Live Audio recoding of Lessons and Sermon:
Sermon Text: Joshua 2:8-21
Date: September 6 & 7, 2014
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Joshua 2:8–21 (NIV84)
Before the spies lay down for the night, [Rahab] went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”
“Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Now she had said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
Christ Is for All
1. Let that bring you comfort
2. Let that drive your sharing
This is perhaps one of those stories that you vaguely remember from Sunday School, Rahab and the spies. Perhaps it’s been a long while since we considered the full implications of what this account means for our faith life and our evangelism. As we see Rahab interact with these envoys from Israel, we’re reminded of the important lesson that Christ is for all.
We join the nation of Israel about 40 years after we left them last Sunday. Last Sunday we saw them on the run from Pharaoh as God had brought them out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea so that they could cross over on dry ground and used that same sea to wipe out the army that was coming to get them. After some time at Mount Sinai where they received God’s Law, the Israelites journeyed to the Promised Land. They stood on the border of the land God had promised to give over to them freely. They sent in spies to check it out, and the report they returned with was mixed. While the land was indeed as good and prosperous as God had said it would be, the people there were strong and cities well fortified. Seemingly forgetting all that God had done to rescue them from Egypt, the people decided that they could not take this land and even began to wish to head back to Egypt.
God’s anger against his people was serious. He sentenced the generation of adults to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they had all passed away and then the new generation would arrive to take possession of the land he had promised to hand over to them. We join Israel after those 40 years had passed and they are standing, once again, at the border of the Promised Land. They have once again sent spies in to check the place out, only this time, they’re going to do what God tells them and trust that he will give them the victory.
Joshua, who is now leading Israel in place of Moses who had died, sent two spies to check our the city of Jericho, a heavily fortified city. The spies find refuge in the home of a prostitute, Rahab, and she gives them shelter. The king of Jericho is terrified of these spies’ presence for he knows what God has done for his people in the past and even much more recently. In the verses prior to our lesson he demands of Rahab, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land” (Joshua 2:3). Rahab lied to protect the spies and said that they had already gone, fled from the city, but to where she did not know. All the while, she had hidden the spies under stalks of flax that she had on the roof. Men went out of the city to seek out the spies and the gate of the city was closed.
Something amazing is revealed, though, as Rahab talks with the spies in our lesson this morning. She’s not only concerned about what will happen to her and to her family when Israel tears through the land, though that is a huge concern. No, Rahab has become convinced of something else. She says, “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” At a time of local deities and small, false gods, Rahab comes to realize that the God of Israel is something more, something better. He’s not a simple god of wood or stone, but he is the God of heaven and earth. And even though she is not Jewish, she is confident that this God, and by extension his people, will have mercy on her. God’s reputation has preceded him, both in his power and his compassion. Rahab’s impassioned pleas to the spies for her safety and the safety of her family are pleas to God as well.
We might be quick to dismiss someone who is a prostitute or involved in other work or lifestyles that we deem unsavory. There are real, serious problems with a lifestyle wrapped up in sin. But no sin is too much for the grace and forgiveness of God.
Maybe we’ve felt like Rahab. Maybe we’ve felt like we needed to plead our case to God to help us, to rescue us. I know that there have been times for all of us where we feel like our sins are too much. I’ve messed up too many times, maybe in the same way, and God’s patience is surely going to run out. Satan likes to take our sins—the very sins that he encourages so much—and use them as “evidence” that we are not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness and thus we have no hope.
Satan is right about one thing, whether you’re a prostitute living in Jericho or someone sitting in a church on a Sunday morning in 21st century America, you do not deserve God’s love; you do not deserve God’s forgiveness. I don’t, you don’t, none of us do, no one does. We’ve sinned against God, perhaps not as a prostitute, but have we let lust dance in our heart? We’ve probably never taken someone’s life, but we’ve probably let anger burn against someone else. By nature, we’re in no better position to ask anything of God than Rahab was—and Satan knows it.
And that’s when God’s grace has to break through our helplessness and rescue us. It had already done that for Rahab. There was no question in her mind that Israel’s God was the true God. And she had hope, trust, faith in that God’s mercy. So as she pleads with the spies and receives their assurance of protection, she receives it from God as well.
God’s grace breaks through our wall of sin. We contribute nothing to our relationship with God; he does it all. We bring nothing but sin and rebellion and he, for Jesus’ sake, brings forgiveness. There is no doubt, my brothers and sister, that God has forgiven your sin. Jesus’ death paid for it all—even that sin that your conscience likes to scream about. It’s over, it’s gone. Christ is for all, even for you. Through his work, we leave our sin behind.
What a relief! What joy! What gladness fills our hearts every time we think about God’s unending love for us. It’s shocking that he could love and forgive someone like me, someone like you, but he does. And then he says to each of us, as we rejoice in his love, “I’ve done the same thing for the world. Go and tell. Go and share. Go and show them the forgiveness, the love, the heaven that stands waiting for them.
But maybe sometimes that mission gives us pause. Have you ever opted not to share Jesus because you thought it was a waste of time? It probably wasn’t discrimination based on gender, or race, or anything like that. But perhaps you just thought, “No, that person won’t listen. That person has closed his or her heart. He or she doesn’t want to hear anything that I have to say.” And in that moment we’ve just been guilty of saying that Christ is not for all. He may be for everyone else, but not for that person. And why? Because we decided that we didn’t want to share him with them. We decided that Christ was not for them.
God forgive us for thinking that somehow, someway, we can determine the people for whom Jesus died and those for whom he did not! There’s nothing to “figure out.” He died for all! He paid for all sin! We don’t know who will listen and who will reject, so we just share the message with everyone with whom we have the opportunity to speak.
Rahab was probably not the most likely candidate for an evangelism discussion. She was employed in an unsavory, sinful profession. She wasn’t Jewish; she was a Gentile living in a pagan land. And yet, here is God’s grace working. Here is the power of his Word converting what we might call an unlikely heart back to himself. Through the testimony about this God, he brings his daughter back to himself.
And what happened to Rahab? She and her family were spared when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. In fact, something much more amazing than being one of the few native survivors of that desolation happened. She left her old life and joined with the people of Israel. If we take a look in Matthew’s Gospel, the first chapter, we find a genealogy. There we read, “Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David” (Matthew 1:4-6). This prostitute who made the decision to save the spies life, this woman of ill-repute that in our human way of thinking might have been labeled as “unworthy” of God’s truth, was not only spared, but she is in the family line of King David! And by being in the family line of King David, that means she is a direct ancestor of Jesus.
Let nothing hinder you from cherishing and finding comfort in this message. Let nothing hinder you from sharing this message. Let no presuppositions or preconceived notions stop you from sharing God’s Word. Christ is for you. Christ is for me. Christ is for all. Thanks be to God! Amen.