Heroes. We all have them or have had them in the past. I’m betting when I say the word “hero”, someone immediately comes to mind. Sometimes it is an athlete like Michael Jordan who packed basketball arenas with his impressive dunks and his occasional saving of the Looney Tune world from the aliens. Maybe it is a president like Ronald Reagan who fought for conservative ideals and is remembered best for his witty one-liners and bold statements of value and truth. Sometimes it is a parent who in the wake of the passing of a spouse, pulled up her boot straps, held down three jobs, and had the kids at school on time almost daily. I know my mom is my hero even until today. For many young ones, the Avengers certainly qualify as heroes after saving the known universe from Loki’s schemes and shenanigans. I think we all can think of a hero because we’re meant to marvel and celebrate over acts of valor, strength, and moral virtue. We’re meant to exalt and exult in godly fashion men and women who in the face of adversity, possible compromise, or strain rise to the occasion and instill hope in our fallen hearts. It is good and right to have heroes. We need them in a world such as ours’. Today I want to talk about a hero and hopefully show you the qualities she possessed in order that we might possibly follow in her footsteps. She’s relatively unknown outside of the Christian world and, even in our circles, is looked upon with occasional suspicion. Rahab the prostitute. Yes, you heard right. Rahab the prostitute. Why her? How her? Well, the book of Joshua makes it clear that Rahab risked her life to save herself and her family because she believed the mighty acts of God. I want you this morning to walk away possessing faith like Rahab and be willing to lay your life on the line for the sake of the Gospel. Today it isn’t a judge, an athlete, or a prophet that serves as a model for Christian service. It’s the street worker. It’s not the Congressman out in Baton Rouge this time. It’s the Bourbon Street native who is known for her work.
The Unlikely Heroine (vv. 1-7)
The story in Joshua two opens up with a few, Jewish spies afoot in an enemy territory. God promised the Israelites the land but that promise did not preclude the Israelites from hard and dangerous work. The land is there’s for the taking but they still must take it. Moses is dead and the mantle of authority rests upon the shoulders of his servant, a mighty warrior named Joshua. Will they enter their rightful home or make a frightful flight back to Egypt? Will they shrink back from their destiny or double back to their disdainful doubts of God’s goodness? Will they trust God or will they lack faith? The Israelites under the strong leadership of Joshua decide to bank on the promises of God so send in the best espionage of the day. This is the stuff of a James Bond movie. But there are no slick suits, martinis that are to “shaken, not stirred”, or damsels in distress. The story opens up with the Israelites spies stuck on the outside of the pagan city in a less than honorable establishment. They’re in the home of a harlot. This indeed appears like it sounds- sketchy.
And it’s not just sketchy. It’s dangerous. The king has been notified of the Israelite spies and he is determined to save his throne. The text says, “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.’” The Israelite endeavors for glory were about to crash against the rocks of the Canaanite army. The king was coming and certain death was imminent. God had promised to give the land to the Jews and it appeared as if his promises could not be trusted for they were about to meet their Maker landless by the end of a pagan’s sword. But, something curious happens. Something baffling occurs. Something unexpected within the narrative drops our jaws and raises our eyebrows. When the king’s men come, Rahab hides the spies and sends the regal brawlers off into the distance chasing the wind. The spies are spared and protected and they’re spared and protected by someone who, on all accounts considered, should have had as loose ethics and she had loose living. You would think her code of honor matched her code of daily conduct. But it doesn’t. In fact, she shows herself to be righteous. She shows herself to be a heroine.
Rahab is most certainly an unlikely hero. Had the king discovered her plot, she and the spies would have been destroyed. She would have lost what little life she had under the weight of the king’s heavy hand. She could have become a household name in the fair land of Canaan as someone who, with patriotic pride, stood with the present regime. Yet, in a moment of decision, she made hers and it wasn’t to stand with her king. You may be thinking the following today: I’m not eloquent like the pastor. I don’t have it all together like the deacon. I don’t know enough compared to my Sunday school teacher. You don’t know what I have done or where I’ve been. I’m a nobody. I’m not worth anything to the kingdom of God. I cannot do it. Beloved, some of those things might be true. But I’d bank my life upon some of them also being demonstrably false. We’re not all meant to be pastors, teachers, or missionaries. We have not all been given slick eloquence, apologetic prestige, or evangelistic wherewithal. But, we all have a place within the body of Christ. Our task this morning, our task each moment of every day is to in high and humble ways exalt the mercies of Jesus. We are called to feed the homeless, preach the gospel, visit the elderly, change diapers, sweep the vestibule after the service, vote our beliefs, stand against in writing things such as infanticide, teach the truth to all people, clean our houses, run 5Ks for cancer research, and a host of other things for the glory of God. God has given each member of the Church a spiritual gift so they can give to the world and the kingdom their best. He has given us breath and moments on this piece of sod as gracious gifts. Every single moment with every person is an opportunity to move someone to eternal beauty or everlasting horror. We can be heroes and heroines in the outstanding as well as the mundane. If God can use a prostitute, he can use a housewife. If God can use a harlot, he can use a custodian. If God can use a street walker, he can use a first grade teacher. Moment by moment we are called to make decisions that can benefit and bring joy to others. Why should we do that? Let’s see what reason Rahab possessed for her bold act of sacrifice.
The Cause for Risk (vv. 8-14)
The lady returns to the hidden spies on the rooftop and relays the message of salvation. They would not be losing their heads that night. The king’s men were en route elsewhere and they were protected from harm. What drove her heroic deeds? What caused the harlot to become the heroine? Where was her moral virtue flowing from? Rahab tells the spies that she knew whom they served. They were set to invade the land but the invasion was not merely the coming army of Jewish warriors. It was the coming wrath of a just King whose power and might were limitless. The woman professes that, “…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.” For the prostitute, the past history of the Israelites was sufficient enough to merit fear and devotion. If God could destroy the mighty Egyptians and flick the pestilent kings Sihon and Og like mere flies off the table, he could easily destroy the Canaanites. Joshua would tell the Israelites to “choose this day who you will serve” soon in the future and Rahab decided beforehand she wanted a portion in the decision-making process. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words that “Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.” Isn’t it interesting that the prostitute understands truth about God and the king doesn’t? This was true even in Jesus’ day. Prostitutes and tax collectors were slipping and sliding into God’s kingdom while the Pharisees remained on the outskirts of grace blocked off from it because of pride.
After hearing God’s mighty acts, Rahab humbly exclaims “…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.” The woman was sure that Israel’s God was the one true God. She desired to align herself with the Israelites because she knew whom the Israelites worshipped. In the mind of the street worker, Yahweh was not merely the God of one specific area. She believed the God of the Exodus was able and He truly lived, ruled, and reigned over the whole universe. She pleads with the spies to make an oath with her and her family. She reckoned if God was able to do that to his enemies, she definitely does not want to be found among those that oppose him. Recognizing that the city gate was shut and the espionage needed her help, the spies agree to spare the harlot and her family.
Rahab sacrificed and put her neck on the line because she believed in the majesty and greatness of God. She would readily agree with Abraham Kuyper who said “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Why should you sacrifice? Why should you daily take up your cross and follow Jesus? Why should you lay down your life on the line for the mission of God in the world? Our answer is Rahab’s answer. He is supremely worth it. The glory of God is meant to be honored. The holiness of God is meant to be reverenced. The greatness of God is meant to be admired. The power of God is meant to be praised. The truth of God is meant to be sought. The wisdom of God is meant to be esteemed. The beauty of God is meant to be treasured. The goodness of God is meant to be savored. The faithfulness of God is meant to be trusted. The promises of God are meant to be relied upon. The commandments of God are meant to be obeyed. The justice of God is meant to be respected. The wrath of God is meant to be feared. The grace of God is meant to be cherished. The presence of God is meant to be prized. The person of God is meant to be loved. The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist, is our greatest joy, all most prized-possession, and our deepest, most intimate relationship. Why should you and I step out daily in faith? Because we have found one, or better have been found by One, whose supremacy pervades all things in every way. What does God promise to those who live daily for him in constant sacrifice and obedience? Rahab’s story is not finished yet. Let’s see how the story ends.
God’s Promise to Riskers (vv. 15-21)
The woman lets the spies down a rope through a window on the side of the city wall to safety. The story closes with the spies promising to protect the life of her family and her own if she will tie a scarlet cord on her window seal. The men tell her, “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.” The scarlet cord acts as the protective shield over the house of Rahab. Under it, there is safety and provision. Outside of it, there is destruction and certain death. The scarlet cord was a sign of her obedience. Placing the rope on the window was evidence that she had trusted in the LORD’s might and power not only when the spies were present but also in the midst of the coming judgment.
What is here for us? I think no one could articulate it better than the prince of preachers himself, C.H. Spurgeon. He writes, “This act of Rahab sets forth a yet more solemn lesson. Have I implicitly trusted in the precious blood of Jesus? Have I tied the scarlet cord, as with a Gordian knot in my window, so that my trust can never be removed? Or can I look out towards the Dead Sea of my sins, or the Jerusalem of my hopes, without seeing the blood, and seeing all things in connection with its blessed power? The passer-by can see a cord of so conspicuous a colour, if it hangs from the window: it will be well for me if my life makes the efficacy of the atonement conspicuous to all onlookers. What is there to be ashamed of? Let men or devils gaze if they will, the blood is my boast and my song. My soul, there is One who will see that scarlet line, even when from weakness of faith thou canst not see it thyself; Jehovah, the Avenger, will see it and pass over thee. Jericho’s walls fell flat: Rahab’s house was on the wall, and yet it stood unmoved; my nature is built into the wall of humanity, and yet when destruction smites the race, I shall be secure. My soul, tie the scarlet thread in the window afresh, and rest in peace.” If the answer to Mr. Sprugeon’s question is yes, what has Christ personally promised us? He has promised to ultimately save us to the uttermost. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised an eternal covenant with everlasting benefits. He has promised divine protection from the onslaught of the devil’s slanderous accusations. He has promised the scarlet cord of his blood will protect us and keep us until the day when our obedience is over.
Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Amidst greats such as David, Abraham, and Moses, we find the name of a prostitute. Why? The unlikely heroine recognized the beauty and power of the One true God and sacrificed accordingly casting herself on the rock-solid promises of God for her provision. Beloved, when the annuals of history are closed and the passing of earthly time has ended, what will be said of you? Will you be known as a man or woman of faith who banked on the absolute and infallible Word of God? Will you be remembered in the presence of the holy angels as a person who said “yes” to Christ in every moment that counted? Will you be acknowledged as one who sacrificed daily living in moment-by-moment in obedience to the commands of Christ? Let’s pray. “Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.