Josh. 2:1 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.
Joshua 2:1 doesn’t seem like a very important verse at first, but it actually records one of the most important events in Jewish history. The children of Israel had finally completed their wilderness wanderings that were punishment for a prior generations refusal to enter the land (Deuteronomy 1:26-28) and were taken by God to a place called Shittim (also called the plains of Moab, or the Acacia Grove) near the banks of the Jordan river.
The journey to Shittim was exciting for the Jews because for the first time they were able to fight nations surrounding Canaan instead of just wandering. They began by conquering King Arad the Canaanite (Numbers 21:1-3) and then defeated the Kings Sihon and Og who refused to let them pass through their land peacefully (Numbers 21:21-35). This frightened the Moabites on the other side of the Jordan (Numbers 22:1-3) who remembered the great miracles God had done for the Israelite’s (Joshua 2:9-11).
After conquering Sihon and Og you would imagine that God would send them over the Jordan right away. But instead Scripture tells us they spent a very long time camping in Shittim on the other side of the Jordan.
Before their conquest of Canaan God brought them to a place of waiting. Part of this was because of the sin they would commit at Shittim (Numbers 25:1-18) but the major reason was so to remember their calling before God
While at Shittim Moses gave to the children of Israel his final challenge, which makes up the entire book of Deuteronomy. Before entering the promised land Moses reminded them one more time of the law before God’s people entered Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:5) officially handed leadership over to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:6-8) challenged the people to obey God (Deuteronomy 32:1-48) and died after seeing the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:48-52).
Finally Joshua is commanded by God to leave Shittim (Joshua 1:2) but not before one more reminder of His presence (Joshua 1:3-5, Deut. 31:6-8) calling (Joshua 1:8-9) and preparation for crossing over (Joshua 1:10-18).
I’m sure there were days when the Jews wondered why God left them in Shittim, a place so close to the land of Canaan they may even have been able to see it.
The place their parents had dreamed of and told them about countless times was right there…and God wanted them to wait?
Today God still leads us to Shittim sometimes. A place for waiting and listening to his truth instead of action. And if your anything like me being in that place is incredibly frustrating. But these waiting periods are a huge part of God’s plan because He knows how easy it is to forget.
- Forget that He is the one who fights the battle not us
- Forget how we failed last time
- Forget victory doesn’t come from strength or obedience
So from time to time God forces us to sit down and listen to His truth again. He implants those truths in our hearts like Moses did while teaching the law as a song (Deut. 31:1-47) knowing te Israelites would rebel after his death (Deut. 31:29). When we leave God’s path its the lessons learned in Shittim that always bring us back to Him
I’m sure as the spies entered Canaan for the first time their hearts were filled with excitement, but because of Shittim their ears were also filled with the words of Moses “See now that I, even I, am he and there is no God with me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39
May God keep bringing me back to Shittim so His words can continue ringing in my ears.