faith must be oriented properly in order to be effective.  Throughout history, religious people have acted in confidence because they believed God, or their god, was backing them up.  Many tragic tales have been told about the consequences of misplaced faith.

                In the book of Joshua, God’s people have been called on mission.  They have been called to action.  They have been given incredible promises, and have diligently prepared themselves for his mission.  Now the work begins.  They must respond with confidence in God based on his provision.

I. Faith Exhibited.

                Faith is a conviction that demonstrates itself in action.  Certainly this is what James was teaching when he argued, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (ESV).  Rahab certainly demonstrates the seriousness of her conviction by her actions.  Note first her convictions, as expressed to the spies she chose to hide:

The Lord has given the Israelites the land (2:10).

The Lord was responsible for parting the Red Sea, delivering Israel from Egypt, and more recently bringing them victory over the kings east of the Jordan (2:10). 

The Lord is the one sovereign God over creation (2:11).

Rahab’s faith was fully orbed, even though she couldn’t have known much of the detail behind God’s revelation to Moses.  She understood properly God’s nature—He is the one true and living God, and alone rules over creation.  She understood properly God’s past deeds of salvation—God provided deliverance for his people.  She understood properly the certainty of God’s promise—He had given them the land, and thus it would be theirs.  God’s promises will find fulfillment.  Our faith should have more revelation to provide it with content.  The Bible reveals more about God’s nature and character, and we have the benefit of knowing more about God’s plan of redemption in Jesus and about the promises God has made for the future.  But the outlines of faith are the same—God’s nature, God’s work of salvation, and God’s promises.

                She demonstrates that she truly believed what she said because she helped the spies:

She lied for the spies.

She hid the spies.

She helped them escape.

There was significant risk involved in all of those actions.  We can naturally assume that the consequences of betraying the King of Jericho and its citizens would have been most severe, especially for one without a high social standing.  She probably would have had no one to protect her, since she was a prostitute.  Yet despite the risk, she helped the spies.  Why? Because the cause of the people of Jericho was the wrong cause.  The Lord, the One she knew to be real and sovereign, was about to shake the land of Canaan.  It was going to happen, and she was convinced that serving the Lord was right. 

Rahab often receives credit for the faith she exhibits in this chapter, and deservedly so.  But she is not the only believer acting on faith here.  Do not overlook the faith of the spies.  They were, of course, fulfilling their assignment given by Joshua, as any good soldier would do.  However, they, too, demonstrated that they truly believed that the Lord was going to deliver on his promises.  After Rahab offered her assistance, the spies replied, “When the Lord gives us the land, we will deal kindly with you.”  Perhaps this statement sounds like a commonplace platitude, but remember the response of the first spies that surveyed the land.  After seeing the land, they replied, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are,” (Num 13:31 ESV).  These spies, however, unhesitatingly asserted that the Lord would give them victory.  For this reason, they confidently made arrangements regarding what should be done for Rahab after the victory. 

II. Faith Grounded.

                Remember our quote from the author of Hebrews?  Faith is the conviction of things not seen.  Without a justifiable reason why they should be confident that the Lord would bring victory, neither the activity of Rahab nor the spies would deserve praise.  Both would have been guilty of very risky, clandestine activity for a very questionable cause.  However, God had made a clear promise, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses,” (Joshua 1:3 ESV).

                In support of that promise, God had proven through the course of events that He was going to do exactly what He said. Note:

God had given faith to Rahab and had placed her in an advantageous place.

God had placed fear into the hearts of the people of the land (2:9).

Faith should be grounded in our confidence in God, and that confidence must rest on what God has revealed.  If we believe in the certainty of God’s promise to the extent that we are willing to act in light of them, we will indeed be able to please God.

III. Faith Affirmed.

                Note also in this passage that God continues to be faithful.  No matter how courageous our willingness to follow the Lord might be, without God’s faithfulness, our efforts would be empty.  Every step of Joshua’s way thus far the Lord has delivered on his promises.  As the Israelites enter the land and begin the conquest, God has acted in amazing ways to prove consistently that He would do as He promised.

He delivered the spies from the hand of the king (2:22).

He parted the waters of the Jordan just as He parted the waters of the Red Sea.  God would indeed be with Joshua just as He was with Moses (4:21-24, compare 1:17, 3:7).

He destroyed Jericho.  The battle strategy was unusual.  In fact it was designed to give God alone the glory.  Much of the Promised Land remained to be taken, but one key city was taken, and that thanks to the sovereign hand and faithfulness of the Lord. 

Points for Reflection:

God has given the church a mission here in this world.  Consider God’s promises to the church in Christ and the provisions God has made for its mission.

Consider likewise God’s faithfulness.  The Israelites set up stones of remembrance in the Jordan and along the banks in order to remember the mighty deeds of God.  What acts of God’s faithfulness would you point toward? 

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