Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

August 2018

Rahab

RAHAB

I don't understand this idea of God using me for something. What does that mean? I'm not anyone special; I don't have any special abilities - at least not any real valuable ones. I can't sing or play an instrument; I'm not good at meetings. I'm just a regular person. What could God possibly do with me? Or. God doesn't want me for anything. I've done way too much wrong in my life. I haven't been a very good person. In fact I've done some really rotten things. I'm just not God material. Or. God can't possibly think I can do anything for him. I don't know enough. I don't understand that Bible at all - and every time I try to read it it just doesn't make any sense to me. So forget me when the God responsibilities are announced.
These are all arguments that we've all heard - and ones that perhaps we have all used at one time or another. But this is precisely why we learn about these people in the Bible. Because I guarantee you that we have never thought of an excuse of why we can't do something for God that someone in scripture has not used before. And there is nothing so bad that we have ever done that God can still not use us. And sometimes, God uses us for his purpose and we don't even know that we are being used to carry out a part of God's plan. Sometimes he just uses what we doing in our ordinary day to help carry out his plan. Today we are looking at the person of Rahab, a character from the Old Testament who represents for us many of these doubts we have about whether we are worthy or able to work for God - or whether we may even realize that God is using us to do his work.
As usual we need a little background. This story, like so many, begins at that time in the history of the Hebrews when they are traveling through the wildness on their way to the promised land. Their journey across the wilderness is over and the next phase begins. Remember the whole purpose of the journey through the deserts of Sinai is to reach the promised land. The promised land was to be a place where the people of God, who had lived in captivity in Egypt for 400 years, would have their own country, all their own. So, now, here they are at the banks of the Jordan. Moses has died and they are now being led by Joshua, who is a a military leader. God has given them the bad news - he is not just going to give them the promised land. They are going to have to earn it by militarily conquering the land.
So Joshua is on the banks of the Jordan, working on his strategy to begin the invasion of the land of Canaan - the land we would call Israel today. The first major city he is going to have to conquer is the city of Jericho. Remember the song many of us learned as a child in Sunday School - "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho....." But in our story today, Joshua is trying to develop his strategy for that battle of Jericho and he decides the first course of action is to send a couple spies into the city to check it out - find out the layout and where it might be vulnerable. Like most cities in this region it was a walled city. The walls of these cities would go completely around the city and normally there would only be one entrance into the city. Inside the city walls, homes and businesses used this outside wall as the back walls of their home or business and they would put windows in the outside wall on the second or third story so that there was still an element of invulnerability to the city.
So the spies Joshua sent, go into the city of Jericho, do their spying work, and then visit the business of Rahab who was a prostitute. Her establishment provided a place to stay overnight as well as to take advantage of her services. It would have been a logical place for the spies to go because they would have just blended in with the other customers at Rahabs place.
Keep in mind that by some means, what the Israelites were about to do in coming to invade and occupy the territory, had become common knowledge in these border towns, so the people were a little on edge about what might happen. The word had gotten to the King of Jericho that there were Israelite spies in the city and he takes a small contingent of soldiers and heads out through the city to see if he can find the spies and kill them. And in the course of searching for the Hebrews, he ends up


at Rahabs house.
In the meantime, Rahab told the spies that she knew they were Hebrews and she knew what they were up to. But she said she had heard the stories of their God - how their God had parted the Red Sea, and how God had led them to win some great military battles. And she told them frankly that she and the rest of the people of Jericho were afraid of the Hebrew's God.
I think we need to stop for just a second and consider this. Here we are in a time of history when there is no mass communication; no CNN, or Fox News, or NBC, or newspapers or radio, no Internet. These events that Rahab mentions are things that happened out in the middle of nowhere and quite a distance from where Rahab lived. Yet somehow, God has gotten the word out that he truly is a mighty and powerful God and something to be feared and respected and that he would be with and his people and this struck fear in the people who truly considered what this God had been able to accomplish. This included Rahab and the King of Jericho and all the citizens of Jericho.
So Rahab hears the King is out looking for the Israelite spies and she gets them and takes them to the roof of her house and hides them in a pile of flax she has on the roof. Flax is a textle used to make cloth and was also used to make wicks for candles. So the spies are hidden and the King is pounding on her front door wanting the spies because the king had heard that the spies had been there. Rahab goes out to the king and assures him that yes, the spies had been there but had left just a few minutes ago and if the king hurried, he could probably catch up with them. So the king and his men head out of the city gates after the spies and they shut the gates behind them so that no one else could go in or out. They headed towards the Jordan.
Rahab goes and gets the spies and now barters with them. Essentially she says, "Look, I know that you guys are going to invade, and I know that with your God with you, you will conquer the city. So, since I saved your life, now I want you to save my life and the life of my family." And the spies said they were very grateful for what Rahab had done for them. Again we need to keep in mind that had Rahab been caught hiding these spies and lying to the King, she would have been killed on the spot. She put her own life on the line for these Hebrew spies, these foreigners, because she respected their God.
The spies told her that if she would hang a red cord outside her window, when the armies attacked, anyone in her house would be spared. So if she would round up her family members from around the city, and have them in her house, she and they would be spared.
The spies spend another night at Rahabs and the next day she helps them escape by lowering them out her window, which remember is part of the city wall. And again, she is risking her life should she be caught. She told them when they got to the ground to go to the mountains because the King and his army had gone towards the river.
When the Israelites invade the city of Jericho and Rahab and her family were spared and actually were assimilated into the Hebrew people and they became part of the people of God.
Rahab is mentioned several places in the New Testament as an example of faith. Here was someone who hadn't experienced the miracles of God, but yet believed in God's power and sovereignty simply from the stories she had heard. She was not a Hebrew, and yet still believed in the Hebrew God. She exhibited great faith helping the spies and trusting that they would save her and her family. And she, a Gentile prostitute, is mentioned in Matthew as a part of the lineage of Christ.
So whenever you think that you aren't able to help God, or you aren't worthy to help God, or you have done too many bad things to help God, remember Rahab who God holds before us as an example of how God uses whom he chooses, regardless of who they or what they may have done!

Amen!

Learn From Me

“Learn From Me”

Services like this one sort of put us off our game. There is a different rhythm, a different movement than we are familiar with, normal elements of worship are rushed a little, the sermon turns into a homily - which is just a word that means a short sermon. We do things we don’t normally do. But there is a reason for this difference; a reason for these added elements and the main reason is to remind us that God is an important part of everything we do. We recognize God’s work in every aspect of our lives as we live as people of God.
Because that is who we are - we are people of God. In our Baptism we say that we are signed and sealed as God’s forever. So if we belong to him, that means that every part of our lives is important to God and God is involved in every aspect of our lives and therefore we need to stop occasionally and do things within our worship to remember how much God values not only our worship but also our work in and outside of the church.
You know you are a child of God - but Jesus also reminds you that you are a disciple. The word disciple means - One Who Learns. You are a disciple of whatever it is you study and learn about. Whether it be fishing or golf or archery or sewing or the Church. That is why those 12 young men who followed Jesus were called disciples because their job following Jesus around was to learn. They called Jesus Rabbi which means teacher. That was the type of relationship they had - this student/teacher relationship. And when Jesus left them for the last time his charge to them was to go out in to the world and ‘teach’ people what they learned from Jesus.
Teaching, education, is a paramount principle all through scripture. It is the purpose of scripture. We have all this information for the sole purpose of learning about God and who God is and how much God loves us and cares for us and what God expects from us.
While ‘teach your children’ is not one of the 10 commandments, immediately after the 10 commandments come these passages from Deuteronomy:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

If you type in to a Bible search “Learning” or “Teaching”, you find out there are 407 references to teaching in the Bible - which I think very clearly tells us how important the concept is to God. So that is why we have special days like this to remind ourselves of the educational ministry of the church because it is a vital aspect of who we are as the children of God; as Disciples of Christ and we ‘worship’ or honor God be recognizing the things that are important to him.
This call to education also challenges us to remember the importance of learning all we can about God, about Jesus, about the stories of the Bible so that we can better be those disciples God calls us to be.

Amen!