And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went…
Let us play a little with this word. It has more in it than a good example for a military commander. And its side suggestions as to what is wise in all conflicts are many and valuable. Generalise the action of Joshua here, and its gives you some lesson of prudence in all departments of life. Let us gather a few of these.
I. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP. Always and everywhere do so. Many definitions have indicated the difference between man and the lower animals. One says, man is an animal that can strike a light; another, one which has language; another, one that can form abstract ideas. A very profound thinker recently taught us, "Man is an animal that knows what's o'clock," i.e., that takes note of time. It is perhaps only an amplification of this last idea to add, man is an animal that thinks of tomorrow. The vegetable, in its vocabulary of time, knows only the word today; the animal knows yesterday and today; man alone lives in a yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He belongs to tomorrow as much as to today: is a sort of amphibious animal, living on the dry land of today and in the watery element of tomorrow. From tomorrow springs hope, fear, rest, distress. Man never is - but always to be blest. This instinct of anticipation is natural because it is necessary. We cannot get on without "sending out spies." Unless we forecast what is coming we cannot prepare for it, enjoy it, or secure it. If we advance without forecasting, we find ourselves perplexed in simplest circumstances; helpless, though possessed of abundant resources; weak, though endued with force of character; unready, though competent and resolved. There are some who never seem taken at a disadvantage; they have their wits about them; have presence of mind to do the wise thing, and presence of heart to do the right. Their difficulties kindle elation, and always end in advantage. There are others who move like a worm cut in two, their reasoning and acting powers always lagging behind themselves. An opportunity only agitates them; a duty disturbs them; a difficulty deters them from any further advance. All their wise thoughts come in the shape of resolutions which are not acted on, or regrets which are enfeebling. The difference between these two classes of men arises from this. The former send out spies, and are prepared; the latter take no trouble to forecast wisely - are always, therefore, taken by surprise. See that you look out well. Christ did not forbid thinking, but anxious thinking of tomorrow. Think what duties may come, and get ready, by prayer and self denial, the strength to do them. Think of opportunities, and get ready the clearness of view which will let you embrace them. Think of temptations, and by prayer protect yourself. Happy is the man who can so wisely anticipate that every duty, difficulty, danger, as it comes, finds him ready. Therefore, look before you leap, and send out spies.
II. DO NOT SEND FORTH TOO MANY SPIES, NOR SEND THEM FORTH TOO FAR. Here Joshua sent two men to Jericho - say ten miles away. There are some send all their forces out to spy, like a general who reconnoitres in force and does nothing else. They are always prospecting with all their powers. Their whole energies are given up to the guessing of the future. Reason, imagination, conscience, all are engaged in anticipation. So busy are they with tomorrow that they have but little strength left for today. Joshua did not reconnoitre in force, nor did he send out many to spy the land. He sends only two. Do not be always thinking on what is before you; it will become brooding, and when we brood our forecast is equally erroneous and enervating; nor let your whole soul go out into the tomorrow. Today needs the bulk of your powers. Tomorrow cannot claim so much. And doing today's work well, while not the whole, is yet nine-tenths of preparation for the morrow. A little thought, a little care, a little preparation, is the lesson of Joshua's two spies. And if we should not send forth too many, neither should we despatch them too far. Joshua limits his scrutiny to the immediate struggle before him. About to assail Jericho, he seeks all the information he can get on it So ought we to put a limit to our prospects. The distant advantage should be excluded from our dreams, and the remote danger from our apprehensions. What is immediately before him is a wise man's care. And to take each stage as it comes into sight and provide for it is safety and wisdom alike. It is the golden mean between the levity of indifference and the torture of anxiety. Not too many spies must be sent out, nor too far afield.
III. SEE THAT YOUR SPIES ARE FIT FOR THEIR TASK. It is not every soldier who will make a scout; for his task there is needed endurance, resource, coolness, daring, quickness of perception and of purpose, in their highest form. I assume that Joshua chose two fit men; partly because he had seen the invasion of Canaan postponed for forty years through the unfitness of the spies then sent, and also because the few glimpses we have of them show them to have been the right sort of men. We can see that they had the agility of youth (Joshua 6:23) and the daring of faith (Joshua 2:24), and doubtless they had other qualities beside. See that the spies you send out are fit for their work. Some people employ their Wishes in this work, and these return with tale more flattering than true; some their mere imagination, which takes in all that may, can, or will happen; some send forth their fears, which return telling of countless lions in the way, and some their superstitions, which read auspices of good or omens of evil fortune in the simplest and most meaningless experiences. They choose unfit spies. If you are to send two, who shall they be? Of the first one there can be no doubt - it must be faith, for faith has clearer eyesight than anything else. It sees the invisible. It beholds God as well as man; sees His moral as well as material laws at work; sees the elements of hope which He brings with Him into every scene; is the attribute of daring; can always find or make a way out of difficulties. Let faith have the forecasting as its charge. And if faith should be invariably one of the two spies, consecration should be the other. Spy out the future, not simply to know it, but with desire to use it. And to that end scrutinise the future with the eye of consecration, with the desire to see the opportunities of doing good, of growing in grace, of honouring God, of blessing man. Happy the man who chooses his spies well, and sees with trustful eye the help, and with loving purpose the opportunities, which lie before him. Lastly -
IV. SEND YOUR SPIES ACROSS JORDAN BEFORE YOU YOURSELF MAKE THE PASSAGE. It is not by accident of poetic fancy merely that the Jordan, dividing the land of sojourn from the land of rest, has been taken as an image of that "river without a bridge," across which is the better land. Of course like all analogies it is imperfect, for while God's Israel finds rest in the heavenly Canaan, it finds no Canaanite to dispute the enjoyment of it. Still it is a suggestive emblem of the rugged, forbidding boundary beyond which is our land of milk and honey. And if our wisdom exercises itself in surveying every stage in advance and preparing for it, it certainly will find a special reason for surveying, and preparing for what is on the other side of the great dividing line between him and eternity. Have you sent out your spies there? Do you know exactly the sort of experience which is before you? Could you confidently pass over Jordan? Through your Saviour is it the abundant entrance that is waiting you? Do not confine your thoughts to Shittim, however sweet its shade of acacias may be; but prepare for what is beyond, and face the passage of the Jordan with the full knowledge and firm faith which would make your rest in Canaan sure. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
WEB: Joshua the son of Nun secretly sent two men out of Shittim as spies, saying, "Go, view the land, including Jericho." They went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and slept there.