Unwavering Faith From An Unlikely Source.

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. – Hebrews 11:31 ESV

Now things get really interesting. Up to this point in the chapter, the author of Hebrews has been dealing with some fairly significant and well-known individuals in the family tree of Israel – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, and by extension, Joshua. But it should catch us a bit by surprise to read the name of a prostitute in this great “Hall of Faith.” To understand her presence in the list of the faithful provided in Hebrews 11, we have to go back to the original story found in the book of Joshua. When it came time for the people of Israel to begin their God-ordained occupation of the land of Canaan, Joshua sent out spies to determine the situation in Jericho. “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” (Joshua 2:1 ESV). There is a lot we don’t know in this story. We don’t know why they chose Rahab’s house. Had they been given her name by someone else? Where they aware that she was a follower of Yahweh? Did they choose a prostitute’s house because they believed no one would think to look for them there? The passage doesn’t provide us with answers to these questions. But we do know that someone ratted on the two spies, and the king of Jericho sent soldiers to Rahab’s house to find them. “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’” (Joshua 2:3 ESV). But rather than turn the two spies over to the king’s soldiers, she hid them, and she covered for them. “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’” (Joshua 2:4-5 ESV).

Rahab protected the two Israelite spies. Why? Because she was a God-fearer. She had somehow heard about the God of Israel and believed in Him. Word of God’s powerful and miraculous deliverance of Israel from captivity in Egypt had gotten out, and Rahab  determined that He was the one true God. She knew that Jericho was no match for God, so she protected the spies and asked them to return the favor when the time came.

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.” – Joshua 2:9-13 ESV

I tend to believe that the two men inadvertently ended up at Rahab’s house and that they had no idea she was a believer in Yahweh. That would have been the last thing they expected from a woman who made her living as a prostitute in a pagan city. But God, in His divine plan, arranged for them to go to the very house where they would find a woman who had become a believer in the God of Israel. She was so convinced of God’s power that she knew Jericho was going to fall. She only asked that she and her family be spared. She believed with all her heart that the God of Israel was the “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” The spies made an agreement with Rahab, instructing her to tie a scarlet thread in her window. That would act as a sign, much like the blood on the door post and lintels during the Passover. That threat would tell the Israelite troops to spare all the individuals found in that house. And when the walls of Jericho fell, we are told,  “But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (Joshua 6:25 ESV).

You might be tempted to say that Rahab’s faith was in the two spies. She believed they would keep their word and spare her life. But while there is some truth to that, the thing that drove her actions from the outset was her belief that God was the one true God and that He would give their city into the hands of the Israelite troops. Their God was greater. And in her action of providing protection for the two spies, she was acknowledging that she believed in God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us “without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Rahab definitely believed God existed. And she was seeking His protection and the reward of her life being spared. Rahab had no track record with God. She had simply heard the stories of His deliverance of the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt. She had heard about His redemptive power illustrated in the parting of the Red Sea. She had heard the stories about His defeat of the Amorites. For her, the rumors and hearsay became cause for belief. And her faith that God was real and that He had the power to save as well as destroy would lead to life, rather than death. Everyone in the city was doomed to destruction, but her faith in God resulted in her salvation.

Rahab would go on to spend the rest of her life living among the God’s people. She would marry and have children. In fact, you read her name in the gospel of Matthew. She is listed in the lineage of David.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. – Matthew 1:2-6 ESV

And from David would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Not only did Rahab’s faith result in the sparing of her own life, it paved the way for the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Her faith had long-lasting repercussions. Out of faith in God, she gave a friendly welcome to the spies, and that faith would result in her redemption and allow for the coming of the Redeemer of the world.

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Love and Hate.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. – 1 John 3:11 ESV

1 John 3:11-24

Love and hate. God and Satan. Dark and light. Faith and doubt. Belief and disbelief. Children of God and children of the devil. John paints a black and white portrait of life in this world. There are two systems at work and at war with one another. As children of God, we have been placed in the middle of an environment that is opposed to our very existence. The world, as a result of sin, is in rebellion against God. Many in the world reject that very existence of God. Others, unable to explain their own existence and desperate to find meaning for life, have concocted their own versions of God. But to make your own god is nothing short of the rejection of the one true God. The point that John seems to be trying to make is that those who have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ are going to find this world a place of conflict and contrasts. The very fact that we are His children puts us at odds with those who refuse to accept Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to be restored to a right relationship with God. The result is that the world hates us. John confirms that reality. “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13 ESV). Jesus gave us a similar warning. “This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:17-19 NLT). “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22 NIV).

John used the example of Cain and Abel – two brothers who should have naturally loved one another – to drive home his message of contrasts. Cain brutally murdered his brother. His act was an outflow of his anger toward and hatred for Abel. But it stemmed from his disbelief in God. He lacked the capacity to love Abel because he was devoid of a love for God. Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable to God because Cain lacked faith in God. “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4 ESV). Abel was motivated by faith in God. He believed in God. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). John makes it clear a little bit later in his letter that God is love. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 ESV). Love is essence of God. But this is not some kind of sentimental, Hallmark-greeting-card kind of love. This is a selfless, sacrificial, lay-it-all-on-the-line kind of love that is not of this world. Without God, Cain couldn’t manufacture this kind of love. But this kind of love is what sets the children of God apart from one another. It was what caused the early church to stand out from the crowd and set it apart as distinctively different. In the book of Acts, we read of the early days of the church as thousands of people from all walks of life and a variety of ethnic backgrounds are coming to faith in Jesus. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45 ESV). That day, there were people from all over the world who heard the good news regarding Jesus Christ. “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (Acts 2:9-11 ESV). And many of them came to faith and became part of a unique organism called the body of Christ. At that point, they became one in Christ. Their ethnic, economic, cultural, and idealogical differences were overshadowed by the love of God. Paul described the believers in Galatia in similar terms. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28 NLT). 

Our adoption as sons and daughters by God have placed us all into one new family. God’s love for us manifests itself in a love for one another that is unique and distinctive. No longer is our love based on earthly standards. Our commonality and community is not based on ethnicity, language, economic status, country of origin or level of education. Our unity is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. So Jews who love Jesus can love Arabs who love Jesus. Muslims who have come to know Jesus as their Savior can call Christians their brothers. Blacks and whites can love one another. Individuals who were once enemies can now worship together because of the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:14 NLT). Our capacity to love is our calling card. It is what sets us apart. And in this world, it is what sets us up for hatred. This world can’t comprehend that kind of love. It makes no sense. It sees it as a threat. It views it as a weakness. The enemy can’t stand it, because he knows its origin. It is of God. And anything of God is repulsive to him. But God is love and we are God’s children. Love is the greatest expression of our God-likeness. Which is why Paul wrote: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).