Sunday, May 8, 2016

Rahab: from Harlot to Heroine

Joshua 2:1-15 – Rahab: from Harlot to Heroine
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.
And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 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.” 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.” 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.
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.  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.” 
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.

“Rahab: from harlot to heroine” Let’s pray

Since it is Mother’s Day (2016), I thought it appropriate to share ONE woman’s interesting tribute to mothers.  She wrote:
“When the good Lord was creating mothers, He was well into His sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing an awful lot of fiddling around on THIS one.”  

The Lord said, “Have you read the SPECS on this model?  She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; have 180 moveable parts; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that disappears when she stands up; a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a broken heart… and SIX pairs of hands!”
The angel shook its head slowly and said, “6 pairs of hands??? NO WAY!”
“It’s NOT the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers must have.”  “THAT’S on the STANDARD model???” asked the angel.  The Lord nodded.  “One pair to see through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows.  Another pair in the back of her head to see what her children are doing when they don't think she is watching; and of course, the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, “I love you anyway!” without even saying a word.”
“I can’t quit now.  I already have one who heals herself when she gets sick, can feed a family of 6 on a pound of hamburger, AND can somehow get a 9 year old boy to actually take a bath!”

The angel circled the project very slowly…”It’s too soft,” it sighed.  “But tough!” said the Lord.  “You can’t imagine what this mother can endure!”  “Can it THINK?”  “Not only can it think – it can reason, compromise, and dream,” said the Creator.
Finally the angel bent over and ran its finger across her cheek.  “There’s a leak!” it shouted.  “I told you you were trying to put too much into this model.”

“It’s NOT a leak,” said the Lord, “it’s a tear.”  “What’s it for??”  “It’s for joy and sadness, pain and pride,” said the Lord.
“You ARE a genius!” said the Angel.

INDEED!  The Lord IS a genius!  

Thank God for Mothers, Amen!  Oh no, they aren’t perfect by any means.  In fact, there’s not a mother here today who hasn’t wept over her inadequacies.  But’s that’s what makes you special.  Today – we HONOR you!  You will never know the far reaching impact your commitment, love, and example have made upon the lives of those who love you!
The same can be said of the woman in our text – Rahab.
If you were looking for someone scandalous to write an expose about in the Bible – surely one of the first people you would consider would have to be Rahab.  A pagan with a sin-ravaged past… a prostitute… who would go on to become such a hero that her name would not only be recorded HERE, but 1,500 years later in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11. Check it out - right there beside the likes of Abraham, Moses, and David… is this prostitute!
As we consider HER life, I want you to think about your own.  Maybe you too have made mistakes.  Maybe you too have wondered if you could EVER overcome the scars of bad decisions.  Rahab will show you, that, by God’s grace, no matter what you have done, regardless the circumstances your decisions have created, YOU TOO can experience a life of incredible significance.  

There are three things we learn here:

1.  First, we see Rahab’s Condition.  Her spiritual, emotional, and physical condition.  Verse 1 explainsshe was a prostitute.”  V. 15 adds “her house was in the wall.
Sometimes we rush to judgment and are unfair to people – don’t you agree???  Sometimes we can be mistaken about their character.  Case in point:
A prosperous young Wall Street broker fell in love with a beautiful young woman.  He wanted to marry her, but being a cautious man, he decided he would hire a Private Investigator to check her out before he popped the question.  “After all, I have both a growing FORTUNE and REPUTATION to protect.”  The young man requested that the agency NOT REVEAL his identity to the investigator.  He didn’t want her to ever find out that he had checked her out AND he didn’t want the investigator to bring back a BIASED report.
Soon the investigator brought his findings.
He wrote, “The young lady in question has an unblemished past and a spotless reputation.  Her friends are of the highest moral character and she didn’t even have a traffic ticket on her record.  BUT,” the report concluded, “The ONE NEGATIVE I could find is that she is often seen around town in the company of a young broker of questionable reputation.”
You see???  Sometimes we can rush to judgment and be unfair - we often don't know all the facts.
BUT NOT THIS TIME.  The Bible makes no bones about it – Rahab was a prostitute.  Not only THAT, but she lived in the city wall.  THAT’S WHERE the poor and destitute lived.  There were two walls that surrounded Jericho separated by a 15 foot gap.  The poor built little shanties in that gap.  As a result, they were the FIRST to suffer attack from enemies, the first to die in time of war.  They were human shields for the rich.
Rahab, in many ways, had never known what it was to have a life.  Her poverty and sin had taken its toll –eking out a meager living by sacrificing her dignity to the vile passions of strangers – never knowing what it was to feel protected –valued - cherished.
But God loved her. Did you hear me?? God loved her.

HE had a plan for this woman victimized by sin.  He sent his spies to her house – not simply to secure military information – Oh no.  Our God never does anything by coincidence.  Our all-wise, all-knowing, infinitely gracious God intended to show Rahab His unmerited favor.  By sending these spies to her, not only did He protect the SPIES, He saved Rahab and her entire family.
She was lost - her past made any future prospects seem hopeless.  She was, for all intents and purposes - “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). THIS was her condition.

2.  After her Condition, THEN we see her Conversion.  

For those of you who may be new to church, when preachers talk about “conversion,” they are referring to what happens when a person turns away from his sin and in FAITH trusts the Lord to save him.  Those who make this “TURN” are said to have “converted.”
Even a casual reading of this passage shows that Rahab, who once lived as a prostitute, had turned FROM that life and put her faith in the Lord.  HOW did that happen?  Her conversion was the result of three important things:
Verse 9 reveals her Fear.  She had heard that Israel was moving toward Jericho.  She had heard how God had enabled Israel to defeat other kings and lands.  She had heard that God was with them and that He had purposed to destroy that walled fortress of Jericho.  

Her fear moved her to throw herself upon God’s mercy.
I don’t know about YOU – but one of the reasons I accepted Christ was fear.  Just being honest.  When I was confronted by the Gospel, several things became crystal clear to me:

  • God is Holy... and

  • I am a sinner… and

  • because of my sin I would suffer eternal damnation in a place called hell.  

I felt genuine FEAR… and you know what the Bible says about that? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Solomon added, By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
Could it be, that, one of the reasons more people aren’t being converted today is because there is no fear of God in them. People have blasphemed and despised our great God. Why???
  • Preachers are to blame for it – because we have so watered down the gospel that people no longer respect the holiness of God. We would rather sweet talk the crowd and build great followings and bank accounts than risk offending people with the call to repent.

  • Churches are to blame for it – because we have developed “itching ears” and we want to be entertained when we go to church. We want to feel good even if it means sacrificing truth.

  • The TIMES are to blame for it – as Jesus said of the end times, “the Love of many will grow cold.” People are sin-hardened… and that hard-heartedness is only getting worse.

Since people do not FEAR the Lord, they no longer see the need to turn from their sin!

But Rahab feared the Lord – her heart melted at the thought of what would soon happen to her and her family.  And that fear motivated her to seek God’s mercy.
Not only did her fear move her, so did her facts – in vv. 10 and 11 she acknowledges how God had blessed Israel, empowered them to defeat their enemies, shielded them from harm – and met their needs.  

She saw how good God was to them – as David wrote in Psalm 86:For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”  In Romans 2:3 Paul explains that “...God's kindness is meant to lead (us) to repentance.
Fear wasn’t the ONLY reason I accepted Christ.  Oh no – I turned to the Lord because I saw how good God was to His people.  I heard how God loves His people and provides for and protects them.  I saw their joy – I heard their testimonies of answered prayers, healing, and help – and that moved me – I wanted what they had.
God’s goodness moved Rahab too.  When she considered those coming toward Jericho, she knew this wasn’t like times before when warring armies made empty threats and failed attacks.  No – THESE people had God on their side.
And third, she was moved by her Faith.  She protected the spies, gave them safe passage, all in hopes that God would reward her faith.  She believed that God would bless her if she did right.  She obeyed the spies’ directions and placed a scarlet rope in her window as a sign of her obedience, because she believed the Lord.
All clear signs of a genuine conversion.

You see, In the final analysis, when everything's said and done, real conversion  - is MORE THAN WORDS - it shows up in a changed life.

3.  But not only do we see her Condition and her Conversion, notice also her Confession.  Verse 18 says, 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.”  

And according to chapter 6, she influenced her entire family to be saved!

So convinced was she of her family’s need that she did everything in her power to get her family under God’s grace too.  How she had to convince them, the things she had to tell them – she used every bit of influence she had - because she was absolutely convinced that there was no other way to save them.

I may not know much, but I DO know THIS - When a person is genuinely born again, they want to do whatever they possibly can to introduce their loved ones to Jesus.  When a parent is saved, they know that there are more important things than their child’s achievements… happiness... clothes… or popularity. They will pray everyday for their child to find the Lord.  A mom who is right with God LONGS for her family to follow her in that decision.  

Rahab confessed her faith openly… urgently - and her family followed her to safety!

And while you might be wondering why I would choose the story of a prostitute for a Mother’s Day message, allow me to put your mind at ease.  You see, not only did Rahab and her family find the grace and mercy of God, and not only did her faith so impress the Lord that He would include her in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11, she WENT ON to become the Great-grandmother of King David, Israel’s greatest earthly king, and even MORE importantly, would find herself in the lineage of Jesus Christ.  That’s right - a prostitute became one of the Matriarchs of the King of Kings!  Can you believe it???  

OH the far reaching effects of one mother’s commitment to the Lord!
Rahab reminds us that our past sins do NOT have to define us!  We STILL have an opportunity to RISE UP and impact the destinies of those we love.  Refuse to accept the devil’s lie that ‘It’s too late!”  If God can make a hero of a harlot, surely, surely He can use YOU!
How about it, Mom?  Maybe YOU’VE made some mistakes.  Maybe you've wondered how you could ever have a positive impact on the eternal destinies of your family.  

Would you ask the Lord to use you in spite of your past to influence YOUR family for Jesus?  

We are going to give you that chance, right now…