Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes and Outline for Sunday Message; 27 July 2014; Joshua 2:1-24

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Joshua 2:1-24

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and CEB

Hymns:

UMH733 – Marching To Zion

UMH 177 – He Is Lord

UMH396 – O Jesus, I Have Promised

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to God and to each other. Commitment is what translates into action. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will be making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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Two weeks ago we looked at the life of Lazarus.

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Then last week we looked at the foundation of our relationship with God. It all starts with the Sacrament of Baptism. Whether we are baptized as babies or adults, we are making a commitment to a relationship with Jesus. When we make a commitment to a relationship with someone, we are saying that we will take seriously what matters to that person. When we make a commitment to a relationship with Jesus, we are saying that we will take seriously our participation in the life of the Church, and that we will do that with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness, because church matters to Jesus so much that he was willing to give up his earthly life to establish the Church. The Church is made up of people who have a relationship with God. Church is the bride of Christ; collectively we are “the wife” of God.

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Today we heard the story of Rahab, a woman who lived in Jericho. The story of Rahab is part of the story of the conquest of Canaan. From the genealogy of Jesus presented in Matthew 1, we know that Salmon (one of Joshua’s spies whom she protected) and Rahab had a son named Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son Obed. We know that Obed was the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. That information is found in Matthew 1:5-6.

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When we think of the conquest of Canaan, we think of bloody battles and advancing Hebrews overpowering and annihilating the Canaanites who lived there. When we think of Jericho, we think about the song “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho… and the walls came a-tumblin’ down.”

From archeology we know that there was indeed a conquest of Canaan but it was much more peaceful than what we imagine. We don’t know why Canaan laid almost empty for the Hebrews to take over, all we know at this time is that it was. We also know that there were pockets of resistance that were extinguished, and that the advancing Hebrews ultimately took the land and divided it out among the individual tribes. A strong case could be made that local populations were assimilated into the Hebrew tribes.

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Rahab was living in the city of Jericho, one of the pockets of resistance. Joshua sent his spies into the city to have a look-see, and to devise a better campaign. They came into town, probably disguised as tradesmen or traders, and took lodging in Rahab’s inn. It was probably the cheapest establishment around; you could not live further away or in a more vulnerable spot than Rahab and her family. Their house was in a city wall.

The local authorities suspected that two men staying with Rahab were Hebrew spies, and she was ordered to release them to the authorities. But Rahab did not do that. Not only did she protect the Hebrew spies, she also misled her own people, her friends and neighbors about their whereabouts.

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That is treason. So how do we go from traitor, to the grandmother of the greatest king in the nation of Israel? What can we learn from her story?

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Let us look at Rahab’s testimony. These are her words,

8 I know that the Lord has given you this land 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. … 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”

(Joshua 2:8,11).

Rahab testified to her faith before acknowledging that the city viewed the advancing Hebrews with fear and resentment.

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The story of Rahab hints that there is a place in God’s family for everyone. Rahab was not born into any of the Hebrew tribes; God welcomed her anyway. Not only did God welcome her, she became part of the story of God interacting with God’s Creation. She recognized God’s presence outside of where she was, and she made a commitment to be where God is; Rahab wanted to have a part in God’s story. We saw something similar happening to Apostle Paul. {Conversion on the road to Damascus}. We know that Paul kept Rahab in high esteem because he wrote in one of his letters, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31).

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I suspect that before helping Joshua’s spies, Rahab probably voiced her faith in God and her ideas to her neighbors. I also suspect that she was shut out because the people of Jericho did not know what to do with the advancing Hebrews, and when we don’t know what else to do we continue doing what we always have done. When we don’t know what else to do we say “we’ve never done it that way before.” Many tragedies could have been averted if people just like you and I had the courage to try something different. We have an example of that in the story of Jonah; the whole population of Nineveh turned to God and was spared.

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The story of Rahab is the story of one woman’s commitment to God. She recognized that God was singing a new song, and she wanted to join the choir. Not even for a second do I think that she neglected to speak to her neighbors about her newly found faith. Not even for a second do I think that Rahab failed to actively witness to her faith. What I think, however, is that her neighbors could not even imagine how they could adjust and adapt. That is why their city was destroyed in the process.

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All of us can relate to the people of Jericho. All of us reach a place in our lives (and that happens more than once) when we are just tired of change, and all we want is to be comfortable and enjoy life for a while. We want to change our dress shoes for slippers. Unfortunately when we learn all the answers, someone changes all of the questions. Life does not stand still; God is always singing a new song.

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Many of our churches have become like Jericho described in the scroll of Joshua. Although the walls of many of our churches are not tumbling down just yet, it will not take much. That is the sad part.

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On the other hand we have hope. Our hope is that God is doing something different in the world and it is up to us to hear God’s voice. Our hope is that all of us are invited to be a part of God’s story. Our hope is that although it may be scary and uncomfortable to try new things, when we are committed to God all things are possible. Although we cannot go back and redo our beginnings or our past, we can start today and make a new ending.

Our world is full of “rahab”’s calling us to come out of our shells and our buildings, to shed our pride and self-importance, and to go witnessing to our faith and relationship with Jesus. Do you know a “rahab?” Who is a “rahab” in your life? When was the last time that you witnessed to your faith in Jesus to someone?

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“… for the Lord … is God in heaven above and on the earth below”

~~ Rahab is Joshua 2:11

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