October 21, 2018 | Taylor Rutland
Passage: Joshua 2:1-24
To set the context for you, at this time in the nation of Israel Moses has now died. Joshua has been the leader appointed by God to bring the Israelites into the Promise Land. One of the first places that Joshua needed to scope out was the city of Jericho. At the height of its existence, Jericho was known as the most important city in the Jordan Valley, and was the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It is also thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world dating back nearly 10,000 years. It also is one of the lowest cities on earth standing at nearly 800 feet below sea level. Today we look at a story in the city of Jericho from Joshua 2. The story of a prostitute named Rahab.
The Courage of Rahab:
"Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, 'Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the Land.'" — Joshua 2:3
The story does not give us a lot of background information. So upon reading the text I’m sure you have lots of questions. Why do the men go directly to Rahab’s house? Why is it important to mention that she is a prostitute? And why is she so willing to help them? These are all excellent questions that I wish I could answer, but remember when reading Old Testament narrative stories the surrounding details are not always as important as what the writer is trying to get across.
Rahab shows a tremendous amount of courage because the king goes directly to her and confronts her about the spies and she does not miss a beat. She protects the spies in spite of the potential personal danger to her own life. Not to mention, the courage it took for her to hide men that probably her family and friends did not approve of being there.
Living in the city takes courage friends. It requires us to stand up for what is right even if everyone around us disagrees. It requires to go to the most dangerous and vulnerable places. It literally might mean putting your life in danger in order to do what is calling you to do. Jesus never promised us safety. That is not anywhere in his teaching. So to restrict yourself from doing ministry because it might require you to be unsafe is not an excuse that Jesus will accept. I know that sounds harsh, but it is the truth. It takes courage to not back down from cultural pressure to change your views on certain issues that you know the Bible clearly teaches on. Are you willing to take stand up for what you believe in? Or are you just going to fold in order to not cause any conflict? It’s difficult to have courage in today’s world.
I want to encourage you don’t get caught up in the lie of Rahab. You can be petty and say that Rahab’s act was unethical and that she shouldn’t have lied to the men of the city, but the point of the story is not Rahab’s lie. The point of her story comes later in her confession. In the NT, nothing is mentioned of Rahab’s lie. In fact, all that is mentioned of her in the NT discusses the faith that Rahab had. Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 praise Rahab for protecting the spies. No mention of her lie to protect the spies. This is not an ethics class, nor is the book of Joshua teaching you ethics. So don’t overanalyze this part of the story.
The Stories of God Change People:
"And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath." — Joshua 2:11
What caused the hearts of the people to melt? It was the stories they heard about what God had done for the Israelites. The crossing of the Red Sea when Moses took the Israelites and told them to march across dry land as God separated the waters for them in Exodus 14. They had also heard the story that we find in Numbers 21 where God gave victory to the Israelites over Sihon and Og who were leaders of two powerful armies in that day. Word travels quickly when God works in miraculous ways.
I love the language that Rahab uses. She says that when they heard of what God had done their hearts melted. What a powerful phrase that is. God’s powerful work in the lives of the Israelites had traveled to Jericho, and people were in awe of what God did. The phrase “our hearts melted” literally means being seized with anxiety. So Rahab isn’t saying that the people came under conviction but rather they were scared of the God of Israel because they had heard about his power.
The stories of God led to Rahab’s confession that the God of Israel is the God of heaven and earth. This confession in v.11 that Rahab provides is big. A pagan, Canaanite prostitute is confessing in the God of Israel
If we believe that the stories we find in this book are true, then they should have the power to change people. Your story of faith can change people. Don’t undersell your own encounter with God as you share with people. Have the boldness and courage to speak out about the ways he has provided for you and loved you.
- You might have seen this, but the Bible app from YouVersion which is probably an app many of you use is on a mission to get the Bible into the hands of every person on earth. In order to accomplish this all of the Bible translators came together and set a goal that by the year 2033 they will have the New Testament available to 99.9% of the world’s population. In addition to this, for the first time ever the number of languages with a Bible translation outnumber those without. This accounts for an estimated 5.4 billion around the world while the remaining languages of 1,967 account for only 209 million people many with local dialects. We translate the Bible because we want the stories of God to change people! So in 2033 by God’s grace if we’re still alive we will see come to fruition almost every tribe, tongue, nation, and people hearing of the good news of Jesus. That is worth devoting our money, time, and other resources towards.
See the Gospel through Rahab:
"And the men said to her, 'Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.'" — Joshua 2:14
The Old Testament stories should point you to Jesus. I want you to see the parallels to Jesus in this passage: First, notice the conditional statement the men offer Rahab, the guarantee is only there as long as she keeps her mouth shut. She must keep her end of the bargain. In other words, her life would only be spared if she is able to keep the conditions of the agreement. Jesus’s offer of life for you and I has no strings attached. It is a free gift that he offers us. We do not have to live a moral lifestyle nor achieve any type of status in the world to be right in his eyes. Our identity in Christ is not achieved it is simply received. In Rahab’s scenario both parties had to be willing to keep their end of the bargain. Fortunately, for us Jesus isn’t asking us to uphold any end of the bargain. He’s just asking us to place our faith in him. Jesus’s death on the cross did not happen because we were able to satisfy the terms of an agreement. His death on the cross was simply done out of the love that he has for us. You will never be able to earn or achieve the love of God. You must simply accept it with gratitude. Second, we learn that in Joshua 6 the walls surrounding Jericho are destroyed. Remember, that we learned in our passage today that Rahab’s house was actually built into the wall. Because of this she and her family would most certainly have died when the walls were destroyed. But the spies came to rescue her. They were her savior. They saved her from a physical death. In the same way, Jesus came to rescue us from a spiritual death. He is our savior.
Perhaps the greatest part of the entire Rahab story is that she is the father of Boaz. And you’re thinking, why is that and who is Boaz? Well, Boaz ends up marrying Ruth and together they have a son Obed, who later has a son named Jesse, who is the father of King David. And we know from Matthew 1 that Jesus is from the lineage of King David. The greatest earthly king who ever lived was David until Jesus came and replaced him as both the greatest earthly king and greatest spiritual king. So yes, Jesus has in his family lineage a prostitute. The only perfect person who ever lived has in his lineage someone who according to the world’s standards is the lowest of lows, but in reality anyone in Christ is royalty regardless of past mistakes, current job, or future failures.
- I went to our feeding site at Elysian Fields a couple of weeks ago, and I sat down to talk with a man while he was eating his dinner. He had a tattoo on his the side of his arm that said Jesus Saves with two nails in the shape of a cross. You would think someone like this was well aware of the message of Jesus, but I asked him a question, I said, “What does Jesus save us from?” He wasn’t able to answer the question. I told him Jesus saves us from our sin, and that his death on the cross gave us forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Do not assume that people understand the Gospel. We must communicate it.
God uses flawed people to accomplish his plan:
"And they said to Joshua, 'Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.'" — Joshua 2:24
The profession of Rahab is important for a couple of different reasons. At this point in the storyline of the OT, everyone knows that the God of Israel is a God who cares a lot about holiness. And while the God we serve does care a lot about holiness, the fact that the spies go directly to Rahab’s house shows that the God that we serve uses imperfect people to accomplish his purpose. Please hear me, you do not have to have your life all figured out before God can use you. Rahab shows us that in this story.
Here is the best part of Rahab’s story, in Joshua 6 we read the story of the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho and then the walls come crumbling down. The defeat of Jericho is not just another win for Israel. It validated for the people of Israel that Joshua was in fact the leader that God told them he would be. The final verse of Joshua 6 says, So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread through all the land. Rahab was a key player in Israel’s history. God’s set apart and chosen nation conquered the powerful city of Jericho with the help of a non-Israelite prostitute. Don’t ever think that God cannot use you to accomplish his plan.
If you study the structure of the book of Joshua, it’s actually perfectly fine without chapter 2. The narrative could move directly from chapter 1 to chapter 3 without any problem in the flow of the story whatsoever. But yet, the story of Rahab in ch.2 is included. As a reminder, to all of us that God’s grace is never too small for our transgressions.
As we communicate with people in our great city, they need to know that church is not a place where you can only come if you are already right with God. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It is supposed to be a place where we all come in limping to the finish line in order to receive God’s grace and mercy all over again.
Chuck Colson, served as special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969-1973. He gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal for being named as one of the Watergate Seven. One day a close friend gave him a copy of C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece Mere Christianity. After reading it, he became a follower of Christ. As he approached his trial, he was torn between his desire to be truthful, and his desire to avoid conviction. Following prayer and consultation, he changed to a plea of guilty He served 7 months in a federal prison for his involvement in Watergate, and was the first member of the Nixon administration incarcerated for Watergate charges. After serving his time, he founded Prison Fellowship. At last check, it is now in 120 countries and is the most extensive association of Christian ministries working in the criminal justice field. Chuck Colson was far from perfect, and even after he was transformed by Jesus he still had many critics. He died in 2012 at the age of 80. Having shared the gospel with prisoners all over the world. I don’t know what is holding you back this morning from thinking that God loves you, but I hope the story of Rahab shows you that God uses imperfect and flawed people so that others can learn about Jesus. Just because YOU don’t see any reason why God wants to use you doesn’t mean he thinks the same way.