Have you ever looked into your family tree? It can be a lot of fun if you look deep into your family history and origins. Most likely you’ll discover there are some pretty strange and odd characters in your family’s background. Maybe that explains why . . . well never mind?
Have you taken a hard look at Jesus’ family tree?
When we look at His family tree, we see kings and heroes of the faith. We see people of great faith and great accomplishments. We also find there are a few on the list who we may think were unsavory characters and did not belong on the family tree of the Savior. It’s very interesting to note that 3 women were specifically named -- all of whom were unlikely candidates for membership on Jesus’ family tree. One was Ruth, who was from Moab, a non-Israelite idol worshiper; another was Tamar, who masqueraded as a prostitute, and tricked her former father-in-law into fathering her children; the third was Rahab, also a prostitute, a Canaanite resident of Jericho who didn’t know the God of Israel.
God chose those whom we may not refer to as the best people to be part of the Messianic line. In fact, God has a habit of picking unlikely people, obviously flawed people, to further His kingdom. It seems that God loves to turn things upside down as He chooses the unexpected to lead His people. God did it with Jesus, and He continues to do it with you and I.
Since God used flawed people in the Messianic line, that means He can use us to do great things in His kingdom. Like it or not, we are ALL flawed! The good news - - is that who we are or what we have done should never prevent us from experiencing the presence of God and experiencing a great faith relationship with God so that we can demonstrate our relationship with God to others.
Every year at this time, in honor of Mother’s Day, I take a break from our regular study to look at a woman from the Bible and glean from her various characteristics that we may apply in our own life today. In the past years we have looked at Bathsheba, Salome, Lois and Eunice. This year I want to look at Rahab.
Let’s begin with a quick look at the setting. We first meet Rahab as the people of Israel are about to cross the Jordan river and enter Canaan, or Israel. The book of Joshua records the entrance into the promised land by the Israelites.
In a sense it’s D-DAY and, like any good commander, before the invasion begins Joshua wanted to gather information about the enemy.
So Joshua secretly sent two spies to look over the land of Jericho. Jericho was the focus of this recon mission because it was a formidable fortress city guarding the pass leading west into the nation. Jericho was one of the many “city-states” that made up the land of Canaan at that time, each with it’s own ruler or king. It was a well fortified city. Dr. Bryant Wood, who had done extensive archeological research at Jericho, writes,
The mound, or tell, of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart or embankment with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was approximately 12-15 feet high. On top of it was a mud-brick wall six feet thick and about 20 to 26 feet high. At the crest of the embankment was a similar mud-brick wall whose base was roughly 46 feet above ground level outside the retaining wall. This wall loomed above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days.
Although it was not a very large fortress, only about 8 acres total, it housed an estimated 2000 people, with another 1000 or more living in the outlying areas. Thus, it was a crowded city.
Joshua wanted the spies to bring him information about Jericho’s walls and gates, its population, the size of its army, and more. It is into this setting that we meet Rahab. And when we first meet Rahab we meet someone who is...
I. Lost in her Sin
I. Lost in her Sin
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.
There are a number of things we see about Rahab right away in our story.
1. A Canaanite
1. A Canaanite
The Canaanites were a people who were idol worshipers, they lived in wicked rebellion against the will and purposes of God. The Lord had predicted that Abraham’s descendants would claim the land when “the sin of the Amorites” reached its “full measure” (Gen 15:16b). This “full measure” of sin was attained by the Canaanites in the generation leading to the Jewish conquest.
Moses warned his people about these sins they would encounter upon entering the Promised Land:
No one among you is to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire, practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, cast spells, consult a medium or a spiritist, or inquire of the dead. Everyone who does these acts is detestable to the Lord, and the Lord your God is driving out the nations before you because of these detestable acts.
The Canaanites who were conquered by Joshua and his armies were not innocent victims, but wicked sinners who received the judgment their transgressions had warranted. But there is something else that we see in the opening passage about Rahab. She was also a...
2. A Prostitute
2. A Prostitute
We learn right here in the first verse that Rahab was a prostitute.
Right here at the beginning of our story we find ourselves needing to stop and ask the question why. Why did these men go to a prostitutes house? One preacher suggests that away from the constraints of army life, these soldiers were out “for a good time” and God allowed them to get caught. Oh, please! Everyone knows that when a soldier is on a reconnaissance mission where his life is constantly in peril, “having a good time” is the last thing on his mind!
You only have to go back and read from chapter 1: 16-18 to find out what their attitude was at this time.
And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
Well, as another writer has suggested, perhaps Rahab’s house would lend itself to the “best pieces of inside information.” Perhaps, but let me suggest a better reason. These spies were walking in the Spirit. They were following the Lord as God led them each step of the way. And God led them to none other than the home of a woman on the edge of society, lost in sin.
Why? Because this was a divine appointment. As we continue to see her story we will see that God’s hand is all over this. He is working in this sinner’s heart and he is going to make her a new creation. He is saving her and is going to use her in a mighty way.
Let’s continue Rahab’s story...
And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.”
How did they know? Most likely their dialect gave them away. The minute they opened their mouths, they revealed all.
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.”
Notice that even though Jericho was a wicked city according to Leviticus 18 and Deut. 18:9-14, it apparently hadn’t reduced itself to Gestapo house-storming techniques.
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.”
What is this? Its’ what looks like a boldfaced lie! Rahab’s not only a prostitute, she is also:
3. A Liar
3. A Liar
So now we ask ourselves, if God is using Rahab and is working and leading these spies to her, does that mean that he condones lying? Not at all! He could have easily protected the spies in another way. And Rahab could have said something else. But don’t miss the point here. The point that Scripture is making here is that when God calls and saves sinners, he takes us just as we are, “warts and all.” Rahab is a liar. So were some of us. But notice also that she is something even worse. Sh is...
4. A Traitor
4. A Traitor
But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
So how does Rahab’s life stack up in the eyes of the World?
She is a woman, which was next to the level of slaves and cattle back then (as it is today in some parts of the world).
She was a prostitute. Not only was she a women, but she was the lowest of women. She was on the edge of society.
She was a Canaanite, which at the meant all kids of a variety of perversions.
She was a liar.
She was a traitor.
So how did the World see her? They saw her as TRASH! But how did God see her God saw her as His TREASURE!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
A New Creation
A New Creation
God is in the business of giving us a new heart and making us into a new creation. Scripture says that he takes our heart of stone and gives us a new heart of flesh. So when God looked down at Rahab he didn’t see what man saw. So what did God see? What was he making her into?
1. A Woman of Faith
1. A Woman of Faith
Before the men 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, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 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.
The Lord, He is God! This is simple faith, as a pagan gentile would express is, bit believing faith nonetheless!
Those are statements of belief and faith! God saw that faith and reached down and touched her life, just as he touches each and everyone of us who calls out to Him, no matter who, no matter where. Rahab’s story of redemption could easily be the story of anyone of us here this morning. And look how much of the story is hers and not the spies. In fact, they are never even named! But Rahab is named and this is her story of redemption!
What then does the Lord think of unsaved pagan Gentiles who reach out to Him? Rahab is our answer. He knows her name!
How do we know that it is believing faith? Because everyone else in Jericho knew judgement was coming too. The difference was they shut themselves up and resisted this God who dried up the water of the Red Sea. But Rahab switched allegiances and reached out to God for salvation. She looked at her crumbling, dying world around her, she looked at her own hopeless life and saw this coming God of all heaven and earth and reached out in faith and switched allegiances!
We also know that she is a woman of faith because the writer of Hebrews includes her in the Hall of Faith passage found in Hebrews 11.
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Rahab is shown to us as an example of faith. She is one of the Heroes of faith. Hebrews tells us that faith is:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is assurance of things hoped for. Faith is believing in the facts about God. And Rahab did this. But faith is not just believing the facts. it is not just saying truths that we agree in our head to be true. It is also a conviction of things not seen. That is faith has to be acted upon. And the New testament not only lifts up Rahab for her faith in acknowledging facts about God, it also lifts her up as an example of faith with works. look with me at James chapter 2
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
J. Vernon McGee said,
“Real faith is not that which a man holds, but that which holds him. Real faith is not that which a man assents to, but that which he submits to.” There are a great many people today who only nod their heads and say, “Yes, I am a Christian.” My Friend, that is not saving faith. Saving faith is when you believe God and you submit to Him.
I believe that we can also see that Rahab was...
2. A Woman of Courage
2. A Woman of Courage
Rahab was a woman of faith but out of that faith she acted courageously. Think about it for a minute. Could it be that she invited the spies into her house, knowing full well that she was putting her own life at risk and on the line as a traitor? God saw her as a woman of courage.
He also saw...
3. A Woman of Compassion
3. A Woman of Compassion
Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
She was not out to just cut herself a deal as one writer has suggested. She loved her family too. She saw the coming judgement, so she told her family of the way of salvation and gathered them into the place of safety. Oh that we would do the same as we see the coming day of judgement rapidly approaching our world!
Let’s continue the story:
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.” Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.”
Where did they come up with such a sign? Why not some other colored cord? Why not something else, like “One candle by sea, two by land?” I believe that what was on their minds and in God’s heart was the same sign that is throughout the Bible. It is the sign of the blood of the Lamb. As the blood of the lamb painted on the doorposts protected the spies parents and perhaps even these men as little children at Passover in Egypt a generation earlier, so too the scarlet chord in her window would protect her and those within her home as judgement fell on Jericho.
The scarlet line was to Rahab and her family what the blood on the doorposts had been to the Hebrews in Egypt. The way to salvation is always the same – the shed blood of the Lamb.
The scarlet line runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We get the first hint of it in Eden when God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins and protected them from His wrath.
The scarlet line can be seen in that “more acceptable offering” that Able offered to God. Cain thought that he could come to God in the merit of his good works. Able knew that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
Everywhere in the Levitical law, the emphasis is on the shedding of blood. We see the scarlet thread in the major offerings, in the feast days, in the great Day of Atonement, in the dedication of the Temple, throughout the Old Testament era, rivers of blood flowed from the alters of Israel. It was the scarlet line.
At last we stand at Clavary and understand the significance of it all. We see Jesus take the cup and say, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”
knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
And so it is from cover to cover. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith, looking forward in their sacrifices and offerings to the shed blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross. We are saved by looking back by faith to Calvary.
No scarlet line on the doorpost – no salvation. No scarlet line in the window of Rahab’s home – no salvation. No scarlet line bound, by faith, to our hearts – no salvation.
But there was one condition given to Rahab: You must tie the cord in your window and stay in the house.
As believers, we have tied the cord of faith (the blood of Jesus Christ) across our hearts. But are we staying in the house? I am afraid many believers are still wandering outside, involved in things we shouldn’t be!
And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
Rahab believe and acted on her faith! She had saving faith because her faith resulted in works. It wasn’t a dead faith.
4. A Woman of Promise
4. A Woman of Promise
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Here we have a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham...
God used this woman whom we would consider to be among the worst of sinners, he saved her, recreated her and than used her to fulfill his promise, to bring salvation to others.
And isn’t that just like our God? To use the lowly, the despised, the abused, to glorify His Kingdom? To exalt them to places of honor as they respond in faith to Him? I find that so encouraging – if God can use someone with that kind of past for the glory of His Kingdom, then there truly are no limits to whom He can use today. All of the things in your past and my past are irrelevant once we make that step of responding in faith to God.