The Rescue of Rahab
Text: Joshua 2
Proposition: The grace of God is extended to those who least expect it in ways we wouldn’t have thought, to accomplish an end which is greater than imagined, even the wonder of the person of Jesus Christ.
Introduction: When our girls were still quite young we were taking a family vacation in our old motor home down in Idaho at a place called Sand Point. We’d been there a few days and were planning on going west to Washington, so early in the morning, before the heat of the day and while all the kids and Marci were still asleep in the back, I got up and headed out to get a jump on the day. I drove down the freeway looking for highway 2, found it and made my way through the heart of the city, out into the country. I drove for almost an hour, the sun was just beginning to get hot when two things went horribly wrong. The guage on the dash indicated that the battery was just about flat and a sign by the highway that said Sand Point, the place I left an hour earlier, was just 15 miles ahead. As I pulled into a McDonalds the motor quit and my family, now awake, began to ask, “So where are we?” Have you ever done what you thought was a good idea only to have it end differently? It was a good plan, but there was something that God knew which I didn’t. Sometimes the detour and delay can amount to a whole new perspective on grace.
This morning we’re going to look at one of the puzzling accounts of Scripture, puzzling because it seems to break all the rules and yet it was God’s plan. Turn with me to Joshua 2.
I. When Plans Create Predicaments, Saving Grace Is the Way Out.
Jericho,( see 2 maps ) located just 8km from the Jordan and just north of the Dead Sea, has been excavated almost as many times as Jerusalem over the last 100 years and is believed to be the oldest city in the world, predating even the cities of Egypt and Mesopotamia. It lies 984 feet below sea level and is the lowest city in the world. It’s wall ran for approximately one mile as it encircled the city of about 2500 people. It was a Caananite fortress, one that controlled the access up and down the Jordan valley and also blocked the ascent up towards Jerusalem. Surrounded with date palms fed by abundant springs of water, it was for all these reasons that Jericho was a natural target. It’s fall would create even greater unease in all the rest of the land. So Joshua sends two spies who check out the land and then enter the city just as night is falling. They likely tried to be discreet, to use the cover of night, to quickly find some sort of lodging and get off the streets. So of all places, they end up at Rahabs house, a prostitutes home, a place perched on the wall reserved for the least desirables of the community. It looked like a good plan but before they even got settled in they had already been noticed and reported to the king of Jericho. The king likely sends some soldiers to Rahab’s house and demands that she tell where the two spies are. What a mess, trapped within the walls of a city, the only person between you and death is a social outcast who has nothing but gain if she turns you over, this was a plan that had become a predicament. Yet this is where it gets puzzling, Rahab hides the spies, she tells the soldiers an absolute lie as to where they are and then she gives advice and direction to the enemy. She puts her own life right on the line by doing so. Why? I guess the answer is “grace upon grace”. Her protection of the two spies was an act of grace. At this point no deal had been struck, there were no guarantees extended to her at all. By grace the spies are saved. It’s after that, when she is hiding them under sheaves of flax, that she appeals to them to have mercy upon her and her family. The spies could have said anything and then when the actual time came reneged on their word, but they didn’t. They even went against the initial directive that God had given Moses in Deut. 7:16 to destroy all the people they would defeat. By grace they remembered Rahab and by grace not only she but all who were in her house were saved. When plans become predicaments, even deadly predicaments, God’s grace is the way out. It means turning to God and agreeing with Him that not only does He know your problem and situation, He also knows the way through it. That’s why He sent Jesus, there’s no problem or predicament greater than our sin, and it’s a deadly predicament. It’s as I come to God and seek His forgiveness that “grace upon grace” begins to work in my own life through Christ. Let’s take a closer look at how that saving grace is related to faith.
II. Saving Grace Rests On Faith.
Rahab, her name is actually pronounced “Raakharb” and means ‘to make wide’, an expression referring to being hot headed or proud. It was a name that God used three times in Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Isa.51:9 to refer to the nation of Egypt, calling Egypt ‘Rahab’ or proud one. For whatever reason this Rahab had no husband, perhaps she was widowed or divorced, prostitution had become for her a way to survive. Rahab was a Caananite woman, raised in the Caananite religion of Baal and Asherah, cultic priests and temple prostitutes being used to petition the agricultural deities, somewhat like the way people today refer to Mother Nature. She was a skilled liar and though she had sold her body to make a living, though she had no moral absolutes and had a conscience that was trained to sin, strangely she was also a woman of faith. For the last month Israel had been encamped just 8km away from her window on the wall. By night she likely saw the glow of the pillar of fire that marked the presence of God over Israel. The pillar of vertical cloud would have been like a column of steam that never dissipated. She had heard the stories of how the red Sea was parted and the forces of Egypt destroyed some 40 years earlier. She’d heard how the two kings of the Amorites had been destroyed by Israel but more than these she saw the reality of the God of Israel. Look at what she says in Joshua 2:11, “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
Rahab saw the evidence, recognized the power and then by faith believed in the mercy of this God Jehovah as being the only God over all heaven and earth. There were people who had perhaps walked through the Red Sea, who lived under that pillar of fire by night, who ate the manna everyday, who wore clothes that never wore out, whose feet never swelled all at the divine providence and promise of God, yet they were people who did not have the faith of this Rahab who hadn’t seen but believed. Faith is the resting place of saving grace, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8,9) No matter the mess you are in, no matter how proud you may have been or how foolish you have acted, faith invites you to see the evidence from a place on the wall, to see and believe and ask for life to be given to you by the forgiving hand of Jesus Christ.
III. Saving Grace and Faith Require Your Action.
For Rahab this meant letting the spies down the wall with rope, being a rope holder for others as it were. It meant holding the truth of who the spies really to herself, holding onto the truth of covenant. It meant to place a line of scarlet colored cord, big enough to be visible from a distance, as the marker of who lived in this place. Interestingly enough the Hebrew ‘Tiqvah’, the word for ‘cord’ used in verse 18 can sometimes be used to mean “things hoped for”. It reminded me of the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith needed to be seen hanging from her window… a red cord that reminds us of Christ hung on a cross for our forgiveness of sin. Despite all the reasons a prostitute might feel alone and even rejected by family, the required action here was to gather family close to you. Help them see what you see. I can only imagine the conversation between Rahab and her father and mother as they questioned why they should all cram into her little home on the wall as they watched the armies of the Israelites circle around them. But they listened, they stayed, they believed, they were saved. What action will saving grace and faith call for from you, what is the red cord that hangs from your home, what is the “things hoped for” that it points to. Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” James 2:25 says, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” Faith works! It’s as simple as that. Faith works!
History goes on to say that Rahab went to eventually marry an Israelite man, the grandfather of man named Boaz who was part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. So perhaps you could say that though Joshua had a plan to invade a territory, God had a plan to invade a heart. It was all about the rescue of Rahab.