In Exodus-Deuteronomy, the Lord spoke directly to Moses more than 100 times, but nowhere had the Lord ever spoken to Joshua. The opening phrase of the book of Joshua, “After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun” (Josh 1:1), places Joshua in the position Moses once enjoyed as mediator between the Lord and His people. The Lord spoke to Joshua saying, “I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Josh 1:5). The remainder of Joshua 1 records God’s encouragement and warning to Joshua regarding faithfulness to the law (Josh 1:6-9) and his role in holding the two-and-a-half tribes accountable for fighting alongside their brothers in Canaan (Josh 1:12-18; see Numbers 32; Deut 3:8-20).
The commissioning of the spies and the faithfulness of Rahab in Joshua 2 reveal that the people of Jericho understood their days as free people to be numbered. Rahab confessed to the spies, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that dread of you has fallen on us, and everyone who lives in the land is panicking because of you” (Josh 2:9). Rahab’s act of faith to hide the spies should also be seen as an act of fear (Josh 2:12-13). She told the spies, “Everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Josh 2:11). Upon returning to the camp, the spies reported to Joshua, “The LORD has handed over the entire land to us. Everyone who lives in the land is also panicking because of us” (Josh 2:24).
As Israel crossed the Jordan, the Lord further encouraged Joshua saying, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so they will know that I will be with you just as I was with Moses” (Josh 3:7). In response, Joshua declared God’s faithfulness and reminded the congregation that the Lord would dispossess the nations in Canaan (Josh 3:9-10). As the priests entered the Jordan, the waters were cut off and the nation crossed into the Promised Land (Josh 3:14-17; see Ps 114:3)—an act so significant that twelve stones were taken from the dry Jordan river bed to remind future generations that they should fear God (Josh 4:1-18). The Lord had been faithful to His people under Joshua at the Jordan just as He was to those under Moses at the Red Sea (Josh 4:19-24; see Exod 14:15-31).
In the storyline of Scripture, Rahab is noted as an example of faith and faithfulness.
(1) In Jas 2:25, James argued that Rahab, like Abraham, was justified by her works of faith. When Rahab received the spies and sent them out by a different route (Joshua 2), she trusted God with her life. Her desperation mirrored Abraham’s desperation when he offered Isaac (Jas 2:20-23). Faith that justifies before God is faith that is desperate for God’s intervention alone.
(2) In Heb 11:31, the author wrote, “By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed.” The fact that Rahab was faithful in the days of the old covenant, before God’s faithfulness had been revealed in Christ, was noteworthy for the author of Hebrews. Rahab trusted God in the age when those walking by faith did not receive what was promised, since God made those promises in the days of anticipation, before the death and resurrection of Christ. Old Testament saints were thus perfected in Christ along with all those believing in Him since the days of His ministry recorded in the New Testament (Heb 11:39-40). The author of Hebrews cited Rahab and others listed in Hebrews 11 to exhort his audience to be faithful to all that they had received in Christ. If some who lived in the era of the old covenant could walk by faith and trust God for an inheritance in Canaan, then his present audience—who knew of God’s faithfulness in Christ, and forgiveness of sins, and unfettered access to God, and an eternal inheritance in heaven—should do no less.