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Sep 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 20, 2020


By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Hebrews 11:31

Intro: If we could read this chapter like the original readers,

We would see this verse had been sneaking up on them
– thumbing through Israel’s history, the writer cites examples of faith
• there’s a similar historical review in Acts chapter 7
◦ but there, Stephen uses Israel’s history to make a different point
• Stephen lists the regular heroes found in the Old Testament
◦ Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David provided spiritual leadership for Israel
◦ and also a theological foundation for the people
– so reading this list in Hebrews we can anticipate who will come next
• in v. 29, the people crossed Red Sea–we know that would relate to Moses
• v. 30, the walls of Jericho fell down–we know that would relate to Joshua
◦ only Joshua is conspicuously absent from this list
Carl Mosser, “The list’s now well-established rhetorical pattern leads listeners to anticipate the name of the next major hero in the OT narrative, Joshua. Our author, however, breaks the pattern and neither names or otherwise refers to any person. Without parallel in the rest of the list, inanimate objects, the walls of Jericho are the subject of the entry.”

Previously Hebrews presented Moses in a positive light (Heb. 2:5)
– and previously, Abraham appeared in a positive light (Heb. 6:15)
• but all we hear about Joshua, previously, is what he failed to do
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on (Heb. 4:8)
– now, as Luke Johnson says, “It is striking that Joshua is not even mentioned in connection with these events . . . .”
• Joshua is not the hero of this story
◦ but if not Joshua, then who? Rahab the prostitute
• she is the last person on the list to have a story attached to her name
◦ after her, the writer didn’t have time for Gideon, Samson, or David
◦ but he had time for Rahab!
– it may be that the writer arranged the list to feature Rahab
• perhaps her example of faith is the one his readers needed to imitate

Rahab is one of only two women who made the list

Sarah was the first woman – but Rahab was nothing like Sarah
– Rahab’s name is not connected to that of a famous man
• she was a Gentile outsider – and she was a prostitute
• like Melchizedek, she’s something of a surprise guest in Hebrews
◦ only the prostitute of Jericho is an even bigger surprise than the priest of Salem
– wouldn’t you like to get to know this woman?

We meet Rahab in a spy story

Knowing that this is a story of intrigue and espionage,
– makes it less surprising that she was a prostitute
• Joshua sent spies into Jericho on a reconnaissance mission
◦ there is a logic to them entering home of a prostitute
◦ such places typically provided lodging for merchants and other visitors
• the story includes others characters, like Joshua and the king of Jericho
◦ but the only characters named are Joshua and Rahab
– Joshua’s spies were identified and their mission was discovered
• the king sent soldiers to Rahab and ordered her to hand them over
• instead she hid them on her roof and covered them in flax
◦ she told them,
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 (Jos. 6:4-5)

I’m going to throw something in here, just because it bugs me
– Christian commentators feel it’s necessary to point out that Rahab lied to the soldiers at her door
• that is true enough–in fact, I can count four lies she told them
• but it’s nonsense to fault her for this,
◦ or to turn the story into a pious lesson on telling the truth
– classic strategies in warfare include misdirection and misinformation
• Rahab did not lie for personal profit or to injure others
◦ it was to save her family
◦ if people were hiding Jews in their home, would we judge or criticize them for lying to Nazi soldiers?
• the Bible makes no moral comment on her actions, nor should we
◦ to twist the plot so that it yields an ethical problem misses the point
◦ let’s take the story at face value and not make unnecessary judgments

When the guards left, Rahab went up on roof and began to negotiate
– I want us to hear this in her own words
I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us . . . . For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you . . . and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites . . . . And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for [Yahweh] your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath (Jos. 2:9-12)
• this sounds as if she were quoting Moses’ exact words (Deut. 4:39)
• the strength of her belief in what she says is obvious
– God had strictly forbidden Israel to make any covenant with the people of the land
• but that is what Rahab was asking the spies to do — swear a treaty with her
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 and all who belong to them, and deliver them from death (Jos. 2:12-13)
◦ this is the most suspenseful moment in the story
◦ is this outsider clever enough to save herself and her family?
• Rahab barters for mercy and truth – hesed and emeth
◦ sometimes translated steadfast love and faithfulness
◦ these are two key words of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel

The writer does not mention Rahab’s confession of faith

Like everyone else on list, it is her deeds that count
– James, perhaps most prudish writer in the New Testament honored Rahab
. . . was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (Jas. 2:25)
Charles Spurgeon, “. . . we are somewhat surprised, I think, to find her name recorded by James, because he is an eminently practical writer, and was writing of good works rather than of faith.”
• but her actions beg the question, “Faith in what? or in whom?”
• and that makes her confession important
◦ that reveals the content of the faith by which she acted

There another woman I want to visit this morning

That’s because her story has striking similarities to Rahab’s
– Jesus left Galilee and went north, crossing the border into the region of Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon today)

Jesus wanted to get away. He and the disciples had been traveling and ministering without a break and they needed rest. I imagine also that he was weary from the ongoing conflict with the scribes and Pharisees. While he was in Gentile territory, a local Canaanite woman tracked him down. She begged for mercy (like Rahab), not for herself but her daughter. At first Jesus ignored her, so she pestered his disciples. The Lord explained to them that she was not on their itinerary, but that he had come for the lost sheep of Israel.
Eventually the woman was able to get close enough to Jesus, kneel at his feet, and cry, “Lord help me!” But he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” To which she replied, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Mt. 15:26-27)

• clearly Jesus was pleased with her answer
O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire (Mt. 15:28)
– do you see the parallels? Here was another Gentile outsider
• she had no right to expect anything from Jesus
◦ in light of his mission, she had no rights at all
◦ and she didn’t argue her rights – she begged for mercy
• her desperate faith inspired her clever response to him
◦ she did what no one else could do, she beat Jesus at his own game
– with both women, faith found a way
• past boundaries, over walls, and around obstacles

Conclusion: What was it about Jesus that irritated religious people the most?

His inclusiveness – he made room for tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes
– we’re told that when the spies rescued Rahab,
they placed her and her family outside the camp of Israel (Jos. 6:23)
• that’s because they were foreigners and “unclean”
• but Rahab and her family did not stay there
◦ the last word regarding Rahab is
And she has lived in Israel to this day . . . (Jos. 6:25)
◦ she was an outsider, who by faith won her way inside

God is going to get the love, devotion and obedience he wants
If not from his own people,
he will find people on the outside to bring in to do it
I’m afraid for church in the United States right now,
it is so divided and distracted by politics
I don’t think we have kept our eyes on God
and what he is doing in the world,
or what he wants us to be doing in the world
There are still so many people he wants to bring to himself,
and he would like for us to make the introductions

Jesus said, I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness (Mt. 8:11-12)
Do you think the same cannot happen to the church in America?
It would be sad for us, if the Lord chose to skip over us
and found for himself a Rahab
or a Saul who had been a persecutor of Christians
But the good news is – it can still be us that he chooses to use,
if we extricate ourselves from world and put our faith to work

Let’s make sure to irritate some religious people
by being as inclusive as Jesus
Because by faith, we can still get in the game

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