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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Service, 2012-11-18

Text: Joshua 2:9-11

Have you ever tried to find out who your ancestors are? Many people search for their roots in the hope of finding some illustrious hero or important historical figure among their ancestors. But what if you do this and discover that your family tree included some notorious people who were guilty of rebellion, murder, deceit, cheating and adultery? How would you feel to belong to such a line?

It may surprise you to know that this was true of the family tree of our Lord Jesus as given in Matthew 1 and Luke 2. It included a rebel (Adam), a drunkard who exposed himself (Noah), several idol worshippers (Terah and Nahor, cf Jos 24:2), a deceitful thief (Jacob, who stole his brother’s birthright), and at least two murderers (David, who had Bathsheba’s husband killed; and Manasseh, who slaughtered the prophet Isaiah). This shows that Christ was born into a race of sinners. Why? In order that He may be qualified to redeem sinners like us through His death on the cross.

The family tree of Jesus also included a woman of grossly immoral character – a prostitute named Rahab. The Bible does not tell us how or why she became a harlot (whether she was forced into it or by her own choice). But we do know that she plied her sexual trade openly without any shame. Everyone knew her as Rahab the harlot. Just mention her name and people would instantly say, “O yes, she’s that harlot who lives in that part of the city wall.” The city wall was the most remote part of the city, and that was where the prostitutes used to live in ancient times.

The city where Rahab lived was Jericho. Jericho was so full of wickedness and sin that everyone in it was condemned under God’s sentence of destruction (cf. Sodom and Gomorrah – totally destroyed without a trace). God had withheld Jericho’s destruction for many years to give opportunity for repentance (cf. Genesis 15:13-16). But like the other cities in Canaan, it only became much worse. By the time the Israelites arrived, Jericho’s sins had reached such a horrendous level that it was ripe for judgment. It had become a cesspool of idolatry where the people’s hearts and minds were deeply saturated with sin (cf. Leviticus 18:1-30). Of all the forms of idolatry in antiquity, the most depraved of all was Canaanite idolatry.

Its practices included the human sacrifice of innocent children, and gross fertility rituals which required the use of harlots. This was the kind of depraved lifestyle that Rahab was familiar with, since she herself was a harlot. There may have been hundreds of harlots in this sin city, but Rahab was so well-known that she was known as ‘the harlot’. Who would have thought then that of all the Canaanites in Jericho, she would be the one to be spared from God’s righteous judgment of that city? How could Rahab be spared?

The answer is found in Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not…” It was not any good works she did that brought her deliverance from Jericho’s destruction. It was nothing else but faith in God alone.

I. Rahab’s Faith brought Her Deliverance

This is the first point of our sermon. How did Rahab get this faith? It came about in her response to the knowledge she had received. Where did Rahab get this knowledge from? Let find out from what Rahab said in vv.10-11 – “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 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…”

Notice that in v.10 Rahab said, ‘We have heard’. This ‘we’ does not refer to Rahab alone but to everyone in Jericho. All of them had heard these things. In those days there were no newspapers or Channel News Asia to provide accurate reports of events near and far. But there were many merchant caravans that plied the lucrative trade routes between Egypt, Canaan and Mesopotamia. Since Jericho was the western gateway to Canaan, merchants from various places would pass through it every day for rest and refreshment.

And I am sure the Canaanites of Jericho loved to get the latest news from them, especially if the news headline was something really interesting like, “Two million people cross the Red Sea by walking on dry ground.” That would certainly have aroused their curiosity, wouldn’t it? And it would also have invited queries like, “Who were these people who were favoured with this amazing miracle? What made them so special?”

As more details came in from various merchants passing through Jericho, they learned that this special people had an awesome god named Jehovah, a name which appears in our Bibles as ‘the LORD’. The Canaanites of Jericho learned that the LORD had brought His people out of Egypt. Now He was leading the Israelites to Canaan to destroy them and to take over their land. They were going to face His wrath for all their sins. That was not good news for the Canaanites of Jericho, but since they were still quite far away, it probably did not bother them too much.

However as the years went by, the Canaanites of Jericho received very unsettling news from the merchants – the LORD’s army was coming nearer and nearer to Jericho, and nothing could stop them, not even the armies of Sihon and Og, the two invincible kings who were fearsome giants. And now there was only one obstacle that remained between the LORD’s army and Jericho – the River Jordan. How terrified the Canaanites of Jericho must have been, to realize that they were the next target earmarked for destruction. As Rahab said in v.11, their hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of them.

But somehow they did not respond to what they knew like Rahab did. This was obviously true of the king of Jericho. Despite all that he knew about the Israelites, he made no attempt to make peace with them or to plead with them for mercy. And when he heard that the Israelites had sent spies into his city, he immediately sent out his officers to exterminate them. How about the rest of the Canaanites of Jericho? They were no better than the king. Although they were so fearful of the Israelites that their hearts melted, they did not petition their king to surrender to them or to escape from Jericho as fast as possible. Instead, they chose to stay in their doomed city and to trust in their own idols and their city walls and defences for protection. These Canaanites knew everything about the LORD and the Israelites that Rahab knew. Why then did they not respond like her?

It is because unlike Rahab, they did not believe that the LORD would give the Israelites victory over them. But Rahab believed this, as she herself said in v.9 – “I know that the LORD hath given you the land.” (Notice that here she said ‘I’ and not ‘we’ as in v.10) To Rahab, the land was already conquered, although the war had not even started yet. Why did she believe this? Look at v.11 to find out: “…for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” This statement from Rahab’s mouth shows that she believed that the God of Israel is the true God who owns all things. Unlike all the other Canaanites of Jericho, she now rejected all the gods she used to worship. All that she had heard about the LORD had thoroughly convinced her that He is the only true God in heaven and in earth. She now firmly believed that He is able and righteous to destroy her and all the Canaanites because of their sins, and that He will confiscate their land and give it to His own people to live in.

Here is an important lesson for us to learn. Like the people of Jericho you may have all the right knowledge about God that you need, and yet you may not be saved. You may even know that all the signs of God’s judgment of this world are appearing, and still not be saved. Why is this so? It is because you do not respond to what you know, with faith. Perhaps you may respond with fear just like the Canaanites of Jericho did, but fear alone will not help you. All that you know about God and His judgment of sin will not save you until you personally turn from your sins to put your faith in Him alone to save you. This is what it means to respond to what you know with faith!

It is sad that there are many today who read the Bible, attend Bible lectures and worship services, and yet they are not saved. Are you one of them? Are you one of those who do not respond to what you know with faith? If you are, then you must realize what a great danger you are in. Please learn a lesson from what happened to the Canaanites of Jericho: They had all the knowledge they needed to have to be saved, but they were totally destroyed because they did not respond to it with faith.

Let us see how this destruction happened in Joshua 6:20-21 – “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.” Every one in Jericho perished on that fateful day because the entire city was under God’s judgment. Every one of them knew that it was coming, but they did not respond to what they knew with faith.

The Word of God has warned us that a worse judgment than this is fast approaching and this time, it will come upon the entire world. How will you respond to this warning? Will you respond with faith? Will you turn to the Lord Jesus and put your trust in Him alone for salvation? Please don’t delay any more. Respond to the Word of God right now while there is still time to do so. Then when God’s judgment comes, you will be delivered from it. Look at how Rahab was delivered from destruction. A while ago we read in v.20 that the walls of Jericho fell down flat when the Israelites shouted. But Rahab’s house was built on the city wall. Wouldn’t it have been destroyed when the walls fell down? Wouldn’t she and her family have been crushed to death as her house came crashing down with the city wall?

Let us read verses 22-23 of Joshua chapter 6 – “Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.” If Rahab’s house had collapsed when the walls of Jericho fell, the spies wouldn’t have been able to do this at all. They would have been extricating the crushed bodies of Rahab and her loved ones from the rubble that used to be her house.

But v.25 says that “Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day.” This means that God miraculously protected her house so that no one in it got hurt when the walls of Jericho fell. The part of the wall where her house was located remained standing. Archaeological excavations carried out at the site of Jericho have confirmed this.

Well, isn’t this a wonderful picture of what God will do for those who respond to His Word with faith? He certainly knows how to protect them and preserve them in their hour of crisis. Psalm 91:9-11 gives us this glorious assurance, “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Now, the good news is that these blessings will most assuredly be ours when we respond to God’s Word with faith. But such faith will produce changes in our life. There are many today who claim to have faith in the Lord Jesus but their life remains unchanged – They are just as sinful as they were before, and their lives are no different from those who are not saved. Such non-productive faith is a dead faith, as mentioned in James 2:17-18 – “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Then in v.25 James cites Rahab as an example of faith that is shown by works. This brings us to the next point of our sermon:

II. Rahab’s Faith Was Shown by Her Works

There were at least four works that her faith produced. Firstly, she saved the Israelite spies from being discovered (Joshua 2:6). This happened when the king of Jericho ordered a search and destroy mission upon learning that the spies were in the city. Somehow he managed to track them down to Rahab’s house, and she was ordered to bring them out to him. Now, if Rahab had not believed in the LORD God of Israel, she would do what every other Canaanite in Jericho would have done: Surrender the spies immediately!

And there are at least two compelling reasons for her to do this. The first is to obey the king’s command as a loyal citizen of Jericho. The second is to avoid being convicted of treason, a crime that carries a mandatory death sentence. These reasons are compelling enough to make anyone bring the spies out without any hesitation.

But Rahab had reasons that were even more compelling not to do this. These spies were not just any spies. They were emissaries of the LORD God of Israel whom she now trusted in. And so she must help and protect them at all costs, even if it means disobeying the king’s command, and even if she had to be sentenced to death for it. So she hid the spies on the rooftop of her house, and she deceived the king’s officers into going on a wild goose chase.

What is important for us now, is to learn lessons about a living faith from what Rahab did for the spies. Firstly, a living faith will make you choose to obey God rather and men. In every choice you make in life, what matters most is to do what God wants you to do. And so if anyone requires you to do something that clearly goes against God’s will, you will choose to obey God rather than men. Secondly, a living faith will make you willing to risk everything for Him, even your own life if necessary. If your faith does not produce these results in you, then it is not a living faith but a dead faith.

This was not all that Rahab’s living faith produced. Another work it produced is mentioned at the end of v.21 –“…she bound the scarlet line in the window.” This happened after the spies promised to save her in the coming battle if she tied the scarlet rope to her window. This means that when the armies of Israel come to carry out God’s judgment on this sinful city, they will destroy everyone except those who were inside one particular house: the house which had this scarlet rope tied to its window. Therefore that scarlet rope became extremely important to Rahab. If she forgets to tie it to her window, she would be killed like all the rest. It was her only hope of salvation from the coming judgment. (Interestingly, the word ‘line’ used in this verse – tiqvah– has a dual meaning in Hebrew – rope and hope!)

This rope’s colour is very significant – it is scarlet, which is the colour of fresh blood. This reminds us of a similar hope of salvation that the Israelites were commanded to use 40 years earlier – the fresh blood of the Passover Lamb. On the night of the tenth plague when the angel of death went out to kill all the firstborn in Egypt, no family was spared from losing its firstborn except those whose houses had been marked with the lamb’s blood. The blood of the lamb became the only hope of the salvation for all the firstborn in Israel.

Just as the lamb’s blood saved the firstborn of Israel during God’s judgment of Egypt, the scarlet rope saved Rahab during God’s judgment of Jericho. And now, that blood and that rope point us to something even greater: The blood of Christ that will save us when God brings His awful judgement on the sins of this world.The precious blood which Christ shed on the Cross is the only means of salvation that God has provided for sinners. The question is – Have you made use of this means of salvation? In v.21 we notice that Rahab bound the scarlet rope in her window. She made sure that it was securely tied in place. In the same way we ought to make sure we have Christ in us, and that He is securely bound to us. We are told in 2 Peter 1:10 to“give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” How can we do this? Well, the preceding verses tell us to do it by adding to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love: In other words – by growing into the full likeness of Christ. And Peter says in v.10 that if we do this we shall never fall. When the city of Jericho fell under the thundering blast of God’s judgment, one house on its wall did not fall – the one that was marked with the scarlet rope in its window. In the same way, we ought to give all diligence to make sure that our life is marked with the likeness of Christ, so that we will never fall.

Thus far we have seen two works that Rahab’s living faith produced: Saving the Israelite spies from being discovered, and tying the scarlet cord to her window. Besides these, there was another work that her living faith produced: She went all out to ensure that her family members would be in her house at the critical moment. Perhaps this may indicate that a major change took place in her relationship with them. Rahab may have faced much grief and pain from her family when she became a harlot. They may have abandoned her to live all by herself on the city wall. But whatever grief she may have endured from them were all forgiven when she began to trust in the LORD. After all, since the LORD had shown mercy to her by bringing the two spies to her house and providing her with a hope of salvation, how could she not show the same mercy to her own father, mother, brothers and sisters and their children? How could she bear to see them perish in the coming judgment?

After the spies left Jericho, Rahab would not know how long it would take for the Israelite forces to arrive at the city. All that she knew is that anyone who stayed with her in her house would be spared from destruction. We can imagine how quickly she would have gone to each of her loved ones and how earnestly she would have persuaded them to come to her house. In order to do this she had to convince them to believe what she believed: That the LORD had given the land of Canaan to His people Israel, and that He had brought the people out of Egypt, dried up the Red Sea for them to cross and enabled them to defeat the most powerful Amorite kings. She must have persuaded her family members to abandon all their Canaanite gods and to worship the LORD alone, because He is the true God in heaven above and in the earth beneath.

Rahab must have told them that Jericho’s days were numbered because of their sins but God had mercifully given her a wonderful hope of salvation through the two spies of Israel that He brought to her house. And then she must have shown her family members the scarlet rope which was tied firmly to her window, assuring them that this rope is the hope of their salvation in the coming day of judgment. By doing all this Rahab the harlot became Rahab the herald of good news to them!

From all this we learn of one way to tell if your faith is a dead faith or a living faith – How much do you want to see your loved ones and friends saved? If you truly value the salvation that Christ has given you, how can you keep it all to yourself? How can you bear to see your unsaved parents, brothers, sisters and children perish for all eternity? They may not have much time left to be delivered by Christ. And so, will you be urgent to persuade them to come to Him now before it is too late – when death overtakes them or when the day of the Lord finally arrives?

On the fateful day of Jericho’s fall, Rahab’s house became just like Noah’s Ark. All who had entered it and had faithfully remained inside it were gloriously saved from the awful destruction that took place all around them. And as the dust settled and the two spies rushed in to bring them out of the city, what great gratitude and joy Rahab and her family must have felt just to be alive and well!

What a wonderful testimony this must have been of Rahab’s living faith! And there are indications that the life that Rahab lived after that gave further testimony of her living faith. She no longer lived as a harlot. According to Matthew 1:5, she became the wife of a prince of Judah named Salmon. Their great-great grandson was none other than King David – the greatest of all the kings of Israel.

In fact Rahab may have repented of her immoral lifestyle shortly before she met the spies. According to v.6 of our text she hid the spies “with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.” This strongly suggests that she was no longer selling her body for a living, but was now working hard with her own hands to make thread and linen cloth out of the stalks of flax she had gathered from the fields. Coincidentally, the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is described as one who “seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” (v.13)

From this we derive our final lesson about what a living faith produces. All sinners who truly believe in Christ will not continue in their former sinful ways. Their living faith will produce a resolve to put away their sinful ways and live a life that is pleasing to the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Do you remember what Jesus told the woman who was caught in adultery? He said,“Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11). Jesus does not save you from sin so that you can go and sin some more.

In today’s sermon we have seen from our study of Rahab’s life, how important faith is in delivering sinners from destruction. All the knowledge you have about God and His judgment of your sins will not save you until you respond to it with faith.

We have also seen that such faith will be shown by works. If your faith does not make you choose to obey God even if it means risking your life, if it gives you no desire to grow into the likeness of Christ, if it gives you no desire for the salvation of your loved ones, and if it does not stop you from going back to your old sinful ways, then it is not a living faith but a dead faith. Please take time to examine yourself today to see if what you have is a living faith or a dead faith. If the Holy Spirit convicts you that what you have now is nothing but a dead faith, then make sure that you come to Christ and trust Him from now on with a living faith. If the Lord can save a harlot like Rahab from sin and destruction, what is there to stop Him from saving a sinner like you?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25