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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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