My daily Bible reading now has me in the book of Joshua. When i read through the Old Testament, i read it in the Jewish order: the TaNaKh.
- Torah = Law
- Nevi’im = Prophets
- Kethuvim = Writings
The Nevi’im (Prophets) consists of the following books:
- Former Prophets
- Latter Prophets (Writing Prophets)
- The Twelve (Hosea through Malachi)
As such, the first prophetic book is Joshua.
This is noteworthy since we typically assume the prophets were always either focused on judgment or promoting Israel’s superiority over the rest of the world. (The Jewish people in Jesus’ day had to extrapolate their twisted theology of Israel being God’s preferred race from somewhere…)
I preached a sermon on Joshua 2 in December, but it wasn’t until i re-listened to it a month later that i realized something: The first prophetic statement in the Jewish Scriptures categorized under “prophecy” is a promise of salvation to a Gentile prostitute who only minutes before had stood equal with the rest of the Canaanites under God’s curse.
Sure, chapter 1 contains a prophecy about Israel entering and conquering the land and God’s promise to be with them. But given what immediately follows in chapter 2, i wonder if it is a hint that God’s primary conquest-goal in this world (regardless of time) is the conquest of hearts, changing wicked sinners into reverent worshipers.
If so, then Israel’s tendency to focus centripetally finds no base in Scripture. God told Abram that he would be a blessing to the nations (cf. Genesis 12:1-3). Joseph accomplished this in micro by providing food for the known world after being sold into slavery by his brothers and later being promoted to second-in-command over Egypt. Jesus accomplished this in macro by dying for the sins of the world. There should have been more of the micro-blessing between Joseph and Jesus, accounts of people acting like Naaman’s servant girl (cf. 2 Kings 5). The indictment of the latter prophets is that Israel refused to be a blessing (even among themselves, let alone to the nations):
Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves.Isaiah 1:16-18 (HCSB)
Remove your evil deeds from My sight.
Stop doing evil.
Learn to do what is good.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.
“Come, let us discuss this,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they will be like wool.”
Tell them: “As I live”—the declaration of the Lord GOD—“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?”Ezekiel 33:11 (HCSB)
Israel was called to be centrifugally focused. This was not a calling that started in the Great Commission. Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples was a restatement of earlier Scriptural application along with a promise that it would actually succeed this time (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).
(I firmly believe that if Matthew had penned a church history book like Luke also wrote Acts, then it would be equatable to the book of Joshua, just like Matthew is the Torah in miniature.)
But let’s look more closely at Joshua 2.
The men answered her, “⌊We will give⌋ our lives for yours. If you don’t report our mission, we will show kindness and faithfulness to you when the LORD gives us the land.” . . . The men said to her, “We will be free from this oath you made us swear, unless, when we enter the land, you tie this scarlet cord to the window through which you let us down. Bring your father, mother, brothers, and all your father’s family into your house. If anyone goes out the doors of your house, his blood will be on his own head, and we will be innocent. But if anyone with you in the house should be harmed, his blood will be on our heads. And if you report our mission, we are free from the oath you made us swear.”Joshua 2:14, 17-20 (HCSB)
What we have here is a seemingly random, almost unfounded, and inappropriate promise of salvation to a Gentile prostitute. But she wasn’t simply a Gentile. She was a Canaanite. The Israelites were called to exterminate the Canaanites from the land.
So why do these men promise one of these cursed-ones salvation? Why is Rahab spared the slaughter awaiting her city? And more than just Rahab—why is the promise of salvation extended to the family she can bring into her house?
Well, we don’t know why (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) except that Rahab would eventually fit in the line that leads to the birth of Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 1).
We do know something, though. This promise was recorded for us in the Word of God—the Scripture.
All Scripture is inspired by God* and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,2 Timothy 3:16 (HCSB, emphasis added)
* = literally, “breathed out by God”
This means God Himself spoke through these two spies and promised them salvation. God promised salvation to a Gentile prostitute and to any family members she could convince to take refuge in her house.
What an amazing God we serve!
He is just as much committed to His prophets promising future salvation by faith in Christ as He is committed to His prophets declaring the coming end of the world.
In fact, based on the primacy of this promise of salvation within the prophetic section of the Jewish Scriptures, i think it is safe to say that God is even more committed to the declaration of salvation than He is to announcements of judgment (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). But there are two things we must be careful of when making this statement:
First, our declarations of salvation must be accurate. We cannot say, “Everyone is going to be saved!” That’s a lie that will not save anyone. We must limit—as God does—our promises of salvation to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ alone (cf. John 14:6).
Second, we must not misrepresent God as never-judging. God is judge (cf. Genesis 18:25). He will come again to do away with sin for eternity. Just like Rahab was spared amid the judgment against Jericho (cf. Joshua 6), so also those who place their faith in Jesus will be saved from judgment when He returns (cf. Revelation 19).
If you never have before, i beg you to place your faith in Him today!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.