Sermon for Sunday, July 31st, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Jos 2:1-24 ESV] 1 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. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 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.” 4 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. 5 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.” 6 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. 7 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. 8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 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. 10 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. 11 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. 12 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 13 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.” 14 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.” 15 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. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 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. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. 22 They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. 23 Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
New Testament reading:
[Heb 11:22-31 ESV] 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
[Mat 5:1-12 ESV] 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In Exodus chapter 2 we come to the well-known story of Rahab the Harlot.
Of course, she is not the only one in the text. There is Joshua, and the spies he sent into the land. And there is the King of Jericho, and the King of All which is the Lord God. Perhaps EVERY text of the Scriptures is about the Lord and could be titled as such, but that wouldn’t help us distinguish the texts very well. So we call this not the story of the faithful Lord (which it is), but the story of the sinful Rahab. She was a harlot, and she was a liar. Those are the sins we know of anyways. But the Lord saved her despite her sins and irresistibly called her to faith in Him who saves her from the coming destruction.
Dividing up the story in three parts, I’ve outlined it as follows:
v. 1-7 Rahab Hides the Spies
v.8-14 Rahab Pleads With the Spies
v. 15-24 Rahab Assists in the Escape of the Spies
But again, the emphasis on Rahab is in no way to diminish the work of the Lord. He is at the center of this account.
I. Rahab Hides the Spies (v. 1-7)
First we have Rahab hides the spies.
The story begins with Joshua sending spies into the land ahead of sending in the men of valor to fight. And this is not the first time spies are used. Moses had also sent spies into the land. This is found in Numbers chapter 13.
And do you recall what happened when Moses sent in the spies? It is worth covering this material as we’ve gone from the Exodus to Joshua having skipped the intervening material.
Well, Moses had sent twelve spies total, one from each tribe. And they were given instructions to “see what the land is like and whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many.” And they were to report regarding the following: “Is the land they live in good or bad? Do their cities have wall around them or not? Is the soil rich or poor? Does the land have trees or not?”
And the spies sent by Moses went in to the land and came back forty days later, saying “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak [the giants] there.”
And when one of the spies, Caleb, said “Let’s go now and take possession of it,” the other spies said “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”
They forgot about the Lord! HE is stronger than any enemy.
But now in the Book of Joshua, the Lord tells the Israelites that they will take the land. The spies aren’t in a position to suggest that they not attempt to conquer the land.
Joshua, as we saw last week, has commanded the people to prepare to take the land, then to take the land, first sending in the men of valor. Well, as a preliminary to that the spies are sent in. But the King of Jericho somehow (it is not said how) gets a whiff of it. And he knows they’ve gone to the house of Rahab the Prostitute. So he sends someone there to have them brought out.
Now here Rahab lies. There is no doubt about it. She lies. And there has been much written and said on this subject of whether Rahab lie was acceptable or not. The text doesn’t tell us. And that is not the focus of this passage.
We already know that she is a sinner. She is a prostitute. And to an extent the story is about her.
But is above all a story about the Lord. And His grace for sinners.
So it is that Rahab lies to protect the spies, saying that they were indeed there in her house, but they had left. And I like this, she says “you better hurry if you want to catch them.” That’s a crafty way to get someone to leave quickly!
All the while she has hidden the spies on the roof with stalks of flax.
Why does Rahab the Canaanite risk her life for these Israelite spies?
For one, as they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. She sees that the miraculous recent victories of the Israelites are from the Lord and she believes that the Lord will continue to be on their side.
In the Exodus we read of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Rahab knows about that, and she knows about the Israelites having conquered the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordon, Sihon and Og. That account of victory is found in Numbers chapter 21.
So she wants to be on their side. She knows that the Lord is bigger than the Canaanites.
But even more, she fears the Lord, knowing that he is the God of the heavens above and the earth beneath. She speaks of Him not as “your Lord” but “the Lord.” She has genuine FAITH in him.
II. Rahab Pleads With the Spies (v. 8-14)
Because of those things which have happened, Rahab pleads with the spies. Saying this:
11 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. 12 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 13 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.”
14 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.”
Look at the faith of these spies! They know that it is not IF the Lord will give them the land, but WHEN the Lord will give them the land. And they see God’s plan to use Rahab to save them.
Now here, what is particularly interesting is that Rahab asks not only for her own salvation from the destruction coming to the city, but also for her family.
In the New Testament we have “household baptisms” where, starting with a single person, the whole household comes into the church. For example, When Paul and Silas were miraculously released from jail in Acts 16, the Philippian jailer called out to them “Sirs what must I do to be saved.” And they said “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And we find that “he was baptized at once, he and all his family.”
There Paul and Silas spoke the word to all who were in his house, so that they may also have come to believe. But in our account in Joshua there is nothing about the family of Rahab believing in the Lord. They are not even in the same house. Rahab lives apart from her family. But they are saved solely because Rahab has asked for them to be saved.
And perhaps as a prostitute she has been disowned or distanced from her family. Yet, look at how she loves them, risking her situation by asking for more from the spies. “Save me AND my family.”
While Rahab’s story by no means proves the case for infant baptism, it does show another example of that representation principle we find throughout the Scriptures. Adam, the first man is the representative for all mankind in his sin. Christ is the representative for all sinners on the cross. And Rahab is the representative for her family, they all being saved from the Israelite army through her faith.
What should we make of this? Well, as Rahab has pleaded with the Israelite spies, so we should pray to the Lord for the salvation of our families. And I know many of you do so. And it is the greatest burden on our heart to know that our family members come to faith in Christ. Let us consider the story of Rahab as showing that our prayers are not empty; the Lord may hear our prayers as He heard Rahab’s.
III. Rahab Assists in the Escape of the Spies (v. 15-24)
So then, Rahab doesn’t just then sit around, but she assists in the escape of the spies, doing her part to keep the bargain with them.
15 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. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.”
The spies then promise to keep their part of the deal. They tell Rahab to tie a scarlet cord in the window so that they know which place not to attack, but to save.
Rahab, like Noah with his family in the Ark, then is to bring her whole family into her house that they might be saved. If there were any disagreements between her and her parents, they must be overlooked given the circumstances. You can imagine Rahab pleading with her family to come to her house or be killed.
Much has been made of the scarlet cord. The color immediately reminds us of blood, and especially of the blood of the lamb on the mantel of the door at the passover, and of the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ necessary for our salvation. But in the story the scarlet cord is colored, it seems, to give an obvious visual to distinguish Rahab’s house from the others. I suspect a certain about of parallelomania, overdoing the parallels, among the commentators on this passage. No doubt we are saved by the blood of Jesus. But the Scriptures nowhere explicitly make that analogy with the scarlet cord.
There is even the further analogy made that a “scarlet cord” of blood runs throughout the Bible. This is a bigger stretch. No doubt there are many stories “weaving” through the scriptures that speak of the necessity of blood for salvation, but the Scriptures itself do not directly connect this with the scarlet cord of Rahab.
We should, I believe, above all else in this story focus on the element of faith. It is through FAITH that Rahab is saved.
IV. Parallels in Your Life.
The New Testament in fact says of Rahab: “BY FAITH Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
That is the emphasis for Rahab. FAITH.
The Grace of God came upon her, giving her faith which brought her salvation, both of earthly deliverance from the soldiers of Israel and salvation from the wrath of God. We know that she was eternally saved because the book of James speaks of her as justified through a faith that works and because Rahab is included in the great heroes of the faith there in the book of Hebrews and also among the very genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. The Lord had mercy on Rahab, through faith, even though she was a sinner.
It is from this point that we have our “point of departure” or consideration of our own circumstances.
While there are not armies presently at our gate, sin and the devil are constant foes, and the wrath of God looms over us as the Day of the Lord inevitably approaches.
Shall we burn in the destruction of the city like those of Jericho, or be saved through faith like Rahab and her family?
Simply, this is the question: do you have FAITH in the Lord?
“BY FAITH Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
And BY FAITH you will not perish eternally but have eternal life.
I want to ask you this:
When you hear the story of Rahab, where do you place yourself? You do you “see yourself as?” I’m assuming you aren’t on the side of the King of Jericho. Perhaps you think about what you’d do in the position of the spies. Or perhaps you follow the narrator in the place of omniscience, not viewing yourself as any one of the characters particularly.
Yet, I want you to consider this story as if you are Rahab. Indeed Rahab is a picture of us all; all of us who are sinners.
We are surrounded by the sinful city; we need deliverance from it. But it is like traffic, not only are you “in traffic,” you ARE traffic.” There are cars all around, and you are among them. Likewise, there are sinners all around and you are one of them.
And the judgment of God is coming; not in the armies against Jericho but in His coming on the Last Day when all shall be judged. The judgment of God is coming.
Rahab, by God’s grace was given faith and salvation. WE likewise need the grace of God and that saving faith by which it is taken hold of.
If you don’t view yourself as a sinner, I urge you to reconsider.
Because the Lord saves SINNERS.
Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
And, he said, “Its not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Luke 5:31 NIV)
The story of Rahab is a story of us. Each one of us.
More precisely, it is a story of God’s saving one who is a sinner like us.
So when we hear this passage, or read this passage, we might say, “The Lord saved Rahab, the Lord can save me, wretched that I am.”
“But,” many say, “I sin too much.”
This is the struggle many have. Many people find themselves struggling with the assurance of salvation because of how sinful they have been and how sinful they remain. So the Lord in his providence has given us many sinful characters in the Scriptures; sinful characters who were saved by the grace of God, so that we may know that our salvation is DESPITE our sins. Indeed, God saves us by grace through faith despite our sins.
Rahab is a prostitute. Her sin was not a one time thing. She sinned regularly. She was known for her sin. And in her culture perhaps it was even acceptable. Certainly it was more acceptable in the Canaanite world than in the Israelite world.
But the Lord saved her DESPITE her sin.
And we don’t find anyone else in Jericho saying “I believe” except Rahab the harlot. Who would have guessed? The sinner is saved. This shows us that salvation is of the Lord, not of the person, of the sinner.
While unbelievers will tell you they’re pretty good, ask a genuine Christian, and they’ll tell you they are wretched. And so the Christian loves the Lord so much because the Lord has loved them and saved them despite their sin. And that is the only kind of love that is real; a love of us even though we are sinners.
So like Rahab we should say “I know the Lord is in control.” “And I fear the Lord.” And we should cry out to Him for salvation. For it is only in Jesus Christ that salvation is found.
Grace is amazing because it has saved a wretch like.
A sinner saved through faith. Rahab. You. And me.
Let us then conclude with this powerful statement from the book of Acts, summarizing the main point of all that has preceded: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.