“Grandmothers Of Jesus—Rahab”                                         December 14, 2014

Joshua 2:1-24   

 

In Christ’s genealogy in Matthew chapter one,

   amongst that long list of his forefathers are mentioned four women—

   Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, although she is referred to as the woman

   who had been Uriah’s wife.

Scholars have long pointed out that the inclusion of these names is highly unusual.

   First, because in patriarchal society, women didn’t have a place in genealogies.

But even more unusual, these four women are like skeletons in the closet of the

   Messiah.  Their backgrounds, their histories are all wrong.

 

Two of these women were Canaanites—Tamar and Rahab.

   God had cursed the Canaanites for their idolatry and gross immorality.

   He warned the Israelites never to marry them, but two got into the line of Christ.

One of these women was a Moabite—that’s Ruth.

   She was a good woman, but the Moabites were also pagans.

   Not allowed by law of Moses to come into the Temple.

And one of these women, Bathsheba, was perhaps an Israelite, perhaps a Hittite,

   but she was at the center of the greatest scandal in King David’s reign.

All grandmothers of Jesus.

 

If Matthew was trying to write a genealogy of Jesus Christ that promoted him

   as the Messiah and Son of God, then why did he include these women?

Why didn’t he leave these skeletons in the closet?

   The short answer is God’s grace.

 

Matthew writes:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham . . .

Salmon was the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.

 

Let’s read about Rahab, a grandmother of our Lord.


 

INTRO:  Andrew White is the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad.

I read an interview with him this week about an event that happened in Iraq

   just ten days ago.  Four Christian teenagers, 15-year-olds, were captured by ISIS.

They were ordered:  Say that you will follow Mohammed.

   They responded:  No, we love Jesus.  We have always loved Jesus.

   We have always followed Jesus.  Jesus has always been with us.

They were ordered again:  Say the words.

   They replied:  No, we can’t.  And all four were beheaded.

   Pastor White and his church are grieving.

 

What if we had suffered the same loss ten days ago?

Our fifteen year olds are Avery Barlow, Paden Adams, Jordan Miner,

   Jackson Shaw, Cohen White, and Riley Adams. 

What would be doing this morning,

   gathered here for worship with Christmas just two weeks away? 

I imagine we would be doing what those brave believers in Baghdad are doing.

 

In the midst of our grief, we would be repeating the last words of our children.

   No, we can’t say we will follow Mohammed. 

   We love Jesus.  We have always loved Jesus. 

   We have always followed Jesus.  Jesus has always been with us.

Their profession of faith in Christ, the strength of their faith in him,

   would hold us up.  It would really be Jesus holding us up through their faith.

We would be saying:  Lord, give us the faith of these young people.

   If we walk the same path, help us to show ourselves worthy of knowing them,

   by saying that we too love Jesus more than we love our own lives.

 

The story of Rahab is in the Bible because it is a story of great faith—

   it is a story of saving faith in the true and living God.

Of the four grandmothers of Jesus mentioned in his genealogy—

   Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba—

   Rahab is the only one mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.

Both places she is held up as example of faith—

   and example of faith for our encouragement and for our emulation.

 

She is mentioned in Hebrews 11.

   By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,

   because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

It’s extraordinary that only other woman mentioned in Hebrews 11 as an

   example of faith is Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.

The writer of Hebrews places Rahab the Canaanite prostitute

   alongside Sarah, the mother of the faithful.

 

She is also mentioned in James 2 in that passage where James is arguing that

   true faith will always produce good works. 

And in making this point, James chooses just two people from all the OT.

   Rahab and Abraham.

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness, and he was called a friend of God.  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

 

Once again, the comparison is extraordinary.

   Scripture calls Abraham the father of all who believe in Christ.

   Alongside of him as an example of that belief is Rahab.

 

This woman obviously captured the spiritual imaginations of the NT writers.

   She was a figure of enormous significance to them.

Her inclusion in the genealogy of Christ is a powerful reminder that faith

   in Jesus Christ is absolutely essential for salvation.

There is no way that you can truly celebrate Christmas, unless you are believing

   and trusting in Jesus Christ with a lively faith like Rahab.

 

If Tamar’s story is a call to examine your self-righteousness and repent of it,

   Rahab’s story is a call to examine your faith and grow in it. 

 

Let’s look at this passage under two headings:

1.  A great story about faith. 

2.  Three lessons about faith.


MP#1  A great story about faith

As I’ve already pointed out, the story of Rahab captured the imaginations

   of the New Testament writers.  Let’s go through it carefully.

 

It starts with Joshua and the nation of Israel camped on east side of Jordan River,

   about to cross and begin their conquest of Promised Land.

Forty years earlier, Israelites had been at this very same spot, but they had failed.

   Moses had sent 12 men to spy out the land in preparation for the conquest.

When they returned and gave their report, ten of the spies said:  There’s no way. 

   The people are giants with fortified cities—we felt like grasshoppers.

Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb said, what are we waiting for. 

   It’s a wonderful land and the Lord has promised to give it to us.

   Let’s trust him and cross the river. 

 

But the 10 spies convinced the Israelites it was impossible. 

   They got angry at God and at Moses and refused to go. 

So the Lord said:  For your lack of faith, you will wander 40 years in the desert

   until this entire generation I brought out of Egypt dies.

   Then, I will give the promised land to the next generation. 

That’s what happened.  Forty years.  Moses died. 

   That next generation had arrived—led by Joshua

 

They were at the same place, about to cross Jordan and take Promised Land.

   Joshua sent out just two spies—especially go to Jericho.

   Jericho—very strong, fortified city, strategic location, doorway to Canaan.

When the spies arrived in Jericho, they found lodging at the house of a prostitute.

   Why?  Inn keeping and prostitution went hand in hand.

   And perhaps they thought they would be anonymous. 

 

But they had no idea their cover had been blown and their lives were in danger.

   Somehow Rahab knew.  She knew who they were and the danger they were in.

The moment they entered Rahab’s house she must have said something like—

   I know who you are.  You’re Israelites.  You’re here to spy out the city.

   Your lives are in danger.  The king’s men are on their way right now.

   There is no time to leave.  No time to talk.  You’re going to have to trust me.

She took them up on roof and hid them under a pile of flax drying there.

   (Flax is the plant linen comes from.)

Almost immediately the authorities arrived.

   They asked, Where are the two men who came here?

Rahab said, They were here, but left right before the gate closed.

   If you hurry, you can probably catch them.  Men believed her and quickly left.

Imagine the fear these two Israelite spies were feeling.

   Their secret mission was a disaster.  A prostitute had recognized them right away.

   They had to put their lives in her hands. 

Maybe they heard the king’s men pounding on her door and the conversation.

   They knew if they were found they would be tortured and killed.

   They were trying not to move, sweating, their hearts pounding.

 

Then they hear the door close and the king’s men leaving.

And up on the roof comes this Canaanite woman who has just risked her life

   to save theirs, and the first words out of her mouth blew them away.

   I know that the LORD has given this land to you.

The name she used for LORD was not generic word for Lord or God—

   she used the name Yahweh, Jehovah, the covenant name God revealed to Israel.

   It would be like someone using the name Jesus Christ. 

A Canaanite woman, a prostitute, a pagan in heart of pagan city professed

   her belief in the LORD’s promise to give Israel the land.

 

But she didn’t stop there.

   Great fear of you has fallen on us so that all who live in this country are melting in fear.

The Lord had given that very promise to the Israelites through Moses.

   There is no way she could have known about those words of Moses.

   But these two spies saw the connection and it must have sent a shiver up spines.

 

But she didn’t stop there.

   We’ve heard how the Lord dried up water of Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt

   and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom

   you completely destroyed.”

She affirmed her belief in the great miracle of parting of Red Sea,

   even though it had happened 40 years before, probably before she was born.

She also affirmed the defeat of these two Amorite kings was not an ordinary

   war but the beginning of the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise.

Jericho was no ordinary city.  It had stood for thousands of years.

   There was no reason it would fall to desert nomads, but she believed it would.

 

But she didn’t stop there.

   The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

These are amazing words.  The Canaanites were polytheists.

Each nation had its own gods.  Gods were tied to specific locations.

Polytheist would never insist you worship his gods, choose which best for you.

   Similar to the way people today say:  You have to choose what’s true for you.

   You don’t insist that one spiritual truth is true for all people.

Rahab said, I believe your God, the LORD, Yahweh, is God in heaven.

   She was saying:  He is the only God.  All others false, idols.  Professing faith.

 

But she didn’t stop there.

   Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to me

   and my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”

This is probably the most stunning detail.  She believed that this God of Israel,

   this God who was bringing his long-promised judgment on the Canaanites,

   she believe that he was a merciful God.

And she believed that if his followers, these Israelites swore on his name to be

   merciful, then they would be merciful. 

 

She didn’t have to bring the Lord into it.  She could have just bargained.

   I’ll call the guards if you don’t swear to spare my life when you take the city.

   Or, knowing the attack coming, could have left Jericho.

No, she appealed to the LORD of Israel because she believed in him.  Trusted him.

   So the men swore an oath.  Then, after that they added all these requirements.

   You have to hang this rope outside.  If you tell anybody, we are freed from oath.

Some commentators think uncomfortable had made agreement with a Canaanite,

   overstepped bounds.  They say, you made us swear.  Rahab unconcerned. 

 

Fast forward—the spies escaped—went up in the hills for three days, back to camp.

   Whatever they thought of Rahab, they followed her instructions to the letter.

Gave a full report to Joshua.  That must have been embarrassing. 

   How many soldiers in Jericho?  We don’t know.

   Do you have a drawing of gates?  We didn’t have time.  

What happened to you?  Well . . .

Let us tell you what a Canaanite prostitute told us:

   The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands into hands,

   all the people are melting with fear because of us.”

 

Not a bit of military intelligence, but unlike the report of spies 40 years earlier,

   that was full of military intelligence about high walls, fierce soldiers,

   these words of Rahab, her confession of faith, put steel in spines of Israelites.

Very next day they crossed the Jordan River on way to Jericho and conquest.

MP#2  Three lessons about faith . . .

that we learn from this amazing woman Rahab, grandmother of Christ.

   I want to try to connect them to celebration of Christmas.

1.  Faith rests on the great acts and promises of God.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie Unbroken that is coming out on Christmas,

   but I’m prepared to be a little disappointed.

If you read the book, you know it’s the bio of the WWII hero Louis Zamperini. 

First half about experiences in Japanese POW camp, his amazing will to survive. 

Second half about when he got home, how revenge and alcohol almost killed.

   He heard the Gospel at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles and

   and Christ enabled him to forgive his captors and find peace.

 

The movie is directed by Angelina Jolie, and she decided not to present  

   Zamperini’s faith in Christ but to depict a what she calls a “universal faith.”

That’s understandable, knowing where she is coming from. 

   The Bible’s definition of faith and pop culture definition are radically different. Pop culture says that faith is any sort of vague, “spiritual” feelings,

   centered on self-actualization, fulfillment—different for every person.

The Bible says that faith rests on the great acts and promises of God.

   Faith is not about you, it’s about God, what he has done real history, going to do.

   For Zamerini, it was faith in Jesus Christ who was born, died, rose again.

 

You can’t help but be struck by how much Rahab was not only out of step with

   Canaanite culture, how she would be out of step with American culture.

She believe God’s judgment was coming to her city and culture for sins.

She believed the great acts of God in history, the Red Sea.

She believed the LORD is the one true God, true for all people.

She believed the LORD is the God of mercy, would save her if asked Him.

   I’m sure Rahab would enjoy watching Unbroken, I’m sure she would also say:

   Come on, Angelina, you’ve missed the point—it’s all about what God has done.

 

Christmas is a time to grow your faith by celebrating the greatest thing God has

   done—the birth of his Son in Bethlehem for your salvation. 

   Don’t hold back, enter into the celebration with a full heart. 

If you have children—read the stories to your children.  Read it to yourself.

   Find some Christmas music that moves you. 

   Phil Keaggy Let Us Go To Bethlehem, great love of Christ for all people.

   I dug it out this week, I’ve been listening to warm up my cold heart. 

Rhythm of Christian year, time for faith to be stirred—stir it up.

MP#2  Faith results in a changed life and good deeds.

This is the theme of the book of James, the reason Rahab chosen as example.

   If you have true faith in Lord, believe great acts, great promises,

   your life will be different—it is inevitable.

True faith demonstrated by changed life.  “Faith without deeds is dead.”

 

As look at Rahab—two places this result of faith most obvious.

First is in the way she treated the spies.

   Because of her faith, she risked her life to save them.

And she knew that only by taking this risk

   did she and her family have any hope of being saved.

Good deeds motivated by faith are often sacrificial. 

   They demand something from us, some giving of ourselves.

   They may be risky, but most likely, will be inconvenient. 

 

Second place we see the result of her faith is easily overlooked—

   but all old commentators call attention to it.

Rahab did not believe after she met spies, she was a believer before they got there.

   One of the little evidences of a changed life was the flax on the roof.

Processing linen from flax stalks was labor intensive and difficult.

   Why would Rahab be doing this if she was in another line of work?

 

Could this not be a little clue that her life had started to change? 

   She was leaving her old profession.  She was looking for work that would honor

   the Lord with her body.  Pro. 31, the ideal virtuous woman, she works with flax.

And she used that new calling, that new work, to be a blessing.

   I think this is encouraging, because it means that whatever your calling,

   whatever your life’s work, if you work for God’s glory, he will use it to bless.

The good deeds that come from faith are not just special, extraordinary things,

   they are the faithful, consistent, hard-working pursuit of our callings. 

 

Faith without works is dead.  True faith known by love and good deeds.

   Christmas is a special time for that. 

   Keep your eyes open for opportunities.

Give the cashier who rings up your Christmas purchases a kind word.

   Who knows what her day has been like, what struggles she has at home. 

Give the waitress who serves you a generous tip.

   If you do for the love of Christ and faith in him, he will use it to bless her.

 

MP#3  Faith is a gift of God’s sovereign grace.

Easy to read this story, preach a sermon and say—Rahab, Rahab, be like Rahab.

   You might say—Yes, I’m going to try to be like Rahab.

I’m going to grow in my faith, use Christmas to focus on acts and promises of God,

   prove my faith by good works, look for opportunities to show faith in Jesus.

But pretty soon, you would lose your fervor,

   because Rahab can’t help you.  Even her example can’t motivate you for long.

The hero of this story is not Rahab—it’s the Lord.

 

Greatest lesson of this story is that faith is a gift of God’s sovereign grace.

How can you explain the story of Rahab any other way than to say that God

   himself chose this woman, out of all the rebels in that city,

   destined for destruction, and placed his love on her?

She is the most unlikely person imaginable, and yet she believed.

   She believed the rumors and stories she had heard about the God of Israel.

She believed in that God against all that her culture told her.

   She believed in that God against all her life experiences and

   the spiritually deadening impact of her prostitution.

 

She believed this LORD, this one those desert nomads call Yahweh,

   was the one true God of heaven and earth, that he was coming to judge her city,

   and judge her as a citizen of that city.

Yet she also believed he was a merciful God and that he would forgive her

   and save her if she put her trust in him.

 

How did she believe but by the touch of God’s Spirit,

   who came in and woke her dead spirit, gave her the gift of faith?

   This was nothing in her—came from outside of her by grace of God.

 

The Lord did more than just give Rahab the gift of faith.

Later in Joshua we read that when Jericho fell, every person destroyed,

   those two spies found the house with the scarlet cord,

Rahab was inside with her family—spies brought them out alive.

   The last comment of chapter 6 is:

   “And she lives among the Israelites to this day.”

But by God’s grace, that was not the end of her story—

   Rahab married a prince of Judah named Salmon.

   They had a son named Boaz

   And a grandson named Obed

And a great grandson named Jesse

   And a great-great grandson named David—King David.

And her line of grandsons continued until her greatest grandson was born

   in Bethlehem, the city of David.

 

One of the criticisms Jesus faced from the Pharisees and other upstanding

   religious people was that he was kind to prostitutes, and shared the good news

   of God’s love and mercy with them.  That was defiling, in their view,

   to even acknowledge the presence of these women.

Someone has asked the question:  Could it be that the tender place

   the Lord Jesus Christ had in his heart for prostitutes,

   was an overflow of love that he had for his great grandmother Rahab?

As she has been a recipient of God’s grace so many centuries before,

   the Son of God extended that grace to women like her.

 

Let me make a particular application to your Christmas celebration.

   The holidays are often a family time.

   For you that might mean time with family members who are not believers.

Perhaps even people who you think could never change, have faith in Christ.

 

Why not?  If God’s sovereign grace reached Rahab and woke her up

   in the midst of a city and culture and lifestyle totally opposed to Him,

   can He not do the same to that uncle or aunt or cousin or brother or parent

   who is so far from Him?

If Lord could use the rumors and stories that circulated in Jericho

   to awaken Rahab’s faith, cause her to see her need for mercy,

   can He not use the great story of His Son and Christmas,

   to awaken people as well?

 

Pray:  O Lord Jesus, grandson of Rahab the prostitute,

   Please pour out your grace upon me this Christmas. 

Help my faith grow as I reflect on your great acts and promises. 

Give me opportunities to prove my faith by good deeds,

   and may your grace be poured out upon my family,

   especially those who don’t know you, and who desperately need the gift of faith.

 

Amen.