Rahab / Ordinary Heroes / TRINITY 630 28th October 2018
We are continuing in our series of ‘Ordinary Heroes’ this evening, as we look at Rahab. And I have to say I am loving that we get the next 3 weeks looking at women who are ordinary heroes – Rahab, Deborah and Esther, before we lead into some others…
And I opened this series 3 weeks ago with a passage from Hebrews looking at heroes of the faith and in that list from Hebrews 11, Rahab was the only woman mentioned (Heb 11:31)
Now, I mention all that partly because of my feminist tendencies and to celebrate women but actually also because it is unusual that she was mentioned in a long list of men – 1 because they were men and she wasn’t and 2 – because the others mentioned had done amazing things, we’d recognise their names: Moses, Samuel, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, David. And here she is, Rahab, a prostitute, amongst such a “notable” list. So there must be a significant reason why she is included here.
So let’s look at her story.
So to give you the background to where we are in the overall story, Moses has recently died. So, Moses was God’s leader, chosen to lead the Israelites from slavery, into freedom in the promised land.
Except that the Israelites were generally a bit narky and kept turning away from God’s commands and so he decided they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years instead of going directly to the promised land.
Now, Moses eventually died (as did many of the Israelites along the way and new ones born) and in Joshua 1 we see God commissioning Joshua to continue leading the people and to finally enter the land.
Joshua 1: 3-6:
3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
So Joshua prepares the people to leave and also lines up the fighting men to go first to secure the land. But before all thathe sends out his spies to do a recky, as we read at the start of this passage on chapter 2.
And these spies end up staying at the house of Rahab, a prostitute.
But the spies are seen, and yet Rahab decides to help them so she hides them and then deliberately tells the kings men the wrong thing – encouraging them to go after the men even though she knows exactly where they are!
And then we see that she makes a deal and a plan, to keep her safe as she has kept them safe and off they go.
So what happens next, after all this?
So if we read on in the next few chapters of Joshua we can read that the spies go back to the camp and report it’s all good to go, so Joshua prepares everyone and they cross the Jordan river (much like we read about Moses and the dead sea)
And they all go camp outside Jericho.
They spend some time celebrating Passover and then the Lord tells Joshua how he is going to overcome the city.
They follow his commands and march round the city for 6 days, blowing trumpets and on the 7thday they do the same but give a loud shout as well and as they do the walls collapse, they take the city, destroy everything, kill everyone – except for Rahab and her family –
who went off happily ever after to live among the Israelites.
Except it’s not. Because actually Rahab pops up later on in the bible, in Matthew, in the genealogy (the family tree) of Jesus. Matthew 1 is a long list, I’ve picked out a few – it starts with…
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob….
Few verses gap…
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
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….
Few more verses
15 Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
So, Rahab becomes not just an ordinary hero but a somewhat surprising one –
Somehow this pagan prostitute from a besieged city, living a life of sin, was invited into the promised land.
And not just that but ends up in the family tree of God himself.
So how did she go from living a life of sin, in to the promised land?
Now there are lots of things written about Rahab, and I have to say a lot of it is total rubbish, or conjecture – it’s guessing! The only things we actually know about her life is that she was a prostitute, and that she had family nearby – parents and siblings, and that she ended up having a family of her own.
But we also know about her character, in that she displayed great faith and great courage.
And there are 3 things I want to highlight from her story, this evening –
And God’s grace
It wasn’t just her actions that saved Rahab, but her faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. So she wasn’t saved just because she helped the spies, but because she displayed such faith.
So how on earth did this pagan woman display any faith at all? How did she know who God was? She lived in Jericho, a city well know for idolatory and worshipping other Gods.
But we know from the passage that she had heard stories of who God was and what he had done. The power of testimony.
She says to the men: Joshua 2: 8-12
“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 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 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.
Now, chances are in her profession she met lots of new people, quite likely people who were travelling through, maybe merchants and traders visiting this big city to sell, or those who were coming to buy here.
And she heard the stories they told, the places they had been, the gossip they shared. And one might imagine she heard a lot of drunken tales, tall stories, boasting and banter. Years ago I worked in a bar and I learned to listen to those who came in for a chat but to let most of what they said wash over me and not believe most of it!
So why did this particular story stick with Rahab? Perhaps she heard it more than once? Perhaps it was the details that were shared, the power of defeat – with even 2 kings being destroyed.
Or perhaps there was something of the power of the Holy Spirit carried in that story. When we hear testimony of what God has done it is powerful isn’t it? It is encouraging and inspiring.
When God is at work the power of the HS is at work, it is carried into situations and I believe that same power is carried in the retelling of those stories. So when we share what God has done in our lives, or what we’ve heard God doing, the same Holy spirit power is carried through the re-telling of it.
So when Rahab hears the stories of what God has done, the same HS power was in those stories. So even though she hadn’t experienced God for herself, even though she didn’t know him, hadn’t heard the scriptures, she knew who he was. She says
I know the Lord has given you this land…
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.
She not only recognises his power but declares who he is;
He is the God in heaven above and on earth below.
She has faith in him because she has heard stories of who he is – what amazing faith.
When Jesus appears to Thomas after he has risen, and Thomas finally believes who he is, Jesus says to him:
Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Rahab was truly blessed, because she had not seen and yet she believed.
And because of what she has heard and believed, she asks them as men of God to keep her and her family safe.
And more than that, it’s not just a sort of romantic Disney story, where she ties a cord in her window and waits patiently and quietly for them to come back.
No, she waited for days, if not weeks – we don’t know how long but long enough for the spies to hide for 3 days then get back to Joshua, for Joshua to make a plan, spend some days prepping everyone
and circumcising the blokes – and let’s face it I imagine that would have taken a little while to recover from
and then after all that she’d have spent a week hearing them trumpeting round the walls, parading and circling, wondering, is this it ? will they remember me? Checking the cord 100 times to make sure it is visible?
and then finally that last day.
Her faith kept her going through all that.
But more than that, her courage too….
Faith and courage…
It is interesting that at the start of the book of Joshua, the Lord says to Joshua 3 times:
to be strong and courageous:
6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous.Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And the men repeat it back to Joshua too – v18, in pledging their loyalty to him
Only be strong and courageous!”
Reiterating that message again
It’s interesting then that Rahab here is the very example of strength and courage. She even notes that the people of Jericho’s courage failed when they heard what the Lord had done.
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.
But she herself, buoyed up by faith, displays the utmost courage. Let’s think for a moment what she was going through..
Can we imagine what that must have been like, knowing the city, her home, was going to be destroyed and trusting in the spies and in God that her and her family would be safe?
Hearing the walls falling around them, the cries of those being slaughtered, fellow citizens, perhaps friends even, certainly those they had known, crying out, being killed all around them
and they sat and waited amidst all that.
How much faith did that take to believe they would be ok and not to try and flee?
Her faith gave her Godly courage and strength.
When we have faith, take a step of faith, it is then that God equips us with what we need for the task ahead.
It would have been so easy for Rahab to take the easy way out, to report the spies when they came looking, or to try and escape before they came back, but in her faith God gave her courage to stand up to the kings men, to hide the spies and then to wait for freedom.
And it was freedom that she gained, for herself and her family.
somehow this pagan prostitute from a besieged city, living a life of sin, was invited in to the promised land. And became part of the family tree of Christ himself. Isn’t that just the epitome of God’s grace?
Only God’s grace can take someone whose life is steeped in sin:
from her own profession
to a background of idolatry in Jericho that she inhabited,
God’s grace took her from that and put her in a position of honour.
We heard back in the genaology of Matthew’s gospel:
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse
We don’t know how that happened and again there is conjecture about it, but the biblical facts are that she went from a life of sin, into living amongst the Israelites in the promised land.
Perhaps she was honoured by the Israelites for helping them? Perhaps she lived just a ‘normal’ life, perhaps this was the change she needed to change her life, to make a fresh start –
or perhaps the grace of God transformed her life?
She clearly married and had children in order to be in the lineage of Christ.
Rahab’s story shows us how God uses the less than perfect, the outcasts, people who’ve made mistakes,
God takes ordinary broken, imperfect people and uses them to create the extraordinary.
And I don’t think the red cord she hung in her window was just a random choice. A red cord was the symbol that for her and for the attackers signified salvation.
A red cord that not only kept her from certain death but was the key to her new life. Just as in the Passover red blood on the door frames saved those inside from certain death
Just as Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, saves us too from certain death and brings new life.
What would her fate have been had the spies not gone to her? Would she have remained a prostitute all her life, an outcast, looked down upon? Mistreated? Would she have died along with her family in the siege of the city?
Instead in her faith she receives freedom, salvation from certain death, and a new life.
Exactly what Jesus still offers us today.
I wonder if some of us today are wondering about our own lives, about whether we are worthy enough? About whether we are good enough?
Rahab’s story shows us that we too can join the ordinary heroes.
That we all have a part to play in God’s wider story.
None of us are insignificant. None of us are unworthy. None of us *too* sinful
But her story also points us to the ultimate truththat no matter who we are, or what we have done,
freedom and salvation is there for all of us.
A new life. Washed clean.
In the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.