Thursday, February 5, 2009

Another Unlikely Hero of the Faith

It’s shocking enough that God could take a crusty old pagan like Abraham and make him a hero of the faith.

By the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 and James 2:20-26 lists another unlikely hero, a woman named “sister” Rahab.

For the first few decades of her life Rahab was an idolater, just like Abraham. In fact, her city, ancient Jericho, like Ur, was particular famous for its worship of the moon god. If you had be invited to Rahab’s 25th birthday party, held in Jericho’s coziest little inn, I’m sure you would have liked her. She was a neo pagan. An idol worshipper. A very friendly innkeeper. A little extra business on the side. Again, what’s there not to like?

We’re not talking Mother Teresa, all old and wrinkled and saintly. We’re talking street-wise, sexy, and just a little too friendly Rahab the innkeeper. Honestly, if she walked into the average church and sat on the front row, would that be a good thing? What would you say or think?

Yet what does God see when he looks at Rahab? The Lord looks beyond her past and gives her an opportunity to make her small seed of faith real. And that opportunity came with a knock on her door.

Two strangers ask if they may come in. Rahab correctly guesses who they are and why they’ve come. The moment of decision has come. Rahab motions for them to follow her onto the roof of her home between Jericho’s inner and outer walls. There she hides them, promising to return.

What is Rahab doing? She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s willingly, knowingly risking her very life. As predicted, the king hears word about the two spies and sends soldiers to arrest them. Rahab feigns innocence and then sends the soldiers on a wild goose chase. What in the world is she doing? She’s willing to trade her life for theirs. Why? It doesn’t make sense. Unless God has been at work in her heart. Has He? Listen to Rahab’s profound professions of faith.

First she tells the two spies: “I know that the LORD has given this land to you” (Joshua 2:9).

Then Rahab goes on to profess her belief that “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (2:11).

In other words, Rahab was saying, “I’ve rejected my people, my old way of life, my worthless idolatry. Your people are my people. Your God is my God.”

Exactly a century ago, archaeologists working at the site of ancient Jericho confirmed that the walls around the city collapsed with one fell swoop. All the walls, that is, except one small section. Between the two walls in that one section was a house where, well over 1,000 before Christ, Rahab and her family waited to be rescued by the two spies and led to safety.

What’s remarkable is that toward the end of Joshua chapter 6, Joshua affirms: “And Rahab lives among our people to this day.” In other words, she was accepted as a member of God’s chosen people. No longer was it “Rahab of Jericho.” No longer was it “Rahab the prostitute.” The prophet Joshua considered her “Rahab the woman of faith in the one true God.”

Even more amazing, we learn at the end of the book of Ruth and later at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew that Rahab was the great great great great grandmother of Jesus.

In other words, two former pagans, both moon worshippers, were deliberately chosen by God to be part of Jesus’ lineage.

God gave them the gift of faith. And then God uses risky, difficult, and sometimes even life-threatening circumstances to test and stretch and grow their faith. They didn’t barely have faith. Instead, their faith became vibrant, robust, and strong.

Even more remarkable, God can give the gift of faith to anyone.

If He gives someone that wonderful gift, God wants to see it grow and mature and bear fruit — fruit by what we say — and fruit by what we do. 

1 comment:

Joe Darago said...

Thanks for the book! It was a good read and I have found it helpful to me and to others. It was good timing for our Habakkuk study at church and I quoted you a few times in the message.