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Do not be disqualified by foolishness: A wise virgin’s guide Part 2

There is a detail about the ten virgins’ parable that needs to be examined. The second verse tells us that “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise” Matt 25:2 (ESV). This verse reveals that there were two distinct groups; this is important even if it doesn’t get talked about a lot. Groups are important parts of all our lives. The most important group believers can belong to is the body of Christ. We are by nature social beings; it is part of our human nature to want to belong to a group. The desire to be part of a group can be very powerful, and there are two principle reasons for this.

A group creates an atmosphere of acceptance. This acceptance is based on some kind of common ground that the group members share. When we interact with these people, we can exchange thoughts and ideas without sounding out of place. We can open our hearts with someone who knows what it’s like to go through what we are experiencing, and who can say “I have been there.” If the shared experience is especially strong, one might even say “it’s like we have known each other our whole lives.” The saying that “birds of a feather flock together” is true. A group of people who share life’s trials have agreement and harmony; this creates an atmosphere of acceptance (especially if love is involved) that has a very powerful appeal.

A group can also create a sense of security. It is much easier for a person to weather a storm knowing others are there to help, and they are not alone in this. There really is strength in numbers, and Solomon tells us:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Eccl 4:9-12 (ESV)

We can even see this in nature itself. Animals that stay in the herd are safe from attack. It’s the stranglers and loners who are vulnerable to predators. Safety can be a compelling reason to be a part of a group as well; there is a great comfort in knowing that someone is watching your back. Now you may ask, what does all this have to do with the parable of the ten virgins?

Craving the acceptance of the wrong group (or person) can come at the expense of your eternal life. When I said that the desire to be in a group can be powerful, I meant that as a warning because it is powerful.  Wise virgins take note! I believe the strongest example of this can be found with Solomon, who was one of the wisest men ever to live. Solomon knew the Scriptures, and what they said would happen if he married foreign women. Solomon followed God, but he also loved foreign women who followed their own gods. Solomon could not have any common ground with his wives without compromise. Even though Solomon was very wise, he did not listen to wisdom when it came to marriage:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.

1 Kings 11:1-2 (ESV)

Notice that last line. Solomon craved love and acceptance from the foreign women he married, but people cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. He had a choice to make. Either he should follow God with all his heart, or he must compromise and turn away from God. Here is what happened:

For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

1 Kings 11:4-8 (ESV)

If a man as wise as Solomon can fall, we should not underestimate the power of love and acceptance to persuade us to turn us away from the Living God. It is always tragic to hear about people who have gotten into abusive relationships, lost money in a romantic scam, or joined cults because they thought these things would give them the love and acceptance they were looking for. We can avoid this trap by remembering the counsel of God: Examine everything under the light of God’s word. For those who will heed this, it will save them from many sorrows.

In this case, the first thing we need to do is define what love really is. If we know what true love is and what its qualities and characteristics are, we can spot the counterfeits. This is what Paul tells us about love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Cor 13:4-7 (ESV)

Let’s compare this with the deal Solomon got from his foreign wives. The price for their love was accepting their gods and rejecting the one true God. This cannot be true love because it insisted on its own way. Solomon’s wives never wanted to serve the Lord God (Cf. Ruth 1: 16-17); they insisted on having their own way and worshipping their own gods (Strike one). Worshipping other gods was also a direct violation of the first commandment. This is wrongdoing of the highest order, but the love his wives had rejoiced in this. Rejoicing in wrongdoing is not evidence of true love (strike two).  True love is enduring. It doesn’t present a list of conditions that must be met before it is bestowed. Solomon’s wives offered a conditional love; it would only be given in exchange for meeting its requirements (strike three). This cursory examination shows that Solomon was not being offered true love, but a counterfeit. This brings us back to the virgins.

As I mentioned at first, there were two groups. The foolish group was careless, compromising, and negligent, and given the case of Solomon, it follows that some of the foolish virgins were once in the wise camp. There was something about foolishness that persuaded these once wise virgins to embrace it. Foolishness can be very persuasive in areas we are vulnerable in. For example, if we have had a childhood in which the parents withheld love, or only showed love under certain conditions, we will want to find the love and acceptance we didn’t get somewhere else. If we have had a life where we never felt secure, then we will try to find that security somewhere. Foolishness offers deceptive imitations to satisfy our needs, but since these imitations do not originate from God, they do not have the divine power to affect a cure. They will never be the healing balm we need; they can only bring ruin.

Foolishness has a sweet and pleasant taste at first; it can even be like intoxication. This is deceptive because only later does the taste become bitter, but by that time a person has ingested large amounts of foolishness and the weeds that choke out the word have been sown. The heart becomes hard, and this makes a spiritual recovery doubtful. Foolishness truly has a season when it feels pleasant and enjoyable, but it lasts just long enough for the hook to be set. If Solomon perceived the bitterness immediately, would he have continued? Given Solomon’s case, there are two things we should watch out for: We should never underestimate the power of our need for love, acceptance, and security to draw away into foolishness, and we should never overestimate our power to resist. In other words, we should take the warnings of Scripture seriously:

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Prov 9:13-18 (ESV)

We should always try to help people recover from the grip of foolishness, but if you are trying to help someone who has been persuaded that “stolen water is sweet,” remember this warning: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” Gal 6:1 (ESV). Watch out that your efforts to help don’t end up snaring you. Don’t become a casualty!

Wise virgins, stay in your group. What kind of people do you associate with? Do they rejoice in the truth? Do they insist on their own way? Are they telling you to stock up on oil while the markets are still open? Or are they saying there is no need to get all radical, there’s plenty of time and the wait for the Bridegroom won’t be that long anyway? The time is getting short, and the Lord will soon return for His people. Do not stop meeting together and encouraging one another while it is still called today. Build each other up and pray for one another. Do not turn away from wisdom:

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.  Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Prov 8:32-36 (ESV)

Take care, my beloved.

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There’s no harm in asking the Lord: A wise virgin’s guide part 1

Before beginning this study, it would good to review an incident that happened with Joshua as he was leading Israel into the Promised Land. As the Israelites entered the land, the fear and dread of the Israelites affected all the inhabitants of the land. The Gibeonites realized they would not survive a fight with Israel, so they devised a plan to get them out of harm’s way:

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.”

Josh 9:3-6 (ESV)

Joshua and the elders of Israel were suspicious at first, and they were unwilling to make a covenant with them because they might be inhabitants of the land. The Gibeonites then told their story of distant origins and showed the evidence:

Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.”

Josh 9:12-13 (ESV)

Joshua and the elders looked at the Gibeonites and believed what they saw:

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

Josh 9:14-15 (ESV)

Three days later Joshua found out that they really were inhabitants of the land, and that the Gibeonites had deceived them. Since they had sworn to let them live, they could not raise a hand against them. There is a principle here that we must not overlook. Appearances can be deceiving, and this is especially true in the last days. Jesus warned His disciples that: “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” Matt 24:24 (ESV). If God’s own people could be deceived if it were possible, what chance do people outside the church have of distinguishing what is true from what is false?

Since our eyes can deceive us, as the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites illustrates, we need is an objective and totally reliable source of information that can see through even the most well-crafted deceptions. The Lord knows all things, and He is the one who can help us distinguish the good from the bad; in order to do this, we must “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Prov 3:5-6 (ESV). This simple formula is very important; we cannot get our lives straightened out and expose deceptions unless we follow His rules.

Paul compared our lives to competing in a race. There are rules for running a race as well as in living for God, and if you don’t compete according to the rules, you will be disqualified. The foolish virgins neglected the rules, and they were disqualified when the Bridegroom came. We must take precautions against being disqualified. In order to do this, we must make sure our hearts are right before God.

The issues of life are in the heart, but “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jer 17:9 (ESV). Even though we are new creations in Christ, it does not mean that our old nature is dead and buried. The heart is sick and afflicted with our old nature; this old nature constantly wants to reassert itself in our lives. We still have to fight against its influence every day, and if unchecked, the old nature will reassert itself. If you have any doubts about this, consider these examples: The Corinthian church had to deal with jealousy, strife, division, and sexual sin. When Paul met Cephas in Antioch, he condemned Cephas for hypocrisy when he and the Jewish believers separated themselves from the Gentile believers (Gal 2: 11-14). Demas was once a coworker with Paul (Col 4: 14), but he loved the world and returned to it (2 Tim 4: 10). Paul had such a sharp disagreement with Barnabas about bringing Mark with them that they separated from each other (Acts 15: 36-41). These examples should be sufficient to show that we must always be on guard against the old nature reasserting itself. The problem is that there is a real danger that it may be asserting itself and we may not be aware of it. Consider the case of two churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

The Lord addresses the church of Ephesus:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.’

Rev 2:1-3 (ESV)

This sounds very encouraging. The Ephesians are working hard, and they won’t put up with evil. Any deceivers who wanted to masquerade as apostles avoided this church. They held up under trials and endured patiently, and they didn’t grow weary. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to hear this from the Lord? The problem is, this isn’t the whole story, and one word changes the course of the report:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Rev 2:4-5 (ESV)

One has to ask, how can it be that a church is laboring for the Lord and persevering under trials and yet they were in danger of missing the mark? How can they know when a false apostle is in their midst, but by the same token they didn’t know their own condition? It’s because they were unaware of their true condition. They really were doing some things right, but they mistook that to mean that nothing was amiss, and because of this they didn’t realize that they had drifted away from the straight path. They had abandoned the love they had at first, and because of this they were in danger of having their lampstand removed! They looked alright and they may have felt alright, but they needed serious repentance. Unfortunately, when everything looks alright, no one thinks to ask the Lord if everything really is alright.

The address to the church of the Laodiceans makes the point very clear:

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.   For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.’

Rev 3:14-17 (ESV)

The Laodiceans also thought everything was fine; they didn’t realize that they were really “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The common thread that runs through these cases are people who mistakenly believed everything was in order which negated a need for self-examination: “Aren’t we are doing Lord’s work? Since this is so, what could be wrong? There is no need to ask counsel from the Lord” Those who depend on their own understanding (e.g. Joshua and the Gibeonites, the Ephesians and Laodiceans), or who don’t think they need anything are already drifting into the camp of the foolish virgins. Looks can be deceiving. If we have faith to move mountains, and if we have endured under trials, and even if we have cast out devils and have done many wonderful things, it still doesn’t mean that everything is acceptable to the Lord (Cf. Matt 7: 21-23).

The foolish virgins thought they were ready. They were also waiting for the Lord, but the fact is they were not ready, and they didn’t realize the error until it was too late. Remember this: there is no harm in asking the Lord to verify our true condition, but there could be eternal loss for not asking the Lord to help us understand our true condition. If He says we are blameless, then we really are. But if He reveals hidden faults, we must make the necessary corrections while there is still time. Don’t be a foolish virgin and put things off.

It is the Lord’s will for us that we walk before Him and be blameless, but as we have seen, it is possible to think we are alright when we really aren’t. I don’t want any of my brothers and sisters to be disqualified from the race; I want everyone to receive a full reward and hear the Lord say “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Oh Lord, I am not aware of faults that I may have, but this doesn’t mean that I am blameless. There is no darkness in You, and since I am created in Your image, I ask You to examine me for any hidden faults and show me anything about me that may be offensive to You. I want to please You and be free of any faults. I confess that I can be fooled, but You are good, and You know all things. You know what’s really going on. Help me to understand my true condition. I ask You to forgive me if I have grieved You in any way, and I ask You to create in me a pure heart and a steadfast spirit. I put my trust in You, and I will not lean on my own understanding. Make my path straight, according to Your word.

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Come out to meet Him: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom

 

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matt 25:1-13 (ESV)

The parable of the ten virgins is very important for all of us who are waiting for the bridegroom today because it speaks to the terminal generation. These are the people who will be alive when the Lord returns to the Earth. We need to pay close attention to its message because it warns us that just being a member of the body of Christ does not guarantee a place at the marriage supper of the lamb; it clearly tells us that some people will be disqualified. This parable raises some obvious questions that deserve answers such as: Why didn’t all the virgins prepare the same way? Why didn’t the foolish virgins take extra oil? How did the wise virgins know that they might need extra oil? Why weren’t the foolish virgins admitted after their return? The purpose of this series is to closely examine this parable and related topics in order to glean from it what went wrong and what went right. These gleanings are intended to be a resource for the body of Christ who want to be ready when the Lord returns; it will be a wise virgin’s guide (WVG) to waiting for the Bridegroom.

Many people have tried to establish a date of Jesus’ return, and every one of these efforts has ended in failure. This has also made many unbelievers skeptical of the claims of Christianity; they doubt if we know what we are talking about. Those in the church who subscribed to a date set for the Lord’s return have also been discouraged; some may have even suffered shipwreck in their faith from this. This guide will not attempt to set a date for the Lord’s return, but it will only point to signs of the times we are to look for before the Lord’s return and what we need to do to be ready. Scripture tells us that:

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Matt 24:32-35 (ESV)

This is a clear indication that certain events must happen before the end comes, and that there will be a generation of people who will witness these events. I believe that we are that generation. Now that I have said this, it would be logical for my readers to ask “why do you say that?” Let’s look at what is happening in the heavens even now.

The word of God tells us about signs in the heavens in the first book of the Bible “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years’” Gen 1:14 (ESV). Signs in the heavens will precede the most important event prophesied in Scripture, which is the return of Jesus to this world. We are obviously witnessing signs in the heavens today. This year (2014) there will be two blood moons; one will occur on Passover and one on Feast of Tabernacles, and next year (2015) there will be two blood moons on the same Jewish feast dates again. These four blood moons are known as a tetrad, and they have also occurred on other important dates of Jewish history, such as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the rebirth of Israel as an independent nation, and the Israeli capture of all Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Since the blood moons appear on Jewish festivals, it negates the argument that this is just some random natural event; God is using these signs in the heavens to tell people important events are about to take place and to make necessary preparations. Jesus also mentioned signs in the heavens when He described the end times to His disciples:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Matt 24:29-31 (ESV)

Other New Testament writers also mention signs in the heavens. Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem mentions: “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” Acts 2:20 (ESV).

John tells us “When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood” Rev 6:12 (ESV).

There is obviously more evidence to present than just these signs, but I offer them as a starting point. God gave us the Scriptures in which He declared the end from the beginning. Since He is omniscient and does not lie, we ought to pay close attention to what the Bible tells us. I wish more people would do this, but reality paints a different picture.

The Bible is consistently the best seller year after year, but don’t expect the New York Times to publicize that fact. There are Bibles, or at least portions of Scripture, in homes and hotels across America. One would think that since the Bible sells so many copies every year it must be the most widely read book in America; unfortunately that is not the case. In spite of its sales and widespread availability, the Bible is not seriously studied and mined for its spiritual wealth by most people. Often times it is largely ignored and disregarded, even among those who are professing Christians. It occupies a place on the shelf when it should occupy a place in the heart. This ought not to be. It is this indifference to the word of God that will lead to a future tragedy:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Matt 24:37-39 (ESV)

Noah faithfully warned the people for years about the coming flood, yet people were indifferent to God’s warning and just went about their daily business. They only realized Noah was right when the floods came, but by then it was too late. Among those who will be lost are the foolish virgins.

Time is short, and it is a commodity we are running out of. Therefore we ought to redeem every day for the Lord and His Kingdom. The time to prepare is now (as in stock up on your oil). The wise virgins looked ahead for the coming of the bridegroom, planned accordingly and followed through. Go and do ye likewise! Later installments of the wise virgin’s guide (WVG) will give more detailed material on what to do while waiting for the Lord’s return.

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The difference that faith makes

Faith is never more disparaged and mocked than in the arguments of science articles and their apologists; they see no use for something that would cause people to believe that the world was created in six days or that all life originated from God. They believe the world around them is understood through empirical observation, as such they see faith as a relic of times past. Since faith deals with the invisible realm of the spiritual and the supernatural, they feel it served a purpose at one time when mankind didn’t understand how the universe worked thousands of years ago. But now that we are enlightened by the advances of science, the secular world feels confident that we can put away such childish things. It would be a huge mistake to dismiss faith because it isn’t empirical in nature, so with this in mind please join me in examining the benefit faith gave a woman who lived thousands of years ago in Canaan. She was an unlikely candidate for membership in a faith based community, but we should not quickly dismiss anyone’s faith just because they don’t fit our idea of what a person of faith should be. The people of faith can (and do) turn up in the most unlikely places, even in a place that God has devoted to destruction. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses reminded them that:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Deut 7:1-2 (ESV)

These were Joshua’s marching orders when Israel crossed the Jordan, but something unexpected was about to happen. Unknown to Joshua, there was a prostitute in Jericho called Rahab. She was a native Canaanite; the bumper stickers on her chariot said “Got Walls?” and “I heart Jericho.” At the same time she was also different from everyone else in Jericho; she may live in Jericho, but she was not of Jericho as we shall see. This difference is what would save her life.

Joshua had sent two spies into Canaan to scout the land, and he was particularly interested in Jericho, which was known for its thick and high walls. The spies were found out in Jericho and took refuge in Rahab’s house. Rahab misled the searchers and told them the spies had already left. As they were settling in for the night, Rahab told the spies:

 I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have 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, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Josh 2:9-11 (ESV)

Let’s examine some things here. We should note that everyone in Jericho was aware of what God had done for Israel. They all knew about what happened at the Red Sea and the fate of the Amorite kings Sihon and Og. Now that the spies of Israel have been discovered scouting their city; it can only be a prelude to an attack. Look at how the news was received. On the one hand, there were the inhabitants of Jericho whose hearts melted with fear when they heard the things the Lord did for Israel. They looked at things naturally, so they were in dread and fear of what was ahead for them; they had no hope and they saw no way to escape what was coming.

On the other hand, there was Rahab. She was also concerned about the immanent attack, but her reaction was entirely different. If she had the same mind as her countrymen, she could have made herself a hero by turning in the spies, but she welcomed the spies in peace instead. She saw things differently, so she had a spark of hope that it was possible the destroying army would pass her by. She implored the spies to treat her father’s house with kindness:

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.

 Josh 2:12-13 (ESV)

The spies then told her what she must do to be saved:

The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us 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.

Josh 2:17-21 (ESV)

Faith is the difference between the Rahab and her countrymen. The people of Jericho wanted to capture the spies, which would be the natural thing to do. Rahab welcomed them in peace by her faith. When she hid the spies by faith, she received a good report in the camp of Israel, and Joshua gave the army instructions concerning Rahab and all who were in her house, so that the destroying army would pass her by. The people of Jericho tried to find safety behind their walls, but by faith Rahab followed the spies’ instructions and saved her household. The people of Jericho lived in fear about the coming destruction because they looked at things naturally (without faith aka empirical observation), but Rahab had hope because she looked at the situation with eyes of faith. Jericho was destroyed, but  Rahab survived and lived in Israel; she even appears in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Himself: “and Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” Matt 1:5-6 (ESV). Her faith made her a child of Abraham.

We can see from this that the Abraham’s children really do appear as the most unlikely people and in the strangest places. Even though Rahab was a prostitute and lived in the midst of a people marked for destruction (which would seem to disqualify her from being considered a person of faith), she survived the destruction of Jericho because she had faith, which the world considers foolish. This confirms what Scripture tells us:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

1 Cor 1:26-29 (ESV)

Jesus told the Jews that “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” John 8:39 (ESV). What did Abraham do? He believed God, and as a result of his faith God considered him righteous. Rahab really was a child of Abraham because she also did the works of Abraham. Rahab was also considered righteous because of her faith, and she experienced a type of Passover in Jericho. Don’t believe the arguments of science that mock your faith as irrelevant and unenlightened. Faith is life giving; it is the difference between life and death for all of us.

Why mention all of this? We will need faith now more than ever because there is another time of trouble that is coming on all who live on the earth. It will be the worst time in the history of humanity. In the last days Jesus tells us:

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Luke 21:25-26 (ESV)

When this time comes, some people will look at the events happening around them and literally faint with fear like the people of Jericho. Empirical observation will not bring hope for them because it is not faith based. On the other hand, some people will look up with joy and hope when these same events happen because faith has assured them what will happen; they know their redemption is almost here. Faith made the difference for Rahab, and faith is what will make the difference for us also. The time to prepare for all of this is now. Got faith?

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