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Aug 01, 2010

Faith in Unlikely Places

Passage: Joshua 2:1-24

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Taking the Land

Category: Old Testament

Keywords: faith, grace, prostitute, redemption, legacy


God has a habit of choosing the must unlikely people from the most unlikely places to be his children and do amazing things. This chapter has a host of lessons to teach us about how God works using our unseemly past for his glory. No one is beyond His redemptive power. Everyone has the opportunity by faith to leave a huge spiritual legacy.


Faith in Unlikely Places

August 1, 2010

Joshua 2


INTRO:  This past week, a verdict was handed down to a Asian man named Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch.  He was originally given a 30 year sentence.  But he’s already been detained 13 years. So, subtracting those 13 years, he’ll be a free man in another 17 years…in the year 2027…at the age of 80.

      Duch says he’s become a born-again Christian in prison.  He confessed to his crimes and apologized to his victims in public. 

  • So when he’s 80 and needing a place to live, would you be willing to take him into your home? 
  • Would you be willing to forgive him if it had been your family member that had suffered as a result of his crimes? 

      What did Duch do anyway?  Well, he was head of a prison called Tuol Sleng or S-21.  It was a former high-school-turned-prison back in the late 1970’s.  It was in Cambodia.  During his time as prison warden, he oversaw the death of more than 12,000 people, many of them through torture.  Some estimates place the death toll as high as 17,000. At least 100 people bled to death in Nazi-style medical experiments. 

      Duch, now 67, is the first of the former Cambodian Khmer Rouge to be convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His regime is blamed for the death of 1.7 million Cambodians – about ¼ of the country’s population at the time – by executions, starvation, medical neglect and exhaustion in labor camps between 1975 and 1979.

      Now how do you feel about him? Still ready to forgive if it had been your family that was tortured and executed?  Still willing to bring him into your home if it had been your son or daughter he killed?


That’s a pretty severe case.  Few if any of us will have to really make that kind of decision in life.  But every day we make judgments, at least in our own minds, about who are good people and who are bad.  We hold ideas about who God is most likely working in and who he probably isn’t working in very much.

      For instance, out of the following list, which type of person do you tend to think is probably more in-tune with God than the other:

  • Doctors or drug dealers?
  • Hit men or hair stylists?
  • Court reporters or casino operators?
  • Politicians or policemen?
  • Bouncers or bankers?
  • Priests or prostitutes?
  • Handymen or heavy metal bands?
  • Card sharks or conservationists?


In today’s passage of Scripture, we’re confronted with some very unlikely people in some improbable places that are actually filled with more genuine faith than most of the “people of God”…then or now. 

If you’re joining us for the first time today, we’re working our way through the beginning books of the Old Testament.  We’re in the 6th book called Joshua.  It’s a book about God’s people finally moving into the place God has wanted them to be for decades—the Promised Land. 

      As such, it’s also a book about uswhat good things God has wanted for us for decades?  How we can move into that place in life where God can bless us and how we will have to fight some battles to get there. 




So let’s pick up God’s word at Joshua 2

BACKGROUND:  Joshua has just accepted the position of leader of a brand new, emerging and much-to-be-feared nation.  Besides a big job to do, he’s got big shoes to fill.  He’s coming in on the heels of one of the world’s greatest leaders ever—Moses. 

      But the nation has just affirmed their support of him and he has just accepted God’s call to lead courageously and strongly.  He’s 1 of only 2 people over the age of 60 in the entire nation of 2 million.  He must now be the man who seeks to hear the voice of God and do the will of God through his leadership position. So here’s the 1st thing he does as Supreme Commander of the Jewish nation of Israel.  It’s recorded for us in Joshua 2:1

        1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. [Yes, I pronounced that correctly. Don’t go home and tell your family, “I heard the pastor swear this morning!  It was shocking!” I’m just pronouncing the word correctly, O.K? J)"Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.  


This is the second “covert operations” intrusion into the land of Canaan that the Israelites have made.  But there were 40 years between this one and the previous one.  As many of you are aware, the first one was an abysmal failure.  It wasn’t a failure because they lost any men in the operation.  12 “spies” went in, 1 from each of the 12 tribes; 12 spies came out.  It was a failure because 10 of the 12 lost their faith in God in that first spy mission. 

      Only Joshua and Caleb came away with a “good report”—good in that they clearly understood the HUGE challenges that would be facing them BUT they also believed…put their faith in…God whom they knew was bigger.  But the majority report swayed the entire nation into doubting God. 

      So God said, “O.K.  You want to live by sight instead of by faith in me?  Then you will live in this desert for 40 years…and all of you over 20 years of age will die in this desert.  You will not get to go into the Promised Land, only your children will.” 


So this time, Joshua is wise to what might happen.  He simply needs some updated intelligence.  He already knows about Jericho.  He remembers how well fortified the city is, how high its walls are and how big its people are.  He just wants an update.  So he sends just two “spies” to scout out the first military objective in their path—Jericho.  AND, he does it “secretly.”  The whole nation doesn’t need to know about it.  Perhaps he doesn’t want some yahoo “reporter” twisting an interview these two might give and messing with another generation of God’s people. 

      Now look at the town these two covert ops guys are fromShittim.  That little detail is actually significant. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered that town.  Back in Numbers 25, we have this little commentary about that place:

1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD's anger burned against them.


It’s pretty obvious what is happening here.  While they are on the east side of the Jordan, waiting out the 40 years until they can enter the Land, a bunch of the Israelite men do a little “evangelistic dating.”  Well, it actually went beyond that.  But I’m sure they excused it as “just having a little spiritual dialogue and education” with a few Moabite women.  What may have started out as a “World Religions” class turned into a “Current Sexual Events” class.  You see, sexual immorality was closely associated with the spiritual paganism of the Moabites. 


APP:  It makes me wonder about a lot of supposedly very “spiritual” activities of today, some of it under the banner of “Christian.”  It doesn’t matter whether you claim to be doing things in Jesus’ name or in the name of New Age.  If it’s leading you into spiritual compromise and sexual immorality, I can say confidently that you are “bowing down” to a false god, not the Living God. 

In the case of God’s people and Shittim, God’s anger burns against this idolatry and some 24,000 people end up in eternity a little early as a result.


In addition, Shittim was in the area that the tribe of Gad had chosen for their Promised Land inheritance.  That tribe didn’t want the trouble of having to invade Canaan and conquer those troubling and pesky Canaanites.  They were just fine staying on the east bank of the Jordan River.  But God had allowed them to do so on one condition:  that they would send their men to fight right along with all the other Israelites until the whole Promised Land was taken and occupied by the other 9 ½ tribes. 


Q:  Are a couple of guys from Shittim the most likely pick for this covert operation?  I don’t think so.  First of all, there is a cloud of suspicion over their heads for being “men from Shittim.”  After all, men from there a few years earlier had caused the rest of the nation a 25,000 person plague because of their uncontrolled sexual escapades and idolatry.  But God leads Joshua to choose these two guys for a very dangerous mission.  Interesting.


Next, where does he send them?  “So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.” 

WOWA! This story is getting sketchier by the moment! 


How do a couple of good Hebrew guys end up in a not-so-nice brothel?  The Bible doesn’t say, but I’m quite sure there wasn’t any hanky-panky going on.  How do I know. 

  1.  Of all possible men, these two knew what was at stake.  They were on a mission for the people of God.  They came from a town that knew first-hand the danger of sexual immorality.  And yet they end up in the “inn” of a prostitute.  I’m pretty sure that was THE LAST PLACE they wanted to be or planned to be.  
  2. Had they compromised themselves morally, I’m pretty sure God would have judged them, not protected them from harm.


But it’s interesting what some Bible commentators try to do with Rahab.  They try to clean up this story a bit too much in my estimation. 

      The Hebrew word here translated “prostitute” can also refer to an “innkeeper”.  But the problem with that is that the New Testament refers to Rahab twice and the Greek word there isn’t ambiguous at all.  She was a hooker, plain and simple.

      Others try to say that she was a “rehabilitated” hooker…a believing, faith-filled, former-hooker. 

      Well, we can’t honestly know how far along the faith-journey Rahab was. As we will see, she certainly had faith in the true God to a far greater level than many of the Israelites even did.  But whether or not she had given up the practice of prostitution the day before or the week before or the year before, we don’t know.  What we do know is that 6 of the 8 times Rahab is mentioned in the Bible, she is mentioned as “Rahab the prostitute.”  Two of the three N.T. references to her identify her that way.


How would you like that title hung over your neck?  When you get to heaven and you meet Rahab for the first time, what are you going to be thinking?  “Oh yah, Rehab…from Jerichowife of Salmonmother of Boaz (Mt. 1:5).  Yah, I’ve heard of you before.” 

      Be honest.  I’m going to be thinking, “Rahab…the prostitute!” 


Q:  Why does it bother us so as God’s people to be know by the sins of our past? 

Sure, nobody likes to be known by the sordid or dark parts of their past.  But God doesn’t seem to have a problem with that like we do.  He’s not there, holding our past over our heads like some judgment.  Quite the contrary, I think God is doing just the opposite.  I think he’s showing us that it is our past and the shameful, sinful and sad things of our past that have the potential to show God off…glorify God…in ways our nice, neat and tidy past or present can’t. 


What shows more mercy of God, a redeemed mayor…or a redeemed meth addict?

What shows more grace of God, saving a little child or saving a call girl?


But we want to hide our past.  We want to run from it.  We feel shame which leads us to self-contempt which is nothing but self-centeredness in a self-destructive way. 

But God wants to use our past to display his greatness.  He wants to take that same shame and turn it into humility and genuine brokenness about sin that Jesus Christ loves to heal.  The Holy Spirit wants to take that genuine brokenness about sin and turn it into learning, growth and spiritual maturity that is compassionately other-oriented, not self-condemingly self-loathing or oriented. 


Imagine how attractive the church would be if it was filled with people who weren’t afraid to let others know how much God had done for them by not being ashamed of what God had saved them from? 

  • “Hi, my name is John.  I used to be a KKK member.  Then God saved me from my bigotry and hatred and now I absolutely love black people.”
  • “Hello, my name is Jewel.  I used to be a call girl before I met Jesus.  Now I’m the happy wife of Joe over there and the mother of 4 great kids right here.”
  • “Hi there.  My name is Gavin and I used to be a sex addict.  This is my girlfriend, Avery, who has shown me the grace and love of God for 3 years now.”
  • “Hi. My name is Alyssa and I destroyed my first family with my anger and rage.  But God’s working on me and given me another chance.  I’m married to that wonderful man, Michael, over there and I’m learning to be a more patient step-mom to his teenage kids.”

Do you think people might relax just a little in a church like that?  How is it that the church has become so condemning? 

How is it that the church shouts about our supposed “accomplishments” but we only whisper about God’s redeeming work in our past and present? 


I don’t know what’s in your past…or present.  But I do know that if you will take that shame over sin and move into the route of humility and spiritual brokenness before God who is loving and forgiving rather than the route of shame and self-condemnation, you will honor God far more by letting other know about your past than you will with hiding it.  Let’s start being as real as the “super-heroes” of the Bible were.  Then we might begin to see the power and glory of God that they did. 


Well, the next part of this passage leads us head-on into a bit of an ethical conundrum.  It would take the rest of the morning to sort it out, so I’m not going to.  You can go to Moody Northwest and take a Christian Ethics course that sorts it all out between “unqualified absolutism”, “conflicting absolutism” and “graded absolutism.” 

But one thing everyone agrees on about Rahab:  she was a woman of amazing God-faith that ended up saving the lives of a whole lot of people around her.  


Joshua 2:2-7

2 The king of Jericho was told, "Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land." 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: "Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land."

 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.


But here comes the real faith.  Joshua 2:8ff

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "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. 10 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. 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. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death."

 14 "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land."


Here is a woman who is in one of the oldest, most immoral professions of all time.  She uses sex to make money.  Like it or not, she is a home-wrecker.  She may have been abused by some male relative or acquaintance as a child.  She may be haunted by feelings of self-hatred.  She probably carries and transmits STIs.  There is a good chance that she has offered her own children on the altar of some pagan god or sacrificed children to abortion. 

      (She pleads for the lives of her “father and mother…brothers and sisters…and all who belong to them” in 2:13.  But she never mentions children of her own.  We can be pretty sure that she that with her level of sexual activity, there was sure to be a pregnancy here or there.  So what happened to those babies?)


Yet this woman has a faith that responds to the Living God. 

  • Vs. 9--"I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us….”
  • Vs. 11—“… for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
  • Vs. 12—she even makes the spies swear by the name of the LORD, not the names of any gods of the Canaanites when she asks them, “Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”


Did she know the whole Gospel?  NO.

Did she know even half of the Law of God that the Israelites did?  NO.

What did she know?  What she had heard about God from those who were aware of God’s people & what she knew in her heart about God (that he was the powerful God who made heaven and earth…the same truth the Apostle Paul says according to Romans 1 that everyone has by simply looking at the world and heavens).  Living in a totally pagan culture, she chose the holy God of Israel.  Living a life dominated and defined by sexual sin, she chose faith in the forgiving God of Israel. 

Confronted with a choice between staying with people she had known her whole life or going with the people of God she had not known until that day, she chose God’s people. 


Of ALL the people in Jericho, surely Rahab would have been voted by her peers “THE Least Likely to Get Religion.”  J  But she didn’t “get religion.”  She “got” God.  She “got” that she was a sinner who deserved judgment.  She “got” that God was on the move in this world that He made and that unless she changed the way she believed about God, she and her whole family was in for a dark future.


Q:  Do you “get it” about God?  About the death of Jesus Christ?  About his offer of forgiveness and salvation to all who acknowledge their sin and need of a Savior and put their faith, trust and life in Jesus Christ? 

      It’s so simple even a child can understand it and have faith in Christ. 

      The question is, “Are you willing to become like a child in simple faith in Christ instead of continuing to try and “get good enough” for God…or trying to clean up your life before you surrender to Christ?



Rahab was the first one in her family to leave the gods of her day, of her culture, even of her past.  In so doing, she blazed a trail to temporal and eternal safety for the rest of her family. 


That’s what God desire in the lives of every one of us.  He put us in families because he knew they needed Christ too.  He gave us the mother and father, sisters and brothers, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews we have because he wants US to be part of his great plan to save them too. 


Rahab pleaded for the lives of the rest of her family with these 2 spies.  She followed their instructions and she hid her family with her in her house.  Her belief in God moved her to action.  It moved her to compassion.  It moved her to conviction.  It caused her to be persuasive with the rest of her family. 


God wants everyone in each extended family represented here to be saved.  He wants to use every one of his children to impact every member of their families.  Is our faith as active as the prostitute Rahab’s?  Is our compassion for others as basic as Rahab the harlot’s?  Do we care about our families as much as the Hooker Rahab cared?


This passage is, in my opinion, one of the most encouraging passages of the entire Old Testament.  It’s encouraging and challenging in a couple of ways.


1.)     It clear demonstrates and teaches that NOBODY is beyond the saving grace of God.  God loves to choose unlikely people in unlikely places to do unlikely things in His kingdom.

2.)    It shows us that everyone can have a “saving” impact on those around them…everyone.  The worse your reputation, the more impact you may have.  The bigger your family, the greater impact you may have.  The darker the days, the brighter your faith will shine.

3.)    It further teaches that anyone surrendered to God can leave an astounding legacy. 

Let’s work in reverse on those three final truths. 

Anyone surrendered to God can leave an astounding legacy.  If a prostitute from a pagan city in a pagan nation can join THE most important family line in human history, then surely God can use you and me to raise up future generations of God-loving people who are either physical or spiritual offspring of our lives. 

      Matthew 1:5, in giving one of the genealogies of Jesus, tells us that not only did Rahab join the people of God by faith.  She became the husband of  a fellow named Salmon.  Then God gave her a child whose name was Boaz.  Boaz married Ruth and became the grandfather and grandmother of Jesse, that Jesse who was to be the father of King David no less.  And, of course, it was David’s family line that gave to the whole world the Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.   

[5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
         Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
         Obed the father of Jesse,
       6and Jesse the father of King David.]

By joining the people of God way back at Jericho with nothing but a very simple faith in God, Rahab the harlot became “Rahab the progenitor of Jesus.”  Talk about an astounding legacy! 


One of the lies of Satan is that our past sins disqualify us from present fulfillment of God’s great purposes in our lives.  That’s a lie from the pit of hell!  NOTHING disqualifies us from falling under the grace of God except rejecting that grace in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. 

      You want to leave a legacy for generations yet unborn?  Then join the people of God by faith in Jesus and start caring about raising up the next generation of disciples of Jesus. 


2.)  Everyone can have a “saving” impact on those around them…everyone. 

Who are the relatives God has placed in your family tree that don’t know Christ yet?  Are you pleading with God for them in prayer?  Are you talking with them about the coming judgment of God on this world and inviting them to join you in God’s family by faith? 

APP:  write down the names of family and  extended family who you think still don’t know God personally by faith in Christ.  Ask God for a burden to pray for them…boldness to share Christ with them…and conviction to plead with them to come into God’s family and be safe. 


3.)  NOBODY is beyond the saving grace of God.  Who have you “given up” on? Who looks to you like the least likely candidate for becoming a follower of Jesus that you know?  Who do you pass daily or know personally that you’ve already written off as not interested in God or the Gospel?

      Long before those 2 spies showed up, God was at work in Jericho.  Long before Israel invaded Canaan, God was at work in Jericho.  God has his eye on so many people we don’t even want to look in the eye that they might join his royal line and become part of his holy household. 


APP:  Write down the names of as many people as God brings to mind in 30 seconds to whom you need to extend an invitation to join God’s family.


God is stirring in our city too. 

  • He’s stirring here at Mosaic and calling us to bring and share the Gospel with people all around us.  ALPHA is one of the ways he wants us to invite people into His family. 
  • He’s also stirring in the heart of Charlie & Lisa and some of their friends downtown here.  They have been invited to start a church in one of the local bars.  So, Lord willing, early next year they will be launching a new church in one of the least likely places in this city.  (Have Charlie share.) 


COMMUNION:  the scarlet chord used by Rahab—it saved the spies... and it saved her.   Scarlet is symbolic in Scripture of both sin and royalty. In Christ, our scarlet chord to God, sin is dealt with and we are made royal sons.