40 years earlier, Moses sends out 12 spies.
Joshua's one of them. But they go out there and they come back and the majority report says we'll never make it. We can't survive. We're terrified by these people. Now Rahab 40 years later says, when we heard you crossed the sea, we were terrified of you.
We didn't think we'd survive. We've been in fear for 40 years because we know your God is much more powerful than any of ours. Have you ever looked at someone else's spiritual life and been envious? It's usually not wise to compare our situation to others or try and evaluate our faith in comparison to the faith of others.
But that's a common temptation. One thing that unites all believers is the truth that no matter what your situation is or what circumstances you're facing, we're all what Stephen calls surprising saints. None of us deserved God's grace so the fact that any of us are people of faith is a miracle. Learn more about this today on Wisdom for the Heart with this lesson called Surprising Saints. If you've ever been to the emergency room, you have experienced triage.
It's a French word that literally means sorting out. And you know what that means. That all powerful nurse in the emergency room sorts out those who really need help and those who really don't. And I have always been in the category of they can wait for six hours.
They really don't need a lot of help. Well, that's triage. Every time I've gone, I have waited. I'm convinced the next time I just need to say I was scratched by a raccoon and I've got an urge to bite somebody and maybe they'll let me in quicker.
I don't know. I read in World War II the Allies used the system of triage in makeshift hospitals near the front lines. Much more serious obviously than what I've experienced. And these are life and death situations. In fact, many that occur in emergency rooms around here are, too. But it was the duty of the triage supervisor to color tag the wounded.
A tag that would place them in one of three categories. One color tag was used for patients who were considered hopeless. That is, nothing could be done to save their lives. So they were tagged with a color that represented being hopeless. Another color tag stood for hopeful. That meant that the injured soldier would survive whether he received medical attention or not.
So they were sort of left to wait until more time was available. The third color tag was for patients marked as doubtful. In other words, these soldiers might survive, they might live, if they are given immediate treatment. So much of the medical treatment and assistance, as you can imagine, would be directed toward this color tag, these patients tagged as doubtful. Since the front lines were typically working with limited staff and limited resources and certainly limited materials for surgery, medical assistance was then given primarily to soldiers who were tagged in this way who might live if they were given immediate assistance.
I wrote of one account that was very moving. One soldier named Lou arrived at one of these makeshift hospitals. He was badly injured. He had been hit by shrapnel and one of his legs was shattered.
He had lost a lot of blood. The triage supervisor who examined him made his decision and Lou was quietly coded hopeless. His color tag basically communicated to the medical staff that he was to be made as comfortable as possible, but that was all. The nurse assigned to Lou noticed that he was conscious, which was surprising to her, and he began to talk.
They struck up a conversation and she discovered that they were both from the same area, they were both from Ohio. Getting to know this man as a real person from her home state, not just another wounded soldier, they were hurrying along, would lead this nurse to do something she was forbidden to do. She slipped into that makeshift hospital ward that night, risking her job and future career, and she changed his tag from hopeless to doubtful.
It wasn't but a few hours they realized his color chart and transported him away from the front lines to a better medical facility and months later, minus one leg, Lou recovered and lived a full life, so grateful for the nurse who changed his tag and gave him another chance to live. Let me say something that might sound trite or predictable at this moment, but it's true and I want to say it. Jesus Christ is in the business of changing tags. Amen? When Jesus Christ came, in fact I thought of this incident in the gospel by Luke, when he came and was pressing into the hometown of a greedy, corrupt tax collector named Zacchaeus, nobody gave him any room or space to see the Lord, so he climbed the tree. You remember, he climbed the what? The Sycamore tree, you've heard the story. Jesus Christ comes under the limbs of that tree and he says, calls up and he calls him, he says, Zacchaeus, I need to come to your house today. Zacchaeus climbs down, they go into his house and the crowd outside immediately begins to grumble because he has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner. That's his tag.
Just mark him hopeless. After lunch, a few hours, Jesus Christ comes back out on the front porch standing with this man and he says, by way of introduction, I tell you, this man is a son of Abraham. He changed his tag. And what a change it was and what it represented. It was changed from hopeless to heaven bound. I couldn't help but wonder, what's your tag today?
What tag do you carry today? Now, if you've been with us over these past studies, as James has defined, living faith, you've watched along as James not only defines these three different kinds of faith but illustrates them. Dead faith, that was or is words without works, it just intellectually ascends to true things and it can say the creed, it can spout out the Lord's prayer, but nothing follows. Demonic faith acknowledges the truth of Christ but refuses a relationship with Christ. Then dynamic faith is faith we found that works and it is a faith that works. Dead faith, we learn, moves only the intellect. Demonic faith moves the intellect and emotions, they believed and trembled.
Dynamic faith moves the mind of the intellect, the heart, the emotions, and most importantly, the will. And James illustrated for us dynamic faith by pointing our attention to the life of Abraham. Now, by the time James is writing this letter, obviously, Abraham is the revered patriarch.
He is the founding father of the faithful. Think of faith in James' generation, you think immediately of Abraham. He was the epitome of faith in action. You get to the end of Abraham's biography and you're certainly struck by the grace of God simply because of the tests of faith, he failed and there were many of them. But you're also struck even more so by the tests of faith in which he succeeded. By faith, he left his father and his homeland. By faith, he believed God's covenant promise.
By faith, he offered up that son of the promise Isaac to God as a burnt offering only God stayed his hand. You might come to the end of that kind of biography and conclude that God will never do anything with you or me. We might as well not try to exercise dynamic faith, we can never measure up to the father of the faithful.
We can never do that. He walked with God for 50 years. No wonder he's the example. James, we understand why he's the illustration of dynamic faith. James anticipates his congregation responding that way and so led by the Spirit of God, he concludes his illustration of dynamic faith by giving us an entirely different kind of person.
He's shown us the best of life and he will show us the worst of life. In James chapter 2 and verse 25, James provides his final illustration of dynamic faith. Faith that does not save but faith that proves salvation has come and that's been the point of James saying we are justified before as it were the eyes of men that we are indeed redeemed. Notice what he says here in verse 25. In the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way for just as the body without the spirit is dead so also faith without works is dead. Now James could not give us anybody more opposite to Abraham in every way than Rahab.
Think for a moment of all of the contrasts. Abraham was a man. Rahab was a woman.
I thought I'd start with something really obvious as we talk about this. Abraham is the original Hebrew. Rahab is an idolatrous Gentile. Abraham is a great leader. Rahab was a run-of-the-mill citizen. Abraham is at the top of his social order.
Rahab is pretty close to the gutter. Abraham is respectable and honorable. Rahab is dishonorable. Abraham is the kind of man you'd think wanted everything to do with God. Rahab is the kind of woman you'd think wanted nothing to do with God assuming you knew nothing about Rahab's biography. You would at least know from what James provides that we're talking about as illustrations of dynamic faith a patriarch and suddenly it shifts to a prostitute and there is quite a shift to go from the patriarch to a prostitute but that's part of what James has in mind. You see the grace of God and the genuine demonstration of faith can take place in and through the life of a redeemed Jew and a redeemed Gentile and honorable man, a dishonorable woman when we meet her first, they are really both surprising saints.
They should be. The trouble is our understanding of redemption is a little skewered. We think Abraham has a leg up.
He's easy to save. Rahab, now that'd be tough. No, they're both trophies of grace. To this day, let me encourage you, your faith is not handicapped in any way by your ancestry. Your family name doesn't help or hurt you when it comes to demonstrating personal dynamic faith in a living God. God does not look at you and say, well, if you'd come from better stock, maybe I could do something with you.
He is not handicapped by your ancestry, your pedigree, your past resume and you might not pick up on that with an illustration of Abraham. James knows we will all be struck with that truth by his illustration of Rahab. Now to better appreciate this illustration of Rahab by James, we need to travel back to the introduction of Rahab by Joshua. So take your Bibles and turn back to the book of Joshua. It's page one hundred and seventy eight.
My New American Standard Foundation's publication Bible. If you don't have one of these, it might not be in there. I don't know.
You can check if it is. It'll be after Genesis, Exodus. Say with me, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Matthew, Mark. Oh, wait, that tripped you up. A good New Year's resolution might be to memorize the books of the Bible.
A great thing to do with your kids, by the way, the love leaving you in the dust. It occurred to me as I. Some of you are still looking. It's it's where the pages are stuck together because I've never asked you to turn to the book of Joshua before, have I?
I didn't think I knew it existed. I did a little checking, by the way. It has been a long time since I asked this congregation to turn to the book of Joshua, check my notes, found that I preached through this book of the Bible 19 years ago, back when I had hair and I didn't have glasses. I must have I must have preached a lot faster back then because we got through this entire book in 12 sermons, all 24 chapters in 12 sermons.
That's just not right. Well, if you weren't here 19 years ago, if you haven't studied the Bible, that book of the Bible on your own, let me give you a very quick background. Joshua has taken over the leadership of Moses.
He's passed. Moses has passed off the scene. The Israelites, because of their disobedience and their lack of faith, have been wandering now in the wilderness for 40 years under the care and guidance of God.
But they're just long enough for all of those who disbelieve to die. And now they're ready to enter the Promised Land, which, by the way, was promised to Abraham back in Genesis Chapter 12. The Promised Land, however, at this point in time, is inhabited and has been for time, but it's inhabited by idolatrous, wicked, brutal nations that aren't too excited about this little promise thing to Abraham.
They're not impressed. And they're not too convinced about the coming judgment of God that they have heard about now for decades. We're going to learn that from Rahab's own personal testimony. But Joshua decides to begin by sending out two spies to check out the land. And they would go to the very first city that they're about to encounter, a city prepared, by the way, for battle, a city surrounded by what seems to have been a double set of walls spanned by wooden beams, a city by the name of Jericho.
We read in Joshua Chapter 2, the middle part of verse 1, that these spies are sent out and they go to spy out the land. And these two men went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab and lodged there. The word for harlot here is the Hebrew word zona, which can be translated harlot or innkeeper.
There are some that grab that and relieve immediately the tension of where these men have gone to hide. Problem is the word for harlot, in reference to Rahab in the New Testament in both passages where she appears, is the word porne, which gives us our word fornicator, transliterated to give us our word fornication. It always has an immoral context. She was not keeping an inn.
She was running a brothel. Why would these men go there? I believe verse 2 holds some of the answer.
Look there. It was told the king of Jericho saying, behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land. When these men evidently came, they crossed that ford near Jericho to Jordan. They were spotted. They were watched. They were followed by the king's secret police. They knew exactly when the men entered the city. They knew exactly where the men had gone.
The spies evidently knew they had been spotted. We aren't told when they discovered that, but they ran, as it were, and they made it to Rahab's brothel where they asked to be hidden. Where would someone go and not be asked any questions, one author suggested.
Where could he go for shelter and remain anonymous? Those are interesting thoughts, but I believe they missed the greater point. They are obviously led by God to turn at that corner and go up that alley and turn at this corner and knock on that door because they are going to arrive at a house where the only woman in the entire city lives who is ready to believe in the God of Israel. In fact, we'll see her testimony in a moment. In a moment, she's already believed.
She is literally the only person in all of Jericho who would be sympathetic to their cause. God knew her heart. God knew her desire, and they appear here.
It's no coincidence that they rush into this place of business and hope for the best. Now, they're probably surprised to find a woman not only ready to declare her faith in God, but ready to demonstrate it in the remarkable way that she does. James finds it remarkable, so much so that as he thinks of illustrations under the guidance of the Spirit to talk about real living faith, he goes back to this event and a woman named Rahab.
Look at verse 3. The king of Jericho sent word to Rahab saying, bring out the men who've come to you, who've entered your house, for they've come to search out all the land. But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, already done that. She said, well, yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark that the men went out.
I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them. Now, you notice in her answer that she's lying like a rug, right?
And you might immediately feel some other tension. How does she end up in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11? Again, this is another sidebar. We'll address this very, very quickly. And by the way, I didn't address either of these past issues in my first sermon series. That's why we got through it in 12 sermons. Biblical ethicists talk about a hierarchy of ethics they believe would be demonstrated here by Rahab. In other words, there's a time when a higher moral principle is kept, even if it requires disobedience to a lower moral principle. It's not an ironclad argument. The tension won't go away, but perhaps this is what's happening. Think of it this way.
You're living in Holland in 1939, and the Nazis show up at your doorstep and ask you if you're hiding any Jews upstairs in your closet. You say no. Are you sure, Mr.
Ten Boom? I'm almost finished with a two-volume autobiography of Charles Spurgeon, probably one of the most well-known pastors in London during the 1800s. At one point in his ministry and up until his death, his brother James served as his co-pastor. Spurgeon spent literally half of the year sick and recuperating from gout and a number of other things. One evening, Spurgeon was at his home, and the housekeeper wasn't around, and Spurgeon happened to be walking by, and he opened the front door and in jumped a man brandishing this very large knife. And he announced, I have come to kill Charles Spurgeon. And Charles said, well, he's not here. And the man said, well, who are you? And he said, well, I'm his brother James, which I'm sure his brother didn't appreciate later in saying that. He eventually convinced him he was his brother. The man ran back out the door, was caught a few blocks later. Now you say, well, you know, Spurgeon should have told the truth. Maybe the knife would have broken or maybe he was supposed to have died. We don't know.
It doesn't answer all the questions. She could have said, I've got them upstairs hiding under stalks of flax. God could have kept them invisible. So there is tension here. She convinces the guards, perhaps believing there's a higher moral principle at stake, and they leave. Look at verse nine. She goes up on the roof and she says, I know that the Lord has given you the land and the terror of you has fallen on us and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. Interesting, she chooses the names of God here. I know the Lord has given you the land. She has more insight than the king. Verse 10, we've heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan of Zion and Og whom you utterly destroyed. That had only happened recently.
The Red Sea had happened 40 years earlier. But when we heard it, verse 11, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you. Now listen to her testimony.
For the Lord your God, he is God in heaven and on earth. Can you imagine? Moses would have been rolling over in his grave to hear this.
I couldn't help but stagger. I had never seen this before. Forty years earlier, Moses sends out 12 spies. Joshua is one of them.
Joshua and Caleb, the two spies are the only ones who will enter the promised land. Everybody else dies because of unbelief. But they go out there and they come back and the majority report says, we'll never make it. We can't survive. We're terrified by these people. Now Rahab 40 years later says when we heard you crossed the sea, we were terrified of you.
We didn't think we'd survive. We've been in fear for 40 years because we know your God is much more powerful than any of ours. Rahab effectively says they have been following the exploits of God through the children of Israel. They'd heard how God parted the Red Sea, drawn the Egyptian army and now here it is 40 years later. Rahab is revealing their perspective, our hearts 40 years ago, melted in fear. She not only believed, but she acted. For the sake of time, you know, she helped the spies to escape.
She followed their command to hang a scarlet cord out her window. I don't want us to fall into the trap of allegorizing everything we see, but I did find it interesting that the word in the Hebrew language for cord, the normal word is bypassed in Joshua chapter 2 verse 12. And the word that's chosen is the word most often translated in the Old Testament by the word hope. Hope. This is your only hope.
And she will stake everything upon that hope. The cord is called in the same verse a pledge, a sign. Again, unusual Hebrew language. It's the same word used in that Passover scene in Exodus more than 40 years earlier. The death angels coming, those who have the sign, the same word, the sign is used in reference to the blood on the doorpost.
Those who have that sign, anybody in that home survives. These words are not coincidences. It's Passover language. It's something she has yet to fully understand. But these are terms of hope and redemption and this woman is saved from death by her faith in God and she will learn later all the redemptive truths. The Israelites know that she more than likely doesn't know, but she does know that God alone is her hope. God alone is our hope.
That reality is true for each and every one of us. This is Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen will be back next time to bring you the conclusion to this message.
It's called Surprising Saints and it comes from Stephen's series entitled Faith Works. In the meantime, we'd enjoy hearing from you. Let us know how God uses this program to bless you. You can call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. Please join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
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