This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Joshua 2:1-24
Sermon prepared by Rev. Derek Bouma, Wellandport, Ontario
Those who are in the know, the so-called experts, say we’re in for a time of turmoil. Instability is the word of the day. Nothing feels sure. Nothing feels secure. Something is going to happen. What makes things that much more difficult is that we have things in our personal lives that are just as unstable; that are just as uncertain: rocky relationships, questionable health, a lack of job security, a sense of feeling lost. Nothing is sure. And so we go looking for security. We go out in search of something that will see us through. What we find is a choice between two kingdoms. One kingdom will offer us stability; the other not so much. One will offer us protection from the coming storm; the other will throw us into the eye of the storm. That’s the choice we are faced with.
Our situation is really not that different from the one Rahab found herself in. Two kingdoms came knocking on her door one night; both calling for allegiance; both asking her to follow them. She’s faced with a difficult decision. Which one would she choose?
The Israelites are sitting on the edge of the Jordan River. They have been given the promise that God will be with them as they go forward to conquer the land. They are excited for what the Lord has in store for them. In preparation for the battles that lay ahead Joshua sends 2 spies to scout out the land to discover what they could about the people. He told the spies to focus especially on Jericho.
While on their reconnaissance mission these two spies entered into the house of a prostitute. This was a logical place for foreigners to hide if they were trying to avoid detection. At least that is what the commentaries say. Rahab’s home would have been like a tavern or a bar that was regularly visited by travelers from far away cities. It would have had a constant flow of foreigners and strangers in it. So it only made sense the spies would use it for cover. The only problem is that their cover didn’t work so well.
It didn’t take long for the king to find out that these two Israelite spies had arrived and were visiting with Rahab. Immediately he sent men to her home demanding that she hand over the spies. Now this leaves Rahab in a rather uncomfortable position. Two kingdoms are at her door—the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Jericho. She has a choice to make. Who will she side with? Who will she swear allegiance to?
But it’s really a bigger question than that. These were not two ordinary kingdoms at her door. The kingdom of Israel represents the kingdom of God. It represents the kingdom of the Creator of heaven and earth—the Lord of the universe. The kingdom of Jericho represents the kingdom of man—the kingdom of human pride, human longing, and human strength. And these two kingdoms are diametrically opposed. They are polar opposites. What complicates things even more is that these two kingdoms are about to go to war. One will win. The other will lose. One will offer stability in the midst of chaos while the other will be destroyed.
Essentially this becomes a life or death issue for Rahab. If she sides with the wrong kingdom she will be in trouble. But which one should she put her trust in? Which one will offer her the security she longs for in the midst of the coming storm? What will she do? Will she side with her own people? With the kingdom of man? Will she turn over the spies in an attempt to save herself? That’s certainly what we would expect. Or will she choose to hide the spies? In doing that she puts her life into the hands of Israel’s God in the hope he could save her. But if she does that she would become a traitor to her own people.
Two kingdoms stood at her door. Which one will she choose? Perhaps we don’t realize it in such an obvious fashion but each and every day of our lives we are faced with a similar choice. Two kingdoms stand at our door—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Both of them claim to offer us stability in the midst of uncertainty. Both demand our allegiance. Both demand our resources and our time. Both call us to trust—to put our hope for life and death in them. Two kingdoms stand at our door each and every day of our lives. Which one will we choose?
We face these questions as we look into the eye of our uncertainties. We face this question when we make choices about church, school, work and money. We face this question when we are confronted with disease or illness, when life begins to feel overwhelming, when we find ourselves in trouble, and we don’t know which way to turn. Two kingdoms come knocking on our door. Which one will we choose?
Rahab chose to turn her back on her own people. She chose the kingdom of God, and she sent the king’s men away. She told them the spies had come and gone. They snuck out of the city just before the gates were closed. Rahab chose to align with the kingdom of God. But why would she have done this? Why would she choose the kingdom of God over her own kingdom?
We find her reasoning in verse 8 and following: “Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 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.” She, as well as her people, had heard the stories of what God had done. They’ve heard about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Now that’s an amazing feat in and of itself but the people of the day believed that there was a god in the sea. When the Israelites walked through the sea, it proved that their God was stronger than the god of the sea. Add to this that the Israelites went on to defeat Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites. They defeated long held kingdoms and barely broke a sweat.
The people of Jericho were scared. They were shaking in their boots. This powerful nation with a powerful God was coming after them next. What were they going to do? They were doomed. They could never win. This was a truth they all knew whether they were willing to admit it or not. So when Rahab was faced with a choice between these two kingdoms it didn’t take her long to decide. She knew who was going to win. As she said to the spies, “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.” Rahab knows that Israel’s God is the only true God and he will prevail. He’s the one who can offer her stability and security in the coming storm. There’s no doubt in her mind who is going to win the battle of the kingdoms. She fears the Lord and aligns herself with the most powerful God—the one true God. The only God whose kingdom can offer the stability we all desire.
This truth has not changed. God’s kingdom will prevail. As someone once said, “I’ve read the last chapter of the Bible. I know how the story ends. I know who wins. God does.” And God will win. So when we face the choice between two kingdoms, between the ways of the world and the ways of God, that choice, as complicated as it might appear, is really no choice at all. The answer is clear. Like Rahab, we must fear the Lord. His kingdom will prevail. His kingdom will offer us the stability we desire. There’s no doubt about it.
But Rahab isn’t done yet. She aligns herself with God and his kingdom. She saves the spies from certain death and places herself into peril. After she has done all that, she turns to the spies and says, “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family because I have shown kindness to you.” She begs for salvation. And salvation is granted to her. “Our lives for your lives!” The spies reply. All she needs to do is tie a scarlet cord in the window. That’s the sign of salvation.
A scarlet cord is all that was needed. Some say it was an allusion to the blood on the doorposts of the first Passover when the Israelites left Egypt; a sign that death would not enter that house, a sign that a lamb had been slaughtered to offer them salvation. And then of course there is the true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, whose blood offers salvation to all people. It’s an interesting connection, isn’t it? Salvation is offered to Rahab through the blood of the Lamb.
What’s even more interesting is that when we look at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 we find Rahab. She was the mother of Boaz. Rahab was the great-great grandmother of king David. That means Jesus was born from her descendants. Rahab becomes a significant figure in the history of Israel--and all because she saved two spies, all because she recognized that God’s kingdom will prevail, that only God’s kingdom could offer her the stability and the salvation she longed for.
Essentially what we can learn from Rahab’s salvation is this: All who fear the Lord will be saved. All people, no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what they’ve done, all people who fear the Lord will be saved. All those who choose the kingdom of God over the kingdom of man will find the security and the salvation they’ve been longing for. That’s what the story of Rahab teaches us.
But there’s more. Who was Rahab that she should be so honoured? Who was she that she should become a great-great grandmother of King David and a part of Jesus’ genealogy? Who was this woman? She’s even listed in the book of Hebrews in the faith hall of fame. She must have been one holy lady. So who was she that she deserved such honour? Who was she? Rahab was a prostitute, a woman of the night.
This reality has disturbed many Christians. How could she be a prostitute? She must have simply run a hotel and not a brothel. It’s too hard to believe that God would use such a woman and honour her in such a way. But the Bible doesn’t give us such an option. It makes it very clear who she was and what she did. There was nothing holy or righteous about her.
To make matters even worse, she wasn’t an Israelite. She was an outsider—someone from outside the faith and outside the kingdom of God. But yet, here she is confessing her faith, a faith that was deeper than many people in Israel probably had at the time. She knows that God’s kingdom will prevail. She knows this, perhaps even better than the Israelite spies who hid in her house. God has given her an amazing faith. And because of her faith she finds salvation. It’s all about her faith. She chose the kingdom of God over the kingdom of man.
Rahab, the prostitute, finds salvation in God’s grace because of her faith. This story reinforces the fact that everyone who fears the Lord will be saved. That is the point. And really that’s the point of the people of Israel. God called them to be a holy nation so that all people would be blessed; so that all people would come to know God and put their faith in him; so that all people might come to find the security and stability he offers even in the midst of the storm. And that’s exactly what Rahab found.
In all of this we are faced with a call to trust in the Lord; to fear him and to find our salvation in him. God’s kingdom will prevail. He offers us the security we are longing for. That’s the truth we’re faced with today. It’s the truth we need to be reminded of every morning when we get up. We have to choose between two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. This is the truth we must remember when we choose between finding our hope in the things of this world or in the things of God.
And when we really get down to it the choice is really rather simple. We know God’s Kingdom will prevail. He’s the only one who can offer us protection from the coming storm. So let’s put our faith in him. Let’s put our fear in the Lord so we will be saved, in the grace God offers us. If he’s willing to save Rahab--he’s willing to save us.
Two kingdoms are knocking on our door, which one will you choose?
Order of Service
Welcome & Announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 127: 1-2
Silent Prayer (closed with “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” PsH#625)
“May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with us all. Amen.”
*Opening Hymn: “Christ Shall Have Dominion” PsH# 541 (or “I Believe in Jesus” and “Shout to the Lord”)
Service of Reconciliation
Call to Confession: Psalm 139: 23-24
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103: 8, 13-18
Praise for Pardon: “And Can It Be” PsH# 267
God’s Will for Our Lives: Romans 12: 1-2
Children’s Hymn: “Jesus Loves Me” PsH# 571
Congregational Prayer / Prayer of Illumination
Listening to God
Scripture Reading: Joshua 2
Message: “Two Kingdoms Come Knocking”
We Respond to God
Prayer of Application
*In Song: “In God the Father I Believe” PsH# 518
*Doxology: “I Love To Tell The Story” PsH# 530
We Go with God
God’s Blessing from Numbers 6: 24-26—followed by the “3 Fold Amen”
*Congregation Standing (if able)