Good Morning, We often say “God can use anyone to achieve his purposes.” We site the story of Balaam and the donkey. We say if God can use a mule, he can use you and me. In fact we’re often surprised at who God chooses.
Ø Moses was a murderer, with a stuttering problem
Ø David was a shepherd boy
Ø Ruth was a housewife
Ø Peter was a fisherman
Ø Joseph was a carpenter
Turn to Hebrews 11, let’s look at the hall of faith fame. We see ordinary people who did extraordinary thing. I’ll site a name and you tell me why they should be listed as great pillars of faith.
Ø 4 By faith Abel
Ø 5 By faith Enoch
Ø 7 By faith Noah
Ø 8 By faith Abraham
Ø 22 By faith Joseph
Ø 23 By faith Moses
Ok, you get the idea, they believed God would do what he said, and acted on it.
Let’s go on,
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
I don’t think we recognize that it took faith to leave Egypt. We know that roughly 1 million Israelites left, Exodus 12 says 600,000 men + women & children, AND Egyptians who had come to know the God of Israel. I wonder how many of us stop to consider that in all probability some stayed behind.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
OK, I can see that this would take faith. After all, there was nothing preventing the people of Jericho from going out and stoning those crazy people who were marching around their city.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab,
What did she do for a living? Prostitute
Not that’s an unlikely candidate for the superstar list in the faith hall of fame.
Have you ever considered why of all the other Bible heroes that came before and after her, the Holy Spirit would urge Paul to include her in this list. Why not Ruth or Esther? Well, I had to know. So this week, I did some study on Rehab.
Turn to Joshua 2:1-5
Moses is dead and the Israelites’ had been in the wilderness for 40 years. It was finally time for them to enter the Promised Land. Joshua, who was now in charge had ordered some reconnaissance on the eastern border of Canaan.
1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim [where they were camped]
Secretly, he didn’t tell the people of Israel.
“Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.”
In all probability, if they were on a secret mission, when did they travel? At night.
First had to swim the Jordan in the dark, then approach the strongly fortified city of Jericho, enter the city gate, and then find a safe place to stay so they could assess the city’s defenses. What kind of business would be open at night?
So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Her house was built into the city wall. We would think that odd, but follow the reasoning. How much space do you think an average person needs to live in? Maybe an 8’x10’ room? Now, if they put a series of these room houses together, like an apartment building where the back of the house was sandwiched to the city wall, it doesn’t seem so odd. Who is most likely to live on the outskirts of the city? Someone who was poor or a social outcast.
Also factor in that the walls of the city were there for protection. If someone did break through the wall, they would find themselves in someone’s home. Don’t you think you might hear someone trying to break down the wall of your home? What your next door neighbor’s house, or the guy down or upstairs? And what would you do when you heard strange noises? You’d alert the authorities! Sort of like a built in home security alert.
Back to the spies: By staying in the low rent part of town, they could observe what was going with a low risk of being discovered. And because the house was located along the city wall, it gave them the opportunity for a quick getaway if it became necessary.
2 The king of Jericho [An Amorite one of the tribes God said he would destroy back in Gen 15:16] was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.”
Remember I said they were in the best place not to be discovered, and yet they were. What does that tell us about their skill as spies?
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.”
Why would he say that? Jericho’s king was more like a mayor with military control. Israel’s history was common knowledge to the people of the region. They all knew how the God of Israel had brought them out of Egypt and had helped them in battles over the last 40 years. The king was frightened over any potential invasion from the massive encampment of Israelites across the Jordan.
4 But 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, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.”
We know that God was at work on Rahab’s heart. But the laws of Middle Eastern hospitality also led her to protect the spies, in much the same way Lot protected the strangers in Sodom. In those days when someone was sheltered in your home, even if it was your greatest enemy, you were bound to save his or her life if you could.
I need to say something about lying here. It was not right for Rahab to lie about where the Israelite spies were. We need to remember, Rehab still does not know who God is or the value God puts on truth. Now from a human standpoint, the lie seems necessary. But we need to remember that no lie provides any assistance to God. Therefore, it was not God’s will that Rahab lie to rescue the scouts—He could have and would have saved them anyway,
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.)
It was harvest time. We’re talking about 3-4 foot high flax bundles on the roof of Rahab’s house.
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.
I don’t know about you but I don’t see any evidence of great faith yet.
Let’s read on.
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 this land to you 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 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. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you,
This next statement is key!
for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
How did she know that? Do you think maybe God had been working on the hearts of some of the people in Jericho? What does verse 11 say? Their hearts melted – something inside of them said “the Lord is God”.
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.
Not an unreasonable request since she had shown them Middle Eastern hospitality. But wait there is more…
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.”
What does that reveal? She knew that Jericho would fall to the Israelites. God had already given them the victory. She also knew that she had shown kindness to God’s chosen and was asking God for protection for herself and her family. How can I say that?
Look at the answer the spies gave her.
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.”
“Our lives for your lives!” that is a covenant promise. What follows it? “If you… then we”
Think about it, were these inexperienced spies in any position to make a covenant with anyone, let alone a foreign woman of a people they were about to overthrow? No, no, certainly not. BUT factor in that she had just declared the God of Israel to be Lord. Her heart belonged to God, and she was making covenant with HIM.
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 Now she had said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
One more thing, where’s the sign of the covenant?
17 The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down,
What color is scarlet? Red.
What does red symbolize? Blood.
What did the Israelites do before they left Egypt, they smeared the blood of a lamb on their doorposts.
18b and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him.
Doesn’t that sound like the same thing God told the Israelites on the night before the Exodus? It is. [Ex 12:13]
20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” 21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
It took the spies almost 5 days to return to camp. By this time it was winter and the Jordan was at flood stage. You’ll remember I told you earlier that they needed to swim across the river to get there. We’ve all seen television reports of people getting swept away by flood waters. It was not an easy thing to do. They return and report what they saw to Joshua, how they had been exposed to danger and how Rehab had assisted them.
I want to finish the story, but I need to take a short rabbit trail. Between the spies return and the siege of Jericho is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. When I counsel people I often refer to it.
In the next chapter, the Israelites prepare to take Jericho. The generals organize their troops; the Levites consecrate the people. They’re ready for battle -- just one problem, before Israel could enter the Promised Land they needed to cross the Jordan and it is at flood stage!
Doesn’t it seen to always go that way, you’ve prayed, other people have prayed for you, you’ve studied the Scriptures, you’ve heard from the prophets, and you are certain – you know, that you know, that you know that your answer, your deliverance, your Promised Land is just around the corner and when you get to the bend in the road – there ahead of you is a raging river. You can see it, and you can see your answer to prayer on the other side. One more hurdle to cross and its yours.
Back to the Israelites, God instructed Joshua to get 12 men, 1 from each tribe and assign them the task of carrying the Ark ahead of the people. There’s the assurance, there’s the comfort – if the answer is from God, not only will He make a way, but He will go before us! He told the Ark bearers to walk into the Jordan and promised when they did, He would stop the flow of the river.
Now you may be thinking, OK for this people, that’s not such a big stretch -- after all God did part the Red Sea for Israel before. If He did it before, He’ll do it again. Wait a minute, this was 40 years later, and most of those who had left Egypt in the Exodus were dead. This was a new generation.
Richard Roberts, son of Oral & Evelyn Roberts, is quick to point out that when someone comes to the Lord, he becomes a child of God. At the same time, Richard is quick to warn that God has no grandchildren. Relationship with God is a personal experience. Everyone, everyone has to accept Jesus Christ as his/her savior. We can’t do it for our children. All we can do for them is provide a living testimony of what God had done for us. They have to choose relationship with God for themselves.
We all know that without God we are powerless. We can’t face many of the obstacles and circumstances of life. The Israelites stood on the shores of the Jordan and faced the raging river. With an order from Joshua their commander and chief, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant set foot in the water and what happened? The waters downstream stopped as if piled up in a heap.
Many counselors site that passage to encourage people frozen with fear to get back to the business of living. They say, the waters won’t part until you put your feet in the river. But that’s not what the Bible says.
Turn to Joshua 3:13
13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
What was special about the Ark? It was the symbol of the presence and glory of God. It wasn’t the toes of the priests that caused the waters to stop, it was the presence of the Lord that caused the waters to stop. When God goes before us no obstacle or circumstance can prevent us from the destiny God has for us.
Back to Rehab. We know the Israelites crossed the Jordan.
They worshipped God. Those who knew him personally recommitted themselves to Him. Those who didn’t vowed to serve him. They circumcised their children, and the people were in unity.
We’re not going to look at the details in the Fall of Jericho. I believe we all know the story.
Turn to Joshua 6, in Verse 17, in the middle of Joshua instructing his troops we see a mention of Rehab:
17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.
The people marched around the city 13 times in 6 days. And on the 13th circuit the priests blew the shofar and the people shouted and the walls came tumbling down. What’s important for us to remember was that the priests carried the Ark before the army.
Jump down to Verse 22
22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
OK, cool, the Israelites take Jericho and Rahab’s family is spared.
But wait that’s not the end of the story. If we fast forward to Matthew 1:5 we will find in the genealogy of Jesus, yes Jesus,
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.
Rehab was David’s great-great grandmother! If we continue to follow the lineage we will see that Rehab is a part of Joseph of Nazareth’s family tree. And who was he? Mary’s husband, Jesus’ adoptive father.
To answer my own question – the one that sparked this study – why does Rehab make the Faith Hall of Fame? And what can we learn from her story?
1. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your family heritage is, or what you do for a living. God wants relationship with you. Rehab was a prostitute in a pagan city.
2. We will all be faced with a faith defining moment, A time when we will have to stand up for God and do what He has called us to do. There is no doubt in my mind that had the authorities found out that Rehab was harboring spies, she would have lost her life.
3. It doesn’t matter how much education you have, how long you’ve been in church, what denomination you belong to, if you stutter or speak like a congressman, God has an evangelistic assignment for you. After the spies had gone, Rehab needed to convince her family to stay with her during the siege of Jericho Rehab had no spiritual advantages - she was not a Jew. She certainly didn’t have a Bible, belong to a church or have access to Christian radio and books. And yet, she had to convince those she loved to renounce their pagan gods and turn their hearts to the one true God.
4. Also by hanging a red cord in her window Rahab identified herself and household as one who served the Lord. Rehab risked it all. Her family waited for their deliverance, even as the very wall that made up the back of her home shook. They didn’t run. They waited for God to deliver them. Rahab’s household escaped the judgment the rest of Jericho would experience. Their faith in God had saved her.