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of Egypt: that he had enabled them to destroy Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites, and to take possession of their land: and that he would infallibly accomplish his promises to them, in the total subjugation of the Canaanites. All this is evident from the very words of our text. Now, if we consider how contracted were the views even of the pious Israelites at that time, this faith, strong and assured as it was, was truly wonderful: it might justly be said of her, as of another Canaanitish woman, “ O woman, great is thy faith! I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”
But here arises a question of considerable difficulty: How can we reconcile the falsehoods which she uttered with the professions which she made, and with the commendations given her in the Scriptures ? To solve this difficulty, commentators have had recourse to various expedients; some extenuating, some justifying, and some altogether condemning her conduct. But we apprehend that the true solution must be found in the strength and assurance of her faith: she herself said, not, "I fear," or, “I believe," but, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land.” She was fully assured that it was in vain to fight against God: that, if these two spies were put to death, it would make no difference whatever as to the issue of the contest: that the whole city and all its inhabitants would infallibly be destroyed: and that the only possible way of securing herself and family would be to submit to the God of Israel, and to unite themselves to his people. To what purpose then would it be to deliver up the spies? it would not save one single life: it would only be to continue fighting against God, and to bring on herself and all her family that destruction which it was now in her power to avert. By concealing the spies she, in fact, could injure nobody; but by giving them up, she would sacrifice, both for herself and family, all hopes of life either in this world or the world to come. At the same time that this view of the matter gives the easiest solution to the difficulty, it serves to explain the commendation given to her by the Apostle James: “Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way b?" Yes; she did by this act evince the reality and strength of her faith, and prove, that she had determined to cast herself entirely, both for time and for eternity, upon the mercy of the God of Israel.
If it is asked, whether faith in God will produce, or even countenance, falsehood; we answer, No: but that question does not fairly belong to the subject: let it be asked, whether Elisha was justified in deceiving the Syrian army, and leading them from Dothan, whither they had come to destroy him, to Samaria, where they were brought into the power of the king of Israel? Or, if the cases be thought not sufficiently parallel, let any one ask, whether, if a maniac were coming to destroy his whole family, he should not think himself justified in denying them to him, when no evil could accrue to the maniac himself by means of it, and the preservation of so many lives depended on it? Yet even this case, strong as it would be, would fall very far short of Rahab's, whose eternal, no less than temporal, interests depended on her forwarding the purposes of Heaven. But, whether we justify or condemn her conduct, it can afford no precedent to us: for, before we can plead her example in justification of treachery or falsehood, we must be circumstanced like her, which it is nearly impossible we should ever be.]
b Jam. ii. 25.
Such was the service which she rendered to the Lord. Let us now consider, II. The reward she obtained
This was greater far than ever she herself could have conceived1. She and all her family were preserved
[In a few days, Joshua and all his army appeared before the city; and, by God's special interposition, took it. The sign before agreed upon had been attended to by Rahab, and the two very persons with whom the agreement had been made were sent to secure the execution of it. They went to the house, brought out Rahab and all her family, and placed them in safety near the camp of Israel: then the order was given to burn the whole city, and to destroy every one of its inhabitants without exception. The fulfilment of the covenant which the spies had entered into is particularly noticed at the taking of Jericho; and Rahab herself long continued in Israel a monument of the mercy of God and of the fidelity of his peopled.
This alone was an exceeding great reward: to be so distinguished herself; and, after all the distress which her former wickedness had occasioned to her family, to be made an instrument of saving all their lives, surely this was an inestimable benefit, and assimilated her to the angels which rescued Lot and his family from the flames of Sodom.]
2. She is enrolled amongst the number of God's most eminent saints-
[We have already had occasion to refer to the testimony of two Apostles in her behalf. The very scope of one was to illustrate the transcendent excellence of faith, and of the other to shew its operative and transforming power: by both of them is she united with the patriarch Abraham himself: and by one she is said to be justified by this work of hers, as Abraham was justified by offering up his son Isaac on the altar. The boon she desired was, temporal life; and behold, here was given to her spiritual and eternal life. How loudly did this proclaim to Israel the determination of God to incorporate with them in due time the Gentile world! And how strongly does it declare to us, that “where sin has abounded, grace shall much more abound!" Methinks, as Paul says of himself, that "for this cause he obtained mercy, that in him the chief of sinners God might shew forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them that shall hereafter believe on him to life everlasting,” so we may say of this woman. O that all the harlots in the world could hear of the mercy shewed to this notorious prostitute! Despised as they are and abandoned by their fellow-creatures, O that they knew what compassion for them exists in the bosom of their God! They usually persist in their wickedness, through an utter despair of obtaining the mercy and grace which they stand in need of: but here they might see, that the vilest of sinners may become the most eminent of saints. Our Lord indeed tells us, that publicans and harlots are often more willing to seek for mercy than proud self-complacent moralistse: O that the instance before us might lead many to repentance, and that, like another of whom we read, “having had much forgiven, they may love much!"]
c 2 Kings vi. 13—19. d Josh. vi. 22–25.
3. She was made an ancestor of the Messiah himself
[Mysterious truth! A Gentile, belonging to an accursed nation, and to a place peculiarly obnoxious to the wrath of God; and she too, an harlot of peculiar notoriety; to be chosen of God, not only to become an eminent saint, but an instrument of continuing the line of his elect, and ultimately of bringing into the world his only-begotten Son!! What shall we say to this? The truth of it cannot be doubted; for she is expressly mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. How infinitely did this honour surpass all that she could ever have imagined! What a reward was here for protecting the spies! But verily we never can entertain too exalted thoughts of God's love and mercy: the riches of his grace are altogether unsearchable, and the extent of his love, incomprehensible.
e Matt. xxi. 31.
f Matt. i. 5. 8 If Salmon, who married her, was, as is by no means improbable, one of the two spies, what beautiful considerations would arise out of that circumstance! But, where there is so much known, it is not desirable, unnecessarily, to introduce conjecture.
- Even a
This however we may learn from it, that God will abundantly recompense whatever we do for him cup of cold water given for his sake, shall in no wise lose its reward.” Let us then enlarge our expectations from him, and open our mouths wide, that he may fill them. Let us not be afraid to incur risks for him; but let us serve him at all events, accounting nothing of any value in comparison of his favour, nothing desirable but an inheritance with his people ---]
h The brief practical hints contained under these three subdivisions, might be omitted, and added separately as three inferences from the subject. Thus — INFER, 1. There is no person so vile, but he may become an eminent saint—2. Faith, if true, will uniformly produce good works—3. Whatever we do for God shall most assuredly be richly rewarded. This plan would contract the second head; but it would admit of these important thoughts being more expanded and enforced.
THE PASSAGE OF JORDAN COMMEMORATED. Josh. iv. 20—24. Those twelve stones, which they took out of
Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried
until passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over : that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty : that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.
TO remember God's mercies to us, and to transmit the remembrance of them to future generations, is a solemn duty imposed upon us, especially where the mercies are of such a nature as to involve the welfare of our posterity as well as our owno. On different occasions God appointed memorials for that express purpose; and ordered, that the children in all succeeding generations should make inquiries respecting them, and receive an answer from one duly qualified to give the desired instruction. This was the case with respect to the passover, which was instituted in order to perpetuate the remembrance of the deliverance of Israel from the sword of the destroying angel, when all the first-born of Egypt were slain". The
a Ps. lxxviii. 4-8.
The passage of the Israelites through Jordan was also to be borne in everlasting remembrance. For this end twelve stones were erected in Gilgal; and an order was given, that when children, even to the remotest ages, should inquire what event these stones referred to, they should be informed of all the circumstances which took place when their forefathers first entered into the promised land. We propose to notice two things; I. The mercy commemorated
[Here we shall content ourselves with briefly relating the circumstances which preceded and accompanied the passage of the Israelites over the river Jordan. That they are deserving of our attention is evident from the injunction given by the prophet many hundred years afterwards; “O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord." Shittim was the place from whence they last proceeded (perhaps about seven miles) to the banks of Jordan. There all the people were ordered to sanctify themselves, in order that on the morrow they might be in a fit state to behold the wonders which the Lord was about to do for them d.
The time being arrived, the ark, which was wont to be carried in the midst of them, was borne before them, and they were to follow it at a respectful distance (about three quarters of a mile), that they might all be able to behold it, and that they might see, that, instead of their protecting it, they owed all their protection to it. And the respectful distance which they were to keep, gives us a most important hint in reference to the mode in which we should on all occasions follow divine providence: precipitancy must be avoided, as well as delay.
As soon as the priests who carried the ark touched the brim of the waters with their feet, (for at that season, the snows of Lebanon having begun to melt, the river, as was usual, had overflowed its banks,) the waters were arrested in their course, and formed a wall on their right hand; whilst those which had
• Exod. xii. 24–27. So the unleavened bread, xiii. 7, 8. c Josh. ii. 1.
d Josh. iii. 5. A similar order was issued previous to the giving of the law, Exod. xix. 10, 11, 13, 14.