Friday, February 11, 2011

Hall of Faith Series - Rahab

Today, and for the final time, we continue our series through Hebrews 11.  After the subject for this week, it goes into more generalities regarding the prophets and the judges.  So, prayerfully, next week I will begin a tour through Judges featuring the judges featured in that wonderful book.  This week, though, we will be speaking of Rahab.  She was far from a judge.  She was not even an Israelite.  She was not even a "good" person.  She was a harlot. 
By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.  Hebrews 11:31 NKJV
Today we head back to Joshua for our study.
Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. Joshua 2:1 NKJV
Interestingly we have stepped back in time from last week.  This seems to indicate that God purposely ends with Rahab.  Chronologically speaking, this should have been last week's message.  We now go back to before the walls of Jericho came down to where they are just beginning their spying of the land.  Of all the great patriarchs and leaders featured in Hebrews 11, the last person mentioned with specific detail (as opposed to the lists of judges and kings that follows with no real specifics mentioned), God chooses to end with Rahab.  Considering just about every time she is mentioned, it is mentioned that she was a harlot, it is also apparent that God thinks it is important for us to know that about her.  

So Joshua sends out two spies to do some recon on the land with an emphasis on their first target, Jericho.  This is something still practiced today.  Long before an army lands and begins its campaign, that land has been spied on by planes, satellites, and spies on the ground.  Back then it was just spies, but it is an important part of any military campaign.  They came to Jericho and Rahab allowed them to lodge in her place.  We will come to learn that the people of Jericho were expecting the Israelites and living in fear of their arrival. Rahab, from what I can tell, knew full well who these men were yet chose to give them lodging anyway.  
And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country."  Joshua 2:2-3 NKJV
These men were not as secret as they would have hoped.  They were noticed coming into Jericho and tracked right to Rahab's house.  I imagine they were not dressed like those in the city, were not familiar to anyone in the city, and probably did not speak like anyone in the city.  They probably stood out and therefor were noticed.  Considering the people were on the lookout for the Israelites, they were obviously being protected by God for getting all the way to Rahab's house.  So the king hears of their arrival and where they were seen going into and so he sent men to go and arrest them. 
Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them." (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.  Joshua 2:4-7 NKJV
Rahab did the right thing in taking the men in.  She did the wrong thing in lying about them.  Note Hebrews 11 commends her for receiving them in peace, or in other words, as friends.  She did not see them as enemies despite the well-known fact that they were coming to make war with Jericho.  Please do not take from the message of Rahab that it is alright to lie.  She had the right idea in the spies needing protection, but she thought that she needed to help God in protecting them.  We never need to help God and we especially never need to help God by doing the wrong thing.  Do you think that these spies would have been any less protected if she had told the truth.  Would Jericho still be standing today if she told the men "Yes, they are right here inside my home."  She did not need to help God in protecting the spies.  Lying is always wrong.  With that, what we see here is Rabab hiding the spies on her roof and sending the men from the king off on a wild goose chase.  They believed her and went off looking for the men where they were not. 
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath." Joshua 2:8-11 NKJV
The action was in housing the spies from Israel.  Here we see the faith behind that action.  The Lord had quite a reputation.  Remember, these were the times where a god was judged by the success of the people who follow that god.  The true God had performed many mighty works that were known throughout the land from the parting the the Red Sea up and until the destruction of the Amorite cities.  This brought fear throughout Jericho figuring that they were on the target list and past experience has shown them that the God of Israel was able to deliver them.  The men and women of Jericho were terrified.  Rahab, though, took a different approach.  She knew of the power and might of the God of Israel. She knew there was no God like that God and so she did the only thing she could do, she put her faith in their God to be able to save her.  A wise decision, indeed.  This is much like the world today.  This whole world will come down harder than Jericho.  There is no stopping the judgment of God.  When it comes, it will be brutal, unstoppable, and inescapable.  Without Christ, we are all under the impending judgment of God.  Our only hope is to put our faith in God and we do that through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.  
"Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death." So the men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you."  Joshua 2:12-14 NKJV
And now she throws herself at the mercy of Israel and their God.  This just further illustrates that the only way to escape judgment is through the God who is imposing it.  She asks them to swear by that God that her life and that of her family's will be spared.  Her plea is accepted so long as she does not sell them out later.  
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. And she said to them, "Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way." Joshua 2:15-16 NKJV
And in a last act of kindness, she lets them out of the city through her window with instructions on how to avoid the pursuers who went out looking for them earlier. 
So the men said to her: "We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father's household to your own home. "So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear." Then she said, "According to your words, so be it." And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.  Joshua 2:17-21 NKJV
This should remind you of the passover.  Only instead of a lamb's blood, it was a scarlet cord that was to be tied in her window.  To protect them from the confusion of the all-out slaughter to come, they needed to stay inside their home and identify that home with the scarlet cord.  As long as they stayed behind the door, they would be saved.  If the strayed out, they would be killed.  Just like the Israelites needed to stay behind the blood of the lamb to be saved from judgment and just like we are covered by the blood of the Lamb to escape judgment, she was to stay behind the blood-colored cord to be covered from the judgment to come. 
They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them.  Joshua 2:22 NKJV
God protected the spies all the way back to Joshua with no lying required.  God can protect what He wants to protect.  He does not need our own bad ideas getting in the way.

So as we close out our tour through Hebrews 11, what can we learn?  I mean how can we ever compare to those featured in this chapter as models of faith for us to learn from.  There is Abraham, Moses, Abel, Noah, Isaac, Joseph, Enoch, Jacob, and more.  Oh, and there is Rahab.  Rahab, for me, is what we can learn from Hebrews 11.  It is no accident that God closes the detailed mentions with Rahab.  If we were playing a game of "Which one does not belong?"  Rahab would be the easy answer.  Think about it, we have Abraham, Moses, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, and Rahab?  Rahab?  What is she doing on a list like that?  She was a gentile and she was a whore.  Why is she there?  The answer is because she is us.  She is you, she is me, she is everyone.  It is easy to excuse ourselves of having great faith because we figure we can never compare with those others, but when you add Rahab into the mix, then there is no excuse for us.  God gave us that list not as an example of a faith we can never attain, but as an example of faith to strive for.  No one on that list was perfect.  They all sinned.  In fact, for most of them we know full well there sins.  Abraham lied on multiple occasions and even tried to take matters into his own hands by impregnating Hagar.  Jacob was a bit of a con artist.  Moses was a murderer, short tempered, and even tried to talk God out of calling him to go to Pharaoh.  None of these men were perfect, but they had faith in the Lord that was to come.  It was not those great acts that we read about in our Bibles that make them heroes of the faith, it is their faith alone that makes them heroes.  Those great acts they accomplished was a result of the God-pleasing faith that was the bedrock of their lives.  Abraham needed a savior just as much as you and I do.  Moses would have died in eternal separation from God if not for the hope of the One to come. 

When all is said and done, none of the things mentioned in Hebrews 11 garnered any favor with God.  Nothing any of us can do will garner any favor with God.  Living to please God with our actions is never the right approach and only leads to failure after failure on our parts and a God we are no closer to.  What we learn from Hebrews 11 is that the only way to please God is through faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  If you want to do great things for God, it all begins with faith in God.  If you want to be called of God, you must first put your faith in Him. You also have to see your works as a response to God's love for you and yours for Him and not a way of earning that love.  I am not excusing a life not being lived for God, what I am saying is that a life lived for God begins with faith and the rest will come naturally.  You can not produce faith with works, but faith will always produce works.  One can not be saved by works, but if one is truly saved there will be works.  Where there is faith there will always be works.  You can not have real faith without works. 

Remember the message of Rahab the harlot.  She was a sinner.  She was a gentile.  She was under judgment of God by virtue of being a sinner in sinful Jericho.  Despite all that, she was saved by her faith in God and was even inducted by God into what we call the "Hall of Faith."  God can do amazing things through us beyond what any of us can imagine, if only we have faith.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. She IS us! So true. I love the stories of God using the most unlikely person and turning the into something unexpected!!