Text: Hebrews 11:30-31– By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Israel’s problem: They were on the wrong side of the wall.
Rahab’s problem: She was on the wrong side of the Lord.
Israel’s plan (for overcoming the major obstacle that stood in their way — the wall of Jericho): Trust in the Lord and obey His word
Rahab’s plan (for overcoming the spiritual obstacle that stood in her way–her pagan beliefs): Turn to the Lord and serve Him.
Israel’s payoff: By faith, Jericho fell.
Rahab’s payoff: By faith, Rahab was saved.
Observations about faith
- Faith begins with revelation from God.
- Faith responds with obedience to God.
- Faith brings us into the blessing of God.
- Listening to what God has to say about it
- Finding out what He wants you to do about it
- Doing it
- Expecting that He’ll give you the victory
In life, we’re going to face mountainous hurdles in our journey with the Lord. We have the option of avoiding whatever obstacle we might encounter and letting it get the best of us, or, like Israel and Rahab, courageously taking it on by faith. The choice is ours to make.
Opening: A brand new pastor with only a week at his church decided to visit the children’s Sunday school. The teacher introduced him and said, “Pastor, this morning we’re studying Joshua.” “That’s wonderful,” said the new pastor, “Let’s see what you’re learning. Here’s a question for you. “Who tore down the walls of Jericho?” At first no children responded. Then, finally little Johnny shyly raised his hand and offered, “Pastor, I didn’t do it.” The pastor chuckled and asked the class again, “Come on now, “Who tore down the walls of Jericho?” The teacher, interrupting, said, “Pastor, little Johnny’s a good boy. If he says he didn’t do it, I believe he didn’t do it.” Flustered, the pastor left the room and went to the Sunday school director and related the story to him. The director, looking worried, explained, “Well, sir, we’ve had a problem with Johnny before. Let me talk to him and see if I can get a confession out of him.” Really bothered now by the answers of the kids, the teacher and the director to the question, “Who tore down the walls of Jericho?”, the new pastor approached the church board and related the whole story to them. When he was done, one of the older men thoughtfully stroked his chin and said, “Well, Pastor, to be honest, I don’t think it matters who did it. I move we just take the money from the general fund to pay for the walls and leave it at that.”
This morning, as we continue in our series Unstoppable Faith, we’re looking at Hebrews 11:30-31 which briefly mentions this well-known story… “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” I suspect that many of us heard it for the first time when we were little children. Perhaps we even sang the song, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” Well, in our tenth message in this preaching series, I want to spend our time back in the Old Testament again reviewing the passage where the story of Israel, Jericho and a woman named Rahab is told in much greater detail. It’s found in the book of Joshua. We’ll start in chapter six, but we’ll also be flipping back to chapter two which tells the story of Rahab. So turn in your Bibles to Joshua 6 (and remember … if you don’t have one … we’d be honored to purchase you a Bible with your name on it) and let’s see what God wants us to learn about Unstoppable Faith from His Word. Let’s start with the problems that Israel and Rahab were facing.
Israel’s problem: They were on the wrong side of the wall. Last week we talked about Israel being saved by God when He enabled them to cross the Red Sea on dry ground while the Egyptians were in hot pursuit. But when Pharaoh and his armies tried to do the same thing, the walls of water collapsed and they drowned. A short time after that, God led the Israelites to a place called Kadesh-barnea, the doorstep of the Promised Land. Unfortunately, despite God’s promise to give them the land, they did not trust Him and refused to enter. So God judged His people. Everyone the age of twenty and over (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb — the two dissenting leaders who had enough faith to trust the Lord) was not allowed to enter. For the next forty years, the Jews wandered in the wilderness until that entire generation died off. Then Israel, under the command of Joshua, was led by God to defeat the king of Bashan (Og) and the king of the Amorites (Sihon), cross the Jordan River and approach the city of Jericho. It was a “gateway fortress” built by the Canaanites to prevent armies from invading the land. The people who lived there believed that Jericho (which was about six and a half football fields in circumference,) was impenetrable because it had, not one, but two walls completely surrounding it, both built on slopes. According to historians the first was 12-15 feet high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall 6 feet thick and about 20-26 feet high. The people of Jericho believed they had little to fear. After all, every invading army, including Israel’s, always found themselves on the wrong side of the wall.
Rahab’s problem: She was on the wrong side of the Lord. Rahab was one of the inhabitants of Jericho. She’s mentioned first in Joshua chapter two. As a Canaanite, she was immersed in their culture and probably participated in the worship of the gods of the Babylonians, the practice of which included human sacrifice, often the murder of a first-born child. So she was part of an immoral people that was so bad that God planned to take the land from them and give it to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 9:5 — Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out before you). She was also an immoral woman. Joshua 2:1 refers to her as a prostitute. As a means to make a living, she traded sexual favors for money. She may also have done it as a form of pagan worship. Everyone knew her as the harlot. In fact, the Bible reminds us four more times that this was her chosen vocation (Joshua 6:17, 6:26; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). And while it may be the oldest of professions, those who participated in prostitution were considered by the Jews to be immoral and worthy of capital punishment (being burned or stoned — Genesis 38:24). Rahab was clearly on the wrong side of the Lord.
israel’s plan (for overcoming the major obstacle that stood in their way — the wall of Jericho): Trust in the Lord and obey His word. In Joshua 6, God said to Joshua, “See I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.” And then He laid out what had to be considered the most ridiculous plan ever conceived for taking a heavily fortified city like Jericho. The Lord told Joshua to march around it with all the men of war once a day for six days. Seven priests bearing seven trumpets made of of rams’ horns were to follow closely behind a group of armed men who would lead the way. Behind the priests would come the ark of the covenant (which symbolized the very presence of God). The rest of the army was to follow the ark. This they would do for six days with no one making a sound, so that the only thing that could be heard were the rams’ horns (called shofars). On the 7th day, however, the same group was to march around the city seven times, and at the right moment of God’s choosing all the people were to give a loud shout with the promise that the walls would collapse. Then they were to enter the city and devote everything in it to destruction with the exception of anything made of bronze, silver or gold which was to be brought into the treasury of the Lord. Once Joshua received the plan, he and the rest of the Israelites had to make a decision. Would they follow it by faith, or would they do what their predecessors had done the first time they were given the opportunity to enter the Promised Land and refuse to obey God’s instructions?
Rahab’s plan (for overcoming the spiritual obstacle that stood in her way–her pagan beliefs): Turn to the Lord and serve Him. Let’s go back again to Joshua chapter two. In preparation for Israel’s conquest of Jericho, Joshua sent two spies into the city. As they walked around its streets, they made their observations and then decided to lodge in the house of Rahab. Evidently, they weren’t as inconspicuous as they should have been, because someone noticed them and told the king who immediately sent men to the prostitute’s home looking for the Hebrew spies. This is where we gain some insight into a transformation that was taking place in Rahab. Though she was a Canaanite, somewhere along the line she made the choice to side with the God of Israel. It was clear to her that He was the God of the heavens above and the earth beneath (Joshua 2:11), and that she had been wrong to serve the false gods of her people. She had heard how the Lord had dried up the water of the Red Sea and how Israel’s fighting forces had defeated the armies of two powerful kings. Clearly, Rahab had decided that she was on the wrong side of the Lord and so she changed her allegiance. It was as simple as that. She knew she had backed the wrong horse, so to speak. And so Rahab put her trust in the Lord and decided to serve Him. This meant protecting the spies and keeping them from being discovered. She hid them under some stalks of flax on her roof, and later, since she lived on one of the city’s outer walls, helped them escape by letting them down by a rope. Illustration: It took a lot of courage to do what Rahab did! It turns out that during WWII, a similar event played itself out in the European theater. Some refer to it as the greatest rescue mission of the war. In July of 1944, American bombers were sent on dangerous missions over southern Europe to cripple the Nazis’ oil supplies. Hundreds of crews in flying tin cans soared through storms of anti-aircraft shells. Many American pilots were forced to bail from their shot-up planes. The injured airmen drifted by parachute into occupied Yugoslavia, expecting to be captured or killed. Instead, on the ground remarkable rescue teams were already in place. Serbian peasants tracked the path of the floating flight crews. Their sole mission was to grab the flyboys and bring them to safety—before the Nazis arrived. Risking their own lives, the peasants fed and sheltered the downed solders. These rescued men were in friendly hands but on enemy soil. They still needed to escape. The story of what became known as Operation Haylard builds toward a daring mission, a secret landing strip, and a clandestine evacuation plan. Amazingly, those Serbian peasants, showing not the slightest pretense of loyalty to the Nazis sided with the allied forces and rescued every single American airman—over 500 in all. That was certainly Impressive … but no more than what a woman with a bad reputation named Rahab did for two spies and, it turns out, an entire nation of people.
Israel’s payoff: By faith, Jericho fell. So the Bible says that Joshua and the people of Israel trusted God and obeyed His word. The army marched around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day with the ark of the covenant symbolizing the presence of God in their midst and the shofars of the priests making all the noise. Then the people gave a shout and the wall fell down flat, “so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:20-21). Some would argue the battle was over before it started because God had already promised to deliver Jericho into their hands. What we know for certain is … on that day Israel celebrated a great victory, while Jericho suffered a terrible defeat. with several thousand people losing their lives. it might seem kind of harsh that so many had to die, but, don’t forget, what God did to the city of Jericho was just on a smaller scale what He did to the world when He decided that everyone was corrupt and filled with violence and no longer deserved to live (with the exception of Noah and his family). That’s when He flooded the earth. The lesson for us to learn is this: if you don’t think God takes sin seriously, this should convince you otherwise.
Rahab’s payoff: By faith, Rahab was saved. Before Rahab helped the Israelite spies escape Jericho, she negotiated with them. Because she knew that the Lord was the One giving them victory after victory, she arranged for her and her family to be spared His judgment by asking that the invading army would deal kindly with her father’s household (her family) and deliver their lives from death. An agreement was struck and she was told to tie a scarlet cord in the window of her home. On the day when attack was to occur, she was responsible to gather all of her loved ones under her roof. When the army of Israel saw the scarlet cord in her window, they would pass over her place and let everyone within live. SOUNDS A LOT LIKE THE PASSOVER DOESN’T IT? The red cord representing the blood of an unblemished lamb, and the soldiers representing the angel of the Lord. And just as no Israelite suffered death on the day of the last plague of Egypt, so no one in the house of Rahab died on the day of Jericho’s judgment. Everyone was saved by faith. So says the writer of Hebrews: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Now in our remaining time together, let me share with you three observations about faith from the stories of Israel and Rahab.
- Faith begins with revelation from God. We know that God spoke directly to Joshua (Joshua 6:2 — And the Lord said to Joshua…), but it seems that He communicated with Rahab in a different way…by virtue of the blessings He gave to His people, parting the sea and giving them victory over two powerful kings. However different these forms of communication were, in each case God got His message across loud and clear. That’s how Joshua, Israel and Rahab knew with certainty what was going to happen, which of course, made it a lot easier to put their faith in Him. Listen, the Christian life is about trusting God whenever He speaks. We are called to obey Him knowing that He does not lie or change His mind. God always keeps His word and does what He promises. All we have to do is make certain that we have the ears to hear when He tells us what to do.
- Faith responds with obedience to God. Sometimes this means waiting for the Lord, and other times working for the Lord. Israel waited six days before they ever engaged in a battle. Why did God choose to do it this way? I suspect He wanted them to consider the impossibility of the task at hand, so that the only thing that would move them forward would be their faith in Him. Rahab, on the other hand, tied the scarlet cord to her window immediately after she let the spies down with a rope. Then she set about to warn her family knowing that in a short time, their world was going to dramatically change. Israel waited, Rahab worked and in both cases they were being obedient to the Lord.
- Faith brings us into the blessing of God. The last verse of Joshua 6 says, “And so the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” Because he led Israel to act in faith, God blessed him and his people. As you continue to read in the Old Testament, you discover that only when Israel deviated from God’s word, did He remove His blessing from them. Rahab also was blessed. She and her family were saved. She turned from a life as a prostitute and eventually married a Hebrew man named Salmon, who was the father of Boaz (himself the husband of Ruth). Boaz was the father of Obed, who became the father of a man named Jesse. Jesse was the father of a shepherd boy named David, who eventually became Israel’s greatest king. But that wasn’t the best thing about him. 2 Samuel 7:16 tells us that God made a promise to David … Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. And that’s exactly what happened when Jesus, the Son of David, was born in Bethlehem. You can review his family tree in Matthew chapter one and see how the blessing of God continued on by faith.
Application question: These interwoven stories from the book of Joshua teach us how to overcome the obstacles that potentially keep us from following the will of God for our lives. It’s a pretty simple process really. It involves … (1) Listening to what God has to say about it; (2) finding out what He wants you to do about it; (3) doing it; and (4) expecting that He’ll give you the victory. That’s what we call, and more importantly, the writer of Hebrews calls, walking by faith.
Conclusion: So, when an obstacle stands in the way of getting you to the place where you want to be, what should you do? I’ll tell you what Ramchandra Das, a 53 year-old man living in Bihar, India did. In order to access nearby fields for food and work, Das and his fellow villagers had to take a 4.3-mile trek around a mountain every day. After making the journey around the mountain countless times, Das finally did something about it. With just a hammer and chisel, he cut a 33-foot-long, 13-foot-wide tunnel through a narrow area of the mountain. It took him fourteen years to complete the task. And get this: He wasn’t the first person to do such a thing. He was inspired by another villager who cut a 393 feet-long, 33 feet-wide, 26 feet-high passage through another mountain so that villagers could reach a local hospital. Now, imagine that…two men with the resolve to chisel their way through separate mountains simply because they prevented them from getting where both men needed to go. Randeep Ramesh, “Indian Villager Takes 14 Years to Dig Tunnel Through Mountain,” Guardian.co.uk (12-1-09); submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky. In life, we’re going to face mountainous hurdles in our journey with the Lord. We have the option of avoiding whatever obstacle we might encounter and letting it get the best of us, or, like Israel and Rahab, courageously taking it on by faith. The choice is ours to make.