There is an old Persian proverb which says, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” It acknowledges the tension we often come up against when we talk about trust: what is God’s part and what is our part? Trust does not mean we do nothing but sit and wait for God. Let’s read the story of Joshua 2.
I. LIVING THE PROMISES
In Joshua 1, God made a promise to Joshua and the Israelites. He promised them victory “everywhere you set your foot” (verse 3). Now in chapter two, Joshua gets busy. He secretly sends a few people to spy out the land, and especially to look at the city of Jericho. But why did he send spies? Didn’t God just promise to give Joshua the whole land? Did this show a lack of trust on Joshua’s part? Why didn’t he just trust God, rest on the promises, march across the river, and claim the land?
The questions become even more relevant if we look ahead to chapters 5 and 6, where we read the story of the fall of Jericho. Remember how the city fell into the hands of the Israelites? They took the city simply by marching around it for seven days, and then God miraculously tore down the walls when the Israelite army shouted. Why send the spies if God was going to perform a miracle?
Here is the lesson. Sometimes it is appropriate for us to get busy and do the things that make sense. I have known people who wanted to walk with God and who were so dependent on Him that they would literally wake up in the morning and pray about which pair of socks to wear. They wanted to obey God, they wanted God to be in control, and so would pray even about things like socks and attempt to discern “God’s will.”
Trusting God means that we wait on Him for guidance and direction and that we move in the direction He points us.
That is what I think is happening in Joshua 2. Even though God had a different plan for taking Jericho, Joshua was not wrong in sending in the spies. That didn’t indicate a lack of trust or a lack of faith; it was the right thing to do! God surprised the Israelites with a different ending, but God honored Joshua for being smart and sending spies to see what was happening in Jericho at that time.
Sometimes in life we get stuck. We get in a rut, we feel like we’re spinning our wheels, we’re discouraged and going nowhere. Maybe that is how you feel about your life today, like you are stuck. If so, ask yourself whether you are stuck because you don’t know where to go, or because you do know where to go but are waiting for something else to happen before heading that direction.
Trusting God means waiting on Him for guidance. It also means using the minds and gifts that He has given us to head in the right direction. As long as we move in the right direction on His strength, as long as we continue to trust Him and even let Him make mid-course corrections, we can be confident that we are trusting Him and walking in His power and not our own.
II. GOD GOES AHEAD OF US
The spies went to “the house of a prostitute,” most likely because that was a place where foreigners wouldn’t arouse a lot of suspicion and where they would be able to learn what the people were thinking. What they found there was miraculous.
Somehow, word got to the king and he sent in his henchmen. But here is where the story gets interesting. Rahab the prostitute hid the spies, lied for them, sent the king’s men off on a wild goose chase, protected the spies, gave them needed information, and then provided their escape route. In return, she and her family were spared. Rahab earned a prominent place in the history of Israel and in Christianity because of her faith.
God goes ahead of us. Not only does He go ahead of us, preparing the way, preparing the hearts of people, revealing His fame and His glory, but He goes ahead of us, and we find Him in strange and unexpected places. These spies found God at work in a brothel, in the faith of a prostitute.
We are often reluctant to share our faith, feeling as if we are making a furtive foray into enemy territory, crossing the lines into the “unknown,” taking a big risk. We head into those situations feeling like it is our job to take God to people who don’t know Him. We feel we are in a big, dark land, and we have the Light we must take into this dangerous place. The story of Rahab reminds us that God is already there ahead of us.
As we look for opportunities to share our faith, we must realize that the Holy Spirit is already out there, already working, already prodding and pursuing. We are wisest and most effective when we recognize that God is there already, and that we are to encourage what He is doing in people’s lives. Sharing our faith isn’t only about bringing people to salvation; that is the reaping stage in the evangelism process. There are lots of steps before that, lots of contacts and words and deeds and expressions of love, and lots of things that God is doing to reveal Himself and draw people to Him.
Matthew Henry, a famous Bible commentator, wrote that “faith in God’s promise ought not to supersede but encourage our diligence in the use of proper means. Joshua is sure he has God with him, and yet sends men before him. We do not trust God, but tempt Him, if our expectations slacken our endeavors.”
Where has God been calling you to go? What has He been telling you to do? If you feel stuck, if you are uncertain about which direction to head or how to get started, I encourage you to remember that God goes ahead of you. He has prepared the road, and He knows where the journey is going to take you. He knows exactly what you need.
General Conference Ministerial Association