We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt. (Joshua 2:10)
The very thing Rahab and her family had feared all her life was happening. Two strangers had come to lodge at her inn, and now she realized who they were, and what their presence in Jericho meant.
Long had she heard of this mighty people biding its time in the wilderness — a nation of hundreds of thousands, once slaves in Egypt, wandering in the regions south of Jericho, waiting for a homeland. Forty years ago, the first report had sounded about their remarkable exit from Egypt. The people had left, moving eastward, and Pharaoh pursued with his army. They found themselves backed up against the sea, with Egyptian chariots bearing down on them, when, so it was reported, the nation’s God parted the sea. His people walked through on dry ground. And when the Egyptians came in after them, the waters rushed back in and drowned the army.
Hear of His Fame
After their remarkable rescue, Yahweh’s people had sung about the report going out, and the fame of their God — the report Rahab, her family, and her city had heard:
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
. . . all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone. (Exodus 15:14–16; see also Numbers 14:14–15)
The Canaanites, including Jericho, trembled to think that such a people, with such a God, would soon come to take their land. And the nation indeed did come to their border, but then strangely turned away. And now they had been wandering in the wilderness for a generation.
As their forty years of wilderness wandering drew to a close, though, Moses reported that their God had said to him, “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you” (Deuteronomy 2:25).
Plea for Mercy
The inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and the city of Jericho, and the family of Rahab did hear the report and tremble in fear. The mighty nation was now advancing toward them, no longer circling the wilderness. They were moving toward the land they believed their God had promised them. And with two spies of this famous people, of this famous God, standing before her, Rahab appealed for mercy:
I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt. . . . And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you. (Joshua 2:9–11)
But Rahab not only feared alongside her city; she also confessed faith in this famous God: “The Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” And in such faith, she covered for the spies and led them away in safety. So when the wandering nation returned and marched around Jericho, and the walls fell, the spies honored their word and delivered Rahab’s whole family.
Then Rahab and her household joined the ranks of God’s people, and saw his fame continue to spread.
What He’s Famous For
In the days to come, God would again dry up the waters, this time of the Jordan River, so his people could cross, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty” (Joshua 4:24). And after Jericho, and a surprising defeat at Ai, because of one man’s sin, their new leader Joshua would pray to ask God, “What will you do for your great name?” (Joshua 7:9).
But these early days in the promised land would be only the beginning of God’s fame. The God who makes way through the waters would be famous for his remarkable rescues and eleventh-hour deliverances. His people learn to hope in his name, that he will defend and extend his fame. In a sealed den, he can shut mouths of lions. When surrounded by flames, he can keep his people safe. In a valley of death, he can bring dry bones back to life. And even in a tomb sealed for three days, he can resurrect the dead bones of his own divine Son, made man, and crucified in place of the sins of his people.
He is the God of stunning, unexpected deliverances, even when death seems certain and final. When his people are backed in a corner, and there seems to be no way out, he is not done, even to the last minute. This is what he’s famous for.