As Deuteronomy closes and Joshua opens, Israel goes from the edge of the Promised Land right into the heart of it. And it all starts at a little place called Jericho, where Joshua sent a handful of Israelite spies to encourage the people.
The entire town of Jericho knew what was up. They had seen Israel camping on the edge of their city for quite some time, waiting on the day when they would move in. They knew that the Lord was with these people; they'd heard rumor of His strength and provision. After all, word had had forty years to reach their ears. And the arrival of a band of Israelite spies did not escape the men of the city.
They knew what was going on, and they armed themselves and came to the house of Rahab, the prostitute. The spies had found shelter here, and favor with Rahab (who was wagering for a little favor of her own with them), but the men of Jericho were not wrong - if they could soundly defeat the small band of spies, they might just send terror through the whole camp of Israel and spare their lives and their livelihoods from sure destruction.
But Rahab was onto them and tucked the spies away before lowering them out a window in the wall and sending them on their way. When she did, she told them - go and hide out in the caves out in the far-away region until the men of Jericho give up on finding you and come back here. That way, you'll be safe.
So that's what they did. The spies of Israel ran to the cave outside of Jericho and hid themselves.
For three days.
You may or may not be aware at this point that we are firmly in the church's "three day" season. We're coming up on Easter, where we find ourselves for three days in another cave outside of another town. This time, Jerusalem. This time, Jesus.
And that's why I bring this story up. Because it's easy for us to read about the Israelite spies going into the Promised Land, being lowered out a window, and tucking themselves away in a cave until the enemy stopped pursuing them and think what a nice story that is and how it shows good insight on the spies' part, knowing where and how to hide themselves before going back to Israel. And we might even think about what the rest of Israel might have been thinking when their spies did not return for three additional days. Were they dead? Had they been captured? What did the men of Jericho do to them?
But when we put this in the context of another three days in another cave outside of another city, it takes on an entirely new meaning, and we start to see the pattern that God is developing. Because Jesus, too, was sort of like a spy; He was sent to give the people a glimpse of another way to live, just as the spies in Israel were supposed to paint a picture of life in the Promised Land. He was the Promise, overflowing with abundant life the way the land flowed with milk and honey. He was put into a tomb in a cave outside of Jerusalem for three days while the enemy, death, pursued Him.
And we might even think about what the rest of the faithful might have been thinking when Jesus died on that cross. Was He dead? Had He been defeated? What did the men of Jerusalem do to Him? Where is our Savior now?
Interesting, isn't it?