Summary: When you fail, don’t try to save yourself. Instead, realize you’re a loser (we all are), and rely on the Lord to turn your failure into victory!
Recently, I came across some cynical observations on life and work: Nothing is foolproof to a talented fool; the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese; borrow money from a pessimist – they don't expect it back; if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried; experience is something you don't get until just after you need it; the sooner you fall behind the more time you will have to catch up; if at first you don't succeed, then sky diving isn't for you. (www.PreachingToday.com)
Life is messy and full of failure, so what do you do when you have failed? What do you do when you have messed up not just a little bit, but big time? What do you do when you’re the “first mouse” so to speak? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Joshua 2, Joshua 2, where we meet a woman who was a moral failure living in a city condemned to destruction.
Joshua 2:1 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. (ESV)
If Israel was going to possess the Promised Land, they had to start with Jericho, a major city right in the heart of that land. So Joshua sends the spies specifically to Jericho, where they stay with a prostitute. No doubt, it’s a place where strangers can hide inconspicuously, since there would be a lot of strange men going in and out of her house. But it would be one of the most vile places to stay for a godly Jew.
You see. Rahab, the prostitute, was a loser in every sense of the word. She was a Canaanite, a culture that God condemned for their child sacrifices and gross immorality in the worship their disgusting gods. But more than that, she was a notorious sinner, the worst of the worse, a prostitute, in a culture known for its degrading immorality. Every time her name is mentioned in the Bible, she is called, “Rahab the Prostitute.”
How would you like people to remember you, for all time, by the sins you’ve committed. “Hey folks, here’s Harry the Hypocrite. And over there is Gertrude the Gossip. Oh, and we can’t forget Larry the Liar.”
Not very flattering, is it? But that’s exactly how Rahab was remembered all her life – as Rahab, the Prostitute.
On top of that, she is a liar.
Joshua 2:2-4 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 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.” 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. (ESV)
She is lying.
Joshua 2:5-7 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.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out. (ESV)
She lied to protect the spies. Don’t diminish that flaw in her character. Don’t try to excuse it or explain it away.
I know the New Testament commends her for her actions. 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.” And James 2:25 asks, “Was not… Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”
The New Testament commends Rahab for her actions. But if you look carefully, it commends her faith as it demonstrates itself in her works. It does not commend her lying. It commends her for “giving a friendly welcome” to the spies, and for “sending them out by another way,” not for lying about their whereabouts.
A little boy asked his mother, “Mommy, what is a lie?” His mother answered by saying, “Son, a lie is an abomination unto the Lord… But a very present help in time of need!”
We laugh, but that’s what people really believe and practice today. Our culture teaches us: it’s all right to lie sometimes. It’s all right to sleep with someone you’re not married to, if you really love that person. It’s all right to “sin” at times, especially if the situation is right, or there is a good result.