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Jack Graham - Hope for the Hopeless

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    Jack Graham - Hope for the Hopeless
TOPICS: Hope, Series: Forward

There is no person that God cannot save! There is no promise that God will not keep! There is nothing that our God cannot do! Rahab was a woman that had been used and abused by men, and yet God saw her need and God knew her desire to know Him, and out of all the people in a pagan city called Jericho so long ago, He chose this woman, of all people. It's a strange place to experience amazing grace. It's the story of Rahab. We need hope, don't we? Our world needs hope. We need hope personally. Someone said that hope is the oxygen of the soul. We cannot live without hope. And that's why so many unfortunately today, so sad, are taking their lives today, are suicidal or think of it so often, because so many have lost hope. It is hope, in particular God's hope, the hope that Jesus gives us that keeps us going, that when we are knocked down, it calls us to get up again and keep going.

This is hope. It's described in the Bible as the blessed hope. And ultimately our hope is when Christ returns and we will see Him face to face. And hope is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In our series, our just beginning series in Joshua we've seen that the children of Israel are posed and prepared to cross over into the land that God had given them, the Promised Land. They'd been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. And entire generation has died out, and now a new generation is ready to take what God had given them, "Go, and take it". And so they are ready for the fulfillment of this promise. And remember these great Old Testament stories, epic stories, and there are many of them right in the book of Joshua: when the walls fall down, when the sun stands still, miracles and might and glory and power that take place. We see it.

And why do we have the Old Testament? Why do we have this in our Bible as New Testament believers and followers of Jesus? Because according to Romans chapter 15 "For whatever was written in former days (the olden days) was written for instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have (what?) hope". And then in that same Romans chapter 13, 15 rather, verse 13, one of my favorite verses: "May the God of hope fill you with all hope and believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit that you would overflow with hope". We live and breathe in this hope that we have in Christ, and this story that we have in front of us today is a story of hope. In the New Testament you hear the word grace a lot. Grace in God's unmerited, unmitigated favor towards us; undeserved favor, the gift of God. That's grace.

And it's primarily a New Testament word though a form of it shows up in the Old Testament. The primary Old Testament word is mercy. And in Jesus we now have both grace — that is, God gives us what we don't deserve, and mercy — He does not give us what we do deserve. And in the mercy of God and because of the grace of God, we find everyday His mercies are new every single morning. But you do see it again and again and again in the Scriptures and in particular the Old Testament, this theme of mercy. So after 40 days years of wandering and waiting for the fulfillment of the promise, the children of Israel are ready to cross over into Canaan, the Promised Land. But there's one problem for the children of Israel, and that is Jericho. Jericho was a walled city in the ancient world.

In fact, you can visit Jericho, as I have on numerous occasions, this very day. And you can see the remains of ancient Jericho. And the archeologists have dug deep there in this ancient city and, indeed, they have found the mighty walls of Jericho. And about, well, two walls really circling the city about 15 feet thick, each one, so 30 feet thick walls. Each one of them in effect saying, this wall saying "Keep out". This was a fortified city and these walls around it. And by the way... not by the way, it's very important, one of the evidences for the Bible is that when these walls fell, the archeologists tell us that, indeed, something happened cataclysmic to cause these walls to fall down. And we know what happened, when "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came a-tumbling down".

And we'll get to that great story. But first this story of redemption and salvation. And as the children of Israel are waiting and wanting to go in, God leads General Joshua to send two spies into enemy territory to gather intelligence. That's what a good general does. A good army gets good intelligence. And so two brave men, spies... you know, Israel has a reputation for a great spy and espionage system; today it's called the Mossad. The Mossad is among the greatest intelligence forces in the world. So it started early for the Israelis. And these two spies go into the city of Jericho. Let's pick up the reading in chapter 2, verse 1, "And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, 'Go, view the land, especially Jericho.' And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, 'Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.'"

Someone spied the spies. "Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, 'Bring out these men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.' But the Woman had taken the two men and hidden them". This woman Rahab, she hides these men. Verse 5... well, let's go to verse 4: "But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And said, 'True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.'" Now some people want to get all worked up about Rahab telling a lie here. Well, remember, she was a harlot. Don't get all worked up three thousand years later about whether she should have lied or not. So she didn't tell the truth. She said, "Well, I don't know what you're talking about". She said, "In fact, they left". "'And when the gate was about to be closed at dark'", verse 5, "'the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.'"

Go! Now all the time these two spies are hidden out at her house. "But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursers had gone out". Now before we go any further in the story about Rahab, I want to say a word about these two unlikely, unsung, unnamed heroes. We don't have the names of these two men. They are anonymous; they don't even get a small appearance tag. Just two spies; two brave men who went into the city of Jericho and they found this house where apparently, you would imagine men were coming and going. I mean, I asked myself when I read this the first time, were these men going to the house of a prostitute for sex? No, they were going to spy.

And one of the ways that they could hide was in a place where many people live. A lot of men were coming in and out. I don't know how or why, but in the providence of God they came to this house of the prostitute Rahab. I think about these spies; these men who went in behind enemy lines and I'm reminded this is what God has called us to do. Is to go, take risks by faith and do what is necessary in order to advance the kingdom of God in our generation. And it doesn't take great talent or skill or even literacy in the case of Harry Hoosier. But it does take humility and it does take availability and expendability. Someone said it's not scholarship but relationship with God that God uses. And so God wants us today in our generation, in our culture, in our Canaan, if you will, to get behind those enemy lines and bravely do whatever it takes at even personal risk to do the will of God.

Now Canaan was a very wicked place. And Jericho was a wicked place. I've been to the land of Canaan and Israel and seen the remains of platforms of worship where babies were sacrificed, killed. Like in America today through abortion. It was very immoral. The people were idolators; it was a wicked place and they refused the grace of God. When you read these Old Testament stories sometimes you wonder, why so much war? Why did God tell the children of Israel to take these people out? Well, you read in the Bible earlier that God gave Canaan and the people in Canaan, the Canaanite cities 400 years to repent! Four hundred years they had an opportunity to repent but they just went deeper, and deeper, and deeper into their sin and rebellion, and into idolatry. Even when the children of Israel are perched and ready to attack, they could have repented even when the children of Israel were walking around those walls and waiting to blow those trumpets to take the city, they could have all repented and been saved.

But no. And yet in the midst of this wickedness there is a prostitute in this vile and wicked place who herself, no doubt, was part of the false religion and idolatry and all that came with it, prostitution, sexualized culture. This woman is selling her body. She never intended, I'm sure, as a little girl to end up a prostitute, her life wasted and wanton. And yet, here she is. Sexual sin is enslaving. Pornography, also a form of prostitution. Billions and billions of dollars spent. God made sex as a sacred gift to His creation. But Satan twists and perverts it. Sex should not be cheap or casual or corrupt. God has given us this gift of intimacy and the mark of a Christian, once your life is transformed by Jesus Christ, once you experience the grace and the mercy of God in your life, one of your number one desires is purity and holiness. To pursue holiness in the fear of God.

So sexual sin, fornication and whoring and whoremongering and all the rest, that's never to be a part of the Christian's life. Rahab was far from pure. In a human sense there was nothing holy about her. She was a pagan, profligate prostitute. And yet the message of this story is that by faith, and you see her showing up in Hebrews chapter 11. If you know your way around your Bible, in the New Testament there's a book called Hebrews. And Hebrews chapter 11 is a story of the people of faith. By faith, by faith, by faith, how these believed God and you have great people in there. You got Abraham in there, and you got King David and you've got Moses, you got all these great names and personalities.

And right in the middle of it, 11:32 comes this woman. "By faith Rahab the harlot", because you see, God loves everyone. And His mercy and love extends to all of us. There was nothing good about this woman. And hey, you listening to me? There's nothing good about you. "There's none that doeth good," the book of Romans chapter 1 says, "not one, no one does good". Even our goodness is badness in the face of a holy God. "Filthy rags"! And the worse form of badness I can say is human goodness that substitutes itself on our need of God! Self-righteousness is also a great sin. There is hope because God gives love and mercy to guilty sinners, grace to guilty sinners. "And where sin abounds, grace much more abounds"! "Grace that is greater than all our sin". Rehab's testimony is that by faith she believed. She had heard. I wish I had a little more time to tell you the story, but she had heard of the mighty miracles of God that had taken place at the Red Sea. She had heard something; she knew a little bit about the Israelites. The word had passed.

And can I tell you the greatest evidence for the Christian faith is for you and me to have experienced the miracle power of Jesus Christ; His cross, His resurrection. When people hear, pagan people, ungodly, unchurched, unsaved, when they hear of our faith, when they hear of our God who has done miracles in our lives! Just like Rahab, had heard what had happened in the lives of the Israelis, she knew that there was a God in Israel and she wanted to get on God's side. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God". So, though her faith was infantile in many ways, it was so small, and yet she believed and it was accounted unto her as righteousness. And so listen to her testimony in Joshua chapter 2, and verse 8. We'll put it on the screen for you. It says, she says to the men: "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us".

See, she begins with the fear of the Lord. She knew that she along with her citizenship, they were all doomed and damned by the judgment of God. And yet, there is a judgment coming. God is not mocked. And there's a judgment coming to America if we do not repent and respond to faith in Christ! So she heard. She said in verse 10: "We 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". I mean that was a wipe out itself. "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". She uses the holy name of God, "the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, that you will also deal kindly with my father's house".

These two spies were courageous, but they were also kind and she was kind toward them and therefore, they were kind towards her. "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". And then when you read on in the Scriptures, you discover in verses 11 through 15 that the soldiers, or rather spies, I guess they were soldier-spies, told her to take a red rope, a scarlet thread, a crimson cord and to hang it in the window of her house. Her house apparently was on the wall itself. Hang it on the wall, hang it out the window. Probably it was the same rope by which the men escaped into the night. But he said, "When you hang this red rope there, when we come and take the city, and in the fury and the fire of the war that's about to take place, we'll see the red rope and we will spare everyone in this house. You and your family".

Wow! A red rope of hope! And you know what that scarlet thread should remind us all about? It is the red rope of hope that runs throughout all of Scripture. It's representative of the scarlet thread in the Bible, the blood redemption and remission of sin that is the story of the Bible. I said many times, "Cut the Bible any place and it will bleed". It is a bloody Book, filled with blood, and all that blood started in the Garden of Eden when man sinned against God. The man and the woman rebelled against God and they killed an animal to cover their sin and their shame. And the blood began to flow because of sin. And a promise was given of one who would come and redeem them with His blood. Blood began to flow on the earth and Cain killed Abel, and Adam and Eve began to realize the consequences of sin which is death. And then came the story of the children of Israel in Egypt.

How did they go out of Egypt? By putting the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their house. They went out under the blood. It's the story of the redemption and salvation of all who come under the blood. And you get to the book of Leviticus and read through all that and you're wondering, "What is all this blood about? All this sacrifice and all this killing of the animals"? You see, God was conditioning the world to this truth recorded in Hebrews 9:22, that "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin"! And so the blood kept flowing through the Bible. You find it in Isaiah: The Lamb of God who took on Himself our death and our hell and judgment. The blood flows to the base of Jordan when John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world". The blood flows at Calvary when Jesus laid down His life on the cross and the blood of redemption flowed and Jesus died for you and me. It flowed on through into the book of Revelation and even into heaven as the people are saying "Worthy is the Lamb for we are redeemed by His blood".

It is the scarlet thread of redemption in a little cord, a rope of hope that hung in Rahab the harlots window that speaks to us this very day. If you go into our atrium and you look at all the books of the Bible that are named, all 66 books of them, if you look in to even our stain-glass window with the cross and the crown, you see a scarlet thread running there? That's the scarlet thread of the Bible. Go to the atrium and look; teach it to your children, that all through the Bible it's the story of redemption, the story of salvation. The scarlet thread of redemption, remission and forgiveness. And this woman, I've got to close, but this woman, hear me now, she found favor, grace in the eyes of the Lord; mercy. She found freedom! She was set free from the power of her sin. She ends up getting married, and tradition tells us that she married one of the spies. She got married and they had a son and then she had a grandson, and then she had a great, great grandson whose name was David, king of Israel. The Son of David is Jesus our Lord.

So God gave this prostitute, this shady lady, this wicked woman, like you and me, favor and freedom transformed her life and forgiveness and a future and a hope. And we have a future and a hope in Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen. And so that's why when Rahab shows up in the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew 1, you know what God can do in your life. You say, "Well, I'm not a prostitute. I'm not even immoral. I'm really kind of moral person, I'm a good person". Jesus told the unsaved Pharisees, He said, "The prostitutes and the tax collectors are going to go to heaven before you will ever get there because if you know that you've sinned", and we've all sinned and broken God's commandment, "then you fall on the mercy and the grace of God".

You come through the blood. There's no redemption, there's no salvation apart from the scarlet thread, the Savior. Did you know, I just heard this, I hope it's true cause I just read it. It's got to be true; I read it on the Internet. No! I think it is true. You can take brown sugar and pour blood on it and it will bleach it, turn it white. I don't know. Go home, have your kids try it. I do know this, here's what I do know, here's what I do know. Man's blood stains everything. I was bleeding the other day and stained my shirt. Blood, man's blood stains everything. But God's blood, the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son bleaches everything. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as snow, they shall be as wool". So this is Rahab's story. It could be your story, regardless of your morality or immorality, your life can be changed. I'm telling you, nobody's got it better than us.
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