Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - www.LoveLivesAtPGUMC.org Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label Jericho. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jericho. Show all posts

Monday, December 2, 2019

#2 Rahab the Prostitute


Matthew 1:4-5a
Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).

Matthew 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. There are some very "interesting" characters there. None of them deserved the honor of inclusion in Christ's royal lineage. Thankfully, God doesn't reward people with what they deserve. He is gracious and loves people who put their whole faith in Him.

There are only five women listed among the 40 male ancestors of Christ. Who were these five Christmas maidens and why were they remembered in a society usually overlooked women?

Last week, were heard the tale of Tamar who was mistaken for a prostitute by her father-in-law. Today, we will learn about Rahab who was a prostitute. 

For four hundred years after Tamar, the Israelites lived in Egypt and became slaves.  But God remembered His promise to give the Israelites a home in the land of Canaan as His holy people. They would be God's representatives to the whole world. So, God raised up Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery. And after wandering in the desert for forty years, God chose a leader named Joshua to finally lead the Israelites to conquer Canaan. To take possession of the Promise Land, Joshua and the Israelites would have to destroy the Canaanites fortress city, Jericho. God promised He would do the fighting for the Israelites and prove to everyone that their God was the one true Lord of all.

Joshua 2:1
Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.

Rahab
And so, we are introduced to the heroine of our story—Rahab the prostitute. Prostitution has never been an honorable profession, but it is the oldest profession.  In a male dominated society like we find in the Old Testament, prostitution was one of the only ways a woman could make it on her own. Little girls don't dream of being of growing up to be prostitutes. They usually sell their bodies for sex because it's the only way they can survive. 

Brenda Myers-Powell was a prostitute for 25 years on the West Side of Chicago. Her mother died when Brenda was only 6 months old. She was raised by her grandmother, an alcoholic. Brenda was molested regularly by her grandmother's male companions from the time she was only 4 years old. Brenda had 2 babies by the time she was 14. One day when the baby was hungry and crying, Brenda's grandmother told her to get a job because they had nothing to eat. Brenda, not knowing what else to do, joined the prostitutes who stood on the street corner in front of her house.  In her own words: since men had been taking her panties off all her life, she figured she might as well get paid for it. 

Most church people have strong opinions about prostitutes and prostitution. But how many of us have ever talked to a prostitute to get to know her story? Jesus did. It was one of the reasons his adversaries hated him so much. In Mark 2:16, the religious leaders complained, "Why does he eat with such scum?"  Jesus ate with prostitutes and other notorious sinners because God cares about them just as much as He cares about me and you. Jesus, as God, sees the heart and knows the whole story of why people do what they do. And He loves. And He forgives. And He redeems.

We don't know why Rahab was a prostitute. The Bible doesn't give the details. We could stand in self-righteousness judgment of her (like everyone else probably did) or we could realize that most women who become prostitutes do it because it's the only way they know how to survive.

They Had One Job!
On the other hand, we could ask some nagging questions about the spies in Joshua 2:1.
What were the spies doing at a prostitute's house? These spies are members of God's chosen people. They're supposed to be holy. They're supposed to be on a mission from God. You mean to say the first thing they do when they cross enemy lines is go to a brothel? Who am I to judge? Maybe they had their reasons.  Maybe God sent them to Rahab's house.  We don't know and the Bible doesn't say.

I have another question. Why was Joshua sending spies in the first place? God promised He would conquer Jericho and all the Promised Land and give it to the Israelites. The battle would be The Lord's, not the Israelites. Why was Joshua sending spies? Was he worried about how they were going to defeat the enemy?  Didn't he trust God? If you read the whole story, you'll see the Israelites didn't do any real fighting. They march around the city a bunch of times and blew trumpets. This was all symbolic. The Lord did the fighting. The Lord caused the city walls to collapse and the city fell. There was no need to send spies.  It's a hint that maybe Joshua didn't fully trust God's Word. Most people read the Joshua 2:1 to mean Joshua sent some spies to secretly find out about Jericho. Another way to read it is Joshua sent them in secret (as in he didn't want his own people to know he sent the spies.) One thing I don't see anywhere in the passage where it says God told Joshua to send spies. The last time spies were sent into the Promised Land was when Moses sent 12 spies to check out the land. And of the 12, only 2 had faith God could defeat the Canaanites. God was so disgusted with the people's lack of faith the Israelites had to wait 40 more years before they could go into the Promised Land—an entire generation had to pass away!

At any rate, Joshua's spies are the worst spies in the history of spies. The first thing they do is go to a prostitute's house and in verse 2 their cover is immediately blown. The enemy knows they're in town and the enemy is hunting for them! 

Joshua 2:2-7
But someone told the king of Jericho, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: “Bring out the men who have come into your house, for they have come here to spy out the whole land.” Rahab had hidden the two men, but she replied, “Yes, the men were here earlier, but I didn’t know where they were from. They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.” (Actually, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out.) So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut.

Why did Rahab protect the Israelites? Rahab tells us herself. 

Joshua 2:8-11
Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them. “I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.

A Profession of Faith
I wish we had a little more back story about Rahab.  I'd like to know how she ended up a prostitute.  I'd like to know if she cried out to God for help.  I wonder why she turned her back on her own people.  

We don't know much about Rahab before she met the spies.  What we do have in the story is Rahab's profession of faith.  A profession of faith is a statement where a person says they believe in God and promise to follow Him.  I pastor a  Methodist church and we like to make it easy for people to profess their faith.  So, we list our standard profession of faith in the front of our hymnal on page 34.  The pastor asks the person wanting to become a Christian:  Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? And if the person agrees, they respond: I do. It is a simple and effective way for a person to affirm that they believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him to save them.

Romans 10:9 says, "If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  Usually, a person who wants to make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ professes their faith--usually in a church service or a revival.  Maybe they pray the "sinners prayer" to declare their faith in Christ, repent of their sins, and ask Jesus to save them.  However, when God saves someone, it doesn’t always look like it does in church or at a Billy Graham crusade.  It could look the Rahab’s story.  Rahab exhibits all three elements of a person who truly turns their life over to God and is saved:  Faith, a Profession of Faith, and Action.

Salvation:  Faith, Profession, Action
First of all, Rahab shows faith. Of all the people in the story, Rahab had the most faith.  While Joshua was sending spies when he should have just trusted God’s promise, Rehab had great faith. Rahab trusted spies she didn’t know who could have betrayed her.  That was risky!  (Spies aren't best know for being trustworthy!)  Furthermore, Rahab puts all her hopes in a God she didn't know very well and trusted He would save her.  Rahab, a Canaanite, turned her back on the wicked Canaanite way of life and turned to the One True God of the Israelites, a foreign people.  It took tremendous faith for Rahab to take these risks.  God is willing to accept the faith of anyone who trusts Him that way and turns to Him for forgiveness and salvation.  Do you have faith to turn your back on everything that is not of God and turn to Him instead?

Secondly, Rahab makes a profession of faith. Rahab states her faith in God. She said, “For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11)  Have you ever made a profession of faith—have you said out loud that you know God is the supreme Lord of all?  Do you continue to tell people this Truth whenever you get the chance?

There is also action. It's one thing to talk a big talk.  It's another thing to walk the walk.  Rahab walked the walk; she acted on her faith. She defied the King of Jericho and his soldier. She put her own life on the line for the sake of God's people.  She hid the Israelite spies and sent the soldiers on a wild goose chase and helped the spies escape.  Do you put your beliefs about God into action?  Do you do what He asks you to do?  Do you serve the Lord with all your heart?

Joshua 2:12-21
“Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.” 

Rahab’s faith was going to save her whole family from destruction.  Do you realize what you do affects more than just you?  Your choices about God could bring life or death to people you care about.

“We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,” the men agreed. “If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the Lord gives us the land.”

Then, since Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, she let them down by a rope through the window. “Escape to the hill country,” she told them. “Hide there for three days from the men searching for you. Then, when they have returned, you can go on your way.”

Before they left, the men told her, “We will be bound by the oath we have taken only if you follow these instructions. When we come into the land, you must leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window through which you let us down. And all your family members—your father, mother, brothers, and all your relatives—must be here inside the house. If they go out into the street and are killed, it will not be our fault. But if anyone lays a hand on people inside this house, we will accept the responsibility for their death. If you betray us, however, we are not bound by this oath in any way.”

“I accept your terms,” she replied. And she sent them on their way, leaving the scarlet rope hanging from the window.

How Does the Story End?
Well, how does the story end? We find the answer to Rahab’s fate in Joshua chapter 6.
The Israelites surround the fortress of Jericho. All the villagers outside the fortress walls have fled. Those left inside the walls are mostly soldiers and others determined to fight to the bitter end. 

But God said He would do the fighting for Israel. So, for six days the Israelites march around Jericho. On the seventh day, they march around the city seven times. Then, the Israelite priests blow their ram’s horns and all the people shout. And the walls of Jericho came tumbling down—everywhere except for the part of the wall that housed Rahab’s home. The Israelites swarmed over the rubble to mop up any remaining defenders not killed by the collapse.  It wasn't much a fight after the fortresses collapse; most of the enemy were probably already dead.

Joshua 6:22-23 & 25
Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, “Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.”  The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel.…  So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day.

And then we fast forward through the Bible about a thousand years and look in Matthew chapter 1 and we see Jesus’ genealogy and what do we find?  Rahab is one of the great, great, great… grandmothers of Jesus.

What’s Your Story?
Well, that’s Rahab’s story.  What’ your story?  I want to tell you that God knows what you’re going through.  He is the God who sees.  He didn’t overlook Rahab the prostitute and He won’t overlook you.  Are you facing a situation you just cannot overcome?  God wants to help you.  Do you realize God is your only hope?  God will redeem your situation, but He’ll also save your soul.  Do you trust God to save you?  Are you willing to profess your faith in God and turn your back on everything that is not of Him?  Are you willing to act on your faith by putting it all on the line for Him?  Perhaps you should pray about it.

Next week, we will examine the story of the third woman in Jesus' genealogy--Ruth the Refugee.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Whose Side are You On? part 1 - Joshua and Jericho

Introduction
When we go through tough times, we want to know God is on our side.  Whether we’ve lost our job, are facing a serious illness, have a financial problem, or a spiritual crisis, whatever the problem is, we want to know God’s got our back.  That’s why people are more likely to pray when they face serious troubles.  And they ask others to pray for them.  Even self-proclaimed atheists start praying when they’re in a serious crisis.

Over the next two weeks, I want to show that we’ve got it all wrong.  We’re looking at life, our problems, and our relationship with God all wrong when we go begging Him to fight our battles.  Now stick with me on this.  Don’t tune me out just yet.  You’ll see what I’m saying if you hear me out.  And maybe, just maybe, it could completely change the course of your life, for the better—maybe even your eternity.

This will be a two part series.  We will look at two different stories about two different men getting ready to enter two different cities.  One story is from the Old Testament—Joshua and the city of Jericho.  The other one is from the New Testament—Jesus and the city Jerusalem.  Today, we will look at the Old Testament story of Joshua and the city of Jericho.

Background
·       Joshua took over leadership of the Israelites after Moses died.  You may remember the Israelites (AKA the Hebrews) were slaves in Egypt.  They cried out to God to save them, and God who had promised their ancestor Abraham He would bring Abraham's descendants into a land "flowing with milk and honey" heard their cry.  God sent Moses to lead them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.  God chose the Israelites to be is special people--a royal and holy priesthood designed to lead all the people of the world toward God.  However, the Israelites were a stubborn, rebellious, and faithless people.  They constantly complained and they did not trust God could defeat their enemies (the Canaanites who inhabited the Promised Land).  Even Moses got frustrated with God.  Therefore, God decreed that no one from that first generation of Israelites would enter the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb (who were the only one's who proved they had faith in God).  The first generation of Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years until everyone except Caleb and Joshua died.  Then, Joshua took over leadership of the Israelites.

Now, there are some interesting facts you need to know about Joshua’s name.  The Jewish way to pronounce Joshua is Jeshua.  And Jeshua is another way to pronounce the name Jesus.  Joshua means Yahweh saves (I.E. it means God Saves).  Jesus also means Yahweh saves (IE Jesus means God Saves).  (Yahweh is the name God gave when Moses asked for His name.  It means simply, I Am.)  So Joshua and Jesus are the same name (sort of like Elizabeth and Lisa and Liza and Beth are all really the same name in English, just said differently).

Joshua is leading the Israelites into the Promise land, but the Canaanite fortress of Jericho stands in the way.  God promised the Israelites He would destroy the Canaanites because of their sin and give their land to the Israelites.  That sounds pretty harsh to us today.  We wonder, "Is that really the way God is?"  We have to have faith God is holy and righteous and just and merciful and good.  And when we understand some things about the Canaanites, we begin to see God was right to destroy the Canaanites.  Let's consider the character of the Canaanites.

First of all, the Canaanites knew about the God of the Bible but rejected Him in favor of false gods.  As Romans 1:21 says, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…”  When they didn't like living the way God commanded, they rejected God and invented their own pretend gods that would only tell them things with which they agreed.  We see this kind of attitude in our day and age all the time.  You ask someone today, "What is God like?"  They will say, "I think God is like..." and they will give you their opinion about their version of what God is like. Now, nine times out of ten, their opinion of God is not based on Scripture.  It's only based on their own ideas or the ideas they've heard from others that they like.  People who base their ideas about God on their own ideas or public opinion generally dismiss stuff that doesn't fit with their ideas about God.  In essence, this is just inventing a god according to your own imagination.  And if you go down that road long enough, you end up with some truly crazy and sinful and perverted ideas.  But God said His name is Yahweh.  As He told Moses, "I Am Who I Am".  We don't get to decide who God is.  Our opinions about Him don't change who He really is.  He just is.

The Canaanites tried to make God into who they wanted Him to be and it led them into all kinds of terribly sinful behavior.  Specifically, they worshipped false gods and idols.  Adultery and sexual promiscuity was rampant in their society.  The gods they invented actually encouraged sexual promiscuity as part of their worship.  They hired prostitutes to have sex with worshipers in their temples as part of the worship service (now there's a perverted way to increase worship attendance!).  This is how perverse their view of holiness had become!  It went further.  They accepted homosexuality and even incest and bestiality!  Now you may wonder how anyone can think having sex with animals (beastiality) is acceptable.  That's just gross!  Well, guess what: fifty years ago people in America thought homosexuality was evil and disgusting; however today, homosexuality is increasingly accepted in our own society.  When you start going down the road to making god and morals according to your own designs, you end up with incredibly wicked behavior and people think it is normal and good and even holy.  The Canaanites were sexually immoral and they raped and murdered.  They even sacrificed children as part of their worship because they thought that's their gods wanted.

But Yahweh is good and holy and righteous and just and patient and merciful.  He is not quick to dish out punishment by destroying a whole people.  The Canaanites' sins had continued for nearly 700 years--from the time of Abraham all the way through to Joshua.  And in 700 years, you know God sent many people to call the Canaanites to repentance, but they would not.  So you see, God would absolutely have redeemed them if only they would have surrendered and turned from their sins and turned to God, but they would not.

Furthermore, the Canaanites knew what God could do and that His people were coming to bring
judgment for their sins. In Judges 2:11, we read about some spies Joshua sent into Jericho.  While there, the spies met a  Canaanite prostitute named Rahab who explains, “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 the two kings of the Amorites...”).  So, the Canaanites in Jericho knew God was powerful and He was sending His people to destroy them, but they still would not surrender.  God was willing to save those who surrendered and repented, but most would not (except for a few exceptions like Rahab).  And it's quite revealing to see that God would save a person like Rahab.  Rahab was a prostitute.  So it's not like God was saying, "They are too far gone, what they've done is just too bad and unforgivable."  No.  God was willing to save Rahab.  And the fact that Rahab's great, great, great, great... grandson is Jesus tells us God was willing to save and honor anyone who turns to Him.  Unfortunately, few of the Canaanites did.

Joshua faced formidable resistance.  Jericho was a fortress with walls six feet thick and as tall as ten stories! And it was full of armed soldiers who would rather fight to the death than surrender and give up their sinful lifestyle.  Think about the obstacles in your life that seem like an impenetrable fortress as you read the interesting thing that happened to Joshua as he face Jericho.

Joshua 5:13-15
13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

Actually, the original Hebrew (according to Rev. James Michael Smith) is actually just “No.”  Joshua says, "Are you friend or foe?" and the commander of the Lord's army simply replies, "No."  It's like the commander of the Lord's army is saying, "You aren't even asking the right question.  No."

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

Joshua is a man of God.  He knows his place.  “I am at your command.  What do you want me to do?”  This is the right attitude when you come face to face with the commander of the Lord’s Army or any true representative of God.

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

Facing Jericho
Joshua had a monumental task ahead of him. Jericho was not just a city. It was a fortress. When you find yourself facing your own Jericho, what do you do?  Most of us want to make sure God's on our side.  Abraham Lincoln was a truly godly man--perhaps one of the godliest presidents America has ever had in one of the most difficult times in the nation's history.  The northern states and the southern states were at war over the issues of slavery and states rights.  The southern states were praying, "Lord, help us defeat our enemies in the south!"  The southern states were praying, "Lord, help us defeat our enemies in the north!"  It is reported that Abraham Lincoln once said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

We want to make sure God is on our side. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude. Maybe, we ought to make sure we are on God’s side, because God’s side is always right and will always achieve victory in the end.

Make Sure You’re On God’s Side
Well then, how do you make sure you are on God's side?  First of all, you have to surrender.  Notice what Joshua did when he recognized he was face to face with the commander of the Lord's armies.  He immediately surrendered.  He went from a demanding attitude to falling on his face in reverence and saying, "I am at your command.  What do you want your servant to do?"  When we come to the realization that God truly is Lord and He made us for His purposes, the very first act should be our unconditional surrender.  We must fall on our face before Him and say, "I am at Your command.  What do you want Your servant to do?"

Second, we must walk humbly with our God every day so we stay in tune with His ongoing commands and will for our lives.  How do we do that?  First, we go off by ourselves to be alone; and then we realize, we are not really alone at all.  God is with us.  Perhaps that is how Joshua was able to notice the commander of the Lord's army in his midst.  Joshua was a man with the tremendous responsibility of leading thousands of people.  He was under tremendous stress.  Perhaps he stepped away for a moment to be by himself and in doing so realized he was not alone at all.  How about you?  Do you ever step away from the hussle and bussle of life long enough to be alone and realize you are not really alone at all?  God is with you, right there.  And then we begin to know what He wants of us.  We can all find a little time to be alone--even if it's just a few minutes while we drive alone in the car and we turn off the radio and just drive in silence.  Or maybe it is when you are alone in the bath or in the shower.  Make that intentional time with God.

And if we are going to stay in tune with God so we make sure we are always on His side, we need to rediscover the spiritual disciplines our culture has so often forgot--prayer, fasting, meditation.  You know, Jesus said, "When you fast..."  He didn't say, if you fast; Jesus assumed His followers would fast.  But how many people in our day and age fast as a regular spiritual exercise?  We need to rediscover this discipline.

And we must immerse ourselves in God’s Word.  We must stop basing our ideas about God on our own personal opinions and the things we heard from others.  God has told us who He is and what He's done and what He wants us to do.  It's all right there in the Holy Bible.  Most people in America own multiple copies of the Bible, but they do not read them.  We are biblically illiterate.  We must read, study, and obey God's Word in the Bible.  This should be a regular part of our daily habits.  It must be if we are to stay in tune with God and make sure we are always on His side.

And when we know we are on God's side (not that He is on our side), we will worship and serve Him.  We will make the Kingdom of God our first priority and we will live and die for God, however He commands.  We will join with Joshua who said, "I am at Your command.  What do you want Your servant to do?"

We must change our whole perspective on life.  Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters.  For you will either love the one and hate the other or you will hate the one and love the other."  So we must ask the question in every area of our life.  Is God my Lord or not?  Is He first?  We often say He is Lord and He is first, but then we find we are really serving some other lord or some other god or some other thing or ourself, and God is only tagged on as something extra.  He is not really our master.  We only want God to be on our side.  And He says, "No.  I am Yahweh.  I Am Who I Am."  

What’s Your Jericho?
From time to time in life, we all come up against a Jericho and we want to know, "Is God on our side?"  It's time we stop thinking that way.  It's the wrong question.  Instead, we must strive to be on God's side.  For God is always right and good and holy and just.  And in the end, God's side always wins.  I want to be on God's side.  Don't you?

Check back with me next week as we look at another story about another man in another time who was about to enter another city--Jesus and the city of Jerusalem on the day Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday.