Thursday, October 15, 2015
Rahab -- three strikes
Last time we saw the first of "three strikes" against our heroine, Rahab. She's an unlikely heroine, but we can learn so much from her that we'll study her next week, too.
Her first strike, or the first reason she would have been condemned, was her nationality. She was a Canaanite, and we saw that they were condemned in scripture. Why? For their wickedness, and because they rejected God. We noted yesterday that we were condemned and lost in our sin, too, before Jesus redeemed us.
Now let's look at her religion. The Canaanites were infamous idolators. Wow, did they have a lot of choices for idols to worship. One of the oldest was El, and then his "son" Baal was around, as well, and he had a "consort" called Ashteroth. Since Canaan was a conglomeration of different peoples and nations, you also had Molech, and Dagon, and, well, you see what we're talking about here.
Many of the gods that they idolized required sexual immorality and/or violence in their worshipers. It was commonplace for followers to engage in sexual rituals, prostitution, orgies, and more. They would cut their bodies and plead for prosperity, agricultural success, or the winning of the current war. They would even sacrifice their children to the fires of the false gods.
Hard for us to believe?
Does it sound any different from our world today? The idols of today may be known by different names: corporate success, financial success, wealthy retirement, and the gathering of as many material possessions as possible. Sexual immorality, lying, cheating, the-end-justifies-the-means thinking, and even violence is used to achieve these goals. And as in the ancient times, it is sometimes the children who suffer the most from the excesses and failures of the adults.
So, Rahab was also condemned because she was an idolator. That was her "second strike."
Her "third strike" was her occupation. She was a prostitute. The Bible makes no bones about it, and in several passages calls her "Rahab the harlot." As I was reading about the false idols and rituals of the Canaanites, it struck me that she could have been one of those who engaged in sexual relationships out of religious devotion. She could have been a "priestess" for Baal, or Ashteroth, or one of the others. But the word harlot in the text seems to indicate that she was not in it for religious purposes; she was " in it for the money." It appears that she had a good location for her trade, because her house was on the top of the fabled wall of the city of Jericho. She could see strangers or townsmen who would be coming to her home.
So, she was condemned because of her occupation. The Bible has a lot to say about the profession of the prostitute. In Leviticus (chapter 21), the law said that a priest's daughter who was a prostitute was to be burned. In Deuteronomy (chapter 22), it states that an ordinary woman found to be a prostitute was to be stoned to death. The Levites, those who were set aside to be the priestly group and serve in the temple, were forbidden to marry a prostitute, no matter if she'd mended her ways. Even the money earned from prostitution was forbidden to be offered in the temple in chapter 23 of Deuteronomy. In both Proverbs and in Revelation, prostitutes are portrayed as leading men to ruin, by frequenting public places, wearing seductive dress, having unrestrained manners and beguiling tongues.
Rahab had three strikes against her, that's for sure. She came from a nation of people condemned by God; she was from a land of false idols and religions; she was engaged in a sinful, wicked occupation.
But none of us can look down our noses at her! Because we know, all too well, that whether we are religious or agnostic, moral or immoral, decent or wicked, there's no difference! All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If we somehow have the idea in our heads that we are somehow better than Rahab, then we have missed the whole point. All of us are born sinners; we have all chased after "other gods," and we have all done things in our lives that we are ashamed of!
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and
death through sin, and in this way death came to all people,
because all sinned . . . (Romans 5:12)
The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there
are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned
away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good,
not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who
does what is right and never sins.... (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
We've seen that Rahab had three strikes against her, but she still found God and found His grace, and was saved from death! And just like Rahab, we are redeemed, too!
Lest we end on a "down" note, just check out these words (the second half of Romans 6:23):
. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ
Can I hear an "amen!"? It's time to get on our knees and thank Him for this FACT:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
Jesus canceled out our three strikes, and paid the debt for us, so that we could be forgiven! All we have to do is ask God to forgive us through Jesus, and believe that Jesus died and rose again to pay for that redemption . . . and we will be forgiven!
We'll study Rahab again next week, to see "the rest of the story." Hope you will join us.