The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost August 17, 2008
16, 756 [TLH alt. 345], 420, 364(1-3)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
Can you imagine being fearless? That would make for a pretty good life, wouldn’t it? There are a lot of things people are afraid of: spiders, darkness, diseases, school, fires, work…nearly anything can make us afraid. If there were a pill one could take that would remove all fears, many would jump at it. Today, we’re going to look at a woman who was in a situation many would have found frightening, yet she was not afraid because she knew the true God and trusted that everything He did was for the best. Just like the Lord made her fearless, we will consider that THE LORD MAKES YOU FEARLESS too. I. Fearless with respect to His works and II. Fearless with respect to the doings of others
The woman Rahab lived in the city of Jericho just west of the Jordan River. The people of Jericho were the first whom the advancing Israelites conquered as they entered the Promised Land. Jericho watched in fear as the nation of Israel came closer and closer. News had already reached them about this traveling band and the news was impressive. They had heard how the Lord—the God of Israel—had parted the waters of the Red Sea so the people could escape the hand of the Egyptian Pharaoh. It was also known how Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, had been destroyed by Israel. Israel’s God had real power unlike their own false gods. He did amazing things and He was coming on them with an entire nation.
Rahab told how “all who live in this country are melting in fear” (Joshua 2:9 NIV). Everyone in Jericho and the surrounding land was absolutely shaking as the God of Israel came to their doorstep ready to give Canaan fully into the hands of Joshua and his army.
But at the same time that Rahab was telling about the fears everyone around her had, she herself did not show evidence of that same fear. For she herself had come to know and love the God of Israel. Evidence of this was found in the fact that she no longer operated a house of prostitution, but rather an inn for travelers. She no longer sold herself, she sold wares spun from the flax stored on the roof.
So when Joshua sent two men to spy and gain intelligence for a military operation against Jericho, they found Rahab’s place and stayed there, and Rahab was not afraid. Think about that for a moment—the whole city was in turmoil about Israel and when two men from Israel show up at the inn Rahab is not afraid. When Rahab learns what they are doing she doesn’t say, “Get out of here!” Instead, she welcomes them. In fact, she does more than simply welcome them. She hides them when the authorities get wind of the doings and come around looking for them. She sends the pursuers off outside the city gates while she arranges for the safe return of the spies to Israel’s camp (cf. Joshua 2:1ff).
Rahab was not afraid of what the God of Israel was doing. She was not afraid that there would soon be war in the streets of her city and God would give the victory to the outsiders. She was not afraid because she knew that God—the true God—was doing this thing. Rahab offered a beautiful confession of faith to the two spies when she said, “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Joshua 2: 11 NIV). Rahab wasn’t afraid of God. She trusted that everything Israel’s God did would be right and good.
How did she come to have this trust? She had heard of the great things God had done for Israel at the Red Sea and in the wilderness, but she also knew of the promise that had been given to Abraham. She understood that God was preserving the Children of Israel so that He could send a Savior into the world through them. Through Abraham’s chosen descendant all the nations of the world would be blessed—that descendant would be the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel’s entrance into Canaan meant to Rahab that the One who would save her was coming ever closer. The One who would save her from everlasting destruction by forgiving her sins against God—this One was now on the horizon. Israel’s inhabiting of the land of Canaan was part of the Lord’s plan for her salvation!
Rahab was not afraid, because everything God was doing He was doing for her good. She told the spies “I know that the Lord has given you the land” (Joshua 2:9).That was good enough for her.
Are you ever afraid of what God does? Sometimes we shrink in fear at what God allows to happen around us, especially when it involves hardship for us. It can be hard not to be afraid when the Lord allows disease, illness, or injury to strike our families. It can be difficult not to be afraid when we look around and see what God is permitting to happen in places like the Middle East and elsewhere around the world—when terrorists threaten our country and our citizens. We might think, “I am afraid of what God is doing, or not doing!”
But like Rahab who knew that the name of the Lord meant good for her ultimately, we too can rest with the confidence that God is still working for us and for our salvation, no matter what it may appear. We won't always understand His reasons for allowing this or that temptation to come to us. If He told us why He allowed it, we would just argue anyway. Instead, God says that He won’t give us more than we can bear, and He promises that He will do things for the benefit of those who put their confidence in Him.
After all, we realize that the Lord means good for us, doesn’t He? He comes to us showing us the cross on which His own Son died—the Son that He gave into death for the sin of the world. It is His Son upon whom He placed the guilt of the world and against whom He leveled the punishment for the world. This is how God comes to our hearts. He comes to us revealing how He has taken our souls from the jaws of death and Hell and elevated them to the mansions of Heaven. Jesus Himself said “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17 NIV). We can, therefore, trust that all His workings and dealings in the world are going to be right and proper. He gave His most precious treasure in order to save us. He will not abandon or work against those to whom He shows such great love; to those who count on Him for life and hope.
So the Lord takes away our fears with respect to His works. We don't have to despair over what He does in our lives, just as Rahab did not despair about what God was doing to Jericho. She was confident that if the God of Israel wanted things a certain way, He should have them. For us as for her, the cross of Jesus is our assurance that what God does will be the best thing for His children.
Rahab also demonstrated a fearless attitude toward those around her, particularly the authorities in Jericho. When the king of Jericho found out the spies from Israel had been seen at Rahab’s place, he quickly sent word that she should release them into his custody. However, knowing that the LORD was on the side of the spies, she hid them on her roof and sent the searchers away in the wrong direction.
Imagine what would have happened if the spies had been discovered there among the flax. What kind of trouble Rahab would have been in for sure! She took quite a risk in defying her own government for the sake of the true God! Yet she wasn’t afraid to stand up for the Lord and to protect His servants even if it meant putting her own neck on the line. She wasn’t afraid of what other people might do to her. It was far more important to her that she faithfully serve God. She knew that God would be with her and as He had been faithful to her, she would not forsake Him.
Sometimes we are put in situations where doing what is right for the Lord is a scary thing. Think of those first and second century Christians who hid in catacombs because if they were found confessing their faith in public the Roman Emperor would put them to death. In our own day there are governments very hostile to Christianity—China or India, for example. Or, better yet, imagine trying to be a Christian in Syria, Iran, or other places dominated by Islam. As a follower of Jesus your life would surely be in grave danger.
Do you support, honor, and love the Lord even when it might place you in fearful situations? It is hard to do that, isn’t it? It can be hard to follow God’s Word if there is social pressure, family pressure, school pressure, or pressure from our own sinful nature to do otherwise.
What was it that made Rahab do what she did? What was it that moved the Apostle Paul to stand up in front of the political leaders of his day and confess Christ, risking his own life to do so? What was it that moved Peter to say when he was on trial: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)? Was it that these people thought they were really gaining some favor in the sight of God? Were they trying to earn the status of a “super-Christian” or something? Hardly! To the contrary, they were giving little thought to their own lives at all.
They were reflecting the love that God had shown to them. When you put the love, comfort, and promises of God next to the love, comfort, and promises of the world there is just no comparison. What your God has done and will do for you is so far beyond and so much greater than anything others can promise you , that when push comes to shove, God gets His way first—always! Why follow the unbelieving who care only about themselves when you can serve the Lord God of all who is personally interested in you and cares for you in Christ Jesus.
Like Rahab we can be fearless with respect to what others might do to us. They will tempt us; they will try us, but your God is worth so much more! Listen to Him. Serve Him. His will is always best. His love toward you is always perfect. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.