Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rahab - three strikes


Powerful lot of reading last time . . . but what an awesome story! More intrigue and suspense than a modern-day spy-thriller, right?

Lots of people love those kinds of stories, and it makes me think that this is a good story to utilize when we have a chance to witness for our Lord. (Grin)  Always good to keep a person's interest. There's even a great gospel song about this incident, but that's another story . . .

Rahab's story is intertwined with the story of the Israelites as they marched into the land that God had promised to them. Of all the people in the city of Jericho, we only know the name of one of them: Rahab. The Bible tells us she was a harlot, or prostitute in today's vernacular. We meet her when the two spies are sent by Joshua to scout out the city before they siege and attack it.

Jericho was the gateway to Canaan, and was a large, beautiful, and cultured city. For many years, its existence was questioned, but archaeological digs have now established what the city was like. Towering around the city were massive walls that ensured security, protection, and defense from invaders. The city itself covered about 8 acres, and it boasted inner and outer walls. That inner wall was twelve feet thick, and the outer wall was six feet thick -- they both stood approximately thirty feet high! We can see that the ramparts, or tops of the walls, were as broad as streets, especially the inner wall, and there were houses built on them.

One of those houses is the home (and brothel, and possibly the inn) of Rahab. Some folks question why the spies would have visited the house of a prostitute . . . but this was an ideal place for two spies to visit, and not be viewed with suspicion! Two foreigners, entering a brothel, would not have raised any eyebrows, and it might have been the best place for them to hide.

This is where the scouts meet Rahab, and this is where we learn about her, and then in the long run, about ourselves. Yep, I mean that. There are many lessons we can draw from her story. We will see that as our story moves forward, Rahab comes to believe in the God of the Israelites, the God of these two scouts. Then she is going to give them shelter -- she is actually going to commit treason against her own nation! She is going to lie about where they are, all the while she has hidden them on her roof; and then she is going to negotiate a deal to save herself and all her family.

The end result is that she will be accepted by Israel; she will be a kind of honorary member of their nation! She will marry an Israelite, Salmon, who might even have been one of the spies that took shelter in her home on the wall of Jericho. Because of that marriage, she will give birth to a baby boy who will become King David's great-grandfather, and that will make her an ancestor of our Lord Jesus. Seriously. Check this out:

                        .....Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz
                        the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of
                        Jesse....  (Matthew 1:5)

In addition, Rahab will be mentioned by Paul in what is called the "Hall of Fame of Faith" in Hebrews:

              faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the 
                       spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 
                       (Hebrews 11:31)

Are you surprised? This is not just the story of Rahab..... it's the story of all of us. Every soul that is saved by grace through faith. It's a true story of salvation.
Just like us, Rahab had three strikes against her. We're going to look at those this week.

Rahab's first strike was that of her nationality, the country that she called home, and that she was native to. She was a  Canaanite, residing in the city of Jericho. Canaanites were a group of people that seemed inherently wicked; they were condemned throughout our scriptures as immoral and idolatrous people. Because Jericho was a Canaanite city, it was condemned -- judgement was coming. Remember when God was promising to Abraham that the land of Canaan would be his?

                      Then the Lord said to him, "Know for certain that for four hundred
                      years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own
                      and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish
                      the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with
                      great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace
                      and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your 
                      descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not
                      yet reached its full measure."  (Genesis 15:13-16)

God was waiting until the wickedness of the Amorites (Canaanites) was so bad that He judged them and put them out of the land, giving the land to Israel.

Does it seem harsh to us in this day, to see God purge the Canaanites from the land? Does it seem cruel? It shouldn't . . . God waited over 400 years. He gave them 400 years to turn from their idolatry, and then 40 more while the Israelites walked through the desert. They had many years to hear and believe in Jehovah, and then they had an extra forty years to come to Him.

Now that General Joshua and the people of Israel were camped outside their city, the people of this nation had yet another chance to repent. They could have believed, but they didn't.  They hardened their hearts against God, and rejected His invitation.

But even though her nationality condemned her, as one of the "three strikes" against her, Rahab found God's grace.

What a long-suffering God we have! How patient He is!

                       The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,
                       but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for 
                       all to come to repentance.  (II Peter 3:9)

For we are just like Rahab before we are saved: we are of the nation of the sinful. We are condemned by our nationality, just as she was:

                       For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

We will see as we study that we have "three strikes" against us, too, but God's grace reaches all of us.

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