May 14th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian - March 17Joshua 2

What are two men of outstanding reputation doing in a harlot’s house? Our Saviour also had an encounter with a woman of adultery, when she was presented before Him for stoning. Jesus, in a supposedly no-win situation was filled with grace and truth and dealt with this most difficult situation. Her accusers were not prepared for Jesus’ response, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.’ (John 8:7). Was our Saviour reminded of His great, great, great …. grandmother, Rahab – a most unlikely of women brought into the house of God?

Rahab’s Faith

The two spies went to a harlot’s house – a place they wouldn’t be expected at. Rahab was to give the spies two things: shelter and key information for their report to go home with. Rahab was not a gentle woman, she was a prostitute in a heathen land surrounded by godless men. How could anything good come from there? She had no husband, no children. Her request was for those of her father’s household; none of her family lived with her. But look at what the Lord had brought to her in His grace and mercy. He had done great things for the Hebrew people by His almighty hand. She has two representatives of the Lord in her house.

The Lord of the Church has granted to us to be ambassadors, just as the spies. Our great mission, our greatest privilege, is to bring the message of the greatest Saviour – the Saviour’s blood shed on the cross for us, to set us free. Tell others! What a privilege Rahab had to have the two of God’s men visit her. What a privilege Roch has to have Penuel here. The church is still existing, thriving, in this world.

Surrounding Rahab was a hostile environment. Jericho had stood for hundreds of years. It was thought ridiculous that it could fall. But nations rise and fall at the Almighty’s finger. Surrounded by her way of life, her walls, her culture, Rahab found God, ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.’ (Joshua 2:9). How could she have thought that? It is quite staggering. She states God is universal. How did she know? We’re not told. It’s 100% against her nature, her culture. She believes in a new God, one who is diametrically opposed to the gods of Jericho. She is not just changing her perspective, she is doing something way more profound – she is passing from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus. Faith is the pivotal thing which changes everything. Rahab didn’t perish, ‘By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.’ (Hebrews 11:31).

Faith Works:

‘And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied a scarlet cord in the window.’ (Joshua 2:21). Rahab demonstrated her faith by her works. She didn’t go with the spies, she had to remain where she was after she declared her allegiance to God. She lived in Jericho. It was a dangerous time. The king of Jericho was setting himself up against God (verse 3). How many times in history have men done that? Rahab is the only person in the New Testament who is paralleled with Abraham, ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21).

A person is justified by works, not faith alone. In James, Abraham had faith and it was demonstrated. Rahab had faith and it was demonstrated. Faith comes at a cost. We live in a world that stands against Biblical teaching in so many ways. Rahab stood alone in faith against the culture she lived in. How does our culture influence us? Daniel is another example of an Israelite living in a godless land. Rahab stood for the unseen against the seen. Her culture was materialistic, all about walls. But she tied the scarlet cord to the window the second the spies left. She was standing for Christ. Just as the scarlet blood of the lamb was painted on doorposts in Egypt. Trust in the unseen God. To be a member of the city of light requires faith. The oppressor of our souls is not our master anymore but he is not far away. Now he is our enemy. We will be attacked because we’re living in enemy territory. But Christ is our master, He is our Saviour. We must resist the enemy. Our identity is in the kingdom of light.

The New Testament is not embarrassed by Rahab. She is an ancestor of Christ.
Joshua tells us that Rahab lives in Israel to this day. She lived then as a citizen, now she is one of the Israelites. She married among the people, just as Ruth did.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read of the royal line of the Saviour (Matthew 1:4-6). Scripture is not ashamed of Rahab. In having been unfaithful to the creator, is not the whole human race a harlot?  Jesus Christ did not come from a sinless human line. We all need a Saviour. Even Mary needed a Saviour, ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ (Luke 1:47). All the men and women of the ancestral line of Jesus needed a Saviour. Rahab didn’t stand with the people of God as an unclean harlot, she was a harlot cleansed. Is she any worse than you and me? Not at all. With the little she had she believed against all the odds, against everything she knew, her culture. We have so much – testimonies, churches, books – and yet people still do not believe. We all deserve the terrible judgement of the walls crashing down on us. Jesus stood against the walls of Jericho, as judge. But He also stood mighty to save Rahab. We should ask God that we can stand fast. We’re thankful for the faith of Rahab. She proved her faith. It’s hazardous to trust in Jesus in an age like ours, but if we believe, even surrounded by threats from the evil one, we have the Lord with us.

March 17th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian - March 17Joshua 6: The ‘Battle’ of Jericho

The gospel message can be summed up in the words, ‘In my place condemned He stood; sealed my pardon with His blood.’  He’s done it all for us! We find that in the history of God’s people, from Adam and Eve being provided with garments, the provision of the Ark for Noah, the rescue of Lot, God providing for Joseph, Jacob and family, to the land given to the Israelites, as promised.

The amazing thing in Joshua 6, the Battle of Jericho, is that there was no battle! God gave Jericho into Joshua’s hands. In the New Testament, in Hebrews, we read the wall of Jericho fell down by faith, it was the Lord who did it all, ‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.’ (Hebrews 11:30).

Joshua 6 is a wonderful narrative of a great victory – the grace of God working and the powerful judgement of the Lord. Jericho was not a particularly large city, about 7 acres in total. It was a strong fortress. It was shut up, secure, no-one could go in or out, ‘Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.’ (Joshua 6:1).

This was a classic siege. Jericho was on the road to the mountains. It geographically affected the tactics; if Israel was to capture the hill country, it needed to defeat Jericho. Joshua’s strategy began and ended with the Lord. Yes, there were armed men, but they were followed by priests carrying huge trumpets, not swords. The trumpets were the ones used to announce the year of Jubilee throughout the land – the presence of God’s kingdom. The Ark of the Covenant was prominent as they were marching, behind which were armed men and the people. The people’s whole focus was centred on the power and presence of God.

When we think of the cross of Jesus Christ, how could a man, bleeding and dying, destroy the dark powers of Satan? How could the cross destroy sin and death? In Joshua 6 we see an example in what God does again and again in the history of redemption. Our weapons are not swords, it is our humble Christian testimony of our broken and fragmented lives lived in unity with Christ. Our great weapon is prayer. God takes the foolish things of this world and confounds the mighty and strong.

The salvation of Rahab. How was Rahab delivered? ‘But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.’ (Joshua 6:25). She was saved because she hid the men who Joshua had sent. She didn’t merit salvation, ‘You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way.’ (James 2:24-25). Rahab demonstrated her faith in the amazing promise the spies had brought her. She was brought out with her faith (Joshua 6:23).

Because she was unclean she was set outside the camp, then brought back in because she was now clean, fully part of the people of God. In chapter 2 it seems as if the spies knocked on a door and there, by chance, stood Rahab. Rahab herself explained that this wasn’t the situation (Joshua 2:10). She had heard of Yahweh, the eternal God of great deeds. The citizens of Jericho had heard of what the Lord had done but only Rahab believed and wanted a sure sign. She pleaded for God to have mercy on her.

David, in Psalm 51, also pleads for mercy, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!’ (Psalm 51:1-2). Rahab’s family was the only family to turn in faith, that He might show mercy on them. If you appeal to God’s grace you can be saved, the arms of the Lord will welcome you. Rahab received mercy from a gracious God.

There is something deeply disturbing about what happened to the city of Jericho. The people were slaughtered – women and children. Only gold and silver were taken out for the treasury of the Lord. The scriptures have set this up – it’s not covered up, it’s spelt out in detail. It’s a totally righteous judgement. Jericho was ‘shut up’ (Joshua 6:1). If the city opened up its gates and pleaded for mercy, then mercy it would have received. But the people’s hearts were hardened and would have nothing to do with God. The worst judgement – hell’s eternal agony for all who reject Him. When we see our Saviour crying out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46), we begin to appreciate the depth of the righteousness of God.

When Christ comes, this is how it will be: when Jesus heals He restores. He will utterly destroy everything that stands in His way. The wall of sin is broken down by the cross. We live in gospel days. Today is the day of salvation. But death is near. People are interested in the materialistic things of this world, but the judgement of God is coming, there is no escape. We long for our friends to take hold of the promises of God. We must pray that they might be rescued from the coming judgement.