Advent Faith and Rahab

Rahab.by EmilyIntro

This is the second week of advent. Advent is a season in the church calendar when we observe a time of expectation on the arrival of Jesus’ birth.  And as I mentioned last week, this year at The Table we are going to set up a dialog, of sorts, between the attributes of faith in Christ (hope, peace, joy, faith) and the women on His genealogy.  In Matthew’s gospel, he lists 5 women in a genealogy dominated by men.  We’re asking ourselves as we wait for Jesus to come again, how can these women teach us this Advent season?  Last week we began with a dialog between the Advent attribute of hope and the life of Tamar.  Next week we’ll dialog w/ Ruth and the attribute of love, and we’ll end w/ the toughest dialog b/t Bathsheba and the attribute of Peace.  This week we’ll dialog w/ Rahab, from Joshua 2, and the Advent attribute of Faith.

 

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As you begin to look at Joshua 2, I want you to consider life in the town of Jericho.  Rahab was a resident of this city.  We’re told in our passage that the people of Jericho heard of all that God had done for His people, rescuing them from an oppressive Egyptian society, rescuing them by a natural miracle of parting the Red Sea.  And now God was moving w/ His people as they conquered the land God was giving them.  From the perspective of Rahab living in Jericho, she knew things were not going to continue as they had been.  Fear was gripping the city.  The things they trusted in were failing them, and she needed a savior.

I wonder if you are seeing parallels b/t these feelings, and our own world.  Our culture seems to be driven by fear.  I remember watching a late night news program recently.  The 1st story was on Americans being targeted abroad by terrorists; I thought I’m not leaving the USA.  The next story was on the new phenomenon called “Knockout,” where folks head out and attempt to knock out unsuspecting people on the street; I thought to myself, I’m not leaving the house.  Then the last story was on bedbugs and termites invading and destroying homes; and, I thought, I can’t stay at home.  Our culture drives fear.  Conveniently, in between all these news stories were commercials for products promising to satisfy and comfort.  In the face of fear, these commercials told me (essentially), that all would be better if I bought the new car, that I could get away from it all by using a fruity shampoo, and that I could find relief from it all w/ a “The Nightime, Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing, Aching, Stuffyhead, Fever, So-I-Can-Rest Medicine.” I know that all these promises and more are not trustworthy.  I know that in the midst of it all the world is still broken, unjust, and screaming for a redeemer.  Maybe you agree w/ me that our world in not much different from Jericho.  Maybe you relate to Rahab in this, and see the need for help.  But how can this happen?  What can you trust in for relief from the coming storm, and the present fear?  Is there a place for trust and faith in the midst of fear?

w/ that in mind, look at Joshua 2 w/ me, and imagine yourself in Rahab’s shoes.  As we read this together, begin that dialog in your head b/t the place of faith in your life and the life of Rehab.  Here, Israel is on the road of conquest… “Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.” This is a nice first for these guys, right? Why’d they do this? We should know that Rehab’s house was probably mostly functioning as an inn or tavern, and this doesn’t necessarily mean the spies were being naughty.

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 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.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “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, they 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, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

She lies to her king and hides the spies.  Why’d she do this?  She knew her city’s fate, and, she knew the things she was told to trust in were not secure.  She made a decision not to follow a false narrative of hope.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land 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. 10 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.  11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Here we see the contrast of faith and fear.  They, as a city, had heard of all the Lord had done for His people.  The city on a whole could did not have a place for hope in the face of God’s power.  Their walls would not hold God back.  Their comforts were not good enough, so fear saturates and drives their culture.  Rahab hears this news and has faith that God will continue w/ His purposes.  The only hope she sees is turning to God, rather than trusting in false securities and fear.

12 “[She continues] 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 13 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.”  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.”

Do you hear the faith in their voices, saying we promise, if you promise?

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She 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.”  17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 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. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” 21 “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.

Do you hear her words of hope and faith? “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.”  They trusted her.  She said stay 3 days, and they stayed 3 days.  They trusted her and she proved trustworthy. “23 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. 24 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.”

From here the Israelites cross the Jordan river, in Joshua 3.  The people make a marker of God’s faithfulness in crossing into the promised land, in Joshua 4.  The people recommit themselves to the covenant of God, via circumcision, in Joshua 5.  And in Joshua 6, God conquers Jericho.  Joshua 6:24-25 says, 24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.”  Rahab was good on her promises, and the spies were good on theirs.

God used the faith of a prostitute to help fulfill His promises, and her faith was well known from that day forth.  In Hebrews 11, Rahab is listed as a member of the hall of faith.  In James 2, James uses Rahab as an example of faith and works.  He says, 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

 

Difference

God used the faith of a prostitute to help fulfill His promises. God delivered those who trusted in Him, and not the false narratives of hope.  By saving the spies, Rahab proclaims her faith and trust in God’s power to save, and Rahab is delivered.  In this we glean that rebellion against God is death, while faith in God brings life. Faith in God brings life.

At Advent, faith and trust are attributes we elevate.  I believe Rahab in included in Jesus’ genealogy to point us to Him.  Just as Rahab chose not to rely on false promises of false securities, we are called to not respond to the false promises around us, the “Nightime, Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing, Aching, Stuffyhead, Fever, So-we-Can-Rest Medicines.”  Jesus says I came so that they might have life and have it to the full.  That is a promise fulfilled.  By taking our sins upon His shoulders and dying on a cross, death, sin and false hopes are put to death.  By rising from the dead, life and freedom are released.  These promises are real and have been fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.

Like Rahab, we sit in our own Jericho.  The walls around us promise security and satisfaction, but they have a weak foundation, and will fall down.  So the question is, what will you do?  What will you put your hope and faith in this season?  Faith in Jesus rescues us.  The promises of Jesus have been fulfilled and are trustworthy.  So may we rest in greater assurance of His promises as we look forward to the day when Jesus will return again and set all things right.

Amen.

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