Jericho and Rahab: Trusting in God’s Deliverance (2)

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Hebrews 11:30-31

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Growing in Faith, and we have been looking at the various aspects of true biblical faith as demonstrated by various persons from the Old Testament and presented here in Hebrews 11. Verses 29-31 contain three separate Old Testament examples which present three applications of the same aspect of biblical faith: trusting in God’s deliverance.

Last week we looked at verse 29 and the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea. And the particular lesson of faith we learned from the crossing of the Red Sea was this: When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance.

We saw first of all that God can make a way where there is no way. The Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. They could not go forward, and they could not go back. There was no way of escape. But God made a way for them where there was no way. He opened up a passage for them, and they walked across the Red Sea as on dry ground.

We also saw that the way God opens up for you will still require faith. God pushed back the waters of the Red Sea, but the Israelites still had to walk between the walls of water by faith. The way God opens up for you may not be easy. It may require faith on your part, but God will walk with you all the way. We read God’s promise from Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

And then finally we looked at the difference between responding in faith and acting in presumption. The Israelites had a relationship with God. They were responding in faith to God’s word, and God brought them safely through the waters of the Red Sea. The Egyptians, however, had no relationship with God, no concern for God in their lives. They may have acted boldly when they charged into the passage in the Red Sea, but they also acted in presumption. The walls of water came crashing down, and the whole army drowned in the attempt. True biblical faith is based on a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Today we will look at the two remaining examples of trusting in God’s deliverance: the battle of Jericho in verse 30, and Rahab the prostitute in verse 31. But first let’s read all three verses together again. (Read Hebrews 11:29-31 and pray)

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There is actually a forty-year gap between verse 29 and verse 30 in this passage. Forty years passed between the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses and the battle of Jericho under Joshua. So, you might wonder, why does Hebrews 11 jump over this forty-year period? Why doesn’t the author give us any examples of faith from the time between these two events?

The reason is there are no examples of faith to give! The forty-year gap is intentional. Hebrews 11 mentions nothing about faith from this period basically because there was nothing about faith to report. In fact, the crossing of the Red Sea is the only act of faith specifically mentioned of this generation that came out of Egypt. Verse 28 mentions that they kept the Passover, but Hebrews 11 attributes that more to Moses’ faith than the people’s faith.

No faith examples are given from the forty years in the wilderness because the overriding characteristic of the generation in the wilderness was their lack of faith. That’s why they never made it into the Promised Land to begin with. Out of all the Israelites twenty years or older who came out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered the land of Canaan.

Think about it. An entire generation perished in the wilderness because they had no faith. In the New Testament Jude 5 says: “I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 5) Psalm 78:22 says of this generation in the wilderness: “They did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.” (Psalm 78:22)

That is the exact theme of faith that we are exploring in these verses, trusting in God’s deliverance. And what does Psalm 78 say? Psalm 78 specifically says that the generation in the wilderness did not trust in God’s deliverance. Apart from the crossing of the Red Sea, the generation in the wilderness simply did not have faith.

II. Jericho: When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance (30)
   – Joshua 6:1-21

And so, in verse 30 we come to a whole new generation of Israelites under a new leader: Joshua, Moses’ successor. Hebrews 11 selects a very significant event from this time period when Joshua led Israel – the battle of Jericho. The lesson of faith we learned from the crossing of the Red Sea was this: When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance. The lesson of faith we learn from Jericho is this: When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance. Let’s look at verse 30 together. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30)

When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance. Joshua and the Israelites faced an insurmountable obstacle in the solid rock walls of the city of Jericho. By faith Joshua had led the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Under Joshua’s leadership they too had walked through the waters as on dry land. Just as God did with the Red Sea, God held back the waters of the Jordan River at full flood stage, and the people crossed over the Jordan on dry ground. God told them to take the land, and now the first city that stood in their way was the city of Jericho.

Jericho was located on the eastern side of Canaan right across from the Jordan River. It was situated at one of the largest freshwater springs in the land. Jericho was a strategic and important city. The people of Israel could not afford to bypass or ignore this city in their conquest of Canaan. As long as Jericho remained in power, Israel would have no peace in the Promised Land. Besides, God had commanded them to take the city.

But the problem they faced with Jericho was the walls. The city was fortified with these large, thick walls that provided safety and protection for the people from enemy attacks. If you saw the Lord of the Rings movies, think about the walls protecting Helms Deep in The Two Towers. That should give you a picture of what the Israelites were facing.

Now in Joshua’s time there were basically only five ways you could conquer a walled city like Jericho. 1) You could tunnel underneath the walls if you had the time, the patience and the right equipment. 2) You could go over the walls with ladders if you could get past the fighters on the wall above you. 3) You could break through the walls with heavy artillery. 4) You could lay siege to the city; or 5) you could resort to some sort of ruse or trickery, as the Greeks did to the city of Troy with the Trojan horse.

The Israelites were not equipped to do any of these. They had just arrived in the land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They had no battering rams or siege works. A siege would be useless against Jericho anyways, because the city had ready access to fresh water from the underground springs.

And so, the walls of Jericho formed an insurmountable obstacle for the people of Israel. They could not take the land of Canaan without first taking Jericho. And they could not take Jericho because of the walls.

So, what do you do when you face an insurmountable obstacle like Jericho’s walls? You exercise faith by trusting in God’s deliverance.

   A. God can remove any obstacle no matter how big
      – Luke 18:27

First of all, remember that God can remove any obstacle no matter how big. The walls of Jericho were a huge obstacle for the Israelites, but the walls were no problem for God who created the universe.

When we face a huge obstacle in life, the reason we sometimes panic is because we look at the obstacle in relation to ourselves rather than in relation to God. And of course, if the obstacle is something bigger than we can handle, if we do not have sufficient resources to deal with it, then we are going to get discouraged and lose hope.

The Israelites did not have the necessary resources in and of themselves to remove the walls of Jericho. But Hebrews 11:30 reminds us: “by faith the walls of Jericho fell.” The walls of Jericho did not fall because of the Israelites’ ingenuity, strength or skill, but because of their faith.

God told Joshua and the people of Israel: “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:2) They believed God’s Word, and they acted on it. That is faith, and faith can move mountains, never mind some walls around a city. Jesus said: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) So remember, don’t look at the size of the obstacle. Look to the Lord and his strength. God can remove any obstacle no matter how big.

   B. Trust in God’s ways even when you do not understand them
      – Joshua 6:20

And then, secondly, trust in God’s ways even when you do not understand them. We said earlier that there were only five ways to conquer a walled city like Jericho. Well, God gave the Israelites another option, one they would never have thought of themselves. “March around the city for seven days. Then blow your trumpets and shout.”

Now I am sure that Joshua and the Israelites did not understand this strategy at all. What was the point? What could they possibly accomplish simply by walking around the city? And certainly, no combination of trumpet blasts and shouting voices had the power to bring down the city’s walls.

It was a ridiculous strategy, humanly speaking, just walking around in circles. Ridiculous – except that it worked! You can barely even call it the battle of Jericho, because it was not much of a battle at all. We read in the book of Joshua that when the trumpets sounded and the people shouted: “The walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.” (Joshua 6:20)

We need to learn to trust God’s ways even when we do not understand them. One of God’s ways is prayer. A lot of times we do not fully understand the power and the necessity of prayer. We want to charge right into the situation, when God wants us to take our time and pray.

Sometimes when you are praying for God to remove a certain obstacle in your life, you can feel just like the Israelites, like you are just walking around in circles, getting nowhere. And yet, persistent, believing prayer is God’s appointed way to remove the insurmountable obstacles in your life. Why? Because God chooses to work in your life through faith.

It took faith to walk around the city of Jericho. It takes faith to trust in God’s ways even when you do not understand them.

   C. Wait for God’s appointed time
      – 1 Peter 4:19

And then, thirdly, wait for God’s appointed time. Verse 30 says that “the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30)

God promised to remove the walls of Jericho for the people of Israel, but they had to wait for God’s appointed time. What if they had given up after five days? Or after six? They would never have seen God’s deliverance.

So, if you are waiting on God’s deliverance, be patient. Continue in faith, continue in prayer, commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19) Part of trusting in God’s deliverance is learning to wait for God’s appointed time.

Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are physical in nature; others are spiritual, relational, financial. I don’t know what obstacle you may be facing in your life right now. But whatever it is, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up hope. 1) God can remove any obstacle no matter how big. 2) Trust in God’s ways even when you do not understand them. 3) Wait for God’s appointed time. When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance.

III. Rahab: When you have a sinful past, trust in God’s deliverance (31)
   – Joshua 2:1-21; 6:22-23

And then finally we come to Rahab in verse 31. Rahab lived in Jericho, and she and her family were the only ones who were spared when the walls came down. The specific lesson we learn from Rahab is this: when you have a sinful past, trust in God’s deliverance. Look at verse 31 with me: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” When you have a sinful past, trust in God’s deliverance.

At first glance Rahab seems an unlikely candidate for our list of Old Testament persons of faith. Verse 31 emphasizes that she was a prostitute, and so this was a woman who had lived a sinful life. Furthermore, she was a Gentile; she was not a member of God’s chosen people. And then also she lived in a pagan culture that was under God’s just condemnation and wrath for idolatry and all manner of wickedness. So here we have Rahab, a pagan, gentile woman with a sinful past, and yet Hebrews 11 lists her along with the other heroes of faith, right alongside Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.

Verse 31 tells us that her specific act of faith was that of welcoming the Israelite spies. We read about these spies earlier in the service in Joshua 2. Joshua sent two spies across the Jordan to scope out the land and the city of Jericho. When the spies got to Jericho, they stayed at Rahab’s house. Somehow the king of Jericho got wind that the spies were there. He sent messengers to Rahab’s house demanding her to hand the men over, but Rahab hid them and sent the king’s messengers the other way.

Rahab welcomed and protected the spies at great personal risk. Why? Because she believed in the God of Israel. Listen to her words to the spies in Joshua 2:11. She said: “The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11) Now those are remarkable words coming from a sinful, pagan Gentile. Rahab believed that the God of Israel was the one true God.

Not only that but she trusted that this God would deliver her and her family despite her sinful past. She told the spies: “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 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.” (Joshua 2:12-13)

The spies arranged the sign with her, and she and her family were spared. She trusted in God’s deliverance, and as a result she “was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11:30)

   A. Don’t let a sinful past keep you from coming to God
      – Luke 5:31-32

There are a number of lessons we can learn from Rahab, but I would like us to focus on just two.

First of all, don’t let a sinful past keep you from coming to God. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) So often we don’t come to God because of the sin in our lives. But isn’t that exactly the reason why Jesus came to us – because of the sin in our lives? Jesus came to forgive us for our past, to rescue us from sin, to bring us back into relationship with God.

Don’t ever think that you somehow have to be perfect before you can come to God. Rahab wasn’t a saint. She was a prostitute. She had lived a sinful life. God delivered Rahab not because she had lived a good life, but because of her faith. She trusted in God for deliverance.

In the same way we are saved today not by our good works but simply by our faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins. Don’t let a sinful past keep you from coming to God.

   B. Know that God’s grace is greater than all your sin
      – Matthew 1:5

And then, secondly, know that God’s grace is greater than all your sin. Sometimes we think that we have sinned so badly that God could never forgive us. But it’s not true. God’s grace is rich, vast, infinite, beyond all measure. You cannot out-sin God’s grace. Rahab was a prostitute; Paul persecuted Christians; Peter denied Christ. God forgave them all.

And God’s grace extends even beyond forgiveness. Not only does God forgive us for all our sins, but he gives us even more grace. He cleanses us from sin by the Holy Spirit. He pours his blessing into our lives, and he uses us for his kingdom and his glory.

Rahab eventually married an Israelite man named Salmon. Together they had a son named Boaz. Boaz was the grandfather of King David, which means that Rahab was David’s great-grandmother. Jesus Christ was born from the line of David. And so, you actually find Rahab’s name recorded in two important lists in the Bible. She is listed among the heroes of faith right here in Hebrews 11. And then, you also find her listed in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1. Why? Because Jesus was a direct, physical descendant of Rahab.

Do you see what God did here? God not only delivered Rahab at Jericho. God used Rahab to further the line of Christ. God used a pagan, gentile woman with a sinful past to help produce Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world – all because she welcomed the spies by faith and trusted in God’s deliverance. Jesus, the perfect God-man, carries the DNA of Rahab in his physical body and will do so throughout all eternity. What a wonderful example of God’s amazing grace, grace that is indeed greater than all our sin!

Now we’re not specifically told, but I believe that Rahab left her sinful lifestyle behind when she put her faith in God. Repentance from sin is part of faith, and we cannot truly come to God in faith without leaving our sin behind. That doesn’t mean that we will suddenly become perfect. We will still sin and need to ask forgiveness, but our attitude toward sin changes. God has rescued us from sin! How can we choose to live in it any longer?

CONCLUSION: The Red Sea, Jericho, and Rahab – these are three wonderful examples from Scripture of trusting in God’s deliverance with three specific applications.

From the crossing of the Red Sea we learn – When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance. God can make a way where there is no way. The way God opens up for you will still require faith. Know the difference between faith and presumption.

From Jericho we learn – When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance. God can remove any obstacle, no matter how big. But you need to trust in God’s ways, and you need to wait on his perfect timing.

And from Rahab the prostitute we learn – When you have a sinful past, trust in God’s deliverance. Jesus came and died to save lost sinners. Never let a sinful past keep you from coming to God. And always remember that God’s grace is greater than all your sin.

© Ray Fowler

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