Life is full of surprises. One minute things can be look like they are wonderful, and the next moment they are falling apart. And so, while many of life’s surprises can be bad, occasionally they can be amazing. The story is Rahab is one of these moments. Just when the story of Israel is heating up, and it looks like they are going to finally live up to their calling, a lowly brothel owner steals the limelight. God, it seems, likes to surprise us. Who is in and who is out of God’s story is only up to God.
Do you have any “under dog” stories or stories of unexpected victories from your own life? What happened? What was it like?
Read Joshua 2:1-16.
- We have jumped a long way from last week. Does anyone know the story between last week and here? Could you catch us up?
Leader’s Note: Israel left Mt. Sinai and traveled to the border of the Promised Land > they sent spies, but all the spies (except Joshua) thought it was impossible to conquer the people there > God condemns the people wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until the unbelieving generation dies away > Moses leads the people and dies after looking into the Promised Land > Now, Joshua is has been told to lead the people into the Promised Land
- Thinking about the recap of that story, what is the immediate tension in verse 1? What could go wrong? Does it start off well?
- Who is Rahab? What do you think her social position would have been then? What might it be today?
Leader’s Note: The Hebrew literally refers to her as a “seller of food,” however, during this time, inns and brothels were often relatively synonymous. Thus, Rahab might better be thought of as a manager of a inn/brothel. Thus, while it was normal for the men to find a room at Rahab’s house, the moral connotations would not have been lost on the readers. It is still a morally dubious environment.
- What motivated Rahab to do what she did? What do you think of this motivation? Is it pious, self-centered, smart, all of the above, or something else?
- Why do you believe in the Christian story (if you do)? What motives did you bring to your faith? Are they the same motivations now? Is it okay for them to be different?
Leader’s Note: Invite people to share their story of faith, and to . Often, our first motivations for belief in God can be unclear or are sometimes wrapped up in ideas we now do not believe. Rahab was (justifiably) afraid of God and helped the men to escape punishment, but that does not mean her faith was only about escaping punishment.
Read Joshua 2:17-24.
- What do the instructions of the men to Rahab and her house remind you of? What ritual in Israel’s story does it resemble? Why is that significant?
Leader’s Note: The scarlet thread and forbidding of going outside resemble the Passover ritual in Egypt. Rahab and her family are, in essence having her own Passover experience.
- How does the final assessment of the spies contrast to what Rahab says? Who’s account of the “people’s fear” is more accurate?
Leader’s Note: While both accounts are accurate, the spies relate the Canaanites’ fear to the Israelites; Rahab relates it to the God of the Israelites. Rahab ultimately, is the better interpreter of the story.
- Thinking over the whole story, what do you find surprising about Rahab’s and the spies? Why is that surprising?
- Thinking about how this story fits into the story of Israel, what do you find surprising? What does that say about God?
- How have you surprised yourself in the journey of faith? How have you been surprised by God?
Diving Deeper: The Conquest
- This is a hopeful story of how one woman and her family were saved, yet most of the people of Jericho were killed. What do you think of the Conquest of Canaan in the Book of Joshua? Is it ethical?
Leader’s Note: Violence in the Bible is a hard pill to swallow. While there is a general trend in the Bible to dissuade violence, the conquest narrative seems to contradict this. God literally commands them to conquer a land by means of warfare. This need to be framed in the idea of just war. The Bible clearly frames the people of Canaan as being full of iniquity , and Israel was meant to be a people who lived differently. The command to kill people, then, is meant as a means of purification. God does not want the moral blight of Canaan to infect Israel. As we see later, it still does.
- What are the proper confines of the use of force today? Can a Christian advocate for the use of force?
- How do we translate the narrative of the conquest into our own lives? As believers in Jesus, what “conquering” is ours to do?