Grace In A Strange Place
By Josh Petras on April 24, 2023
Grace In A Strange Place
By Josh Petras on April 24, 2023
We invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Joshua. Joshua, chapter 2 is where we will be tonight as we look at God's Word together. You know, sometimes, when we're familiar with something, we don't notice how strange it actually is. Sometimes, when we're familiar with something, we don't notice the strange details of the activity, or the place that we're visiting. Take, for example, college sports. Isn't it strange that grown men can have their Saturday so impacted by the athletic ability of 18- to 22-year-olds? But here we are, and we're for it, right? Or maybe you've been in the position before where you're taking your little kids to Disneyland for the first time. You're taking them to the Mouse House, and you've spent all your money, and they're going, and do you know, they're having fun, and they begin to notice things for the first time and maybe they've said stuff to you like, Dad, why are there so many adults here? This is a kid's place, right? Like, well, yeah, there's a lot; it's for kids. The adults are here to watch the kids. But dad, why are there so many adults here without kids? And you debate, do we have time to talk about America's adolescence problem and how to work through that? And you just say, well, son, it's to make the Peter Pan long line longer for you. And you just end it at that. You know, these strange details that you don't notice, because you've just gotten used to it, well, tonight, I want to look at a passage that has some surprising details, some strange details. And yet if you've grown up in church, if you're familiar with the Bible, you might not notice some of these details, because you're so familiar with this story.
The story we're talking about, of course, is Joshua, chapter 2, the story of Rahab. That's the passage I'm going to look at tonight. So, if you're there, out of respect for God's Word, I ask you to please stand for the reading of God's Word. And I want to let you know you're going to see in this passage, especially in verse 8, you'll see the capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D. If you're part of our church, you understand that the Hebrew there's the word YHWH, that's the name for God. So, if you hear me read that, don't panic, I'm just reading God's name that he's given to us. Let's read together. Joshua, chapter 2.
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out. Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “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, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 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.” And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
This is God's very Word. You may be seated. And as we consider it this evening, let's devote our time to the Lord and pray together. Heavenly Father, we are thankful for your word. We're thankful that you are from everlasting, to everlasting, our God, that your son Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that as we read this story, we're not reading about what you did one time, we're reading about who you are at all times. And so, Lord, as we were just saying, we know you're holding us fast. Help us to stand by faith. Help us to keep following you. Use your words to strengthen us tonight. We pray this in Your Son's name. Amen.
Well, we are continuing to read through the book of Joshua and the book of Joshua is categorized many different ways. Like some would say the book of Joshua, I would call that an Old Testament book, others would say, the book of Joshua, it's a historical book, because it's filled with history. But the way to properly classify the book of Joshua, as many of you know, it's classified as being among the prophets. Some will say there are former prophets and latter prophets. Joshua is a book that's written by the prophets. Now, a prophet is someone who speaks for God, and someone who speaks about God. Now, that’s going to shape our understanding of this book. Because if you just view this as a historical book, you just think, oh, it's history, and it's recorded for the sake of accuracy. Now, this book is historical. Everything that happens in the book of Joshua did actually happen, but the author is interested in more than just history. His aims are more theocentric. They're about God. They're centered on God. And what these stories are meant to do is not just to give us, you know, things to fill kids’ ministry with timewise. What these stories are meant to do is help us better understand God, and better understand who we are as the people of God, how we are supposed to act. That's what this story is supposed to do. And, and the way the biblical authors sort of highlight the big details; they use a lot of different narrative details here. They use a lot of different literary techniques to show us the main emphasis in the passage. Remember, they don't have sound effects, we can't kind of pan the camera here, we're reading words in front of us. So, the ways they emphasize what's most important, is repetition; to emphasize what's more important by having patterns, and then maybe having those patterns be broken. But the other way they show us what's most important is through strange and surprising events. And this passage has strange and surprising events that are meant to emphasize the point, to help us understand what this is about.
Let's remember where we are. Okay? What is going on here is we were reading a story that's already in process. We're reading a story that started way back, actually in Genesis 12, when God promised Abram, hey, you're going to have a people, and I'm going to give them a nation one day. And over hundreds of years, Abram’s people, who became the people of Israel, the Hebrew people, they spent four hundred years in Egypt, they spent forty years and wandering through the desert, led by Moses. And then Moses takes them up to the Jordan River, right on the boundary of the Promised Land. They're going to go in and take this land of Canaan that God has promised them. And then Moses dies. And God appoints Joshua to be the next leader. We read about that.
You can flip back to Joshua 1:7. God's command to Joshua is this verse 7, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” God is going to conquer the land for the people of Israel, he's going to deliver them victory. He's going to give them a kingdom. Their job is to be faithful and obedient. So here we are. We have that story. Joshua, chapter 1 ends with Joshua getting this command, and all the people affirming him as the leader. And then we have this story here, and this story is full of surprise. There are four surprises I want to highlight in this text. And, and as it happens to be there are four blanks on your handout. Hey, I thought that those will be the four points that we'll look at. And it's going to help us better understand who God is, and better understand how we can be faithful to him. So, four things I want you to notice in this passage.
Number one, I want you to see a “Surprising Deliverance.” I want you to see a surprising deliverance. Let's see how this story begins. It says in Joshua 2, the son of Nun sent two men secretly. He sends out two men as spies. Now, if you've been reading the Torah, and if you've read the books of the Bible up to this point, there might be little alarm bells going off in your head, going, this sounds familiar. And it sounds bad. And here's why. Because in Numbers 13 and 14, right before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, what did they do, they sent out spies to go spy out the land. And those spies came back with a bad report, saying, we really shouldn't do this. And the end result was that they had to wander in the wilderness because of their disbelief for forty years. So, here we are, again, and they're sending spies in again, and you're like, look, okay, this seems bad. But well, let's just keep reading, maybe it'll get better. It doesn't. Let's keep reading the story. If you're already nervous, the story reaffirms your nerves, says, “And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” In the house of a prostitute? What's going on here? Now, this is probably not like a brothel. This is like a tavern. And in this would have been a place where people, the community, especially people passing through, would have been here. This is a transient area, this is a good place to sort of lay low, gather information. Maybe you could find out if there's a sort of insurrection building, and you could kind of encourage those people in their insurrection. But come on! We’ve got spies there in the house of a prostitute. Yikes. This is not going well. This is not a good plan. And it turns out that not only are the spies in a bad place, they're not even really good at being spies. Because look at Joshua 2:2. “And it was told to the king of Jericho, ‘Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.’” Yeah, this is not exemplary espionage here. Right? Like, everybody already knows they're there. Again, not very good at spying. But here's what we have going on.
And then we read Joshua 2:3. It says, “Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you.’” So, here's the scene we've got, we've got spies, who go to the house of a prostitute. And then they're found out. And then the king sends his men. And in three verses, we see a desperate scene. I mean, it's guards surrounding the house, the building where these men are hidden. They're going to die right away. Like, that's the scene that we see here. Until we have our first surprise. We have help. It's help that comes from God. Yes. But it's by means of Rahab, the prostitute. Joshua 2:4 tells us that she hid the spies. And then she covers for them. She tells the story. Yep. “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went.” Hey, you better go catch them really quick. And so, you sort of see like the drama in this moment, the guards show up. Rahab tells the story, dramatic pause music, and turns out it works. The men leave, the gate shuts, spies rescued. That's where we're at. Pursuers pursue, gates closed, spies delivered. That's our story to this point.
Now, we're going to figure out why, later in this passage, Rahab did this. And some of you are very interested. Some of you love the question, did Rahab lie? And you just want to write on Facebook about this for hours on end, weighing the pros and cons because you're just about that life. But before we look at that, let's ask how this happened. Let's think about why this happened here. Here again, Joshua 2:3, she hides the spies from the King. Go back to Joshua, chapter 1, if you want an explanation of how this happened. Look at Joshua 1:3-4, it says, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.” Now look at Joshua 1:5. “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.” No one's going to be able to thwart you, no one's going to be able to resist you. And so here we have spies going in, immediate resistance, and then deliverance, just as God has promised, that no matter the threat, God delivers his people.
Now, what I'm reminded of, is how often, how regularly, this happens in the Bible, that when God's people are in desperate situations that they cannot deliver themselves. God rescues them. And he doesn't rescue them necessarily always with mighty acts, and supernatural deeds. He rescues them subtly. He rescues them simply. And you notice this: he rescues them so easily. Like it doesn't take much work for him to thwart this Canaanite king’s attempt to kill his people. I mean, again, consider this scene. It's almost kind of funny. You have this powerful king who, we'll learn about Joshua Chapter 6, is in this powerful city that's surrounded by high walls, he has his own guards go. He's going to kill the spies, and his plans are undone by a lowly prostitute. How easy it is for the enemies of God to have their plans overthrown. What I would tell you is this happens in the Bible over and over and over again. So, for example, in Exodus chapter 1, Pharaoh says, Man, these Hebrews are really becoming a threat, especially the men; we're going to throw all the newborn baby boys in the river. He sees the men of Israel as a huge threat. His plans undone by a faithful Hebrew mom, who puts her baby in a basket. And that baby who goes on to like deliver the Israelites, is adopted by who? Pharaoh's own daughter. How easily God overthrows the plans of the enemies of his people. In Judges chapter 7, you have another story like this. There's a guy named Gideon, who's going to war against the Midianites, who's going to rescue the people of Israel from the hands of the Midianites. And he shows up and he calls people to battle, and he has 32,000 men with him. And God says, That's too many. You need less than that. And he winds it down to 300 men. That's it. Why? And then you read it. And the Lord doesn't even need them to win the battle anyway, he just does it for them. Because it's the Lord who easily wins the battle, delivering his people.
Take your Bible and go to 1 Samuel chapter 23. I want to show you another example of this. This is 1 Samuel 23. This is a favorite of mine, just reminding us that the Lord always delivers his people and he does so rather easily, does not take much for him to do what's best for us. So, in the book of Samuel, you have the history of Saul, who's the first king of Israel, turns out to be a wicked king, who doesn't love the Lord, who's halfhearted, and God chooses David as the next king. But he does it while Saul is still alive, which we saw it's not too pleased about that. And so we saw that attempts to kill David and that's where we see a lot of his soul jealously hunting down David in an attempt to kill him. 1 Samuel 23:19-20. So that's the scene. And here we read, it says, “Then the Ziphites,” those Ziphites! “Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart's desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king's hand.’ They say Saul, David's over here, just come on down and we'll hand him over to you. And so, when we get here is this, this sort of chasing that happens? Now, let's look at 1 Samuel 23:24-29. And just notice the drama in this scene, you could hear the music speeding up. It says, “And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.’ So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi.”
I mean, it's coming, David's going to die. God just summons the Philistines to attack. Saul has to depart. God's servant rescued easily, simply. In desperate times, we cannot deliver ourselves, church family, this is how God works. He is infinite and almighty and powerful and over all things. But he subtly and simply and graciously and easily delivers his people over and over and over again. Now, there are several ways we could apply this. I mean, this could be a warning against resisting him. We'll look at that later. This can be reminding us of our own trials, to remember that God is in control of any trial in our life. In any trial that he's led us into, he can simply lead us out of, there's all sorts of ways to apply this truth. But for this week, as you consider this passage, and as you discuss in fellowship groups, I just want to ask you, do you ever take the time to notice God's care in your life? Do you notice how he is constantly providing and constantly doing what's best for you? Do we forget sometimes that as our Heavenly Father, he is actually fatherly? Like, he cares for us? He does what's best for us. We were just saying about Matthew chapter 6, how he takes care of the birds, takes care of the flowers. Certainly, he's always going to be doing what's best for us, because we're worth much more than birds and flowers. Well, my favorite passages on this is Psalm 57:2, David says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” God is always doing what's best for us. Christian, do you notice his provision? Do you take time to notice like, how amazing that the Lord led me to salvation, and then led me to this spouse, and led me to this church, and led me to good friends who like, care about me and follow up with me and actually want to know how I'm doing spiritually. How amazing that we still have a job, we still have this house, that we live in this location. Man, there are so many ways the Lord provides for us. We've seen it all the time. All I have needed thy hand has provided. Are we noticing it? Here’s a really good test if we're noticing it. I know we pray for things. We pray for help. Do we equally thank God when he answers our prayers? You know, I don't want to get, you know, overly mystical and over spiritualize everything, but James 1 tells us, every good and perfect gift comes down from our father. So, we should thank him for them. And notice the ways that he has provided for us. This is a surprising deliverance. But maybe not so surprising when we know who our heavenly father is.
Back to our story. Let's look at number two here. Second thing to notice. I want you to see a “Surprising Faith.” We're back in Joshua chapter 2, a surprising faith. And this really is the meat of the story. There are very few details about this spying, very few details about the escape, but there are a lot of details in this passage about the dialogue. And, again, we get very concerned with what Rahab did. What the biblical author wants to focus on is what Rahab actually said. So, let's look at it. Joshua 2:8-9, here's her statement, “Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, ‘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.’” That's amazing. She says here are these people who in the past have doubted God's plan. And here's Rahab saying, “I know for certain God has already given you this land.” It's like it's already done. I mean, what a confession here from someone who's never been to church, who's never played hit of heroes before. I mean, that's a confession right here. How does she know? She shares we know about this, she shares that our people are terrified because we know we're about to lose badly. How did a prostitute come to know this information? We find out in Joshua 2:10.
Joshua 2:10, says “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.” She's heard about you always work, before she's heard about their deeds, the deliverance there, the Red Sea. That's Exodus 14. That's the escape out of Egypt. These two kings are Sihon and Og. This is from numbers 21. When Israel is passing through their land, they refuse to let them through and they try to go to war; it doesn't go well for them. And then she says Joshua 2:11, “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted.” Have you heard this; we knew we're done. This is bad news for us. This is a battle we cannot win. Now, there are two things that this information provides for us to two things that we should do with Rahab’s confession here. One of them is to notice God's Word has been fulfilled. One of them is to notice God's purposes have been fulfilled. Let me show you that.
Take your Bible here. Let's go back to Exodus chapter 9. Exodus 9. This is the scene that we have here. In Exodus chapter 9 is in the middle of the ten plagues. God brings these ten plagues upon Egypt. It's this like sort of boxing match that God and Pharaoh are going toe to toe, and God's just kind of like cleaning his clock every time. I mean, there's nothing the Egyptians can do against God. And then one of the questions you could rightfully ask that is like, well, why ten plagues, like, God didn't need to do ten plagues, like frogs could have just been the end. Killer frogs. That's it. Game over. God could have done that. But he doesn't. Why? Well, he tells us; we don't have to guess what it's like. Exodus 9:14, it says, “For this time, I will send all my plagues on you yourself.” Is God talking to Pharaoh, and your servants, and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth, knows what God says, “For by now, I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence. And you would have been cut off from the earth.” That says, I could have just wiped the floor with you. I would be over. Done already. I could have done that. But I didn't yet. Here's why. Exodus 9:16. “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So, what God does is he uses Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world at that time, as a mere theater to display his own greatness and his own supremacy. So, there might be an announcement to all the nations there is a God that rules over the Hebrew people; his Name is YHWH and there's none like him. That's exactly what's happened.
Here, in Joshua chapter 2, it's exactly what's happened. They've heard about it. People have heard about this. Jericho has heard about this God and back heading back to Joshua to Rahab has heard about this God. Rehab understood who y'all was, which then leads her to the second part of her confession. Joshua 2:11, “for Yahweh, your God, he is God in the heavens above, and on the earth beneath” You have to understand this confession. The Canaanites and the surrounding nations worshipped all sorts of different gods. And their gods were very territorial, not protective. They were limited to their territory, is what I mean like their gods were like if they were the river God that like that's kind of where they hung out. They didn't leave the river. Above all was a god there. He wasn't necessarily God in other places. Whatever gods they worshipped, they kind of viewed them as regional deities, but Rahab said, your God is God over all of them. Like he's not constricted anywhere. That's what we know for certain about your God. And now, we understand Rahab’s actions. People want to ask, did Rahab lie? And the answer is, yes. Obviously, she did not tell the truth. But this is not very complicated. And you're like, Okay, I’ve got to get it like, but did she sin when she lied? That's what we want to know. And, what this author is saying, he's saying, hey, the point is this: She showed faith. This is allegiance that she's showing here, that this isn't license for us to lie. This isn't us saying like, Oh, pagan government, I'm not paying my taxes. Friend, read Romans 13 later and send that baby in. If you haven't already, you're kind of late and you can get in a lot of trouble. But know that this isn't license for us to lie if we could justify the ungodliness of the person. No, no, this is allegiance. This is warfare. God deals with his people as enemies. And Rahab here is siding with Team YHWH. She’s saying this is the God I'm following after, this is the God I'm swearing my allegiance to.
And so, what Joshua does, Joshua 2 does here for us in real time before a captive audience is show us what faith looks like. This is what faith looks like. You see, we need to recapture the meaning of the word faith. People use the word faith in all sorts of ways to mean like superstition or baseless belief, you know, and I was like, I'll just keep the faith. That's not what Biblical faith is. Faith is not just mental assent. It's not just believing something that people listen to. The people of Jericho believed God dried up the Red Sea. They believe that happened. They did not have saving faith. Does that make sense? They believed that God was going to come wreck them. They did not have Biblical faith. No. Biblical faith is a belief in God's character, that you then respond by entrusting your whole life over to him. Biblical faith will result in allegiance. You pledge your entire life over to the Lord. Do you see what Rahab was doing here in lying to the king that's so risky, so dangerous as she could have, she would have been if the men went looking for the spies, they would have killed the spies and killed her right after that. It's dangerous to disobey the king of Jericho. But Rahab thought it was far more dangerous to disobey the King of the universe. And so she showed her allegiance to him. She entrusted her life to him, she was following after him. And in her deception, she is demonstrating her allegiance to the one true God, YHWH. See, real faith is not based on works. So we cannot be saved by our works; we’re saved by faith alone, amen. And we're not ever going to be good enough to make our way to heaven. But when we've really trusted our life over to Jesus, it will be demonstrated by a life that then works, that then follows after the Lord not to be accepted. But because we have been accepted. And we see here not just somebody who is showing us a kind of faith, or even a super faith, or the Bible over and over again, points to Rahab as what regular faith looks like. So, in James, chapter 2, James will say, faith without works is dead. You can't just say I have faith, but then there's no lifestyle change. It doesn't work. And one of the examples he uses is in Joshua 2:25, he uses Rahab. Or Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews chapter 11, which has a lot of verses that we just say about what he's saying that song by faith in Hebrews 11 is the preacher who's writing this book is encouraging the people to keep the faith. And he uses all these examples from the Old Testament, not of super faith, but of normal faith. And he goes through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel. And as he's working through it, you think the next name? Oh, he did Moses, Joshua's coming next. And what does he say? He lists Rahab. Hebrews 11:31 as an example of what real faith looks like. Because here we see the sort of faith that we are supposed to have.
Real faith in God submits all of life to God. Friends, when we talk about having faith in Christ, that's what we mean. We believe that Jesus can save us from our sin. And we demonstrate that belief by submitting our whole life over to him. Turn with me, we’ve got time for this. Go to Mark chapter 10. We’ve got to see this. This is so important for us to understand. Mark chapter 10. In Mark chapter 10, I think you've got like, the easiest evangelism opportunity you've ever had. Like, some of you are like, Man, I want to share the gospel with people. But like, Man, I just, I just don't know if I can what if they reject me, Mark, chapter 10. Is like this was set up right here. Mark 10:17, says “Jesus was setting on a journey, and a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I mean, there's everything going right in this passage, right? urgency, this guy's running up, right, title, he calls Jesus good teacher. He kneels before him, shows the right reverence. And he asked the right question, how do I get eternal life? I mean, strike up the band, come forward. We're having a baptism on a night like this is a division of opportunity, if you've ever seen it, right. Jesus tells him well, how are you doing with those commandments? And the guy says, Well, I've kept them from my youth that Jesus says, well, one thing you lack, go so all that you possess, give to the poor. You have treasure in heaven, come follow me. And why did Jesus do that? Is because Christians were supposed to live, you know, impoverished. That's not what that's saying. Jesus did that because he understood what would have kept this man from loving Jesus supremely. Like, Jesus knows our hearts. He understands what is the one thing that would keep us from having Jesus rule over every aspect of our life. And it says in Mark 10:22, this man goes away sad, for he owned many possessions. Why? Because he didn't have real faith. He believed Jesus was a good teacher, he believed a lot of things, believed the Bible, but didn't have the saving faith that you submit all of life to Christ. Friend, when it comes to faith in Jesus, he is either Lord of all or he's not Lord at all in your life. You can't claim him as Lord, if you've not submitted, everybody, it's giving your whole life over to him, say my whole life is now about Christ. And so, as we say that one of the things that I just want to maybe warn us about or cautions about is make sure that's part of our sharing of the gospel. We need to make sure that it's part of our sharing of the gospel, because number one, I think people around here don't understand that. They think like, okay, I can worship Jesus on Sunday morning, and maybe like, one night a week, and then just live however, I want the rest of the time. That's not saving faith. But we'll do things like this is my friend, this is my relative, you know, they prayed a prayer one time, they're really not living like they're still a Christian, but they're just not believing it. Well, then they don't really have real faith. So, for the sake of clarity and sharing the gospel, we need to understand that. And we also need to make sure that we ourselves are continuing as Christians, to have faith in Jesus, the way that Jesus wants that faith wants us to have faith in him. So maybe this week, it might just be good for you to do an inventory. And say, Lord, I see my Sunday mornings. I see a lot of big areas of my life that are submitted to you. But let me just double check again, am I really honoring you in all things? Let me do it just to check on my speech. Maybe the way I use my social media, the way I post, the way I talk to others, my entertainment choices. Lord, do I love comfort more than you? Just ask the question, because that's what real faith looks like.
In Rahab, we see real faith. But that's not all we see. Let's go back to the book of Joshua, Joshua, chapter 2 and number 3, I want you to see a “Surprising Mercy.” I want you to see surprising mercy. Because Rahab’s confession is not all that she says. She also has a request, Joshua 2:12, she says, “Now then please swear to me by YHWH, that as I have dealt kindly with you, you will deal kindly with my father's house and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and my mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” She asks, would you please deliver us now? Now, this is quite a problem. If you're looking at this, you're going, huh? I don't know if she can actually ask for that. And let me show you why. Let's go back one more book of the Bible to Deuteronomy 7 because we've got a big issue here. And this issue is going to come up again and again, in the book of Joshua, particularly in chapter 6. And the question is this. Aren't the people of Israel supposed to kill all these people? As if God said, I'm going to judge the Canaanites in Israel, you're going to be my instrument to do so. We'll look at Deuteronomy 7:2, when YHWH, your God gives them the Canaanites over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. It's over for them. God says in Genesis 15, I'm waiting for the iniquity of the Amorite to fill up, his time of waiting is over, judgment is coming. And now here's this woman asking for deliverance, who, by the way, has no right test for deliverance. I mean, she's a Canaanite. These are wicked people, idolaters, those who hate and murder and steal. This is not a moral, peaceful group. And even worse, she's a prostitute, which we could talk about idolatry and prostitution and how they were linked in the pagan religions. But, I mean, this wasn't just someone who sinned, her entire identity was marked by sin was wrapped up in sin. This is not somebody who should be asking for deliverance. How dare she ask for deliverance? It's not only that she asked for, look, you have Deuteronomy 7 in front of us still. So what God is saying about his people there? He says in Deuteronomy 7:9, he says, “Know therefore that YHWH your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments to thousand generations. That word there that steadfast love is “hesed”. it's an important word in the Bible, it's loyal love. It's covenantal love. It's I love you and I are devoted to you, even if kind of love. It's a kind of love that's rooted in promise and not by affection, though it certainly is affection. It's an everlasting love. It's a love that’s love simply because it's committed to loving. It's the kind of love that God has for his people.
In Joshua, chapter 2, when she says, as I have dealt kindly with you, that were there dealt kindly, as shown, has said, I've shown “hesed” to you. And I'm asking you to show “hesed” to me, that I'm asking you to swear by it by the name of YHWH, to show me this sort of loyal love. Again, this sinner, this pagan, this idolater, asking for this kind of love. Even more shocking is the answer. They tell her in Joshua 2:14, if you don't tell this business of ours, that when YHWH gives us the land, we will show her hesed and deal faithfully with her. Now, let's ask the question. How can Rahab aske for this? How does she even know that she could ask for this? And, what right do the spies have? Remember, they've been told we're going to wipe out every single Canaanite? What right do the spies have to offer this? We see that in Joshua 2:12. Please Swear to me, by YHWH. They can promise this, the spies can say you can have this because all parties involved, understand, YHWH’s nature. They know who God is. Next to this, God reveals himself to Moses and he says, the Lord the Lord, YHWH, he's a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in “hesed,” he's a God that shows loyal love, covenantal love, never ending won't break love you even if you do this love. That's who God is. It's his nature to show mercy. He doesn't just have said he abounds in “hesed,” and God will judge all sinners who do not turn to him. And yet, any sinner that comes to him in repentance, and surrenders their life to him in faith, knowing that all they can offer him is a plea for mercy. God shows steadfast love. He's a God who shows mercy to those who repent, to those who turn from their sin, that any sinner who comes to him will be given mercy.
I'm reminded of the old hymn, “To God be the glory.” Some of you know that hymn, maybe you grew up singing it. The second verse says the vilest offender, who truly believes that moment from Jesus, a pardon receives. It's who God is. It's his very nature. And he offers forgiveness and he offers complete forgiveness, extensive forgiveness, not just okay, now we can hang, but you're part of the family forgiveness. You say, well, how do we know that happen to the right hand? Well, I'll tell you why we know that have we had the two most famous godly kings in the Bible are King David, and King Jesus. And in Ruth chapter 4, guess who's in David's lineage, a prostitute named Rahab. And in Matthew chapter 1, guess who's in King Jesus' lineage, a prostitute named Rahab. Mercy upon mercy, not just sin forgiven, but grafted into the family, friends, this is a forgiveness that comes from God, because God by nature extends mercy. Not just what he does, but it's who he is. So, listen, we need to correct our thinking a little bit. Because sometimes we have this view that like, okay, the Old Testament God, he's kind of angry, you know, throws fire from heaven. And Jesus is like his chill son. And you know, that's the God we've got now. God has always been a God of mercy. He always shows mercy to those who repent. And so, when Jesus, in John Chapter 4 meets a woman at the well who's is not only had five husbands but the man she's living with at that time is not even her husband. And he offers her eternal life. We should be amazed. But we should not be surprised. Because this is who God is. He shows mercy to those who need mercy. Do you notice? Can I can I show you something here? Joshua 3:1 says, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and they went out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan.” Like, Joshua, chapter 3 just begins with okay, now the invasion of Canaan is going to happen. Do you realize, we don't need Joshua chapter 2 to make the book of Joshua makes sense? Like you could just cross out Joshua 2 and be totally fine. The rest of the story would still make sense. Maybe that little verse in chapter 6 about Rahab, like, we skip that one as well. Like this story didn't need to happen. But it did, because you have an almighty infinite God, pursuing a prostitute like Rahab to show her mercy. Because that's just who he is. Just as Jesus had to pass through Samaria, here's the God who sends spies into Jericho, because there's someone here who can be saved. The Lord pursued us, he pursued us and in sending the one way to be made right, he pursued us in sending his Son, to live a perfect life, and to die as a substitute for our sins.
The Scriptures tell us that Christ died for sinners. He died in our place as a payment, so that we might receive mercy if we repent and turn to him. If we, like Rahab, recognized I am doomed, this is the real God, I throw myself at his feet asking for mercy. That we can likewise receive forgiveness because it's who God is.
Favorite pastor from history of mine is a man by the name of Charles Simeon, who pastored in England and Oxford in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. Born in the eighteenth century, he comes from a totally pagan background. He grew up not really going to church with a dad, who was not a Christian, went to an all-boys boarding school where it was just godlessness. And he goes to Oxford, which at the time is similar to today. But though they claim to be Christian, total godlessness, nobody really living for the Lord. But the funny thing happened is that they would still make the students every Easter participate in communion, it was just tradition. Well, Charles Simeone is freaked out by this. And he's like, well, if I'm going to have to do this, I need to read about it and see what this communion thing is. So, he writes in his journal, it's Easter Week, he's reading a book about the Lord's Supper. And he comes across this strange sentence. He wrote, “I read this sentence that said that the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.” That is, when the Jews would offer a sacrifice, they would put their hand on the head, as if to say all this sin was being transferred. So, Simeon reads about this, about the Jews’ understanding that, and then he says this, “The thought came into my mind, what may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an offering for me, that I may lay my sins on his head, then God willing, I will not bear my sins on my own soul one moment longer. We're going to sing after this sermon, there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel's veins, and sinners, plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. Is it amazing? Those of us who know Christ, not one sin will count against us. Praise God. Surprising mercy. But then, again, not surprising, if we know who our heavenly father is.
Friend, if you're here tonight, and you're not a Christian, maybe more surprising than this story is the fact that you are sitting in church, who after so many years have said I would never go to church, who wants nothing to do with religion, and yet by some strange Providence, by the invite of a friend or a conscience that cannot get rid of the guilt, here you are. And I would tell you that there are ways that you are similar to Rahab. There is not an army of Hebrews waiting across the river for us, but the judgment of God is coming. And just as at the Passover, the only way to be rescued was by the blood of the lamb, just as Rahab the only way to be rescued was by tying the scarlet cord. The only way to be rescued is by coming to Christ. And you need to do that tonight. You need to have your sins removed tonight, stop trying to work your way to heaven. You don't need a cleanup plan. You don't need morality. What you need is mercy. And it's offered to you tonight. And all you need to do is exactly this. Recognize the peril you're in and turn to Christ in faith, surrender all of your life over to him, for he is a merciful Savior. Friends, that we've been given this kind of forgiveness, we need to know that God can forgive anybody. Let's be careful that we don't have certain people, we think that person is not repenting. Or let's be careful that we who have received so much forgiveness, have people that we don't forgive, and we've offended the Lord so much more than anyone's offended us. Let's be quick to forgive, because God by nature forgives.
Finally, number four, number four. We've seen a surprising deliverance, a surprising faith, surprising mercy. And finally, a “Surprising Message.” A surprising message. Joshua 2:20, the end of this book as just kind of a chapter is kind of interesting. It says they go back to the hills, the men search, they don't find them, the men return. And they told Joshua, all that happened. And then Joshua 2:24, they said to Joshua, now, notice, what do they actually say? You're expecting like, man, God is powerful. He rescued us, God could show mercy to anybody. What's the message? It says YHWH has given all the land into our hands. And also all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us. It's an interesting, it said here, it's set by Rahab the repeated message. Like the reason this story is in the Bible. The reason why this happened is so that the people of Israel would know that God was going to give them the land. You might think, why did they need to know that? Like God already told them that Joshua chapter 1, like, they don't need those reminders. It's true, they could have just believed it. But God is a God who reminds his people. He tells us truth. And then over and over again, he reassures us that the things he's promised us are good promises. Commentator Dale Ralph Davis, whose little book on Joshua is so good, looks at this passage and says, yeah, he relates it to a husband writing a love note to his wife. Listen, women, they already know that their husband loves them. But sometimes it's just good to get a reminder. The Lord knows that we in this life, in light of our own sin, in light of a troubling world, we need reminders. That's why he gives us his word, right? So over and over and over again, God is just telling us, yes, this is true. Yes, this is true. Yes, this is true. That also gives us the church. I mean, if you're a Christian, and you're part of our church, and you're like, okay, I want to serve in children's ministry or serve in Underground, whatever ministry is, I'm going to give you a new ministry. Tonight's the ministry of reminding. Right? You are here to remind other Christians, not only what God has said, but to remind them again and again that what God has promised is true. How often have you been encouraged by other Christians praying for you, other Christians sharing scripture with you? How often have you in in difficult times, either because of distress over your own failings or because of trials in your life, have received a text from maybe even someone that you don't even interact with all that much. They just said, hey, grateful for you, praying for you thankful for what God's doing in your life. And they have no idea how much that encouraged you in that moment. Why does that happen? Because we have a good Heavenly Father, who works through his Word, who works by the Spirit, and who works through his church, to assure us again and again, that his promises are true. This is our God who tells us that we actually are forgiven, that in spite of ourselves, we are loved by God. And that soon and very soon, he is bringing us home. It's a surprising message. But again, it's not very surprising when we understand who our heavenly father is. This is our God. Let us then have strong and steadfast faith in him. Let me pray.
Father, we are thankful for who you are, and who your word has revealed you to be, thankful that you are a God of mercy, Lord, that you have been far kinder to us in Christ than we deserve. Lord, we thank you; your mercy not only extends to forgiving us but you continue to care for us? You hold us fast and encourage us and equip us and use thousand Providences that we couldn't even recognize all the time to keep us going, thankful for your love for us. Lord, help us to be faithful to you. Lord, may there not be any part of our life that we hold back from you, that maybe we worship you not only in song, but in deed and in truth, and in every moment of every day. Lord, I pray for anyone here who's not a Christian, who understands their sins. I pray that they would be aware that there is judgment coming. And as Rahab’s heart melted at the Doom coming, that they would hear about your wrath, that you're going to render justice, and that they would be broken over their sin, and not just broken over there sin, but that they would turn to you in mercy. Lord, we know that anyone turns to you will be forgiven. I pray for you, God to save sinners tonight. We praise you, Lord. You are such a good and gracious God. We give you all the glory for all that we've done this evening. We pray this in your Son's name. Amen.
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