The Book of Joshua

5. The Coming Kingdom.

"The kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." — Rev. 1:9.

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days." — Heb. 11:30.

Jericho, situated in the beautiful plains of the Jordan, was indeed a "place of fragrance." It was a city of vast strength in a position of exceeding loveliness. It is a figure of this world devoted to judgment by the word of God. Christ will come from heaven with His holy ones, and in flaming fire will execute judgment on the peoples of this earth; He will overthrow the strength and overturn the foundations of this world, and after that He will set up His kingdom and reign. Not only will the present system of this world be destroyed, but the god of this world will be arrested and imprisoned in the pit during the reign of Christ. (Rev. 20:1-3.)

The coming of Christ was continually proclaimed by the early Christians, and the rights of His kingdom were constantly declared. That testimony told its tale in men's consciences. Heartfelt witness as to God's judgments ever appals the unready. In our day, the expectation of Christ's advent in judgment to this earth, and of His coming kingdom when He shall reign over it, have too little place in the testimony of Christians; we do not refer to the bare knowledge of the doctrine of Christ's coming, which has no power to move souls. It has pleased God, that nearly 2,000 years should pass by, and the judgment long foretold still tarries, the kingdom of Christ is not yet set up in power on the earth. There is a double end in this, for on the one hand, it is the will of God that His people should learn practically what this world is, both as a wilderness and as a battle-field; and on the other, that certain characteristics in the world should be developed.

Forty years had to elapse for Israel in order that they might learn wilderness lessons, but, in the purposes of God, those forty years were one step, as it were, from Egypt to Canaan, for with Him a thousand years are but one day. The wilderness came in as a test to prove the people, as do wilderness experiences prove God's people now. God's purpose for His saints, is glory with Christ and reigning with Christ; consequently faith reaches right on and looks for the glory and the kingdom. Faith knows that the rule of this world must be overthrown, and that Christ shall reign and, in the power of God's Spirit, looks on to the coming judgments and to the establishment of the kingdom, while learning the lessons of life.

In the purposes of God, the world's ways must reach their development, certain characteristics of evil must progress to completion, before Christ comes to the earth in judgment. Hence, since the judgment tarries, it may be said, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen. 15:16). However, the Christian has to keep the eye on Him whose coming to the air may take place at any moment, while rejoicing in the long-suffering of God in His mercy to sinners by His gospel. The development of events is not the pole-star whereby the Christian directs his steps. "What saith the Scripture?" guides him.

With these considerations we follow the two spies, whom Joshua had sent secretly from the camp at Shittim to spy out Jericho. The whole of the incidents attached to their mission may be characterized as hidden work; just as in this day a secret work of God is in progress, while the course of the world is plain to all eyes. Faith in the word of God as to judgment about to be revealed, is a mighty force in this our Jericho for labouring on in the hidden work of soul-winning for God.

The two spies were directed (Joshua 2:1) by God to the very house in the city where a prepared heart was to be found. Those who act by faith do not waste time, but are led by God to the right places and persons. Rahab's house would apparently be a most unlikely one in which to find fear of the Lord, but God never makes mistakes, and such of His servants as are directed in their ways by Him do not go astray.

Standing with Rahab upon the flat roof of her house (ver. 8) and looking around, we learn a lesson for our own times. Mark the development of the city, its recent improvements, its great and high walls, and its brazen gates. Look at the face of nature; as since the creation of the world the mountains stand in their places [Actually, since the flood. Ed.]; as heretofore the valleys are golden with ripening corn, the hillsides purple with fruitful vines, for lo! it is the time of harvest. Prosperity and hope of increasing greatness abound, the expectation of the future fills the soul. How little does the world dream that the sickle which is about to reap the harvest, is one of judgment!

The ancient Jordan flows on, his banks covered with deep waters, as if proudly saying, "I am a barrier to the enemy's approach." The sun, which they worship, calm in the heavens, sinks beneath the mountains; shedding its rich glow over the scented valleys, and the people kiss their hands to it. The business of the city, its commerce and its luxury, the eating flesh and drinking wine, marrying and giving in marriage, birth and death, go on as in former generations. To the scoffers in the city the tale of judgment has grown old; forty long years ago they, or their fathers, heard how Jehovah had dried up the waters of the Red Sea for the people who now at their gates claim their land, but the tale is old, there is nothing now for them to fear!

The testimony as to Christ's coming and His world-kingdom is already ridiculed. "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). Be it so, but "when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them" (1 Thess. 5:3). The scoff of infidelity and its destructive effects cannot be denied, but neither can be denied the power of that testimony to Christ's coming and kingdom, which His people live out. When a believer, in the power of faith, testifies by his manner of life to the reality of Christ's coming, men tremble. The acting out of what a man believes convicts souls. Doctrinal intelligence convinces no man, practical behaviour is unanswerable. That person has something which we have not, men say of him who lives Christ, and such a life demonstrates the faith of eternity to them.

The two spies were the exponents of their expectations, they came to Jericho, not to make it their home, but to spy it out and to be gone. The Christian is sent into the world to be a witness for God and to Christ's coming and kingdom. Satan cannot destroy the truth, but he nullifies its power wherever the testimony of God's people becomes word only, and lacks the energy of faith.

While the two spies were in converse with Rahab and listening to her strange tale of inciting hearts and departed courage because of Jehovah's might, the king of Jericho heard that they were in his city. At once there arose direct opposition between him and Rahab. Alliance with enemies is madness, breaking with the world and Satan by God's people there must be, and in taking sides with God is alone security. Satan knows his doom, he has read the Bible better than men, he is no infidel. The devils "believe and tremble" (James 2:19). Satan knows that the world-kingdom of Christ will surely come (Rev. 11:15), that he will not always be "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), and that before long the kingdoms of earth will have had their day. He is really on the defensive, and all his attacks against the truth of God are made to preserve his possessions as long as he can.

The wisdom of faith invariably outwits Satan. Rahab "hid the men" (Joshua 2:4) as soon as they were enquired after. If a believer takes to planning, let him remember that Satan is a craftier planner than he. If the believer trusts his Father like a little child, then Satan is beaten before the battle begins.

Because of the lie Rahab told, cavillers would cast a slur on the veracity of the whole story. But God tells the truth about her character and her ways, as about everything; it is man who hides what is not to his credit. "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace" (Heb. 11:31). Her faith, not her falsehood, is commended. Easterns are proverbially addicted to lying; not that it is intended by this remark to imply that a national characteristic is an excuse for sin; on the contrary, so much the worse for the nation thus characterised. The testimony of the old poet of Crete was, the Cretans are liars, sluggish gluttons, savage beasts to which testimony the apostle Paul added his own evidence, thus giving the necessary twofold witness to a fact; and so the record stands of a people being liars. Whether of west or east, lying and deceit are hateful to God; "rebuke them sharply" was the word to Titus, because of their national characteristics. No one need suggest that the word of God makes light of a lie, because it tells the truth about everybody, Rahab included. But why should the infidels of Christendom expect morality from believers in God? Their objection, founded on Rahab's lie, to the truth of this part of the word of God, is a testimony that they believe God is true and cannot countenance falsehood, and that He will do what He says He will. He will surely execute judgment on this world, and on its infidelity and its liars, as He has said. Rahab had no right to tell her king a lie any more than a man has liberty to tell a lie to the father of lies. Had her faith in Jehovah gone further, she would have trusted in Him, instead of in her deception, for deliverance. A soldier of Christ telling a falsehood in Christ's name is simply a traitor to his Lord.

By faith this poor heathen believed that the days of her city were numbered; her thoughts were not with her fellow-citizens, but with the Lord's people. In the two spies she beheld the messengers to her of the God in heaven above and on earth beneath, and her conviction was, "I know that the Lord hath given you the land." "I know that the Lord has done this" is the incontestable reasoning of faith. Faith knows what God will do, simply because God has spoken. "I know" is an immovable assurance in the heart of the child of faith, which gives infidelity no point of attack whatever.

Faith is at rest towards God and active towards men. The testimony of the spies filled Rahab with assurance as to her own salvation, and with energy for the lives of her whole family. She believed judgment would presently fall on her city: her cry was therefore, "Save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."

For the fulfilment of this desire she sought a true token, and the spies gave her their solemn assurance, "Our life for yours." In a similar way we have the bare word of God for our confidence. On it we rely for our eternal good. "Give me a true token," does anyone say? God's revealed word is the assurance for our souls.

Having received the promise, to her based on the life of the spies, she "sent them out another way" (James 2:25), letting them down by a cord from her window, for her house was built upon the wall. Then they, being outside of Jericho, gave the outward token, the sign to Rahab — "this line of scarlet thread," and they bade her bind that cord in her window. Whence came this line? Was it from off their garments, or was it the cord by which she had let them down?

Scarlet is a familiar emblem of regality. Rahab bound the bright colour in her window in faith for her own salvation through the word of the spies, and in hope of the coming of her saviours. Its indelible hue, the colour which arises from death, proclaimed the kingdom, for the crimson dye is due to the death of the little creature whence it comes, and may point to the blood of Jesus, whose kingdom shall be established in the virtue of His reconciling death. The scarlet line was the silent witness of Rahab's faith, just as the expectation of Christ's kingdom should be the Christian's witness to Christ, the Coming One. Have we each one the scarlet cord in our windows? Does our Lord see that we, who trust in His blood, are indeed looking for His coming and His glory?

Her dwelling was on the wall, as far from the centre of the city as possible — just the place for a believer who is in, but is not of, the world. Her house was the only place in the city of destruction where salvation could be had — just what should characterize the homes of those who look for Christ's kingdom. Her window faced out of Jericho, and the scarlet cord was bound in it — what should be true of the outlook of every house where Christ is known; its windows should not look towards the world, but towards the Coming One. Her door was open to Jericho, to get people into the place of safety — a lesson for us all, for every believer's house should be open, as it were, to invite people to blessing. Outside that door was certain death — a warning to all. Moreover she bound the scarlet line in her window as the spies departed — "Now is the accepted time," was her practical belief, for tomorrow might be destruction.

Rahab showed her faith by her works. She spent her time in bringing in her nearest and dearest, her relations and friends: none of them were left to perish in the overthrow. By her persuasion she brought them home to herself. Solemn lesson to those Christians, who, while they say, they know Christ is coming, bestir not themselves for the salvation of sinners. One true test of our faith that Christ's coming may occur, we know not when, is our zeal for the immediate salvation of those whom we love. "Thou and thy house," is the divine word, and each believer's house should be a centre of blessing. If it be not, so his work for Christ outside his own doors must be questionable — "Bring them home to thyself." If any man say he believes Christ may come this day, and is apathetic as to the salvation of souls, and especially as to that of those of his own household and circle, let him ponder over these words, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26).

No message of mercy came to Jericho, and it is written, "Now is the judgment of this world" (John 12:31). No good news is sent now by God to the world as such, for Christ who came here has been cast out, and He is coming from heaven to judge the world. The gospel is "to every creature," … "in all the world" (Mark 16:15), but not to the world as a system. All who believe are delivered from this present evil world's doom, are saved from its end, and delivered from the wrath to come. A false gospel inverts this truth, for it cries, "Make the world good, improve society, educate man up to holiness," and refuses to admit the fact, that sinners need salvation out of this world, as did Rahab out of Jericho.

May God stir up His people, one and all, to faith in Christ's appearing and kingdom, and to the certain end of this world, and then there will arise real earnestness for the salvation of souls from the coming wrath! Wherever the reality of Christ's appearing and kingdom possesses the soul of a believer, that man is marked off from the rest as a Christian soldier. Toil on, labour on, he must. He is constrained to fill up these last priceless moments, which will so soon be over. Already the night is far spent, already the Morning Star shines in the hearts of His own, "yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."

Upon the return of the two spies to the camp they brought a good report to the people of Israel, that sort of soul-inspiring report which stirs up to energy for God. They spoke of victories yet to come: "Truly, the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land, for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us." Their hearts had melted like wax before the face of Israel. Strong faith makes strong hearts.

Forty years previously the faint-hearted spies had brought discouragement into the camp of Israel; they had judged by the testimony of their own eyes, and unbelief makes hearts to melt. The real state of the people of the land they knew not. This secret, hidden from Israel for forty years because of their murmuring and unbelief, Rahab's words declare. With what different eyes will two servants of the Lord look upon the same battle-field! One regards all as lost before the contest begins, seeing but giants, and cities walled to heaven; the other sees God. One regards himself as a grasshopper, and is frightened away from the field, and infects all he meets with the same fear; the other, strong by reason of faith, stirs up the courage of his brethren. The one sees the outside of the world's walls, and the brazen faces of its infidel giants; the other sees into the hearts of men, which, with all their talk, tremble at the thought of death and of the coming judgment.

What kind of spies are we? What is our testimony?