Messy: The Life of Rahab

Joshua 2:1-5, 9, 12-15 NASB
1)Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. 2) It was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land." 3) And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have 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, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5) "It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them."
9)… to the men, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.
12) "Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father's household, and give me a pledge of truth, 13) and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death." 14) So the men said to her, "Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you." 15) Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall.

Ever been picked last for the team or warmed the bench (Hey - even Emmitt Smith and Brett Favre know what that is like)? Ever known what it was like to have people whisper when you walk by? Ever been the new guy or girl – wanting to make a way to have friends? Wanting to do whatever it would take to find a friend? Ever felt like an outcast?

It has been termed the oldest profession they say – certainly to talk about Rahab would be bringing up questionable materials. But lets remember something: to prostitute means for someone to sell themselves or talent for a corrupt or unworthy purpose. For Rahab, it happened to be her body but others have done the same in business, law, medicine and religion, to name a few.

So let me reiterate where we are for these 6 weeks: Life is messy.

After escaping slavery in Egypt, the Descendents of Abraham: God’s people; wandered for 40 years because of doubt and faithlessness. Life is a messy proposition for everyone even those who seek a relationship with God. After 40 years, a new generation had grown up, one of hope and faith but the Hebrews remained a people without a place to call home. But God was going to lead them.

They were a nation who were outcasts among nations because they had no land.

And Rahab would have been an outcast among her own people.

So it only seems right that a nation of outcasts would find their way to the home of one. And when Rahab tells the spies that everyone was hearing the stories and were afraid, she new what it was like. As an outcast, she had already been a friend to fear and she was probably not a stranger to regret, pain and anger, either.

Winston Churchill said, “People occasionally stumble over the truth but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.” I found it interesting in getting to know Rahab, that many writers wanted to focus on Rahab’s “treachery” to her own people.

Excuse me? Who was more treacherous? A society that said it was okay for her to be an outcast of the community? A society that saw people as objects to take advantage of? A culture that cared nothing for justice? Those who want to focus on Rahab’s treachery tend to stumble over the truth and take off.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over her treachery. And those who make much of her treachery, fail to notice the truth of the story of Rahab:
1. She noticed God was behind the victories of the Hebrew people.
2. One who was likely an outcast even of her own family, cared enough to include them.
3. She acknowledges God as over all – a God who is a God even over outcasts.
4. She acted based on what she’d seen, learned and experienced. She put her life in the hands of God.

Rahab became one of five women included in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, 3 of whom were not Hebrew and had their own messy stories. But that isn’t all. The writer of Hebrews tells us: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:31 NASB).” And my favorite author James relays his thoughts that, “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:25 NASB)”

Passing judgement based on past actions and without considering present reality can be a dangerous course. There was a juvenile court judge who had a very unusual experience during the course of one of his trials. An elderly man who owned a watermelon patch had caught a boy stealing a melon and had him arrested. When the time came for the trial, the man made his complaint to the court, after which the judge turned to the boy and said, "Son, what do you have to say for yourself?" The boy looked up at the judge with questioning eyes and answered, "Judge, did you ever steal a watermelon when you were a kid ‘cause you were hungry?" The judge was somewhat startled at the turn of events, dropped his head into his hand for a few moments of thought, and finally responded, "No cross-examination of the court allowed. The case is dismissed."

I know that in the lives around this sacred space, it is possible to have feelings of condemnation. Life and religion has taught condemnation, that there isn’t a place for you. You know what it is to be the outcast. But I am not the judge, I am in no position to condemn. Yes, God is and we’re right to be fearful about what God could do…but then we miss an important idea: God doesn’t serve only as a judge – he is also Father. There is one verse that is too often forgotten in the shadow of John 3:16 – one that reveals more of God’s character than our own -

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17 ESV) -

Before you and I felt what it was like to be an outcast – Rahab lived it. She lived in the mess but she saw the truth. She experienced God’s free gift of grace and lived by faith in the midst of the mess. And her life, in the midst of the mess, says there is hope – for the world of outcasts.

Click here for link to the podcast.
P.S. - I always write out my sermons but don't preach from them so they aren't going to be identical. Loving Life!


lori said...

Pastor Ken...
Loved it! Rahab sure can teach us A LOT, huh...
Messy lives...aren't they all?

Loving this series! Oh, and I can't wait to have a sit down someday with James fave...I just LOVE what comes out in that book:)

Thanks for putting these out there!

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