Our continuing Story finds Israel on the bank of the Jordan river, poised, finally, to enter the Promised Land. They had already defeated kings on the east of Jordan and had occupied enough territory for two and a half tribes. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh could keep this land only if all the able bodied men would fight with their brothers to occupy the land west of Jordan. After the time of mourning for Moses was over, they were ready to resume their journey. Joshua was accepted by the people as God’s successor of Moses.
Forty years earlier, Moses had sent out a band of spies, a man from every tribe of Israel. They had returned with glowing tales of the fertility of this land. It had taken two men to bring back one cluster of grapes (a taste of the fertility of the New Jerusalem?). Joshua had been one of the spies and I am sure he remembered it well. Of the twelve sent out, only two, Joshua and Caleb, had recommended they take on the oversized warriors of the land. Perhaps Joshua insured against a recurrence of this failure by sending out only two spies, and I am quite certain he chose the two very carefully.
In reconnoitering the land the spies entered Jericho. They found a place to spend the night with a prostitute named Rahab. She was possibly also an innkeeper whose house was built into the wall around Jericho. When their presence in Jericho became known, Rahab hid the men among stores on the roof of her dwelling. The king’s men searched but did not find them. Seems like the Jericho investigators were as expert in their work as some of our law enforcers seem to be today.
Rahab was able to protect the spies by lying. We Christians sometimes wonder, Is it ever OK to lie? Rahabs lie turned out well for Israel. The Gibeonites deception was good for them and not so good for Israel. It seems the temptations to fudge the truth multiply In our culture. And carelessness with the truth seems to be rewarded. When a Pol, on the right or the left, opens his mouth you assume he is not being truthful. More than a century ago the famous Poet, James Russell Lowell wrote, “Truth is ever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne” I wonder how he would describe our culture today. If there ever was, or is, a time for believers to be totally and absolutely without any form of deception it is now!
The news of the coming of a people whose God was all powerful had struck a great fear in the inhabitants of Canaan. And Rahab expressed this fear to the spies and pleaded with them that since she had been kind to them, would they be kind to her and her family when they conquered Jericho. She was already convinced that God would do what He had promised. Her faith may have been stronger than that of many of the Israelites. She was graciously assured that her family would be spared. Interesting that they would be saved by placing a scarlet cord in the window of her dwelling.
As they camped along the Jordan river the children were probably asking, “How are we going to get to the other side?” Many parents probably also wondered, still not grasping God’s direction for the children of Abraham. They probably continued to wonder until the next morning as the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stepped into the Jordan river and the waters parted to form a passage to the far side.
God then instructed Moses to have 12 men, probably one from each tribe, to retrieve 12 stones from the river bed and set them up on the west bank as a memorial. One day the children will ask, “What do those stones mean to you? Then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. . . . . So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Jos. 4:6,70) It seems significant that while all Israel passed over the river, only the ark of the covenant, a symbol of God’ presence in Israel, was mentioned. The importance of this even and the importance of the memorial was that God was leading them which assured their success.
I regret that I have not kept a journal of God’s working in my life. I do have copies of most of the news letters we sent out during our years with Child Evangelism in Germany. They contain many memorial stones; arrival in Germany January 1955, Move to Berlin in May 1957, the rising of the Berlin Wall in 1961 (while we were living in Berlin), a clandestine visit in East Germany in 1963, an afternoon with the East German vopos (secret police), etc., etc. We should often look back on our lives, gratefully thanking God for the memorial stones, visible, or invisible, of His leading in our lives. That should keep you busy until I publish a continuation of The Story.