This country of ours has many birthdays. It may come as a surprise to know that today is one of them. On this day, in 1777, the Continental Congress, facing up to the fact that 13 separate colonies were engaged in the war with England, adopted the Articles of Confederation, which were sent two days later to the various states for ratification. The Articles, numbering 13 in all, were not completely ratified until 1781, but they did provide a governmental frame work for a united group of states to be able to stand against a common foe. Before, they had tried to do it separately and losing. Today, I suggest that we consider ourselves as individual Christians the value of interdependence with each other as we fight a common foe. I suggest that we consider the value of each other, as imperfect as we are, in standing together as the world crumbles around us. The Biblical example that I bring to illustrate this is found in Joshua 2. Go ahead and be tuning there. We're going to be spending some time there in Joshua 2.
The promised land lies before them, just on the other side of the Jordan River. Memories flooded their minds because they had stood here once before, some of them anyway. Nearly forty years have passed since the last spies entered into the Promised Land. You remember the twelve that went in. The twelve had come back and there were ten that stirred up controversy. Two said "We can go in." Ten said, "We cannot," even though they had seen so much of God's power with their own eyes. These people now lie dead in the wilderness, buried in the desert sand because they did not trust in God's power to give them the Land of Promise. Moses, himself, has just died from the same problem: lack in trust of God to do as He said. Joshua is now in the position of leadership. You remember, he was one of the two spies that said, "We can take the land. God rewards faithfulness. And now, Joshua is the leader of his people because Joshua had faith in God's power while the other ten did not. Now, ironically, it is his job to send spies into Canaan. He didn't send twelve. He sent two.
We're going to just read through the story. Joshua 2:1-24
 Then Joshua a 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.
 The king of Jericho was told, "Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land."  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."
 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  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"  (But she had taken them up on the roof and hidden them under the stacks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)  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.
 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof  and siad 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. That's kinf of different from forty years before when it was the Israelites who were melting from fear.  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 Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.  When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage faild because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below. Remember who's saying this.  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  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."
 "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." Remember that "When" not "if."
So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was a part of the city wall.  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."
 The men said to her, "This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.  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.  But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.",
 "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.
When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them.  Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them.  They said to Joshua, "The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people were melting in fear because of us."
That's quite a story. I love it. The story does not end here but this is a good place to interrupt it with some commentary. Jericho is the lowest city in the world at 820 feet below sea level. Archeologist have also claimed that it is the oldest city that they have found. It lies in a subtropical climate zone where they can easily grow dates and bananas and other tropical fruits. If you go there today, that's what you will find. Jericho is watered by Elisha's spring that still bubbles up near the site of the old city.
Jericho stood just opposite the main fords of the Jordan River and guarded the ways up through the wilderness into the central highlands of Palestine and beyond. It was considered the key to the whole country. To get into Canaan, you had to get past Jericho, not an easy task. The city was surrounded by a double wall. The remains of the lower class houses can still be seen between the two walls. They would actually use the city wall as one of the walls of their house with windows cut into the wall high above the ground. It was in this type of house that the spies found Rahab.
This spy story is quite similar to the spy story in Numbers 13 which happened nearly 40 years earlier. In Numbers 13,
In this story in Joshua 2,
You may have picked up on the differences in these two stories. The item of value is not found and the item of value is not brought back. You remember the grapes. They were impressive. Or did they find an object of value? On closer inspection of this story, something of value is found, something of value is brought back, but not right away. This valuable item is Rahab! To the human perspective, Rahab the harlot would seem to be of little value to the divine cause. The least of the least, we would think. But God saw Rahab from a divine perspective; not a human perspective. I'm so glad that He is the Judge of our worth! There are a number of reasons why Rahab is an item of value, and we're going to look at those this morning.
1. Even though she was far from perfect, a prostitute who does not hesitate to tell a lie, God received her as she was, accepted her faith on the level of her knowledge and experience. Her life gives encouragement to me, us all. God takes me where I am and knows what kind of life I've had. He knows what kind of experience I've had, He knows what kind of knowledge I have, and He accepts my faith based on those things. It makes me feel good because God wants to save even the least-likely people!
2. Rahab is a testimony to the mercy of God on all humanity. God sends His Spirit, His influence, to even those we consider heathen and unreachable. There's been kind of back-lash going on in our country: a fear of Muslims, maybe you experience that when you're watching TV and you see in the news things that have happened and... Now, wait a moment. Does God have people there? Remember, the people we're talking about here were heathen. But, God had people there, People that needed to be reached, people that He was reaching even though no missionary was there. Rahab's experience shows that the inhabitants of Canaan living just before the conquest had opportunity to learn the truth about God. In fact, Rahab's testimony of faith to the spies reveals an amazingly mature understanding of the character of God. "Rahab makes one of the most impassioned and logical statements of any kind throughout the book of Joshua. The spies fade into the woodwork of the brothel wall while Rahab lectures them about the faith in God that enables victories." - (Jon Berquist) She not only sends the spies through the roof, her faith in God is through the roof!
3. Rahab is also valued for her great courage. She is willing to stand alone against her whole culture. She opposes the moon god of her city and the fertility gods of her lifestyle and her land. She knew that if she were found out, she and her family would be executed immediately. With her new faith came courage, courage to risk all. God asks us to take risks for Him as well. Seldom has He yet asked us to risk our lives but that will come. We will be able to stand with greater courage then if we trust Him with the smaller things now. He asks us to risk our time with Him. Remember the Sabbath day. "You might lose your job over it, but risk that." Take time to work in behalf of others. Take time to work within the church. He asks us to risk our talents. Maybe you could make more money or more fame using your talents for secular purposes but what is more important in the grand scheme of eternity? He asks us to risk our treasure. Are you more comfortable with your resources in the financial institutions of the world or in spreading the Gospel to the world. Are you trusting God with these small things? While the rest of the inhabitants of Jericho were wobbly in the knees, Rahab stood firm. Does the Christian church have the courage today to stand against the influence of secular society?
4. Rahab is valued for her faith. Rahab had become a believer! She is an awesome example of Righteousness by Faith. Maybe one of the best examples in all of Scripture! In the FAITH HALL OF FAME, Hebrews 11:30 and 31 it says, By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. To be disobedient you have to know the law. These people knew of God and chose a different path. We'll se a bit more of that.
Rahab believed merely from things she had heard, not from anything she had actually seen or experienced. That takes faith. She had heard of the plagues of Egypt, of the crossing of the Red Sea, of the conquering of strong armies, and she believed. Yet she was not the only one who believed. The others in Jericho believed in Israel's God as well. That is why their hearts had melted and their courage had dried up. Their belief led to terror. Her belief led to love. Satan believes in God, that's not enough. Love leads to obedience. She did more than believe. She acted! That is why Rahab the Harlot is compared with Abraham the friend of God in James 2:20-26. James only chooses these two as example of active faith from the Old Testament. It's amazing to me that James, out of all the characters in the Old Testament he had to choose from, he chose the two that he did. James 2:20-26. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction" As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Turn back to Joshua. Can you believe that? Of the two people James chose: Abraham and Rahab. We don't usually think of them side by side. But James did. Righteousness by faith. Indeed, in this case, faith without works is literally dead. The people of Jericho believed but did not love and obey, and were not saved.
Let's not overlook the faith of the two spies in this story. Their faith is through the roof as well. In speaking with Rahab, they did not say "If the lord gives us the land," they said "When the Lord gives us the land." What a contrast to the faith of the ten spies forty years earlier! God will do it.
5. Rahab is also valued as an agent of salvation. Yes, Rahab saves the spies. You may ask at this point about her lie to the king's men. Is it okay to lie? No. But, once again, we see God meeting her where she is. She, like me, like you, was growing in her faith. The closer we get to God, the more we love Him, the more we are willing and even desirous of laying aside things that hinder that relationship. It would not surprise me at this point if Rahab had already ceased being a harlot because of the relationship she had started to have with God. She's starting to lay things aside from her past. But, young people, I want to give you a little warning here. As we just read in James, close to the end of the New Testament, opposite ends of history, she is still referred to as the harlot. You may get into something, you may try something, and you may build a reputation that stays with you, even though you've been forgiven. Don't go that route. Stay away from a bad reputation. Keep a good reputation. Rahab is also an agent of salvation for her family. It reminds me of Noah's ark. Everyone that had faith enough to be inside was saved.
Have you ever noticed the similarities of this story and the story of the Passover just before the exodus from Egypt? Think about it. Many symbols and even some of the language is the same. Some f the language is even identical in the Hebrew. Far to much to be considered a coincidence! The scarlet cord from the window reminds us of the scarlet blood on the door posts. The requirement that Rahab and her family remain in the house. Do you rmemeber that from Egypt? "Don't go outside the house. Stay inside where it's safe." Both stories speak of blood. The blood of the substitute lamb at the Passover and the blood being upon the heads of any who leave the house.
It is quite interesting to find that the Hebrew word for "cord" used in this story is "tiqwah", which everywhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures (31 times) is translated as "hope." instead of cord. This is the only place. The Biblical author seems to be employing a play on words in this story. The scarlet cord hung by Rahab signifies the source of redemptive hope for the spies, for Israel, for Rahab and her family, and ultimately as a symbol of the blood of the Lamb hope for the whole world!
By the way, the Hebrew word for the symbolic cord in the window "Tiqwah" is different from the word used for the rope "chebel" that the spies used for escape, so I don't believe it's the same cord. After all, wouldn't a rope hanging out the window indicate... "What's going on here? You did have the spies." But it was not unusual for a symbol like that to be hanging out of the window of a prostitute's home.
I visited the ruins of the city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the volcano, Vesuvius. I entered into what had been a red-light district. How did I know? There were symbols. That was just too hard to ignore. You knew right where you were. This was a symbol of the day as well. People would not think twice about seeing that in her window. But it became a symbol of sacrifice. Jesus died for out sinful lives. His blood was spilt for our sinfulness.
6. Rahab is valued as an integral part of Israel's community. Turn over a few pages to Joshua 6. The story continues over here. Joshua 6:15-17. On the seventh day they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that are in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all that are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent."
Jump down to verse 20. When the trumpet sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.
Verse 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." 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.
When the Israelite soldiers rescued her after the collapse of Jericho, they temporarily bring her to the outside edge of the Israelite camp, perhaps for a time of instruction and purification. But soon this period comes to an end. Look at verse 25.
Joshua 6:25 . And Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua sent as spies to jericho and she lives among the Israelites to this day. The literal reading of the Hebrew is, "She dwells in the midst ofIsrael." This term refers to the inner parts. It can even be translated as "womb." She has become one of them! Her past is forgiven. And that's good news! Because we can be an integral part of the family of God, leaving our past behind. She had lived on the edge of her own society and now she is in the center of God's society. The 12 spies, nearly 40 years earlier had brought back a cluster of grapes. But these two spies bring back Rahab and her family--the ultimate fruit! Do we value the "Rahabs" who join our church? 7. Finally, Rahab is valued as an ancestor of Jesus! Rahab married Salmon, son of Nahshon, one of the prominent princes of Judah, and she gave birth to Boaz, great-grandfather of David. Thus Rahab the harlot becomes an ancestor of the Messiah!
Is this right? Is it right that God would allow Rahab to be part of the Messianic lineage? Yes, indeed! Note that Matthew's (Matthew 1) genealogy of Christ mentions five women, and moral charges were leveled each one of them. Tamar, a woman of prostitution and incest. Rahab the harlot. Ruth the Moabitess. Bathsheba the adulteress. Mary the virgin with child. Each of these women, justly or falsely accused of moral indecency (in Ruth's case because of her national identity), believed in the coming Messiah and were sinners cleansed by the blood of the One who would come through their lineage. Rahab epitomizes the kind of transformation that is possible when a person buts his or her faith in God!
We too, once spiritual harlots because of spiritual unfaithfulness, can become part of the family tree of Jesus. In fact, we can become part of the body of Christ, the church! We must believe with a faith that loves and acts.
There is a scene that plays in my mind when I think of this story. Rahab the harlot in her home. The scarlet cord hanging out the window, the symbol of her sin and the symbol of the blood of forgiveness. Her imperfect, dysfunctional family gathered around her. The trumpets blow and the people shout and the ground shakes as angels push over the walls of human strength. I don't hear of any of them deciding to leave. I picture them clinging together no matter what, having faith that God would keep his promise. This is a picture of God's last-day church. Just as 13 individual colonies joined forces and became indivisible, we individual Christians need to be indivisible. Imperfect, yet an object of value. Don't even think of leaving God's church as this world crumbles. Each of us should have faith in God to take care of every aspect of our lives including our time, talents, and treasures, all the little stuff so that we can stand together when it counts for the big stuff. Then, will be better able to cling together with a combined faith in God that is through the roof!
Major Sources: In the Footsteps of Joshua, by Richard M. Davidson (Many ideas and quotes from chapter 4) 365 Life Lessons from Bible People, edited by Michael Kindrick and Daryl Lucas Speakers Lifetime Library, by Spinrad & Spinrad Patriarchs and Prophets, by Ellen G. White Seventh-day Adeventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2
Hymn of Praise: #11, The God of Abraham Praise Scripture: Hebrews 11:30, 31 Hymn of Response: #239, Jesus Priceless Treasure
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last updated 4/12/04 by Bob Beckett.