When people write stories that represent bigger truths, it’s called mythology. When God writes stories that represent deeper realities, it’s called history.
God has an incredible way of speaking to us through real events of the past. So when God raised up the brand-new nation of Israel to bring justice and invade the evil, twisted land of Canaan, he was communicating something huge.
For about 400 years, God gave the Canaanites time to repent (Genesis 15:16). Their idolatry, child sacrifice, demon worship, sexual immorality, and witchcraft angered and grieved him. Finally, in the 15th century B.C., time ran out. God brought justice, using Israel to wipe out the people of Canaan.
Then there was the city of Jericho. According to chapter 2 of the Book of Joshua, before the Israelites conquered Jericho, they first sent spies. Rather than immediately taking the city as their own, they sent two men in undercover.
In the same city, there was also one lowly woman: Rahab the prostitute. She was just like the rest of the Canaanites—corrupt, sinful, and lost. She had heard the stories of these Israelites, probably from a client of hers. The reports of the plagues in Egypt struck fear in her heart. And now these Israelites had Jericho in their crosshairs.
So when the spies sought refuge in Rahab’s house, she knew salvation had come. She believed their God was real, and that justice was finally coming to the sinful land through conquest. She asked that she and her family be spared, and God granted her request. The Israelites promised to deliver her in exchange for protection.
Jericho is destroyed, but Rahab and her family are spared. And not only spared, but rewarded by the invading nation. And not only spared and rewarded, but highly honored by God himself, becoming one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ (see Joshua 9, Matthew 1:5).
Life in Canaan
Our whole world is in spiritual darkness, like Canaan. We are all in rebellion against God, just as Jericho was—blindly following our corrupt human hearts (see Ephesians 2:2-3).
But just as it was in the days of the Joshua, there are reports circulating about a judgment.
The word on the street is that a Conqueror is coming to bring judgment to the world. While God has long tolerated our sins, now he has raised a man from the dead and appointed him Lord and Judge of the universe (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus Christ has been given all authority on heaven and earth. Our time is running short; the kingdom of God is coming to depose the fallen world of men.
Many people doubt that God is coming to conquer and rebuild. But others, when they hear of the coming day of judgment, believe it and fear—like the citizens of Jericho (Joshua 2:11).
But there is good news about the coming king.
Before coming to conquer and judge, Christ came to spy out our land. Forfeiting the dramatic entrance he deserved, Jesus slipped through the city gates into the world under the cover of darkness, posing as a lowly servant and hiding his true glory (Philippians 2:6-8).
And as a spy, he offered us a chance to be saved—if you can recognize him. Secretly lowering himself into the world, Christ allowed himself to be killed in our place. The King’s death purchased total amnesty for anyone who would ask for mercy (Romans 10:31).
Which leaves one huge implication.
We are Rahab
Following our own sinful desires, we are spiritual prostitutes living in darkness—until we hear a knock at the door. It’s the great Spy himself. The same God who has promised to punish sinners has come covertly to steal a bride for himself out of the world, and he has chosen the most unworthy of all.
In that same vein, the Apostle Paul concluded his awe-inspiring description of Christ’s second coming with this joyous declaration:
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
We are the unlikely spoils of Christ’s conquest. The prostitute has become the bride, testifying that this new King is gracious and good (Revelation 19:6-9).
Here is a perfect picture of the Gospel. God is supremely committed to his glory, and not only in justice, but in mercy too. And in the course of displaying his mercy, the bride is granted the ultimate joy of knowing him. God’s glory is found in our satisfaction in him. Why else would a perfect King need such an unworthy bride? Yet he chooses to display his goodness by satisfying his bride, the church, with the greatest thing in the universe: himself.
The story of Rahab reveals glorious realities about the Gospel. It leaves us with only one question.
See, before they returned to their camp, the spies told Rahab:
Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. (Joshua 2:18)
In order to be saved, Rahab had to leave a marker outside her window, a scarlet cord, to prove to the spies that she had held up her end of the deal and abetted them. Wisely, Rahab complied (Joshua 2:21).
But what about us? Will we tie the scarlet cord outside our windows? Will we cover ourselves under the atoning blood of Christ? Will we abet the undercover Lord, trusting that he’ll save us from the coming storm?
The King is calling out his bride from the world, and it’s us—his church, his believers. Through the word of the Psalms, he calls to us: “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him” (Psalm 45:10-11).
May we accept this happy proposal and join Christ in his joyous kingdom.
Image credit: CiaoHo (CC 2.0)