Summary: Rahab’s life illustrates how faith does not sit on the heart like a trohpy on a mantle collecting dust. God-created faith is active. (Sermon theme by Mark Anderson)
By now you may have decorated your Christmas tree. If so, did you hang any cracked and broken ornaments on the tree? Of course not! You only put on the tree ornaments that are beautiful and “worthy” to be displayed for all your Christmas guests to see.
During this Advent season we’re taking a look at the “ornaments” on Jesus’ family tree. By studying Jesus’ ancestors we’re interested to learn what we can about who Jesus is and why he came. The ancestor that we’re going to focus on today is Rahab. Rahab is a woman one wouldn’t normally brag about being related to. After all, she was a prostitute. Although Rahab seems like a cracked and broken ornament on the family tree of Jesus, we’re going to learn from her life how God makes heroes out of zeroes.
Rahab was a Canaanite who lived in the city of Jericho at the time Joshua was preparing to march the Israelites into the Promised Land. Indeed, their first target was the city where Rahab lived. Before Joshua made any move against Jericho, however, he sent two spies to see what they could learn about the city. The spies used Rahab’s house as their hub for exploration. Since Rahab was a prostitute, the spies figured that no one would pay any attention when they, two strangers, stayed at her place.
However, someone realized that the two men staying at Rahab’s weren’t regular paying customers of hers but were Israelite spies. The king of Jericho sent soldiers to arrest the men but when they came, Rahab told them that the spies had already escaped. The soldiers took off after the spies in the direction Rahab pointed while all along the spies were hiding on the roof of Rahab’s house. When the soldiers had gone, Rahab helped the spies escape through her window, which was built into the wall of the city.
Why did Rahab hide enemy spies? The New Testament books of the Bible, Hebrews and James, tell us that she did so because she had faith in the true God (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). But I thought Rahab was a prostitute? She had been. But by the time the spies arrived at her place she had become a believer. How did she become a believer? Rahab, along with all the people of Jericho, heard about the miracles God had worked for the Israelites in bringing them out of Egypt. They knew how God had parted the Red Sea for them and then closed the waters on the pursuing Egyptians. If that’s what God had done to the super-power Egypt, what chance did a city like theirs have against the Israelites and their God?
We shouldn’t think that Rahab was just hedging her bets, however. She wasn’t just siding with the Israelite spies because she wanted to back a winner. She had genuine faith. Rahab must have also heard about the promise that all nations would be blessed through the Israelites (Genesis 12:3). This promise pointed ahead to the birth of Jesus who would come from the Israelite nation but be born to save all people from their sin. Rahab believed this promise and trusted that through the Israelites God would send someone to save her from her sins.