With God on mission: Faithful Gentiles
The story of Jericho is often fondly remembered as one of those stories that we’ve grown up with as children – a story about how a God provides to his faithful, wandering children. Trumpets, fanfare, hype, drama, battles, sieges – what’s not to like? Except, if you read this story on a parallax – from outside of it’s original culture and intended audience, distancing yourself from the child-like bias that we have grown up with – it can be a little unnerving, even barbaric. If you are reading this story for the first time, you could ask what type of God would simply “give over” a whole city to a people who continually disobeys Him? What God would wilfully allow and condone that kind of death and destruction and violence? What kind of God is so exclusively in favour of one people, ignoring and forgiving their sins, and at the same time vengeful and uncompromising with another?
This view of an Old Testament, vindictive and angry God, is often painted in stark contrast to the inclusive, compassionate and loving New Testament God that we read about in the Bible. But if you were living in the ancient, tribal-centred wilderness, you would have an entirely different view and understanding of who and what God is. Every tribe had a different god, and it is generally considered that if you went into battle with a neighbouring tribe or city and won – your god was pleased with you. If you didn’t win, then your god had handed you over because he, (or they), were displeased with you. The story of Jericho starts very similar to many other battles and sieges of that day, except there is a glimmer of something new – a hope of redemption and a brand new way of understanding the Divine.
The writer reveals that the woman Rahab helps the Israelites plan the battle and usurps the Jericho defence – because she has heard something about this God. She, like the rest of the city knows something about the God of the Israelites. She has trembled with the knowing that something “more” was coming, which has caused her to react in such a way that she goes against her whole upbringing. Her whole family’s life irrevocably changing course because of her decision to trust a God who was invisible to her, but bigger than she could imagine.
The story of Jericho starts the same way as many other stories told in the ancient world, but the script quickly takes a tangent and ends up with salvation, restoration and hope as the people continue to awake to the Divine and the revelation of who God really is.
God has always had a higher, more expansive view of the hope for humanity than we do, sowing seeds early on in humanity’s story. In our own time He continues to awaken us the mystery of Himself in cultures all across our planet, and reveals to us that the ground of our being is firmly rooted in love. How we take that hope to our own neighbours and the nations is a continuing revelation, and something to be sought with our whole heart and mind and soul and strength, as we join with God on Mission.
Join with the NewLife@10 service as Stuart Grant takes us further within this mystery.
2:1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 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. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. (ESV)
6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (ESV)
Through the series we’ll be utilising the Bible Timeline pictures to keep where we are in context. If you’d like to have a copy for yourself as a reference for the sermons or the LifeGroup studies you can download it by clicking on the link below.