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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Believing Rahab
Text:Matthew 1:5a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Ps. 105:1,2; Hy. 12:2; Ps. 105:3,4; Ps. 136:1,7-10; Ps. 106:24; Hy. 53

Readings - Reading - Joshua 2; 6:22-25

Text - Matthew 1:5a - ... and Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab....

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The second woman mentioned in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matt. 1 is Rahab. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. To have a harlot, a prostitute, in one's family tree is not something one would brag about. And yet the Holy Spirit led the evangelist Matthew to mention Rahab in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit gave this Canaanite prostitute an honoured position in the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not so much because of what Rahab did. But because of what the LORD God did through Rahab.

Rahab is a testimony to the sovereign grace of God. God opened her heart. God worked faith in her heart. That was a sovereign work of God. And, furthermore, God used Rahab to open doors. He used her to open the door to the land of Canaan so that his chosen people could go in and possess it. And he used her to open the door to the coming Messiah of Israel.

God is the God who opens doors. When things look bad in a person's life, God can open a door and make things well. When things look bad in general, God can open a door, lead his people through it, and make everything well for them.

I proclaim to you the word of God under this theme:


He opened

1. ...the door of Rahab's heart and gives her faith; 2. ...the door of the land through Rahab's active faith; 3. ...the door towards Christ by gathering Rahab into the community of faith

1. The people of Israel had arrived at the doorway to the land the LORD God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The land the LORD had promised to the Israelites when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. Once before they had stood at the doorway to the land. 40 years earlier under the leadership of Moses they had stood at the entrance to the land.

Moses had sent 12 spies to spy out the land - one man from each tribe. (You know the story. I'll be very brief.) The 12 spies had spent 40 days spying out the land. When they came back, 10 of the spies said, "We can't do it. We are not strong enough to take the land from the powerful nations that live in it." Two of them, Caleb and Joshua, said, "That is not true; we can do anything in the strength of God who makes us strong." The people listened to the ten / the majority report. They said, "We would rather die in the desert than fall by the sword. Oh, if only we had died in Egypt. Let's go back to Egypt." And so the Lord, angry at their lack of faith in Him, sentenced them to 40 years of life in the desert. One year for every day that the 12 spies had spent in the land. (Num. 13 & 14)

Now the 40 years are over. And a new generation of Israelites is standing at the entrance to the land. They are encamped at a place called Shittim. Shittim was at the north end of the Dead Sea on the east side of the Jordan. It was not far from Jericho. Jericho was just across the Jordan R., the first city in the land of Canaan.

Jericho had to be taken in order to gain a foothold in the land. Strategically it was very important. It was not a big city. It covered about 10 acres of land. But it was a powerful city, a fortress. It had a very thick wall going all the way around it - a wall built in a circle.

Joshua, who had become the leader when Moses had died, sent 2 spies to Jericho. He said, "Go view the land, especially Jericho."

The spies crossed the Jordan R., came to Jericho, and entered the house of a prostitute called Rahab. Likely, Rahab ran a bit of an inn - a place where travellers could spend the night. Such a place would have been the best place for the spies to go. They would look like just a couple of travellers.

But some of the people of Jericho caught on that they were men of Israel. They went and told the king that some men of Israel were at Rahab's house. Surely they had come to search out the land. The king sent his men to Rahab's house to arrest the spies. But Rahab, suspecting that this might happen, had hidden the two men on the roof of her house underneath a stack of flax she had on the roof to dry. She said to the police, "Yes, there were two men here. But they are long gone already. You'd better hurry and catch them." And off went all the king's men running towards the Jordan R. looking for the two spies.

Why did Rahab do this? Why didn't she turn the men over to the police? Why didn't she say, "The men you are looking for are hiding upstairs, on the roof of my house." Maybe she would have gotten a reward from the king. And wasn't this an act of treason? Harbouring spies and betraying your own people is considered one of the most despicable crimes. The most severe punishment has been reserved for such treachery. If an aggressive nation were about to attack our country and someone aided and abetted spies who had come to search out our weak spots, we would have little compassion for that person. We would call him a Judas, a Benedict Arnold, and deal sternly with him to the fullest extent of the law.

What are we going to say about Rahab? What motivated her?

There is only one answer: She believed in the God of Israel. The LORD, in his mercy, in his sovereign grace, opened the door of this pagan prostitute's heart, and gave her faith. She made a confession of her faith in the LORD God. She made the good confession before two witnesses - the two spies.

She said to the men (v. 9ff), ""I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed."

Rahab was referring to events that had happened 40 years earlier. It was 40 years earlier that God had dried up the water of the Red Sea. It was 40 years earlier that God had drowned Pharoah and his armies, the world power of that time, in the Red Sea. It had been a number of years since Israel had defeated Sihon and Og, two mighty kings, in battle. The people of Jericho, of the whole land, had heard about this people called Israel who had such a mighty God. Travellers had heard about it. Merchants who had happened to come through Jericho and who, perhaps, had even stayed at Rahab's establishment, had brought the news of what was happening out there in the world. They'd told about this powerful nation with the powerful God. And now that the nation Israel was standing on the banks of the Jordan R., these stories took on a whole new significance.

"And," said Rahab in Joshua 2:11, "...when we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." The people of Jericho were scared half to death that Israel was no more than 20 km away, just across the Jordan.

That was one possible response to the news of Israel's being in their backyard. That was one way to respond to the knowledge of the great deeds of God in history. Close and lock the gates to the city! Let's do the best we can to defend our lives and our culture in the face of this dangerous God!

That's how the people of Jericho responded. Except for Rahab. She responded differently. She recognized that the LORD, the God of Israel, was the God of heaven above and of the earth beneath (2:11). That He was not a local god. All the nations and peoples of that day had their own gods. The gods were local - gods of a certain country or people. But Rahab recognized the God of Israel to be the only true God and the universal God of heaven and earth.

She made a choice. All the people of Jericho made a choice, either for the God of Israel or against Him. They all knew about the great redemptive deeds He had done for his people. They had all heard the report. They chose to shut the gates and try to protect their culture and their religion. Except Rahab. She rejected her false religion and chose for the true God. She left the world and joined the church.

She made the fundamental choice everyone has to make: Am I going to serve the LORD? Or am I going to serve the world? Am I going to give my self completely to Jesus Christ? Or am I going to keep Christ out of my life and do what the world, what today's present culture wants me to do? Am I going to do what my own sinful desires want me to do? Will it be: Thy will be done! Or: My will be done!

We have heard about the wonderful things God has done in history. In the Bible we can read about the great redemptive deeds of God. We are in a much better position than Rahab. Because we know everything about the greatest redemptive deed ever done in history - the self-sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

God opened the door of Rahab's heart and gave her faith. The same God is working to open your hearts. Through the same Spirit He sent to Rahab, He is now working faith in your hearts. Allow Him to do that. Don't shut the gates like the people of Jericho did. Don't shut the gates in a desperate but useless attempt to protect your own selfish, sinful desires.

It's a useless effort. What happened to Jericho? They made sure their gates were closed so that God couldn't get in. And God knocked the walls down. He destroyed the city. It fell under his curse. Anyone who insists upon keeping God out of his/her life will meet with a similar end. He will meet destruction under the curse of God.

God is opening the door to your heart. Receive that work of God. Receive it in faith. Receive it with an active faith. A faith that produces the good works of obedience.

2.God opens the door of the land through Rahab's active faith.

Hebrews 11:31 commends Rahab for what she did. We read there, "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient." In Heb. 11 we have that long list of OT people of God who are mentioned as examples of faith. The cloud of witness that surrounds the church of all ages, encouraging the church. In Heb. 11 two women are mentioned: Sarah and Rahab. Rahab is mentioned as an example of one who had faith.

Rahab is again mentioned in James 2:25. James asks, "...was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" Rahab was proved to be a righteous woman by how she acted toward the messengers of God, the two spies. Her good works were proof that she was righteous by faith.

These two texts (from Hebrews and James) show that Rahab had true faith in God. Her faith was an active faith. It was a faith that worked hard. A faith that bore good, righteous fruit.

God used this active faith of Rahab to open the door of the land for his people. God didn't have to use Rahab. But in his good pleasure, He did. She protected the spies. She hid them. She sent the city police on a wild goose chase. She gave the spies good advice. She told them where to hide in the hills. She told them to hide for about three days before they returned to Joshua.

Through this active faith, this faithful behaviour of Rahab, God kept the spies alive so that they could go back to His people with encouraging news. And the spies did. The two came with a unanimous report - not like the 12 spies of 40 years earlier. The spies went back to Joshua with the message that the land was theirs for the taking. They weren't even going to meet with any resistance at Jericho, the doorway to the land. They could report what Rahab had told them. At the end of Josh. 2 we read: They said to Joshua, "The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us."

Seven times in Joshua 2 you can read the expression "the land". And we read it again in those few verses of ch. 6. God had promised his people a land. He had promised it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had promised it to the children of Israel. And now God was giving it. It was a land flowing with milk and honey. It was a land where they could be free from the oppression they had experienced in Egypt. It was a land where they could worship the LORD in accordance with His law. It was a land of rest. Hebrews 4 says that Joshua gave the people rest. Rest from slavery. Rest from 40 years of wandering in the desert.

God used Rahab to bring the people into the land. God used Joshua to bring them into the land. They both had their place in the working out of the plan of God for his people. God used Rahab, He used Joshua to give his OT church rest.

But we also know from Hebrews 4 that there is a better rest awaiting the people of God. One which the better Joshua gives. That better Joshua is the Lord Jesus, the son of David, the son of Rahab. We have a land awaiting us. A land in which we will rest from oppression, all misery and sadness. A land in which we will serve God faithfully for eternity. Through the faithful obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of Rahab, God opens the door to that land for us. He opens it wide. And no one can close it.

3. God opens the door towards Christ by gathering Rahab into the community of faith.

Before the spies left her house, she made them promise under oath that she and her family would be protected. They gave her that promise. However, there was something she had to do. She had to hang a scarlet cord out of her window. Her house was built right into the city wall. She let the spies down through a window by tying a scarlet cord in the window and letting them climb down it. The spies told her: Tie this cord in the window. Gather your family into your house, and you will all be safe.

What was the significance of Rahab's scarlet cord?

It seems that the colour scarlet had erotic connotations. E.g., In the Song of Solomon 4:3 the bridegroom says to his bride, "Your lips are like a scarlet thread." In Jer. 4:30 where God takes his nation to task for prostituting herself by going after other gods the LORD asks, "What do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint?" Last week we read that the midwife distinguished between Tamar's twins by tying a scarlet thread around the finger of one of them. Tamar conceived them by pretending to be a prostitute. In Isaiah 1:21 God accused his people of harlotry. Just before that in v. 18 God says that their sins are like scarlet.

Also, there is evidence that a scarlet cord was the mark of a prostitute. A prostitute lived and worked in the "red rope" district of the city. The interesting thing is that the Hebrew word for rope can also mean hope. It's exactly the same word in Hebrew.

Here we see that Rahab's rope becomes her hope. Her red rope leads to the hope of salvation - salvation brought about by the red blood of Christ.

God is faithful to the promise His messengers made to Rahab. When He himself brought down the walls of Jericho as the Israelites were walking around them, He saved believing Rahab and her family. The LORD saved her from destruction. The whole city lay under the curse of God. But Rahab was saved from that curse. She had to spend several days outside the holy camp of Israel in order to undergo a purification ritual. But when that was completed she could join the community of those who believed. She could experience the communion of saints by gathering with the church of Christ.

She married a man of the tribe of Judah called Salmon. And God continued to use her. She became a mother in Israel. A mother of the Messiah. God used her to continue opening the doors toward Christmas - towards the birth of Jesus Christ.

The genealogy of Christ in Matt. 1 says that Salmon and Rahab were the parents of Boaz (the husband of Ruth). The genealogy is rather selective. It doesn't mention each generation. A number of times Matthew skips over several generations. Here is an example of that. Salmon and Rahab lived during the time Israel entered the land. Boaz and his wife Ruth lived quite some time later. Matthew skipped over several generations between Rahab and Boaz.

The point which the evangelist Matthew is making is that God used Rahab to bring forth the Saviour. From Rahab came forth Boaz. From Boaz came forth the family of Jesse and King David. From the royal house of king David came forth the Saviour.

Jesus was born. Jesus is a son of Rahab the harlot. He was born to suffer for the scarlet sins of his people. And he too, like his mother Rahab, had to go outside the camp. Because he bore the sins of his people, he had to suffer outside the camp to deal with them.

In this way the Lord Jesus Christ created a community. A community of faith. A community of those who believe in him, gather with him, and obey him. He has gathered us as well into that community. It's called, the Church of Jesus Christ.

You are members of that community. Are you a living member of that community? A member with an open heart - open to the gospel? A member open to obeying God?

God is the God who opens doors. He opens the doors of our hearts and works faith in our hearts. He has opened a door to his eternal promised land of rest for all those who belong to Christ. Today we may already begin enjoying that eternal rest by being gathered into the Church of Christ.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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