God’s People, part 26: Spies

Read Joshua 2

“Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.” (James 2:25)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Rahab_Helping_the_Two_Israelite_SpiesPart 26: Spies. I am a huge fan of spy movies. Agent 007, James Bond, is one of my all-time favorites of the spy genre. I think, though, without a shadow of a doubt, my absolute favorite series of spy movies is Mission: Impossible. Being that the TV show was before my time, I have only ever watched a few of the originals, and have loved what I little I have seen; however, I have watched all of the films starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and just love the series. Why? Because it is spectacular.

Tom Cruise has charismatic charm, brings a level of physicality to the role that few actors are capable of doing, and the films are filled with mind-blowing stunts. Take the most recent film, Mission: Impossible 5, Rogue Nation, for example. In it Tom Cruise can be seen hanging off of a flying Atlas C1 plane, suspended on the aircraft over 5,000 feet above the ground. He actually did this without the use of a stunt double, so when you see Tom Cruise hanging on to a plane for his life, it is really him hanging onto the plane for his life. Granted, he had harnesses on for sure (later edited out); still, that kind of stunt commitment from an actor of Cruise’s caliber is second to none.

So, it is no wonder that I find Joshua’s spies and the tale of their mission in Jericho to be quite an awesome story. Here were two people who snuck into the city-state of a known enemy in order to find out what the nomadic Hebrews were up against in battle. It was an important mission that was going to provide quite a wealth of intelligence to Joshua and his army. Any great military leader will do what it takes to have the advantage in battle. Julius Caesar did it against Veringetorix, George Washington did it against the British in the American Revolution, and Joshua, too, appointed spies to the task of gathering intelligence that would give him the advantage in battle. Joshua, for sure, was a great military leader.

What I love about this particular narrative in the Bible, is that these spies did more than just gather intelligence, they also built a relationship that would come to serve not only them, but the entire people of Israel. With that said, the circumstances that enable these two spies to build such a relationship is less than moral at best. In Joshua 2:1, after their commander had secretly sent them into Jericho, it reads that these spies went to the “house” of Rahab the prostitute and stayed the night.

It is believed, given the context and also given what the first century historian, Josephus, wrote, it seems that Rahab was running an inn. Also given what we know, it was more than likely that the inn also served as a brothel. This was not an uncommon thing at the time. Inn’s were both a social venue, a place to stay, and a place to “get it on” with women who did so professionally. What’s more, it would not have been a deviation from Joshua’s order to go to such a place, because social venue’s and brothels attract soldiers, politicians and all sorts of sources of intelligence.

We can not know what “staying the night” meant for these two spies, but in all likeliness these two spies gave their business to Rahab or one of the other women “serving” at the inn that night. Certainly, collecting intelligence would not condone the having sex with prostitutes (if, indeed, these men did that), and to use such services only would serve to support an industry that shamefully exploited women as sex objects and defiled what God had deemed to be holy (namely, the sexual union between to consenting, life-long, partners).

Yet, the book of Joshua is not only silent on the details of the night (which can be reasonably assumed), but it is also silent on God’s anger toward such a “collecting” of intelligence. What’s more, while we will discuss Rahab in our next devotion, God went on to honor her and the spies who came to “know” her. Through the Hebrew spies, Rahab found deliverance from the Canaanite society that exploited her, and she found herself accepted as one of the Hebrews. Quite an outcome. What’s more, Rahab becomes yet another woman of strength in the family lineage of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God!

I would say, as a challenge to us, that as shady as the spies may have been, it has been shown God is willing to work through anyone no matter their background. Let us keep that in mind and strive to refrain from judging any person on their past (or even their present) sins. Let us not judge ourselves or others, for who knows the mind and will of our gracious and powerful God?

“Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about [God’s] plans.” – George MacDonald
Lord, help me to put away my tendency to judge, and bring me into your service. Amen.

Leave a Reply