This is a copy of my all-age talk on Rahab and how God surprises us that I gave this morning:
I’m fascinated by surprises – be it things such as “Can it float?” or “Will it blend?” to the most amazing success stories we see on TV programmes such as Britain’s Got Talent.
God uses them!
That God uses Rahab is a huge surprise. She is one of two women mentioned in Jesus family tree in Matthew’s gospel – the other woman was Ruth.
We have an idea, a perception as to the kind of people that God will use. We think of people that are holy, that pray a lot, that give their money to charity, that wear the right clothes. Rahab isn’t one of these people.
The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about the life of this woman. The only account we have of her is found here in Joshua. The story of Rahab is located right in the midst of the biblical account of the launch of Israel’s military campaign to conquer the Promised Land (Canaan). The Israelites are camped by the Jordan River waiting for the orders to cross and take possession of the land they had been waiting so long for. Joshua, their new leader, sends in two spies to help in the planning of his strategy.
These spies come to Jericho, the first city in the path of the coming conquerors, and we read that their first stop was the house of Rahab. Initially, it seems that Rahab isn’t exactly heroine material. Rahab was not what one would call respectable or acceptable by standards set by society. In fact, throughout the centuries, Christian commentators have attempted to explain away this seemingly inappropriate woman. Many scholars such as Josephus refer to Rahab simply as an innkeeper. However, whilst she was definitely an innkeeper, she was clearly a woman of ill repute as well.
But Rahab’s behaviour did not stop God from using her. God directed the spies to Rahab’s house because He knew her heart was open to Him and that she would be instrumental in the Israelite victory over Jericho. The New Testament describes Rahab as a woman of great faith and trust in God. And the basis for these statements rest in this short event recorded in Joshua 2 that we heard earlier.
In fact, because of Rahab, the spies of Joshua were able to go undetected in the city of Jericho and obtain vital data in order to destroy the wall and conquer the city. It was in an ideal location for a quick escape because it was built into the city wall (Joshua 2:15)
But let’s just recap Rahab was not a high priestess. She was not of royal lineage. Rahab was not of great wealth or high education. She was a woman who heard of this Great God we serve, and decided she wanted to do the same.
God can use us!
Sometimes, and maybe it’s just me, we struggle to think that God can use us. We see that we’re not good enough, that there are better people than us that God should use, or that we have some issue or problem meaning we’re not ready to be used by God.
We put up excuses against what we think god wants us to do. But the next time you think God can’t use you, just look to the Bible to see what He had to work with:
- Noah was a drunk
- Abraham was too old
- Isaac was a daydreamer
- Jacob was a liar
- Leah was ugly
- Joseph was abused
- Moses had a stuttering problem
- Gideon was afraid
- Samson was a womanizer
- Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
- David had an affair and was a murderer
- Elijah was suicidal
- Johan ran from God
- Naomi was a widow
- Job went bankrupt
- Peter denied Christ
- The Disciples fell asleep while praying
- Martha worried about everything
- The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
- Zaccheus was too small
- Paul was too religious
- Timothy had an ulcer and…
- Lazarus was dead!
Washing Daniel, our three year olds, hair has been a bit of a problem sometimes. He will sit in the bath while I put shampoo on his hair. Then, when I pour on the water to rinse, he will tip his head down so that the shampoo runs into his eyes, causing pain and tears. Of course this makes it that much harder to rinse the soap out of his hair!
I kept explaining to him that if he just looked straight up at me, he could avoid getting the shampoo in his face. He would agree; then, as soon as I start to rinse his hair, his fear will overcome his trust, and he’d look down again. Naturally, the shampoo runs into his face again, and there are more tears.
During one of our sessions, while I was trying to convince him to lift up his head and trust me, I suddenly realised how this situation was like my relationship to God. I know God is my Father, and I’m sure he loves me. I believe that I trust Him, but sometimes, in a difficult situation, I panic and turn my eyes away from Him.
This never solves the problem; I just become more afraid, as the “shampoo” blinds me. Even though my son knows I love him, he still has a hard time trusting me in a panicky situation. I know I can protect him but convincing him of that isn’t easy, especially when all he can see is water coming down. His lack of trust hurts me, but it hurts him more. He’s the one who has to suffer the pain.
I’m sure my lack of trust hurts God very much, but how much more does it hurt me? Often in the Bible, we are told to lift up our head to God when problems come. He knows how to protect us if we remember to listen to Him.
Now, when I find myself in a situation where it would be easy to panic, I picture my son sitting in the bathtub, looking up at me, learning to trust me. Then I ask God what I should do. Sometimes the answer may seem scary, but, one thing I’m sure of – He’ll never pour shampoo in my face!
If you think of modern day saints Mother Theresa would certainly be up there. But her perspective wasn’t that she was doing anything amazing, but instead that we “Can’t do great things but we can do small things with great love.” Similarly a man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.
As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.
The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “I made a huge difference to that one!”
Will you make a difference to the one?