2 Kings 2:4
Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho.
11 “And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
12 “Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token,
13 “and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
She lived on the edge of town. In fact, according to Scripture “her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.” (Joshua 2:15) She was a Canaanite. And she loved God so much that she hid two Israelite spies when they came to see Jericho’s defenses. She lied to her king, and she risked the death of her family to serve God, and she was rewarded with mercy. She is mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews and in the Epistle of James, as a woman of great faith. She was a “harlot.” Her name was Rahab.
The walls of Jericho were soon destroyed by God, brought low through His power and the great faith of the Israelite army under Joshua’s command. (Joshua 6:12-20) When the Israelites entered Jericho and put everyone to the sword, Rahab and her family were spared. Why? Because of a promise and a scarlet cord tied in a window. Does that remind you of anything? Maybe a bit of lamb’s blood on a door lintel? Yes, Rahab was passed over by the destruction of the Lord and His army, and she was brought out safely with her family, to dwell among the Israelites in their new Promised Land.
In his final journey of faith, Elijah is making a bee-line for the Jordan, and after Bethel, Jericho is a logical stop. Just seven miles or so from the river, close to several fords just above the Dead Sea, Jericho is a strategic city. Of course, after it had been destroyed, Joshua cursed the place, saying that the cost of raising those walls again would the the life of one’s oldest and youngest children. (Joshua 6:26) During the life of Elijah and the reign of wicked King Ahab of Israel, a man named Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho – and he did pay that price, just as Joshua had spoken. (1 Kings 16:34) Nonetheless, there were prophets of God dwelling in the new city.
We can see two things in this story of Jericho, reflected in both the old and the new city:
1) God demonstrated His power and sovereignty by destroying His enemies through His Spirit alone while His people act in faith. He will exact a dreadful cost upon those who defy His will, and God’s wrath is not something to be ignored. Whether it is the destruction of impenetrable walls as the people worship, or the death of a man’s children as he rebuilds that which God has laid low, God’s will shall not be defied.
2) God showed His great mercy upon those among His enemies who act in faith to become His friends. Rahab became an “Israelite” in name, if not in fact, the moment she sided with the Lord God of Israel. And after the city was rebuilt, God placed a few of His faithful prophets there, sanctifying Jericho for His use once again.
In our own journey of faith, after we have struck out on the road from our Bethel – the place where we first encountered God – we will begin to see demonstrations of His power and will. We will become aware of His great mercy – especially His mercy upon those whom society may have written off.
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;
10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Rahab and Zacchaeus need no longer walk with their eyes cast down, need not be scorned by their neighbors, because the salvation of the Lord comes to the faithful and repentant, not the proud and judgmental. God’s mercy is for all who fear Him.
In mercy and truth
Atonement is provided for iniquity;
And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.
As we travel our road with the Lord, we will see more and more evidence of His power and His mercy, and we should reflect on these things. We may roam and sometimes fall off the track, and we will suffer the consequences of our own and of others’ iniquities. We will come back to God and we will seek His mercy, and we will find it.
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
Imagine that frightful seventh day, as Rahab and her family watched expectantly while the armies of Israel – thousands of men at arms – marched around Jericho, with a thousand or more rams-horn trumpets blasting out the fear of the Lord. Imagine the moment when the people finished that last circuit and stamped their feet and the walls began to crumble – with Rahab’s home right there in the midst of the rubble, the ONLY part of the outer wall left standing. Imagine the relief as the two spies returned to knock on Rahab’s door, even as the screams of the dying rang out through the streets and alleys of Jericho. And through it all, Rahab and her family had waited quietly for the salvation promised by the Lord’s men.
As we travel our road of faith, we should do so with quiet courage, knowing that the Lord’s strength and mercy will come in time. His salvation is here, and our hope in eternal life is an anchor for our faith. We should repent of our old ways and seek His face, and take that journey away from the destruction of Jericho. Like Rahab, let us observe His power and embrace His mercy as we journey onward in faith.
Father in Heaven, Almighty God, I seek your mercy yet again. Though my sins are as scarlet, Your Son has made them white as snow. Renew me this day, O Lord, and take me away from my Jericho, the scene of my sin. I trust in Your mercy and love, Lord God. Amen.