Message: Faith That Begets Faith | Scripture: Joshua 2:15-24 | Speaker: Pastor Stephen Choy
Faith is magnanimous. It ought to push us to great heights and depths in our willingness to seek out the lost, helpless, and faithless–not only amongst unbelievers, but also amongst those who call themselves Christian. The principle task of faith goes beyond our simple belief, and it is not something we have only for ourselves. Rahab understood this. She believed, and she counted herself as part of the community of believers. Her life reflected this truth in her concern for these listless spies. She risked everything for their well-being, even though they did not deserve her help, and it changes their lives. This is what characterizes the people of God: the righteous/justified ones shall live by faith. Rahab is a character study that ought to challenge and engage us in evaluating our own lives and our claims to belief. She forces us to look inward so that we can unpack whether or not we look outward. She reminds us that we are sinners saved by grace in need of one another as we point each other back to the cross where Christ’s blood was poured out on our behalf. Let’s not waste what we’ve been given, and let’s let faith beget faith for our good and to the glory of God who calls us to himself.
- What ought to be the effect of a transformed life? Are we the same? Do we live the same way with others? Why/why not?
- In a community, like ours, where each of us declare to have been transformed by the gospel, are there only some tasked with the job of exhorting others to holiness, faithfulness, and courageous witnessing, or is this something we are all tasked with? Do we find ourselves regularly exhorting each other in this way? Why/why not?
- Are we accountable for the faith of one another (when someone stumbles, are we quick to rectify the stumbling and stumbler? When someone does something commendable from faith, are we quick to commend?)? And when we are accountable, are we accountable in a surface level way, or are we seeking to apply/rely upon Scripture to the situation to help the other person grow in holiness?
- Why does belief/faith not mean that we sit idly by as God does everything for us in the background/foreground? What do we learn about Rahab and her understanding about how faith works? Is there such thing as free grace/unobligated faith? Why/why not?
- What do we learn about Rahab’s attitude towards the spies? How does she seem them? Why is she so intentional about protecting them (harking back to what we already discussed, are we this intentional with each other?)?
- What ends up being the purpose of the story in Joshua 2? Do the spies accomplish this purpose? What is the significance of what the spies see in Jericho/don’t see in Jericho?
- When we allow faith to do its work on us/to us, what ought its effect to be? Why should this be the effect? Why should we hold ourselves, as those who proclaim to have faith, to such a high standard? Is it right to do this?
- Jordan Peterson, a non-Christian, recently said this in an interview when he asked if he believed in God: “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God, if they examined the way they live? … To have the audacity to claim that, means that you live it out fully. And that’s an unbearable task … To be able to accept the structure of existence, the suffering that goes along with it, and the disappointment and the betrayal, and to nonetheless act properly, to aim at the good with all your heart, to dispense with the malevolence and your desire for destruction and revenge, and all of that, and to face things courageously and to tell the truth, to speak the truth and to act it out: that’s what it means to believe. It doesn’t mean to state it; it means to act it out. And unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it … That’s the central idea in Christianity – that if you were capable of believing, it would be a transfiguring event, a truly transfiguring event. And I know people experience that to one degree or another, but we have no idea what the limit of that is, and we have no idea what the possibility is within each person if they lived a life that was maximally courageous and maximally truthful … God only knows what you’d be if you believed.”
- A statement like this from a non-Christian is astounding (sort of like Rahab making a statement about the character of God, is it not?). Is there merit in what Peterson says here? Why/why not?
- Are we, as those who confess to believe, maximally courageous and truthful? Do we seek to proclaim the gospel willingly and often in our circumstances? Do we willingly and regularly seek out correction and reproof for our sin/sinfulness? Are there things in your life that you need to confess? Are there areas in your life where you need help?
- A question to ask yourself: what is the extent of your faith? Are you faithful to the point where that faith is convenient to you? Or does that faith push you to inconvenience? Are we Christians when we like to be, and normal citizens of the world at all other times? What would it look like if our guiding principle in all things/at all times of our lives was our faith?
- A question to ask yourself honestly: would you want to be a part of a church/a community/a family that is maximally faithful to ourselves, to one another, and to the world?
- We’ve spent three weeks on Rahab. What have you learned from these sermons that can be an encouragement to us? How has the truth of these texts and the depths of what it displays for us in the gospel been affecting your life and gratitude towards God?
- How can we be praying for you this week?
- Take some time to pray for one another before leaving.
My family and I just came back from vacation to Florida, and for those of you who don’t know, the part of Florida that we went to is Disney World—not Orlando—not Central Florida—we go to Disney World. In fact, we’ve gone to Disney World a lot—every year my parents would save for our family vacations to take us to this place, and I absolutely loved it.
Now, people ask me—why do you keep going back there? I mean it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, it’s requires a lot of energy—one day in the park averages 30,000 steps. And my answer to them is always the same: some of my best memories with family and friends come from that place. I’ve had the joy of not only experiencing, year-after-year, the amazing work of Disney Imagineers myself, but I’ve had the unspeakable pleasure of showing and planning that joy (to and) for others. For me, I love Disney because I get to help people do the happy things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do. The joy isn’t just in what Disney World is—it’s in what Disney World represents to me. It’s a means of letting me take my happiness and give it to you willingly, personally, intentionally, and, even, sacrificially.
Here’s why I’m telling you about this. [I’m not trying to show you that I’m a nut.] I’m trying to make the point that when we experience or come to know something that’s changed our lives, it becomes natural for us to get excited about that experience. As we become excited, it becomes the thing we think about. We dedicate time to it, we seek to understand it, and you do all you can to share it with those whom you love because you want them to have that same experience. A life changed is a life that changes other people’s lives. What affects us in real, tangible, and lasting ways ought to have ripple effects in the affections of others, and if it doesn’t, then, no matter how much you tell yourself it’s something that’s changed your life, it’s likely that it hasn’t.
Today, we’re talking about a Gentile, prostitute woman whose changed life as a result of her faith leads to the changed life of others. Her faith begets, consumes, and enlivens the faith of these spies. And my job this morning is, hopefully, to do the same with all of us. We ought to be a people whose faith is begotten, consumed, and enlivened. We ought to be a people whose lives are changed based upon our experience and possession of a life changing God. So, let’s seek to beget, consume, and enliven our faith now as we read Joshua 2:15-22. TWoL.
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward, you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made u s swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly, the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
What our text conveys to us is that true faith imparts and inspires faith in others. If you genuinely believe what you believe, the thing that ought to characterize your life is a thoughtfulness and intentionality in helping others believe it too. And this doesn’t only work from “me to you,” but it has a relationship of reciprocity. Your faith ought to affect my faith. Why? Because I ought to hear and see that it’s changed your life, just as much as you hear and see that it’s changed mine. Let your faith affect the faithless. Let the faith of other Christians affect your own faithlessness. Let faith from God beget faith to God. This is what we learn in this last section on Rahab. So, in our time now, let’s look once more at the effect of her faith upon our lives:
1) Let Faith Direct the Faithless
I’ve spoken to you over the last two weeks how this story, in Joshua 2, is kind of a comedy of errors, and we know it’s a comedy because the good guys, the spies, of the story, ultimately, prevail. But they don’t prevail because they’re particularly capable or astute, they prevail sort of by unforeseen circumstances—laughable circumstances—that make it very clear that we do not have to be afraid of what is to befall them.
And like any good comedy writer, the author of Joshua makes sure that the blunders of our heroes are kept constantly at the forefront of our minds. They’re sent on a mission, and before they can even carry that mission out, they’re discovered. The only place that they have to hide is in a prostitute’s house where their exposure to other people is extremely high. The only thing that’s protecting them from defeat is a Gentile, prostitute woman who has no obligation to them, and who has no additional means for them to quickly escape. They hide under stalks of flax, which does not really cover anything. So, these spies are hiding from guards who, if they simply did a quick inspection, they’d be discovered within moments. Then, the spies, after hearing what Rahab has to say, become so overwhelmed with this woman that they go and make a covenant with her when they’ve been told both by God and his prophet, Moses, not to do so. In other words, these spies—who remain nameless throughout this entire story—really have no clue what they’re doing.
They are spies who do not understand the definition of what a spy is. It’s like Inspector Clouseau, for those of you who have ever watched the Pink Panther—a man completely inept at doing his job, whose identity is constantly compromised, who, out of his own carelessness, ends up constantly hurting his sidekick, Cato. This Inspector has so many similarities to these spies. He says all the wrong things, makes all the wrong deductions, hides in all the wrong place, and yet, despite his stupidity, lack of awareness, and incompetence, he always seems to win out in the end, and the audience knows it.
Yet, our knowledge of this doesn’t keep us from flinching when he makes mistake after mistake, and we think, “how is he ever going to get out of this?” And the answer is very often because Cato, his sidekick, is in the right place, at the right time. Cato, who is supposed to support Clouseau, and who’s not supposed to be the hero of the story, ends up carrying him, covering for his tracks, making Clouseau look good despite knowing that, on his own, Clouseau would be completely lost. It’s Cato who almost always saves his boss from certain death or injury without the Inspector ever knowing it.
This is the exact thing we see happening with Rahab and these blundering spies in verses 15-16. The spies are on their way out. They think that they’re in the clear, but Rahab knows who they are. She’s seen them say the wrong things to the wrong people. She’s witnessed their inadequacy to do what they’re supposed to do, so she has every reason to suspect that, although these men are “spies,” they will do exactly what spies are not supposed to do. There’s a good chance they’ll be caught if she doesn’t instruct them on how not to get caught.
Let me briefly state that what we read about here is true faith on display. You see, there’s nothing in the text that tells us that Rahab doubts God’s resolve to honour the promise of these two men. In fact, everything in the text tells us that Rahab believes. The simple fact that she’s helping these men escape from her window, down the wall, and providing them with strict instructions on how to return back to their camp safely tells us that she trusts God to do as he’s always been faithful to do.
But faith is not fatalism. She does not believe that she can remain idle while God’s acts in the background to do what he wants. No, she knows both God and these men simultaneously, and she knows God enables her to act as the very means to her own salvation. She knows that if she says or does nothing, these men will probably make a mess of things. So, she proactively tells these spies what to do despite the fact that they ought to have known to do these things in the first place. You see, she can’t help it. She is not doubtful of God’s sovereignty—she’s secure in the knowledge that God’s sovereignty is worked out in human agency, but when she sees lostness, when she sees desperation, when she sees these two spies out of their depth, she directs them in the way of security.
Rahab is Israel’s Cato. Israel should be the main hero of the story, but these spies who represent Israel, constantly get their head swivelled around and have their attention drawn away from the important things. Rahab, just like Cato, on the other hand, has her eyes fixed on the prize, and she wants to save these men, she wants the plan to succeed, she trusts that God will make it so, but she plays her part to ensure its fulfillment.
There are, I hope you can see, Messianic overtones in this. Christ is the unexpected Messiah in the story where we often think we’re the hero of the story when, usually, we’re our own enemy. Christ comes in as one outside from us, draws us in, treads the way of death on our behalf, and directs us in our lostness and faithlessness towards eternal security.
But even beyond the Messianic truths we see in these first two verses, I hope you also see the implications for us as sinners and as a church filled with imperfect people. Two weeks ago, I asked you to identify with the spies and their foolishness. Last week, I asked you to identify with Rahab and her desperation to escape righteous judgment. And you may be asking me, which one should I identify with this week? And perhaps the right answer is both. We are the foolish spies. We are the desperate prostitute giving ourselves to all sorts of evil. And yet, like we learn in these two verses, God uses the desperate, lowly sinners to point other desperate, lowly sinners in the way of our sure Christ. Sometimes we are the spies who need guidance back to see the cross, and at other times, we are the repentant, humble prostitute able to see the waywardness of others before us. In both instances, we have to be ready and willing. As these spies, we have to be willing to accept instruction and reproof in our sinfulness and stupidity. As the prostitute, we have to be willing to understand the depth of mercy and grace displayed in our salvation and point others to the same mercy and grace. We have to be Rahabs and spies together. We have to be the people of God together.
See, Rahab does not look at the spies and think only of herself anymore. From this point on, she sees these men as her kin, and she cares for them. She desires their safety. She knows they are stupid, but she doesn’t wish to let them stay in their stupidity, so she sets them on the right course. And what’s more is that we learn in verses 22-24 that the spies listen to her. The first thing they do right in this whole story is to listen to Rahab, and it saves them.
TCCBC, for us to work as a church—for us to survive the onslaught of the enemy that prowls searching to expose our weaknesses, we have to be willing to reprove, correct, and edify, but we also have to be willing to accept reproof, correction, and edification. We have to be able to see our shortcomings and let the faith of others speak truth to life in us, and we have to possess the courage to speak that same truth into the lives of others, even when we might think they don’t need it. Remember! These were spies. They’re supposed to know not to run headfirst into the hands of their pursuers, but sometimes we need someone who is of our kin to come alongside us, gently remind us, and point us on our way home. Let faith affect faithlessness by allowing faith to direct you and do it from a position of mutual humility. Here is a prostitute directing dumb slaves. Here are dumb slaves yielding their fate to this sinful prostitute—both are used by God, both display his meritless election, both are called to greater faith not because either is more righteous than the other but because God intends to use us in his plans for our good and his glory.
2) Let Faith Silence the Faithless
This second point really is just an extension of our first point. Allowing faith to silence the faithless is just another means of directing the faithless towards the object of our faith. And what do I mean by that? Well, we all know that friend who says they’ll do something, but when they have reservations about doing it, they add all these qualifications to their actions to give themselves an excuse and get themselves out of it or to temper expectations. This is what the spies do in vv. 17-20. They’ve already made a pact in vv. 12-14, which we discussed last week, but here, as they’re being let down from her window with a rope, or shortly after reaching the ground, they think, “wait, wait—we need to cover our basis,” and they make qualifications to their covenant after the fact! They tell her to tie a scarlet cord in the window, they tell her that all the people who she wants to save need to be in the same place, and they say that anyone not in that place cannot be guaranteed deliverance.
If I were Rahab, the first thing out of my mouth would be to yell, “Guards, I’ve found the spies! Come and get them!” Not only are they terrible at being spies, but they’re terrible at making promises too! But let’s look at the way Rahab actually reacts in verse 21, she says, “According to your words, so be it.” There have been a number of places over the last three weeks where I just wanted to stop and say, “What faith!” and I think that I actually have to stop and do this here: “What. Faith.” These spies have done everything to show their ineptitude, and yet, throughout it all, Rahab remains constant—this woman who has no sense of consistency or foundation for substance in her own life, something has gripped her heart so that what was broken, lifeless, and untrustworthy before has become stalwart, resolute, convicted, trusting above all of her fears and doubts. This is an astounding woman.
A woman who has had men take advantage of her her whole life, is, in this moment, being taken advantage of again, but this time these men aren’t just taking advantage of her body, no, they’re taking advantage of her life, and her response is “so be it”? How? How does she do it? Answer: a staggering, unwavering faith in a God who acts according to his word. Let faith silence the faithless. Where sinful men and women will make excuses for their actions to cover their inadequacies or to give their reasons for their disobedience, we as people who fear and believe in a God who does not compromise his promises, we dare not play the world’s game.
Rahab has said her piece, but now that the covenant has been made—now that she is sure that God will hold fast to his Word, and that he will not fail her, she holds her peace. She doesn’t play their game by adding stipulations of her own—no, she silences them by not only holding her tongue, but by doing exactly what they’ve asked the instant they ask it of her. Just look at the rest of verse 21: as the spies depart, what does she do? She ties the scarlet cord in the window. This is instant faithfulness. No questions. No separate demands. Just faith. And from this single act, even if the rest of the book of Joshua said nothing more about Rahab, we would be sure that she’ll do everything else that the spies have asked because she has not hesitated for one moment to grasp onto their promise as soon as she possibly could.
Imagine with me that you are these spies walking away, and you look back at this woman’s window where all the most incredible things have just taken place, and there, as a sign that they actually did take place—that you’re not imagining it, is this scarlet cord hanging to remind you—God is with us. He is at work. Surely, these spies walked away with that cord in their rear view and their hearts on fire with faith. Why? Not because of their stipulations. Not because of their stupidity and foolishness. No, it’s because this woman responded to their stupidity with “so be it,” and then she does the exact thing that they ask her to do.
Let me ask you, who else in history has ever done this? I know I haven’t. I open my mouth at all the worst times. I constantly make excuses. I’m sinfully self-justifying. I care only about working the situation to my advantage. But as I think upon my sin and the hell I ought to have suffered as its consequence, I remember my Christ who upon hearing the words of his Father that he would come to earth in the form of man, live in humanity’s weakness, trials, and temptations, die the most heinous type of death despite being perfectly obedient, shedding his own crimson blood there upon that cross as an enduring sign to me of his sacrificial, atoning, wrath-satisfying love and forgiveness of sin—what is it that he, my Jesus, said? What was his response to this unbearable task? His actual words were, “Not my will, but yours be done,” but that sounds a lot like, “According to your word, so be it,” doesn’t it? And sure to his own promise to the Father, he came, no questions asked, no conditions or stipulations, and there he hung upon the cross for all the world to see, so that when we look back upon that place where our Saviour’s blood was shed, our hearts might be set aflame for the glorious purposes and plans that God has prepared for us. And all of it is assured not because we were faithful, but because of the perfect faith of the Son.
Let faith affect the faithless, first by directing the faithless with your words to the truth, then let faith affect the faithless by silencing them with a life that is extraordinary in its faithfulness and integrity. Rahab was able to do this with and for the spies because she had heard of God’s steadfast faithfulness over Israel, and we have had this displayed for ourselves, but in a greater way, through the Son of God who was inexhaustibly faithful to us and to his Father, even to the point of dying in our stead upon a cross. It is there at the cross, our crimson sign, that we are humbled and silenced. It is only at the cross that faith is born from faithlessness, and there, at its foot, as we are called from faith to faith may this be the meditation of our heart, “According to your Word, so be it.”
3) Let Faith Transform the Faithless
There is no question that in the verses that follow, vv. 22-24, the influence and example of Rahab leaves an indelible mark upon the life of these spies. Just look, like I said, this is the only time in the whole chapter that they obey. What’s changed between them leaving Joshua to now? It’s that they’ve met Rahab and that she’s helped them see their God. Through her life and example, they become convinced of God’s faithfulness.
It’s here in these last few verses of the chapter that we learn what the purpose of the mission was—the reason why God allowed it in the first place. It wasn’t for Israel to scope out the land. It wasn’t for them to gain a tactical advantage. It was to reverse the effects of the first scouting mission back in Numbers with the twelve spies.
In that story, we read of extremely capable spies sent out publicly, brimming with faith, but instead of seeing an easy way through the land, they see all the potential threats and danger, and they return faithless despite God having told them directly from inside their camp that he intended to give them the land. So, what does God do in our story of Joshua 2? Well, here we see 2 completely incompetent spies who belong to this historically faithless Israel sent into Canaan secretly. Instead of seeing a difficult landscape that intimidates and terrifies them, all they’re permitted to see is the inside of a prostitute’s house, and despite seeing nothing of value, they return to their camp full of faith because, rather than speak to them within the camp, God speaks to them from an outsider, this Gentile, prostitute woman. In other words, the whole point of this chapter is to revive the faith of Israel—to remind them and us that we might be wholly out of our depth and yet fully confident that God is at work in our midst, that he still desires to be the God who he has always been with us, who loves us, and who would do anything and everything to draw us near to himself.
These spies, in their encounter with Rahab, come back not only directed and silenced by her faith, but they return completely transformed with faith of their own. They were disobedient, now they are obedient. They said all the wrong things, and now, they say all the right things. They were on the brink of death, and now they’re bursting with life. And how might we explain this? Faith begets faith. A faithful God who acts in history begets a faithful, humble, unbecoming servant who gives her life for others. And the depths of mercy and grace shown by this faithful servant generates and magnifies faith in those who had no idea the lengths, breadth, height, and depths to which God loved them and sought them out.
How else can they respond but to believe?! What more is there to do but simply to worship? What else can they do but to live in such a radically courageous way where they are now able to “aim at the good with all their hearts, dispense with their own ambitions and concerns, speak the truth in love, lay their lives down for brother and sister”—in other words, act in such a way that accords with their belief? What else can they do, but live a life of complete, hope-filled surrender? What they’ve beheld in Rahab—what we behold in Jesus—these must be transfiguring events in our lives that render us maximally courageous and maximally truthful.
Why? BECAUSE God does not forsake! God has been working from creation to show us himself and to demonstrate his love for us, and he’s never stopped working to show this to us time-and-time again. Sin-after-sin, he still pursues us, and all he calls us to do is to look and listen! He’s never stopped contending for his people. He will never stop contending for his people, and he proves this most fully and finally in his faithful, humble, unbecoming servant Son who now reigns in glory interceding for us while all of our enemies are being placed under his feet as a footstool.
It is to this God whom we owe our lives without compromise. He has contended for us in every way, and as those who have been purchased at a great cost and brought out of certain death into everlasting rest with him, we willingly and joyfully contend for him and his character in every way.
Brothers and sisters, let the faith of Rahab, other believers, and the faithfulness of God himself throughout history testify to you of his matchless grace. Let faith transform your own faithlessness, and then let your faith do the same for others as we proclaim to the world that what was once only heard among the nations has now been seen by us in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We may be living in a foreign land. We may be sojourners in a world that stands in adversity to our God’s cause. But might we say to each other knowing what we know, seeing what we’ve seen, transformed both in what we can say and what we believe, “Truly, the Lord has given all the land into our hands, and all its inhabitants shall melt away because of us.”