After Rahab saves the Jewish spies, they promise her that she and her family would be spared when God gave them the city of Jericho as long as she would hang a scarlet cord from her window as she live right on the wall of the city. This cord served two purposes. The first is practical as it would identify for the military men of Israel which home was Rahab's so they know which home to save. But this scarlet cord also had a spiritual purpose. All throughout the Bible from beginning to end there is a scarlet thread that's woven through the story of the Bible that leads us to the cross of Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament God symbolically pointed us to the blood of Jesus. That's what this red cord symbolized. It pointed hundreds of years down the road to the cross of Jesus where Jesus Christ sheds His blood and dies to pay the penalty for our sin. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sin and that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all of our sin. It is the most important truth you can ever read in the Bible - the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse you today from your sin.
The story of Rahab is amazing. She goes from first being mentioned in the Bible as a pagan prostitute to being mentioned in God’s great hall of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. This is where God lists all the incredible examples of great faith that we should follow. He lists the big dogs in this chapter. You can find Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. And alongside of them you find Rahab the harlot. But that’s not it. In Matthew 1, when we see the genealogy leading up to Jesus, the Messiah we once again find Rahab the harlot. She ends up being the great, great grandma of King David which puts her in the genealogy of the Messiah Jesus Christ. Maybe this morning you are thinking that there is way too much baggage in your life for God to accept you, way too many sins that you have committed and skeletons that are in your closet. Folks, if God can take a pagan prostitute and put her in the line of the Messiah because she believed -- listen -- God can change your life today. He will forgive your sins. He will change your life. He will give you a home in heaven. If you doubt this then let Rahab becomes your proof.
When Rahab the harlot hides the Jewish spies in Jericho, one of the things she clearly did was to lie in order to protect the spies. The question we have to answer is, “Was Rahab's lie justified?” She definitely lied but what was her reason for lying? It was to save the spies. Is that a good reason? Sure. Her intent is good but does that justify her lie? Is it ever right to do wrong in order to do right? We call it today "situational ethics." Nowhere in scripture is Rahab ever condoned for telling the lie. She is commended for showing faith in hiding the spies but nowhere in scripture is she ever commended for lying. Could God have saved the spies without Rahab lying? Didn't He save Daniel in a lions' den? Didn't He save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace? Could God have saved the spies without Rahab lying? Most certainly he could have. We can debate if Rahab’s lie was justified until we’re blue in the face but we cannot use this verse to justify sin in your own life. That's what we have done today. We've become so very good at justifying our own sin. This verse cannot be used as a proof text that says it's okay to sin under certain circumstances to sin.
When Joshua sent spies into Jericho they lodged in the home of Rahab the harlot. Some ask, “Why did these spies commit immorality by going to Rahab's house?” Nowhere in the text does it say the spies committed immorality. Why would they stay at Rahab’s? Well, if you are visiting in Jericho for the night you're going to stay in the inn. Not everyone that stayed in the inn participated in the extracurricular activities and there's no hint in the passage that these spies did anything wrong. But I think there's a bigger reason they stayed there. I believe God sent these two men to Rahab the harlot as a divine appointment. The same thing happens with Jesus when he has a divine appointment with a Samaritan woman at the well who was also a very immoral person. What is a divine appointment? It's when God gets you at the right place at the right time to meet the right person to have the right conversation. I believe that God sent these men to Rahab the harlot because He had already been working in her heart. Why is it that in the church today our first impulse is to always condemn? Imagine how different it would be if our first impulse, rather than condemning, was compassion
As Joshua takes over the leadership of Israel they are camped in the grassy field called Shittim. Back in Numbers 25 this is the exact field where decades earlier Israel rebelled against God resulting in God sending a plague in which 23,000 Israelites died. Now they are back at the same grassy field as God now gives them the opportunity to break the rebellious cycle of their parents and grandparents. The sad truth is, and statistics point this out, that even though children hate the mistakes they see their parents make, they often tend to repeat them. God is giving Israel the opportunity to say, “It's time to break the cycle and say no to the rebellion of the past and begin to take steps of faith that can positively impact our children and grandchildren in their future.” Maybe you need that same opportunity. This is your chance to say, “There's a lot of past negative in my life, a lot of past mistakes that my grandparents and parents made, and that I've been making, but I'm not going to follow this pattern any longer. I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity to begin to take steps of faith and obedience that will positively affect my life and the life of my children and the life of my grandchildren.”
In Joshua 1 we are told to meditate on the Word of God. To really understand what that means you just have to look at a cow. Unlike a human that has just one chamber in their stomach, a cow has multiple chambers. A cow chews on the grass, swallows it into one of the chambers of its stomach, then, a little bit later on in the day, you know what that cow does? He vomits it back up into his mouth, chews on it some more and swallows it into another chamber of its stomach. Then you know what he does a little bit later on in the day? He vomits it up again, chews on it some more, then swallows it into another chamber to get all the nutrients out of it. Do you know what that is? Well, number one, it's gross. But number two, it's a perfect example of what it means to meditate on the Word of God. I don't just read it. Later in the day I bring it up into my mind and I think about it. Then a little bit later in the day I bring it back up into my mind and I think about it some more. Those who are committed to the Word of God constantly think about it.
When Joshua takes over the leadership of Israel, God commands him to be committed to His Word. Joshua 1:7-8 says, “Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Don't turn from it from the right or to the left so that you may have success wherever you go." You want to have success? Obey God. The verse continues, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth. You will meditate on it day and night so you can be careful to do all that is written in it, then you will make your way prosperous, then you will have success.” My friend, please understand that your spiritual success in life is directly tied to your commitment to the Word of God. You can't separate the two. Being committed to God is synonymous with being committed to His Word. One of the things that we see in this passage is that people who are committed to the Word constantly talk about it. How often do you talk about the Bible? How often do you share verses of scripture with others? How often do you share what God's teaching you? How about starting today we all share a verse from scripture every day on our social media? Can you imagine the impact that could have?
One of the things I love about God is that He is a God who constantly gives us divine encouragement. In 2 Corinthians 1 chapter 1 we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies" -- and look at this -- "the God of all comfort, the God of all encouragement who comforts us in our affliction so we can comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort we ourselves were comforted with from God.” He is a God who gives divine encouragement. How many times have I seen this happen in my life when I was going through struggles? I think of just the last few weeks and some of the struggles and hardships I have faced and every single time somehow, some way, God would use His Word to bring divine encouragement into to my life. Have you ever experienced that, where God, through His Word, gave you exactly what you needed to hear, exactly what you needed to read during a time that was tough in your life? He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our trials so we can comfort others going through their own trials. After all, God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters.
In Numbers 27 when Joshua is chosen by God to be the next leader of the Children of Israel, the Bible characterizes him as a man in whom is the spirit. You will never be able to influence others spiritually until your life is being controlled by the Spirit of God yourself. The New Testament terminology for this in Ephesians 5 is being “filled with the Spirit.” Think of it like driving. I wonder how many of you are like me in that whenever you are in a car you need to be the one driving. Unfortunately, that's how many of us are when it comes to our lives. We must be the one who makes the decisions regarding where we go, what we do, what we spend, how we respond, and what we say. In most cases, we tend to control our own lives. To be filled with the Spirit means that I get out from behind the steering wheel of my life and give that control to the Spirit of God. No longer will it be me making the decisions. From now on, it is, “God, what do You want me to do? Where do You want me to go? What do You want me to say? What do You want me to spend? How do You want me to respond?”
In Numbers 27 God tells Moses that he is about to die. Moses now makes a request and what’s interesting is that his request is not about himself. He doesn’t day, “Well, God, do You think maybe I can just put one foot in the land before I die just to say I got there?” Or, “God, could You give me just one more year? How about one more month? Maybe a week? That's not what Moses asks for. Moses’ request is that God would appoint a man over the congregation who would lead them so that they not become like sheep which have no shepherd. You see, Moses understood the importance of spiritual leaders in our life. He knew that without spiritual leaders the people would wander and make little progress. Folks, listen, let’s never forget how important spiritual leaders are in our life. That's why I am so thankful for the Elder Board that God has raised up here at my church – Leaders who care about the spiritual welfare of our church and who are determined to keep us on course so that we're making progress in both our purpose and our vision. I remember in my four years at Liberty University hearing Jerry Falwell say over and over again “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”