God promised the Israelites that if they would trust and obey him, he would bless them and make them successful. Even in military conflict against formidable foes, he promised, “Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword” (Lev. 26:8). Against “giants” in the land of Canaan, “No one shall be able to stand against you. The Lord your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you” (Deut. 11:25).
Prior to Israel crossing the Jordon River, two spies were sent to Jericho. Rahab, a prostitute, hid them and confided to them: “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. 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. 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” (Josh. 2:9-11).
There are five powerful takeaways from this conversation:
- The word about Israel and its God had gotten out;
- Fear gripped the inhabitants of Canaan, just as God had promised;
- Rahab gave credit to the LORD God (Yahweh) for Israel’s success;
- She recognized that “the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” – unlike any ordinary (and impotent) regional pagan “god”;
- Joshua summed up the prospects for victory based on this report: “Truly, the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us” (2:24).
Those of us who grew up hearing the great stories of the Bible may underestimate the power of divine intervention in the Old Testament period as an impetus for faith in the one true and living God in the ancient world, let alone in modern times. Did Abraham overstate the case that “Moses and the prophets” contain enough to go on for an honest seeker to be convinced, even in the absence of a resurrection miracle (Lk. 16:29-31)?
The purpose of God intervening during great “turning points” of sacred history is so “that all the earth may know” (1 Sam. 17:46; cf. also 1 Kings 18:36-37). The combination of God’s amazing power and honest eyewitness testimony is a compelling one-two punch against skepticism in any age. Have faith in the Word, read the text with people, and ask honest questions. Gently help them come to an honorable conclusion. Even today, the “things written in former days” were written for our instruction, “that all the earth may know”!
Check out my new book, Inside Out: the New Covenant Written on the Heart, now available at Florida College Bookstore, http://bookstore.floridacollege.edu/store/product/55887/Inside-Out%3A-The-New-Covenant-Written-on-the-Heart.
Also, lessons with study questions and answers are available for all 13 chapters of the book. Write me at email@example.com if you’d like a free set.