The Israelites were on the verge of entering the Promised Land. After wandering for 40 years in the desert, the time was finally ripe. With God protecting them, the Israelites had made short work of two powerful kings named Sihon and Og. Now, The Israelites planned to defeat the city of Jericho and gain a strong foothold in the land of Canaan. From there they would be able to spread out and seize the rest of Canaan.
In our account for today, the Israelites camped several miles away from Jericho. Their leader, Joshua, wants to be as efficient as possible when taking over the land so he sends out a couple of spies. They survey the surrounding area and then head into Jericho to gain some information. As soon as they enter the town of Jericho, they make their way to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and lodge there.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I want to quick answer the question, “Why would the spies go right to the house of a prostitute?” The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why, but I think we can come up with some good ideas. Why do you think the people of Israel would go to a house of a prostitute other than for the regular reasons? Some answers could include 1. It’s a good place to go undercover as travelers probably go there fairly often. 2. It’s a great place for a quick escape (located in the city wall). 3. It’s probably a great place to get rumors and information. 4. We can’t rule out that the Lord led them there to meet Rahab. Whatever, the reasons the spies could very well have only good intentions being at the prostitutes house.
Somehow, word leaks out to the king there are two spies within the city walls of Jericho and those spies are at Rahab’s. The king immediately sends soldiers over there to find them. The spies were probably freaking out. “What are we going to do? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO!? There is nowhere for us to go and the soldiers are going to KILL us OR WORSE!!!” Rahab rushes them upstairs to the roof of her house where some flax is drying out (something normal back then) and hides them under it. She then heads back to the door and lets the soldiers in. She exclaims, “Quick, the spies are getting away! They ran out in the dark and escaped the city before the gates closed.” The moment was tense. A sneeze or a cough from the spies would have ruined everything. The soldiers may have even looked suspiciously at the stalks of flax. Then considering time was of the essence, the soldiers bounded out of the house in hot pursuit of where they thought the spies would go. They bought Rahab’s lie.
Then Rahab goes up to have a little chat with the spies from Israel and tells them some very important information. She says,” 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.” It was at this moment the spies knew God was going to grant them victory. He had struck fear into the hearts of even those within the famed walls of Jericho. They could not wait to get back to their commander, Joshua, and tell him the good news. But Rahab wasn’t done talking and the next words out of her mouth are truly surprising. She says,” for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” The silence must have been deafening. The spies probably looked at each other for a couple seconds, at a complete loss of words, thinking, “Did she really just say that?” Here is this woman, in the midst of a pagan city, which, by the way, wants to completely devastate the people of Israel, and she is professing words of faith in the one true God. This is mind-boggling! We are definitely going to talk about this more later, but there is still a bit more to tell first. Rahab then pulls another jaw-dropping statement out of her mouth. “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.” To understand the gravity of this statement, you have to remember, Rahab is protected by these fantastic walls in the city of Jericho. How could they possibly fail to protect her? And yet, Rahab, in her faith, knows God will be able to break down the walls of Jericho. She, a pagan in a foreign nation, even more, a prostitute in a godless nation, is asking to join God’s chosen people. She knows who her God is and what he is capable of. God wants all people to be saved if they can be so the two spies know how to answer without hesitation. They basically say, “Welcome to God’s people. Just tie this scarlet cord to the window of your house so that all the Israelites know not to hurt you or your family when we take this city.”
To make a long story shorter, Rahab then helped the spies escape and they snuck back to Joshua, their commander, to tell him everything that had happened. You probably know the rest of the story. A short while later, the mighty walls of Jericho crumbled before nothing other than a shout from the Israelites, all because God’s power was backing it. From our sermon text for today, we see Rahab and her entire family were spared because of her faith in the Lord almighty. And they lived among the Israelites and became a part of God’s people.
There are two really strong points in this story: Grace and faith. Rahab needs the grace/mercy. She had nestled in one of the most sinful nations of the world and she was a prostitute. She had done some unspeakable things. If anyone should ever have the label sinner stamped on them, it was she. Yet, God had mercy on her. God gave her faith and used that to steer her away from her sin. She didn’t deserve anything. Yet, she was saved from Jericho with the scarlet cord being a sign for the Israelites. Then she was accepted into the people of God. She married and was even included in the lineage of Jesus, the lineage of our Savior himself. God was certainly good to her. We’d expect the Bible to tell us not to be like her because she had so many sins against her, but instead the Bible holds her up as an example to us all because of her faith.
We see Rahab’s faith was incredibly strong. It was so strong, she trusted God above her own people. It was so strong, she trusted God above her physical senses, knowing he could topple the city walls with a single word. It was so strong, she trusted God could save her and her whole family from the walls crumbling around them. Somewhere in there she must have heard the word of God and the Holy Spirit worked in her a faith so strong that she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the LORD above was the one true God. It’s amazing. She’s mentioned for her faith not only in the book of Joshua, but also among the great examples of faith in the book of James and the book of Hebrews. This is the faith that holds onto the promises of God. This is the faith that holds on to a hope of a Savior who makes her clean in God’s eyes. This is a faith that shows itself through action. This is the faith we ought to have.
Yet, we don’t always have that strong of faith, do we? We have our own giant walls of sin we need God to break us out of. It’s like we are trapped in Jericho, but here’s the real kicker. Sometimes we don’t want to get out. We like our sins so much. We don’t trust that God knows what is best in our lives or that he can safely remove us from our mistakes and addictions. We tell ourselves, “I just need that one more thing for our house...I NEED IT!” or just one last time I’ll indulge myself in that sin. Then I’ll be done forever...at least, until next time. Rahab was a prostitute, but we are the ones who have prostituted our hearts. One look at Rahab, and we quickly see we need God’s grace/mercy just as much, if not more, than she did. Lord give us a faith like hers!
The Savior does not leave you a captive in the walls of sin. He offers you a way out in the way of a crimson cord. The Savior offers his blood as the crimson cord. He offered it on a cross once for all people of all time. With his death, he crushed the walls of sin around us and gave us a way out from it. Even now as we spend time in his Word and worship him, he sends the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. He makes us a new creation that no longer has to prostitute ourselves behind walls of sin. We are free in the name of the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are now free to be a part of his people. We are free to join in his ministry.
Rahab is a beautiful story that shows God’s mercy to a sinner who turns into a strong stalwart of faith. Our story is the same. God has mercy on us by snatching us from the precipice of sin through Jesus. He continues to pour out his mercy on us as we too grow in our faith, just like Rahab. Amen.