"Real Characters" –Rahab – Joshua 2
I’ve mentioned before that I am a sucker for a sunset. I love to see God show off like He does so often at the end of the day. After a busy day sitting at a desk looking at a computer or after dealing with people all day, don’t you love to see the sun go down surrounded by pink, orange and blue colored clouds? It’s so peaceful and yet so powerful. I always think of Romans 1:20 that says, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." How can you look at a sunset and see all the colors and realize that every one is different and they are all so incredible and not know for certain that there is a God? I can’t comprehend how someone who can see can be an atheist.
Several years ago I rode my motorcycle up to Montana and I stopped for the night somewhere north of New Mexico just over the Colorado border. Nothing but scrub brush about 3 feet high as far as you could see and no people for who knows how far. I just pulled off the highway onto a gravel road and drove for a while until I found just the right spot and just pulled out my sleeping bag and watched the sun go down. I’ll never forget that one sunset. There was no sound, just colors. There were no other people around for miles but then the moon came up (huge!) and it was as if God said, "Here ya go. This is just for you."
When God displays His power, people notice. When God’s power is on display, more often than not, lives are changed. If you are paying attention, you will realize that it has nothing to do with who you are and everything to do with who He is. When God wants to reveal something about Himself He can make everyone in the world know about it like is going to happen in the last days or He can allow only one person see like it felt for me in the scrub brush. I don’t know why some people get it and some people don’t. I can’t explain why God reveals Himself to some and not to others. It doesn’t always make sense to us but I guess that is one more reason why He is God and we are not.
I can’t understand why God would choose to use some of the people He does. Who would ever think to use Moses, an old shepherd, to lead the Israelites out of slavery? Why did the youngest son of Jesse get picked to be the anointed king of all of Israel? What was God thinking when He chose Saul in the New Testament to impact the world? And what did God see in Mary that made Him choose her to care for the most precious gift in all of humanity? I don’t know. But God seems to specialize in that kind of situation, you know? He loves to include in His perfect plan people who have huge flaws or several strikes against them and the reason, or at least one of the reasons He does this, is to make sure that everyone knows it was He who did it; that He gets the glory and the honor and not the person.
And you will never become a mature Christian until you realize that if anything good comes out of your life that it is God working in you and through you and you should just thank Him for using you. Just be grateful to be a part. The Bible is just full of illustrations of this. This week we are going to look at another real character out of the Bible. I have enjoyed doing this. I love to look at the story of some character’s life and see why God put that person in the Bible. For what reason are they included in the scripture? This week I had someone else in mind but I felt like God was leading me to include a woman in the "Real Characters" series (and I might add another after this later on) so I sat down and really prayed that God would show me exactly which woman
He wanted me to talk about.
I honestly had barely gotten the question out of my mouth and God said, "Rahab." I was instantly a little uncomfortable especially since I now had the responsibility of reminding God who and what Rahab was. So I very nicely just whispered to God a reminder that Rahab was a prostitute. We probably don’t want to spend a whole sermon on that kind of a woman, right? Wrong. I didn’t have peace about any other person and I felt like God was making it clear that was who we are supposed to talk about today even though she was a woman of ill repute. Although I will say that one of the commentaries refers to her as an "inn-keeper". Yea, that’s what she was. Inn-keeper.
So, let’s look at the story of Rahab the "inn-keeper"in Joshua chapter 2. Last week we looked at Joshua and how they had walked around Jericho and the walls fell and then moved on to the little town of Ai and the army got routed. In both instances they sent spies to spy out the land to see what they were up against. Some people say they should not have done that but I happen to think it was just good planning even though we saw last week that even though they sent spies to Ai, they still lost the battle. Unfortunately we don’t know anything about these spies. We don’t even know their names but I’m sure they must have been some of the best of the best troops they had.
These guys must have been the special-ops, Navy SEAL Team 6 kinda dudes. I can just see them in their camouflage togas with black and green face paint and night vision goggles crawling by the cover of darkness into the edge of town. But I may be reading more into this than is there. Let’s read Joshua chapter 2, verse 1-15. Read verse 1 and stop. "Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there." Stop right there. I have a question. What in the world are they doing there? Joshua told them to spy out the land, not the ladies. So how did they end up in the house of a harlot?
Well, again, we don’t know for sure how that happened but I have some ideas and I don’t believe it was for the wrong reasons. I believe this was a smart move. Where else could 2 strangers go and not draw a lot of suspicion? Her house was on the wall of the city so it would be easy in, easy out. Also, I’m sure Rahab knew a lot of people and she would know what was going on behind the scenes and how the people felt about life in Jericho so, we will give them credit for making a smart move and obviously one that God had led them to as we will see by how it works out. Let’s continue reading in verse 2.
The king of Jericho was told, "Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land." 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: "Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land."4But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[
a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.12"Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death."14 "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land."15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall.
There are, of course, 3 things I want us to see in this passage but before we look at Rahab in depth, I want to take an over-all look at her and her life as we see it here. Where does it say that Rahab had seen the Red Sea parted? Does it say that she saw with her own eyes the Amorites being destroyed? No. It says that she only heard about it. She did not actually see it. Do you know what that is called? That’s called faith and I’m not the only one to notice it and call it what it is. Turn over to Hebrews 11 in your Bible. Do you know what Hebrews 11 is called? The "Faith" Chapter. Turn to verse 31. "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient." By faith! And what is the best definition of faith? The first verse of Hebrews 11 tells us, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It may as well have a picture of Rahab next to that definition.
And that is why God put the story of Rahab in the Bible; so we could learn from her faith. As I said there are 3 things in particular I want to learn from her faith and #1 is that her faith came from hearing. #2 is that her faith became her identity. And #3 is that her faith led to action.
Now I have a question. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing. If Rahab's faith came from hearing about God and His power, then why didn't all the other people of Jericho have faith
? Think about it. I think you would agree that her faith came from hearing but I'm quite sure that everybody was talking about it. When word came to Jericho that the Red Sea had parted, Rahab was not the only one to hear so what was it about Rahab's hearing of this that gave her faith and yet nobody else that had heard about it was considered to have faith?
It's the same reason that people can look at a sunset and see all the colors and the clouds and the way that it is beautiful and yet different every evening and yet they still think that it happened all by chance or that there was a big bang or Mother Nature did it. It is because they choose not to believe. They choose not to believe that there is a God because if there is a God then they would certainly have to change their lifestyle because deep down in their hearts they know that if there is a God that He would control the sunsets and if He had the power to control the sunsets He must have all power and therefore should be worshiped and that is going to interfere with their golf game.
Believing in God would change what they do for fun. It would change the way people feel towards each other. It would change the way they would feel about themselves. It would change everything...and they are exactly right. Seeing God's power for what it is changes people. It has to. and so instead of changing they remain what the Bible calls "stiff-necked". God uses the term to describe Israel and it comes from the situation where a horse doesn't want to be turned by the halter and keeps his neck stiff so he doesn't have to change.
There was a time in my life when I was stiff-necked. I had seen and I had heard but I didn't want to change. I wanted to live my life like I wanted. I remember during this time that I heard my Uncle Bill preach a sermon on being stiff-necked. He described what it was and he described me. He told what would happen if you were stiff-necked and I could see it already in my life. There were consequences that he described and I couldn't pretend that was not going on in my own life as he spoke but I didn't know what to do. Or so I thought. I did know what to do. I just didn't want to. But he gave some wise advice that day that I will never forget.
Uncle Bill didn't know what was going on in my life at the time but the Holy Spirit gave him just the right words and I felt like he was staring right at me when he said, "STOP IT!" Just stop. Stop fighting it and give in. You know it's the truth. You know God is right. You know how you should live but you resist. Instead of having faith in God to protect and provide for you, you say you can do it. Just like when Jesus asked Saul on the road to Damascus, "Saul, why do you kick against the goads?"
You have heard the truth and seen God's power at work and instead of trusting in the One who places each sunset, you try to do it on your own. That was the difference between Rahab and all the other citizens of Jericho. Her faith came from hearing but resulted in her being honest with herself and acknowledging, as she did in verse 11 that "the Lord your God is the God of Heaven and earth."
So, not only did her faith come from hearing but it is fascinating to see that it was her faith that became her identity. Webster defines reputation as "overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
." You might say that Rahab had a pretty bad reputation. As a prostitute, she was judged by a lot of people pretty harshly as you can imagine. Now, it is at this point in a typical message that I might illustrate this point with a joke of some kind. I know they aren't always hilarious but sometimes it helps to make the point. So as I was preparing this I thought I would just check on the internet for an appropriate joke about prostitutes. I'm not kidding. I don't know what I thought I might find but I promise you my search was short-lived. I quickly concluded that you would not get an illustration of this point today so let's move right along.
Which, in itself, actually illustrates my point that she had a bad reputation. If there is no redeeming quality about your line of work then don't be surprised
when people judge you harshly. But this is how Rahab had survived in a difficult land in a difficult time. Can you imagine going through life with everybody in town looking down their noses at you? What's worse was that during the day people would cross to the other side of the street when they saw you approaching but at night the same person would come for a visit.
But I have good news. If you like a story to end well, this is for you and as I said earlier, I think it's fascinating. I know you love to read and are so blessed by reading geneologies, right? Well, this one is pretty good. Turn to Matthew chapter 1. It starts with Abraham and goes all the way to Jesus. don't worry. We won't read all those names. I really just want to look at verses 5 and 6.
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,6 and Jesse the father of King David.
Can you appreciate a geneology just a little bit more now? Especially after just going through the book of Ruth and seeing how God turned her life around. It says that Rahab was the mother of Boaz and so that's pretty cool to see that connection with Ruth and then we see that Rahab was also the great-grandmother of King David; pretty cool to have on the old resume, there.
But then continue on down that long list of names and look at the very last one. Rahab the prostitute is now Rahab the great, great, great, etc. grandmother of Jesus Himself. Rahab the prostitute is no longer Rahab the prostitute. All that has changed. God doesn't see her as Rahab the prostitute anymore. He sees her as Rahab, my good and faithful servant. He sees her as Rahab, the one with whom I share Heaven and everything I have, joint heirs with her grandson Jesus, who is called Christ.
She doesn't walk around Heaven with a scarlet letter, confined to the wrong side of the heavenly tracks. She has no more shame, no more guilt, no more regrets. And she lost all that baggage when she heard about and accepted God's power in her life. She no longer tried to do it on her own in a way that brought her and her family shame. She heard, believed and had faith that God was who He said He was and now her faith is her identity.
Now since I am the only one here who has some regrets in his life, I wish you knew how that encourages me. To know that I don't have to go through life being known as that man who did all that stuff but instead, as my favorite verse says in Isaiah 43, I can forget the former things because God is doing a new thing in me! That old stuff is no longer my identity. I have a new identity through my faith in God through His Son Jesus.
And when we have that new identity it will show. People will see a difference in us as believers. And that leads me to my last point. It was through her faith that she had a new identity and it was obvious to others because it led to action. Read verse 15 of Joshua 2 again.
So she let them down by a rope through the window."
As you read that I want you to think about something. I want you to think about everything the Israelites have been through. Hundreds of years of slavery, 40 years walking around out in the desert and now God has allowed them to go into the Promised Land. The only thing, at this point, that is holding them back is the city of Jericho and that city hinges on the actions of one person.
Everything that they have been through is hanging by a rope tied to the window of the house of Rahab. Rahab is not just letting down a rope. Do you know what she is doing? She is furthering the kingdom of the Israelites. She is doing her part to see that the people of Israel and, more importantly, their God are made famous. And she is doing that because she has seen and heard of the power of God and has embraced that and it has changed her life and her identity and so she now puts that faith into action.
What do you think we would be saying about Rahab right now if she had not done her part in furthering the kingdom of Israel? We wouldn't! Her name and her family would have died in the battle of Jericho because even if she didn't do her part, it was God's will that Israel take back that land and I am convinced that He would have provided another way out for those spies and His will would be done.
God's will is going to be done even today. And you can choose to be a part of it. You can make the decision to do what God asks you to do to further
Kingdom or you can choose not to. He doesn't force you to do anything but when you choose to not prove your faith with actions then it means that your faith is dead. James chapter 2 says so. It also says that a faith without deeds cannot save a man. In other words, if your life is not reflective of God's will in obvious ways then you have a salvation problem.
I want to close now by asking you to think about these 3 points we have gone over. Believe it or not, I don't break these down into points just because that's what preachers are supposed to do. I want you to right now think about what God is telling you today.
Have you heard, seen, accepted and believed in God's power and embraced it in your life? If not I need to talk with you further and would love to do that right now.
Has accepting God's power into your life changed your life and given you a new identity? If not i need to talk with you right now.
Has your faith been turned into action by your intent to further the Kingdom of God? I'll be glad to talk to you about that but I want you to hear from God first. What is He asking you to do? You say you have no skills and you are scared to witness; that you can't be a missionary or a teacher? Tell God you are willing to do your part if He will just reveal His perfect will to you. Tell Him that because of Who He is and because you know He has the power to create a new and different beautiful sunset each evening that you have faith that He will protect and provide for you no matter what He asks you to do.