Sunday, January 18, 2009

Matt's Messages "Rahab's Rescue"

“Rahab’s Rescue”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
January 18, 2009
Joshua 2:1-24

What was the message that God had for us last week in Joshua chapter 1?

“Be Strong and Courageous!”

A number of you have told me that that was just what you needed to hear (and to do) this last week. Be Strong And Courageous!

Joshua, the son of Nun, has become the leader of the nation of Israel who are camped right across the Jordan River from the land that was promised to them by the LORD Himself.

And Joshua has been given his marching orders. The forty years of discipline are over. The people of Israel are now to get ready to cross over and conquer the land of Canaan. God is giving the Promised Land to the promised people.

And to do this, Joshua needs to be strong and courageous, and so do the people of Israel, do we.

Now, in chapter 2, before they get going, there is an adventure to narrate.

Joshua 2 would make great scenes in an adventure movie.

General Joshua is going to send two men on a secret mission of espionage that will result in what I’m going to call: “Rahab’s Rescue.”

Does that sound mysterious and adventurous?

Now, we probably all know this story already. So, let’s pretend that we don’t.

While we read it slowly and carefully, let’s pretend like at each step we don’t know how this mission is going to end. Okay?

Like it’s our first time to discover Rahab’s Rescue.

Joshua chapter 2, verse 1.

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’” Stop there for a second.

General Joshua sends two men on a little mission of reconnaissance. They are to go look over the land, especially the Jericho.

Now, remember, pretend that you don’t know what happens to Jericho.

Jericho is a big city for that day (about 9-10 acres, surrounded by a 15 foot thick wall with oodles of people teeming inside of it). And Jericho is in the center of Canaan, not too far across the Jordan from Shittim, where Joshua’s base-camp is located.

Notice that Joshua has learned a few things (probably through personal experience) about how to and how not to send a reconnaissance mission.

Two spies, not twelve.

“Check out the land, especially Jericho. And go secretly. Bring this report back to my ears only.”

There is not going to be another Retreat of Unbelief.

Commander Joshua probably wants to know what the fortifications are like, where the different strengths and weaknesses are of the militaries of Canaan, and if there is any talk right now about Israel and her plans.

And off they went. The two spies probably swam the river and then went North of Jericho and approached the city from the West. And they tried to slip into the city unawares. Second part of verse 1.

“So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”

Now, don’t read too much into their choice of a place a stay. Her house probably served a lot of purposes, not just the sex-trade, though that detail is meant to raise your eyebrow. Rahab’s home probably served as a kind of hotel or an inn for travelers–at natural place to stay, and a natural place to get information.

However, these two spies, no matter how brave, weren’t that good at being sneaky! V.2

“The king of Jericho was told, ‘Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’”

Uh oh. They are found out, maybe on the first day of their mission.

Someone has identified them and noted where they are planning to stay.

And they’ve already told the king of the city. V.3

“So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’”

This is Rahab’s chance to shine. She can get a public commendation from our own king!

Here is her chance to get the reward money and be seen as the most loyal member of her community.

What must those Israelite men think as they hear the hew and cry in the city?

They probably expect to be killed. They don’t expect shelter and support from a pagan prostitute!

But that’s exactly what they get. Rahab has already gotten wind of the danger that they are in. V.4

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said [the king’s men], ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.’ (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan (East of Jericho), and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.”

Can you see the movie scenes?

The mad dash from the king to Rahab. The blank look on her face as she lies to the king’s men. The men bolting out to the gate just as it closes, in hot pursuit of the spies.

And then, when the coast seemed clear, Rahab goes up to the roof and talks to the two men hidden under the flax.

What must have crossed through their minds at this point?

They are still very much in danger. They are locked in to the city. And they are at Rahab’s mercy.

Of course, she’s in danger now, too. She has just lied to the king’s men.

But she has something very different in mind. V.8

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the LORD [capital LORD, Yahweh, Israel’s God] 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 [that was 40 years ago!], and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed [Numbers chapter 21].”

“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.”

Do you think that the Israelite spies ever expected a Canaanite to say that to them? I sure don’t!

Rahab is confessing that she believes that the LORD is God!

Baal, Ashteroth, Chemosh, Molech–they are not God. V.11

“The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

She believes! Rahab has faith.

And it’s working itself out in deeds.

Rahab is in the middle of rescuing these Israelites. But she wants rescued, too. V.12

“Now then, please swear to me by the LORD [YHWH] 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.’”

I don’t think these men had to think about this one for very long. V.14

“‘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. [That is, head East instead of West.] 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. [That’s the deal.] 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.” V.22

“When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, ‘The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.’”

Again, wouldn’t this make great scenes in an action movie?

The men repelling down the side of the wall? The woman tying that scarlet cord in the window, a sign that only she and they knew what it meant.

Camping out three nights East in the hills, with Jericho still between them and the River.

And then fording the rushing river again and reporting back to Joshua with good news. Exciting!

I still remember, as a small boy first hearing this story told with a flannelgraph in my second grade classroom, the men hidden under stalks of flax, the men escaping through the window. Very exciting.

But what does it mean for us today?

What is the take-home lesson?

Last week, it was “Be Strong and Courageous.” And I suppose we could get that out of this story, as well. But the strongest person and most courageous person in this story is a pretty unlikely one–Rahab herself.

And there is someone even more important in Joshua 2, isn’t there?

Who is the Main Character of the Book of Joshua?


This week, as I read over this very familiar story, I was struck by the fact, that I seldom think about the God of Joshua 2.

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read this chapter and tried to answer the question, “Who is the God of Joshua chapter 2?” “Who is the God of Rahab’s Rescue?”

Let me suggest four things we can see about God in Joshua 2 that are very applicable to us today.

Here’s number one. They all begin with “S.”


I never noticed this before, but what are the chances of the two spies meeting up, in about one day, with the one person in all of Jericho who has come to believe that the LORD is the one true God and is willing and able to rescue them from the king’s men?

What are the chances?

Do you think it “just so happened” that they connected with Rahab?

Nothing “just so happens.” The LORD is sovereign.

Now, the Lord would have been just as sovereign had He allowed the men to die. He’s in charge, not us. But when He wants to do something, including getting timely information to Joshua, rescuing these men, and rescuing Rahab and her family, nothing can stop Him from accomplishing His will.

The LORD is sovereign.

I know that some of us in this room today need to hear that. All of us need to hear it regularly, but of some of us are going through difficulties right now that you can’t see your way out of. There doesn’t seem to be any hope.

You feel like you’re trapped in a prostitute’s hotel and your enemy knows where you are.

The LORD is sovereign.

The LORD, if you are a Christian, is your Father! And He is sovereignly working out every single detail of your life (including the painful and confusing details) to His glory and your good.

Take heart. The LORD is sovereign.

Two weeks ago, we meditated on Proverbs 3:5&6. “Trust in the LORD with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

The LORD is sovereign. Your Lord is sovereign.


Hear me out on this.

What is the primary emotion running through Jericho right now?

It’s fear, isn’t it?

V.9 “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.”

V.10 “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea [The Red Sea Rescue! They’ve probably heard what happened to the LORD’s enemies there, too.], and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.”

V.11 “When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed becuaes of you...”

V.24, “All the people are melting in fear because of us.”

And that’s because of Yahweh!

He’s scarey.
He’s powerful.
He’s holy.
He’s just.
He’s wrathful.

And they are quaking in their boots.

Canaan is quivering in fear.

And right they should be.

The Bible says that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The people living in Canaan at this time were thoroughly wicked. Their sin had reached such a degree, that the time had become ripe for judgment to fall.

In the book of Genesis chapter 15 (some of you have recently read it), God told Abraham that his people would come back to Canaan when the sins of the Amorites had reached their full measure.

That’s here. That’s now.

And judgment is coming.

Joshua is a book of judgment. It’s a book of God’s holy wrath poured out on wicked men for their denial of a holy God.

Canaan was scared, and well they should be.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Friend, this is just as true today.

Not that Christians are called to kill unbelievers, no, but that God is still holy and wrathful against sin.

And if you persist in unbelief and rebellion against God, there will be a day of reckoning coming–a day you cannot escape.

The Bible says “Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” [1 Thessalonians 1]

You need to be ready for that day.

And if you aren’t, you should be scared.

Here’s how to be ready, how to flee from the wrath to come:

Turn from your sins, and trust in the Savior.

Turn from (repent of) your sins, your rebellion against God.
And trust (believe in, hope in, place your faith in) the Savior, Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for you, in your place.

Jesus absorbed the holy wrath of God for all those who believe in Him.

You don’t have to be scared.

Come in and turn and trust in Jesus.

He will not disappoint.

This story is a story of judgment. But it’s just as much and much more a story of mercy.

It’s a rescue story, isn’t it?

The Israelites rescued, and surprisingly enough, Rahab herself rescued.


And by that, I mean: surprisingly, shockingly gracious!

Who would have ever thought that Rahab would be saved?

She was a pagan.
She was a Canaanite.
She worshiped other gods.
She was a prostitute and all of what that means.
She lived in a wicked city.

Who would have ever guessed that this woman would be the instrument God used to save these spies?

And more than that, that she would believe in the One True God?

She was a Canaanite Convert to the Lord!

How do we know that?

Two things: Her Confession of Faith and Her Actions.

Look again at the amazing thing she says about the LORD in verse 11.

“for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.”

She could lose her life for saying that. But she believes it.

And she believes it enough to act on it.

She hides and rescues the men. Now, she does it with a lie. Is there ever a right time to tell a lie?

I’m not sure. Maybe in times of war, and they were definitely at war.

But the LORD sure does delight in the truth–so that it’s hard to imagine a right time to lie.

Of course, I don’t know what I would do in her situation. I can’t judge her very harshly.

And whether or not her lie was the right thing at that moment or not, her actions in hiding and helping the spies were the right thing to do!

And she did it, because she believed.

She was switching allegiances. And it mattered in how she acted.

That’s why she put that scarlet cord in her window. Because she believed.

Do you know that the New Testament makes a big deal of her faith and deeds in two different places?

In the book of James, she is commended (not for lying per se) but for welcoming the spies and helping them out. And she is seen as a model of faith working itself out in deeds.

True faith always does.

True faith always works.

If you know someone who says that they believe, but their life doesn’t show it...then you have to doubt that they really do.

Saving faith always works itself out in righteous actions.

Not perfectly but inevitably.

And the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, names Rahab as a woman of faith. There are only two women named in Hebrews 11 by name. Sarah (mother of faith) and Rahab–the pagan prostitute!

This woman had faith.

Isn’t that surprising?

Isn’t God surprising in whom He loves and whom He saves?

The LORD loves to love unexpected people.

And to love them in unexpected ways.

He is so full of grace and mercy.

I would have looked at Rahab and said, “Yuck.”

In fact, as I was marking up a print out of this story and trying to read it with fresh eyes, that’s exactly what I put by her name in verse 1.

“The house of a prostitute named Rahab.” “Yuck.”

But that’s not what the LORD saw.

He saw that, too. He hates sin. He hates sexual sin.

But He saw more than a sexual sinner.

He saw a daughter of faith.

He saw someone that He wanted to redeem.
He saw someone that He wanted to use.
He saw someone that He wanted to rescue.
He saw someone that He wanted to save.


Now, you might be someone right now that thinks that you are outside of the limits of God’s grace.

You’re too far gone. Too messed up. Too spent and worthless and without hope.

No, you’re not. Surprise! The LORD loves you.

Trust Him and Obey Him.

Put your faith in Him and follow Him.

He loves to be gracious to most unexpected people.

Or maybe you’re struggling to love someone right now. You know it’s a dangerous thing to learn about love–you learn how hard it really is.

Is there a “Rahab” in your life that you need to love like Jesus loves?

Maybe the Lord desires to rescue that Rahab through you! I’m sure that the Israelite spies didn’t expect to do any rescuing that day.

But God had other plans. They left a solemn promise to rescue Rahab–one that will be fulfilled in chapter 6.

And it had amazing effects!

This is the most amazing one of all:

Rahab married an Israelite named Salmon who was of the tribe of Judah.

Yeah! She got married. Her life was turned around.

And they had a baby. And they named the baby: Boaz.

Does that name ring a bell? He married a foreign woman, too. Her name was: Ruth.

And they had a baby who had a baby who had a baby named David. He became the King of Israel.

And he had a baby who had a baby who had a baby, etc, etc, etc, who was named Jesus.

Rahab is in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Isn’t that surprising?!

The LORD is surprising. He’s surprisingly gracious.

Don’t doubt Him! Trust Him and follow Him.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Maybe you ladies from A Woman’s Concern need to hear that. I would imagine that some Rahab’s cross through your doors.

Maybe you should be telling us–about the surprising things that God does in women’s lives through His grace!

The LORD is surprising. He’s surprisingly gracious.

Here’s the last one. Just real quickly.

What’s the upshot of this story for Israel? It’s the good news in verse 24 that this conquest is actually going to happen–and it’s going to go well. V.24

The spies, “said to Joshua, ‘The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.’”


“The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands...”

He is faithful. The good news is that God always keeps His promises.

Everything He promised is as sure to be as it is said.

Isn’t that good news?

We can take His promises to the bank for cash every single time.

Because He’s Sovereign. No detail is outside of His grasp.
And He’s Scarey. It’s a dreadful thing to fall into His hands.
And He’s Surprising. You never really know what He’s going to do next–especially who He is going to save.
And when you trust Him, you know that He is SURE.

So, trust Him. Obey Him. Like Rahab, put your faith in Him, transfer all of your allegiance to Him, and let that guide your actions, so that you have both faith and deeds.

And He’ll get the glory.