Sermon on February 06, 2022
KaB FKB (Volker Aßmann)
“A new identity” –
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
1. A dubious encounter
I can see half a dozen men squeezing through the narrow cobblestone alley in the red light district. It’s late in the evening. Torch-lit bars are open and customers are stoned. They shout obscene remarks after the king’s men, but the soldiers don’t respond. You walk on to the wooden door of a stone house right next to Jericho’s famous city walls. The lantern in front of it is not lit and the soldiers wonder if anyone is home. The captain bangs on the door. Shuffling footsteps can be heard inside. Rahab opens. She wears several layers of make-up and has her eyes painted black. Underneath her low-cut robe you can see some good pieces from >Victoria’s Secret<…
She puts one hand on her hip and holds a martini in the other.
“Sorry guys, we’re fully booked for tonight.” “That’s not why we’re here,” the captain snaps at her. “We come for the Hebrews. … We’re looking for the spies. Where are they?“< (Max Lucado page 57+58)
This is the situation in Joshua 2.
Joshua sends 2 of Israel’s spies to Jericho to spy on the city they are about to conquer. They spend the night in a prostitute’s house because it would probably not have been possible in a hotel and in order to go into hiding if possible.
Nevertheless, ethically and morally, it is a more than questionable place to stay and not recommended for imitation!!
The king finds out about this and orders Rahab to send the men out of their house (to arrest them or worse) Through a white lie, Rahab saves the life of the Israeli spies (2:4-5) and sends the soldiers on the wrong track. In truth, Rahab hides the two men in her attic (2:6). The justified ethical question arises as to the correctness and admissibility of white lies (e.g. hidden Jews in the 3rd Reich) Yes, we are committed to the truth and God does not consider lying to be an option for us. But can’t it be, that such a lie/white lie might save one or more people’s lives. A dichotomy remains, tearing people apart, like Bonhoeffer and the Scholl siblings and their friends, who were willing to risk their own lives to murder the tyrant Hitler. Or other people in the Third Reich, who hid Jews in their houses at great risk, such as Corrie ten Boom.
Who am I to judge in a world filled with evil, violence and oppression? No, it’s not a justification for such guilt, but it does command a great deal of respect from these people. And we read nothing in the Bible of a verdict on Rahab’s white lie, nor on her life and profession as a prostitute. Certainly God does not accept her profession in any way, but she trusted in God and was justified by God as a result. Instead, God uses the words of this Canaanite woman, who had no chance of being valued and respected by those around her, to encourage the Israelites. Encourage taking the mighty fortified and defended city of Jericho on behalf of God:
Rahab: “I know that the LORD (how does she know HIM?) has given you this land,” she said to them. “We are all very afraid of you. People are terribly afraid. For we have heard how the LORD brought you dry-shod through the Red Sea when you came out of Egypt. We also know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan, whose people you destroyed. When we heard that, we were terribly scared! No one has the courage to fight anymore. For the LORD your God is the God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (2:9-11) “Now swear to me by the LORD that you will spare me and my family because I helped you. Give me a pledge that you will let me live, and also my parents and siblings and their families.” (2:12+13)
The 2 scouts give Rahab their own lives as collateral Oath, word of honour. And Rahab trusts in it without having anything to give her security. It was their faith in YAHWEH. The two spies are encouraged and believe that God will indeed give them Jericho and all of Canaan. “When the LORD gives us the land!” (2:14b) (believe the spies, as with Joshua and Caleb). Rahab lets the two men down on a rope from the window of their house in the city wall and helps them to escape. (2.15)
The identifying mark of Rahab’s house is the red rope she used to lower the men out of the window. (2.18) The Promise of the Scouts: “All who are in your house when Jericho is taken will be spared and will survive. Protection is only in your house! (2:18+19)
We read about the fulfilled promise of the two in Joshua 6:22-25. 2.
2. At the bottom:
They find faith in a brothel where it is least expected!!!!! Rahab was at the bottom of the social ladder! Rahab had lost her reputation, her social standing and her chances for advancement long ago. She was at the bottom. Then as now, prostitutes are at the bottom of society, even though many, many thousands of men go to prostitutes. They sell yourself, her body and her soul. They are taken advantage of, almost always by men. Then as now, prostitution is cruel human trafficking and ancient/modern slavery.
At the bottom:
We don’t have to sell our bodies, and yet we can end up similarly. Without hope. No chance. Full of a sense of our own guilt that no one, let alone we ourselves, can deal with.
You probably didn’t sell your body, but your loyalty, your affection, your attention and your gifts. They sold everything (even themselves).
We all ask ourselves: The life we long for? Maybe the others can do that, but not me. I’m… too dirty, too dirty, too burdened. I’ve sinned too much, stumbled too many times, floundered too many times. I ended up on society’s rubbish heap. For me there are no more glory days (and no more rewarding future).’ (Max Lucado, page 59)
God’s answer to these hopeless doubts is, among other things, RAHAB.
3. For sure:
Rahab finds God – God finds Rahab! The house of the prostitute Rahab was not only perhaps the only chance for the two spies to remain undetected in Jericho. The story makes it clear that God led her there and that God had Rahab in mind and wanted to meet her with mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. Rahab speaks of “the LORD” as a matter of course!! And as a matter of course it speaks to a central nature of this God YAHWEH: mercy and loyalty.
What Rahab could never expect from the men who came to her and also never experienced. Hesed: goodness, faithfulness, kindness, mercy Joshua 2:12: “Swear to me by the LORD that as I have shown you mercy (hesed), you also will show mercy (hesed) to my father’s house and give me a sure sign…” And she asks the two spies for a sure sign of protection, mercy and salvation. She pleads for faithfulness that she, and ultimately the God that everyone in Jericho feared so much, would keep His promise of safety and salvation.
What a belief?!
The two spies make it clear that God’s salvation and protection was also subject to conditions. There would only be protection and salvation for all who are in her house. Limited protection only!
God defines the conditions and path to salvation! (only those who are in your house – only those who entrust themselves to Jesus – Jesus is the only way to salvation for all of us, the only way to God / John 14:6).
This is exactly what we find in the Bible for all times and also for today: God’s promise of mercy and love/salvation to all who are at the bottom, heart broken and life broken and seeking God! With God there are no hopeless candidates and people. Only those people remain hopeless who do not seek God, do not trust and obey HIM, who refuse to obey and trust HIM (Hebr.11). Just like the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4)
God is looking for people like Rahab and the Samaritan woman and you and me right now when we know we’re hopeless, hopeless, lost. Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifice that pleases you (God) is a broken spirit. You will not, O God, refuse a contrite, contrite heart.” Psalm 147:3:
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”
Rahab marries a man and has a son, Boaz, great-grandfather of King David, an ancestor of the Messiah Jesus. And Rahab stands in the “line of ancestors” of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5). In the ancestral gallery of his son Jesus, God “affords” the prostitute Rahab and the strange Moabite Ruth. Rahab’s commitment to the God of Abraham, YAHWEH, counted for more than her notoriety as a prostitute. The red rope in the window of Rahab’s house, which she used to help the spies escape – a reference to the blood of Jesus that saves us! Rahab: she is listed and “honoured” in the enumeration of the great heroes of faith.
Hebr.11,31: “By faith the prostitute Rahab did not perish with the other inhabitants of the city (Jericho) who had refused to obey God. For she had received the spies kindly.”
11:30: “By faith the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the city walls fell down.”
James 2:25: “The harlot Rahab was also declared righteous before God by her actions when she hid the spies and took them to safety by another way.” The story of the Bible is the story of the merciful and at the same time holy God. Even in the dark chapter of the capture of the city of Jericho and the killing of its inhabitants, God’s mercy shines through.
And yet the question remains as to how God not only allows the killing of people and wars, but can even order it, and how it fits in with our image of God and our expectation of a ‘loving God’.
How can we declare wars in the name of God in the OT? Joshua and his army went into the land and from city to city on behalf of God and cleansed the land from everything (crying to heaven) ungodliness, destroying every form of idolatry. Canaanite religiosity was inhuman idolatry with sacrifices of living children (Deuteronomy 12:29-31) and prostitution. Confrontation with evil was inevitable.
We too should be just as ruthless as Israel in destroying every sin in our lives and certainly not destroying people. However, since Jesus at the latest, this has never meant a violent fight against people (nor against politicians, as we have been hearing from some Christians again and again since 2015 (since the “refugee crisis” and the Corona pandemic)…)!
The danger then (and to this day) was to mingle and compromise and turn away from God with the views of people and peoples without God. A practical example for us today, which certainly does not have the explosiveness of the cruel idolatry of the time: Christians should have Christian spouses and not trust/hope that the partner will convert. That can happen, but most of the time it doesn’t, and all too often the Christian gives up his faith in these relationships.
And also in this dark chapter of God’s story with the people in Canaan, God’s mercy becomes clear using the example of the rescue of Rahab and her family (Jos.2 and 6)!!!
Incidentally, God did not call for the destruction of all cities and the killing of all people in Canaan. Only 4 cities: Jericho (6:1-27), Ai (8:1-2), Hazor (11:10-15) and Lais (19:47). These cities were more military bases than normal cities, meaning fewer women and children lived there.
God is concerned with Israel’s relationship with HIM and not with racism (Deuteronomy 7:6🙂
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”
God was concerned above all with the danger of the foreign religions for Israel and their mixing and then ultimately with the turning away from Yahweh, their God. Again and again God calls for love and mercy towards strangers in the OT. Deuteronomy 10:18-19: Israel should treat others with love! Jer.22:3: Invitation to love strangers! (Matthew 25:43-44)
When we look into the Bible, from beginning to end, we discover a most amazing development and revelation of God’s justice and mercy
Let’s take a look at the development of the theme of violence and counter-violence in the Bible:
Genesis 4:23-24: “23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”
2.Mose 21,24: “If harm occurs, the penalty is determined as follows: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” Many consider the biblical principle of an “eye for an eye” to be cruel and brutal. It may be, but God forbid rampant revenge, which was hitherto common. Huge progress, but by no means enough for us today.
What is the standard of Jesus and thus for us for 2000 years? Matth.5,38-39: “You have heard that it says in the law of Moses: ‘Whoever injures an eye shall be injured in the eye himself. And whoever knocks out someone else’s tooth should lose a tooth himself.< But I say: ‘Do not defend yourself if someone does you harm! Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well!<““
We see an amazing development (at least if we look at it from the point of view of the people in the respective time, a development from 1:77 to 1:1 to 1:0 (no violence!!) In Jesus Christ, God shows us His whole heart and also offers us the chance for forgiveness instead of revenge, because HE himself died on the cross for our guilt and loves us boundlessly. God’s heart, what we see in Jesus, we can already see in God’s encounter with Rahab. And I believe in this God and you may believe too!