Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, “Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.” The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel…. So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Joshua 6:22-25 NLT) “In common law legal systems, a contract is an agreement constituting a binding promise that has been entered into voluntarily by two or more parties under an authoritative jurisdiction. Basic elements of a contract are the offer, the acceptance, the surety and the conditions.”1
An authoritative jurisdiction. Though there was no attorney present that day in Jericho, the two spies and Rahab had entered into just such a binding promise. And the promise was under the jurisdiction of the One who has authority over all. Rahab had said to the spies, “Now swear to me by the LORD…” (Josh 2:12). This pagan woman knew that there was only one authority that mattered – the Lord God Jehovah. He alone is faithful. He is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). Every word that proceeds from His mouth is true. And every promise that He makes is “Yes, and in Him Amen” (2 Cor 1:20 NKJ). “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut 7:9 NKJ). Rahab knew that she could trust this promise if it was made in His Name.
Only until recent days, our government and legal systems have acknowledged the authority of God over all things and required that those giving statements in courts of law invoke the name of God in order to attest that their statements were true and correct. Because only His word is incorruptible. Only His word is guaranteed. Only His word is unchanging. As a matter of fact, “when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Heb 6:13 NKJ).
The promise of the spies was accepted because they gave it under His authority. Oh, that our word today might be accepted so assuredly because we stand on the word of God. Why has the word of Christians individually and collectively become so suspect? Yes, i know that partially it is due to a world that has turned away from God. (But remember, at the time Rahab accepted their promise, she was a pagan.) My greater concern today, is that we as followers of Christ do not honor our Lord with unwavering truthfulness. Our word and our promises have come to mean little more than those who do not follow Christ. And in so doing, we dishonor His Name. Let our yes be yes, and our no be no (Matthew 5:37). Even this pagan woman was known for keeping her promise. Our promise cannot change over time or because of change in circumstance. Our word, like that of our Lord, must be unchanging – because we stand and are rightly accountable under His jurisdiction.
An offer was made. She promised to do her part to help the spies; the spies promised to do their part to keep her and her family safe when Jericho was destroyed. The promise they each made was regarding their own personal actions. Though there were elements outside of their control; they were not elements of the promise. Do you remember the proverb, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep”? They entered into their promise with a full commitment. Also, the promise they made, just like the promise that God makes, was not valid only until a better deal came along. It was a promise that endured everything that life and circumstances may throw against it. Their very lives depended upon their promise. Their offer was fully given and irrevocably made.
An acceptance was given. Their promise to each other was not only offered, it was accepted. The spies offered the promise by saying, “If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the LORD gives us the land” (Josh 2:14). Rahab accepted their promise by agreeing not to betray the spies, and she honored her acceptance. The acceptance in essence completes the promise; it “receives” that which has been “given”.
A surety was extended. The spies offered their own lives as a guarantee for her safety. If for any reason they failed to live up to their promise, they were committing to surrender and forfeit their very lives. In our day and time, it is common for a promisor to extend a monetary surety to the receiver of the promise, in essence saying, “If I don’t do what I promise, you will receive this sum of money”. And that surety is frequently placed in the hands of a third party to hold as guarantee. In this case, the spies were “swearing before the Lord”. He was the “holder” of their surety. When we, as followers of Christ, give our promise we also extend a surety. The surety we extend is our testimony – our faith and walk with Jesus. Every time we break our promise, we forfeit our surety – our testimony is impugned and the Name of our God is dishonored. And Jesus went on to tell us, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt 5:33-37 NKJ).
Conditions were defined. They made sure to fully define their promise so there would be no confusion. The spies said, “We will be bound by the oath we have taken only if you follow these instructions. When we come into the land, you must leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window through which you let us down. And all your family members… must be here inside the house” (Josh 2:17-18). And Rahab defined the conditions of her promise as follows: … she let them down by a rope through the window. “Escape to the hill country,” she told them. “Hide there for three days from the men searching for you. Then, when they have returned, you can go on your way.”(Josh 2:15-16)
As we know from our passage, everyone kept their promise, and Rahab and her family came to live among the Israelites. She would become the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, and through them would become the great-great grandmother of King David – all as a result of a promise given, a promise accepted and a promise kept.
Don’t forget the promises you have made along the path of your journey. Promises that are broken because they are forgotten are still broken promises. Don’t make promises idly any more than you will make a promise cavalierly.
Keep your promises along the way, and be grateful for a God who keeps His every promise. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life (1 Jn 2:25 NKJ).
(Excerpt from “Lessons Learned In The Wilderness — Possessing The Promise”. For more information about the book see http://www.wildernesslessons.com/Possessing_The_Promise.html.)