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Sunday, January 13, 2019

posted Jan 13, 2019, 6:55 PM by Site Administrator

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GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON THE EARTH BELOW

 

Joshua 2:1-24

Key Verse 2:11

 

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heave above and on earth below. 

 

First, “A secret spy mission” (1). In the previous passage, we learned about God’s instruction for Joshua, the new leader for the conquest. He must be strong and courageous, and be careful to obey all the law of God; then, God would give him every place he would set his foot, and he would be successful in carrying out the conquest in the Promised Land. At this, Joshua was greatly encouraged, and gave an order to the Israelites to get supplies ready. Now in three days they would cross the Jordan River into the land God had promised to give them. But before starting the conquest, Joshua had to do something very important. Verse 1 says that Joshua sent secretly two spies from Shittim. He said to them, “Go, look over the landespecially Jericho.” We understand why he sent the two spies into Jericho. Simply, he had no idea about how the enemies were doing. For the past 40 years, the Israel people had been wandering in the desert, and when they came to the border of Canaan for the conquest,they did not have any information about the land or about their enemies. Joshua wanted to know about how the enemies were doing. In the military strategy, there is a saying, “If you know your enemies, you fight 100 times, and win 100 times.” 

 

Forty years ago, when Israel people camped in the Paran desert, God told Moses to send 12 spies, one from each tribe,to explore the land. So, Moses sent them out; they explored the land for forty days, and returned – in front of the entire assembly of Israel, two of them, Joshua and Caleb brought a good report saying that they must go up and capture the land; but ten other spies brought a bad report, saying that they would not be able to conquer the land – they stirred up the entire assembly and planted the fear of death and destruction in their hearts. At their report, all of the Israel people grumbled, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” It wasnonsense that God had led them to the land of Canaan only to let them fall by the sword. But once fear was planted, they became out of control. God was angry with them, and commanded them to turn back and set out toward the desert. Because of their unbelief, their entry to the Promised Landwas delayed for forty years; because of their unbelief, none of them, more than 600,000 men who were above 20 years old when they crossed the Red Sea, was allowed to see the Promised Land, except two people – Joshua and Caleb; they all collapsed in the desert. Having a meeting for the entire assembly for the spies’ mission report sounded good; it sounded very democratic, but Joshua saw how some men of unbelief could destroy the whole assembly effectively by spreading the words of unbelief and rebellion. During the past forty years, Joshua must have bitten his tongue many times whenever he thought about this. So, now as he was starting the conquest, and when he was about to send out the spies, he did not gather the meeting at all; he chose two of his best men, most faithful and trustworthy, and secretly sent them into the land for the spy mission

 

The Israel people’s failure is a great lesson for us to heed also. Whenever we open our mouth, we must make efforts to say some words of faith and encouragement, not the words of unbelief and rebellion. Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Also we learn that we need wisdom and caution in doing Gods work. Being democratic or making everything known to everyone sounds good, but not always beneficial for the church. We need to serve Gods work wisely.

 

Second, “Your God is God in heaven above and onthe earth below” (2-11). So, according to Joshua’s direction, the two spies went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. Maybe, staying at the prostitute’s house was a good tactic for them to be unnoticed. But they did not know that their enemies had been watchingthem all the time, and that there were so many secret agents in the town. Their move into Jericho was reported to the king of Jericho immediately. The king of Jericho sent his policemen to Rahab with this message, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Their spy mission was bound to fail. But there was an unexpected factor – it was Rahab the prostitute!Verse 4 says, “But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.” She hid the two spies! It means that, when she saw them, she recognized them as the Israelite spies. Even though they tried to disguise themselves in words and actions, it must have been obvious that they were the Israelites – maybe, even though they tried to be tough in their words like gangsters, their gentle character as shepherds could not be covered. When Rahab saw them, they were like sheep among the wolves that looked so naïve without noticing that danger was coming moment by moment. So she hid them. She took them up to the roof and hid them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof. When the policemen came, she said to them, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” She acted out very well and sent them away without giving them any chance to search the house. 

 

Humanly speaking, her action was not acceptable. She betrayed her nation. Why did she do so? In verses 8 through 13, she explains why she did so. Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. When she gathered all the facts about what God had done thus far -his deliverance for the Israel people from Egypt, and his miracles - she could see very clearly who God was – to her, the one who had done all these things must be the God in heaven above and on the earth below – the true GodShe concluded with complete confidence that the God of Israel was God in heaven above and on the earth below. It was a great discovery she had, probably, the most important discovery in her life. 

 

In those days, there were many gods in Canaan – Asherah Pole, Baal, Molech,... Also, in every country and nation, there were gods worshiped by people. The Egyptians worshiped Ra, the god of the sun; they also worshiped a god that looked like frogs; they worshiped the Nile River. But, Rahab found that among all the gods, the God of Israel was the one true God in heaven above and on the earth below - all other gods were fake. Through the facts that God had done thus far, her eyes were opened to see who the God of Israel was – she came to acknowledge the God of Israel as one true God. Then, she knew what to do – no matter what, at any cost, she wanted to stand on God’s side. When she realized that the God of Israel was the only true God, then, it was no longer the matter of Israel or Jericho, but the matter of standing on God’s side or not - in her eyes, those who were on God's side were good, and those who were not on God's side were bad. This was what’s going on in her heart. She had been waiting for God’s salvation. She was a prostitute and her social position was very low. Who could imagine that she had harbored in her heart the desire for the God of Israel? But God noticed her. In his eyes, Rahab was so outstanding among all those idol worshiping people in Jericho, like a shining star in the universe. 2 Chronicles 16:9 reads: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God sent his messengers of salvation to her in Jericho. What an amazing arrangement it must have been that the two Israelite spies came to her house and stayed there! How happy Rahab was also when she saw the two Israelite spies came into her house! They were God’s angels for her salvation. Even if she had the desire to turn to God, there was no chance. But now she had a chance because of these two spies. Probably, she shouted to herself, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” Then, with all her heart and strength, she stood on the side of Israel, and protected themsafe and secure.

 

The whole world is actually like Jericho – in this world, people live in corruption with the fear of God’s judgment, but holding some kind of vague hope that they would be okay. We can call this world, “A city of corruption.” John Bunyan, in his book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” called this world as “a city of destruction.” In that city, an agonized man, named Christian, sensing the coming of destruction, cried out, “What shall I do?” “What shall I do?” God heard his cry and sent him an evangelist. In this world, it is already destined that there will be judgment – all people on earth already stand condemned; they are doomed. Surely, death is coming to them, and after that, eternal judgment, but still, people hope that they will be okay. With this hope, they shut down all the gates and doors against God. Their only way of salvation is to open their gates and hearts toward God and surrender to God unconditionally, pleading for God’s mercy. All these people must hear what Rahab said: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

 

God is the only true God, and thereby, He is the Ultimate Standard above and beyond all human virtues, laws and regulations. He is above patriotism, above family, and above all human standards. Whatever He does is right. One day every tongue will confess that he is God; one day every knee will bow to him. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose him now. We must choose God above all things.

 

Third, “The scarlet cord” (12-24). Look at verses 12 and 13. After sharing her reasoning with the two spies, Rahab said to them, “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”She was decisive and at the same time, very sincere. Her pleafor salvation was so earnest and clear. The spies responded, saying, “Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, with an advice to them to hide themselves in the hills for three days until the policemen returned, and then go on their way. Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together:

 

The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.”

 

Rahab asked them for a sure sign of salvation for her and her family, and they gave her the scarlet cord. When the Israel people marched into the land, and saw this scarlet cord tied in the window of the house, they would not touch the house at all; they would simply pass by it, and everyone in that house would be saved from God’s judgment that was going on through the Israel people. In the book of Exodus, at the Passover night, the sign for salvation for Israel people was the blood of the lamb on the door frames. When the angel of destruction saw the blood, he realized that the punishment had already been carried out on that house, so he simply passed over the house. Thus, everyone in the house was saved from God’s judgment. Here, the blood of the Passover lamb refers to the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross for all peoples on earth. The scarlet cord is also the shadow of the blood of Jesus Christ.

In this dying world, many people are crying out for help like Rahab. We do not belong to this world, but still God sends us into the world so that through us, all those who have been waiting for God’s salvation, may be found and brought back to God. If we go, they have a chance for salvation. On our campuses, actually, we are in secret spy mission; whenever we find those who have been waiting for God’s salvation, those who have faith in God, we help them tie this scarlet cord in the windows of their hearts – they truly experience Jesus’ sin forgiving grace that saves them from eternal condemnation. There might be many things we can try to help them such as offering fellowship, or attracting them with fancy rock music concert, but fundamentally, it is the blood, which Jesus shed on the cross that saves them from sin and death. In the year 2019, let’s pray to find many Rahabs on our campuses. 

 

It is really amazing to notice that among all the people in Jericho, only one person was delivered from God’s judgment, and she was a lowly prostitute. Humanly speaking, she was not qualified for anything good or great, but because of her absolute faith in God, she was chosen to be an example of God’s salvation. Her case shows that God does not see outward appearance, or what kind of job people may have, or races or gender, but only faith in God alone for salvation. In the world, she was lowly, but by faith in God, she became a great woman of God. When she stood on God’s side firmly, she was so awesome and great – she was decisive, powerful, and wise. God blessed her and established a new family for her in Israel. She became the great grandmother of King David. We must live by faith in God. By faith in God, we must stand on God’s side decisively, entrusting our entire life in God’s hands. Then, God will surely bless us.

 

Now, the way of salvation was offered to Rahab - the scarlet cord. The door for her salvation was flung open. But there were two instructions she had to follow for her salvation and the salvation of her family members. They said, "unless you have tied this scarlet cord in the window,..." and "unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house." She had to tie the scarlet cord in the window. Also, as the one who had this good news of salvation, she had to share it with all of her family members; she must inform them of this instruction, and help them follow it absolutely for their own salvation. Then, only then, she and all her family members would be saved; if they ignored this instruction, then, they would be killed, forfeiting salvation bestowed upon them. This is the principle of salvation. As Jesus paid the price of the sin of the world through his death on the cross, the door of salvation is flung open; this salvation is indeed the gift of God freely given to mankind. And God shows us how we can secure it - the instruction of how we can enter it in the Bible, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is near. Repent therefore and believe the good news." The instruction is simple - repent and believe the good news; repent and believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your sake. As it was good news of salvation for Rahab, so this is the good news of salvation for everyone who has been waiting for God's salvation. They gladly accept this instruction and follow it, repenting of their sins and believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior. But those who ignore this instruction forfeit God's salvation. Also, as those who have this good news of salvation, we have an obligation to tell others about it; we must inform them of this salvation and help them follow the instruction - we must help them repent and turn to God in Jesus Christ. Then, all people who are under our care will be exempt from God's judgment.

 

Look at verse 24. When they returned to Joshua, they told him everything that had happened to them. They concluded their spy mission report, by saying, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Rahab’s faith and decisive turning to God was a great source of inspiration and encouragement to the spies, Joshua and all Israel people. Now,Joshua came to know the enemies inside and out – outwardly, they looked powerful, but Joshua knew they were melting in fear.

 

Outwardly, college students look just fine  they look confident of their life and future; they are sincere in seeking their career dream; they are proud; or it seems that they dont care about their life at all, but just fun and pleasures, having no desire for salvation or eternal life. But when we go into their life just one inch deeper, we come to see totally different people. Basically, they are fearful  fearful of their future, fearful of their health, fearful of death, and even really fearful of eternal judgment. They are sorrowful  sorrowful for theirpast life, sorrowful for present life, sorrowful for their future life, sorrowful for their familyThey are angry and bitter  at themselves, at their parents, at their friends and at the society. They are lonely, even while laughing with their friends, they are lonely even while partying. And they are suffering from the sense of meaninglessness and emptiness; they are suffering from insomnia and depression; and many of them are suicidal. Indeed, they are demons targets; they are demons easy prey; they are demons toys. When we see them outwardly, we are intimidated. But when we see their lost and perishing inner souls, we can be confident of what we do as shepherds and thereby, we can be bold in fishing and teaching them the Bible. The Lord God has surely given the whole land into our hands.

 

One Word:Your God Is God In Heaven Above And OnThe Earth Below

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