I spy with my insecure eye (09/25/16)

Read Joshua 2:1-24
Has there ever been a time in your life when you have struggled to feel sure about the promises of God? Times when in the midst of life’s difficulties you have had questions like … “I know God tells me that in all things he works for good, but in the light of my current struggles I don’t feel like any good could come of this.” OR, “I know God has said that he is with us always, but right now, God seems so distant, and I wonder if God is really with us.” OR, “I know that I am forgiven, but lately I just feel so guilty about all the things I haven’t been able to get done, and I wonder if God still forgives me?”
Our problem is not that God’s promises are uncertain; it is that we have a need to feel sure of them, especially when our circumstances seem to contradict God’s promises.
If this is true of you this morning then you are in good company for what we see in this chapter is that Joshua too, is seeking reassurance about God’s promises.
In chapter 1, after the death of Moses, God promises Joshua that he will lead God’s people, the Israelites, to enter the Promised Land, and that God will give to him every place where he sets his foot. He tells Joshua that no one will be able to stand up against him, and that he, the Living Lord God, will be with him and that He will never leave him or forsake him.
Surely this Word of God to Joshua would be enough to enable him to go forward with complete certainty that God will give them the land? No it was not. Look with me at verse 1 of chapter 2: “Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’” Joshua has heard God’s promises but like us in a moment of human weakness he needs to feel sure of them and so he sends out the spies.
The spies are supposed to assess the military strength of the people of the land, especially Jericho, the first town they will encounter after crossing the Jordan River. But instead, we read that the spies end up at the house of a prostitute, and worse, the king of Jericho finds out and is after their heads. It is at this point in the story that Joshua’s desire for reassurance seems to be backfiring, for the spies are at risk of being sent back dead and this of course would undermine Joshua’s and Israel’s confidence in God’s promise.
Now let me just pause here in the story, and note that Joshua is not the only one who sends out spies. So do we. Let me give you an example.
When we struggle to feel sure about God’s promise that in all things he will work for good, or that God is with us, we can sometimes seek to find assurance by looking for a sign. We reason to ourselves that only if we can see a positive sign in the midst of this mess, then we will feel that God will indeed bring about good from our difficulty.
Or, when we struggle to feel sure about God’s promise of forgiveness, we can sometimes seek to find assurance in the fervency of our repentance. We reason to ourselves that if we can get our lives together and do some good deeds and feel better about ourselves, then we can be sure that God has forgiven us.
Like Joshua we at times feel the need to be reassured about God’s promises and like Joshua we too send out “spies,” so to speak, looking for signs or indications that God’s promises are real and for us.
But what Joshua discovers is that the reassurance he seeks does not come from sending out spies; it comes from the testimony of others.
Look with me please at verses 3-6: “Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.”
Rahab is a prostitute. The Lord has performed a mighty work of grace in her life, and when the King of Jericho sends a message to Rahab to hand over the spies she commits high treason. She lies to the king. She rejects the king’s authority and she turns away from her own people and aligns herself with God’s people all at the risk of death.
Sometime in the past she heard about God’s mighty work of salvation, his power, his mercy; and her faith came from hearing.
Now she comes face to face with God’s people and it is her confession of faith that God will use to minister to Joshua and to provide him with the assurance that he is looking for.
Look with me at verses 8 and 9: “Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land…” Rahab goes on to recite the history of how God dried up the Red Sea, and defeated Israel’s enemies.
Rahab is sure that the Lord has given Israel the land because of God’s saving acts in the past. She confesses her faith in the same Lord. Here’s what she says, in verse 11: “The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.”
Rahab confesses to the spies that the Lord, who is theirs and now her God, is the only God, the one who is in heaven and on earth. She used to bow down to idols, but now she confesses that there is only one true God.
Is this not testimony of faith that Joshua needs to hear?
Is it not Rahab’s testimony to the mightiness of God in rescuing them from Egypt, her testimony to the majesty of God as the only Lord of the heavens and the earth, and her testimony to the mercy of God including her in his salvation that will give to Joshua the assurance that God’s promises will surely hold true?
Rahab’s testimony is the basis for Joshua’s assurance that the Lord will always keep His word, even when the circumstances around him makes Joshua feel insecure.
There have been, and are times, in my life when I have struggled to feel secure in the promises of God. I know that the word of God should be enough to bolster my faith but I too, like Joshua, struggle with wanting reassurance; reassurance that the Lord will provide my every need and give me victory over sin, reassurance the Lord is with me in the struggles and difficulties of life and will work good in my life.
It is when I hear the testimony of others that my faith is restored – when I gather together with others in this church, when I hear people singing the songs of our faith with energy and conviction, when I join my voice with others in confessing my faith in the words of the Creed, when I join my voice with others in prayer together the Lord’s Prayer, when I join with others at the table of our Lord for communion and hear the words spoken to me, “the is the body of Christ given for you, and this is the blood of Christ shed for you.”
It is when the testimony of others turns my eyes upon Jesus, his mightiness, his majesty, and his mercy that, like Joshua, I too experience the reassurance that God’s promises are real and are for me.
This is what I value about worship together in this church – the testimony of the faith community, gathered in worship, strengthens my faith in the promises of God.
So if this morning you are looking for reassurance of God’s promises, or if sometime in the future you don’t feel secure in God’s promises, get out of bed and come to church, and let the testimony of others around you turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Jesus knows your needs, and he will strengthen you in faith. This is what he said to his disciples, and says to us even now, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Let us encourage one another and build up each other, as we are doing today.


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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