2nd Wednesday of Advent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Dear friends in Christ, What’s it like to be an outsider? In 1978 Joe Smarzik from Walnut Grove, MN was going to be spending Christmas alone. He was divorced for 20 years and had lost contact with his wife and children. He was in his own words “terribly lonely.” So what did he do? Just before Christmas he placed an ad in the local newspaper seeking a family to eat Christmas dinner with and offered to even provide the turkey. A family Tracy, MN took him in and shared that meal and many more holiday meals together. He had some new found friends. He was included. He was no longer an outsider.
Isn’t that what everyone longs for? No one wants to be an outcast, we all want to be included somehow, someway. At this time Joshua is leading the Israelites and he’s in charge of bringing them into the Promised Land. God’s patience with the sin of the Canaanites was through and God was about to bring upon them judgment for their sin and unbelief through the Israelites conquering them. The first stop was the city of Jericho. So, Joshua sent in two spies to check up on the city. They entered Jericho and apparently were trying to be discreet so they went to a prostitute’s house- not to solicit business but probably to aid in their cover. But, somehow their cover is blown. The king sends people to go and arrest the spies, but Rahab covers for them and hides them saving their lives.
How much of an outsider was Rahab? First, she was a Canaanite, she wasn’t a Jewish. Her ethnicity doomed her to the same fate as all the unbelieving Canaanites whom the Israelites were about to destroy. Second, socially, in this culture she was a woman who was apparently unmarried and childless and in a culture where having a family was your status, she was at the bottom rung and without much prospects, what self-respecting man would marry a prostitute or tolerate his wife to be in such a profession? How many friends do you think she had? I’m guessing she had few female friends especially married ones. And so she lived on the margins of society, in fact, there isn’t much more marginal in an ancient society than having your house set in the city’s outer wall.
In every way, to a human and outward standpoint, she’s a most unlikely candidate for inclusion in God’s kingdom. But what do we see here? “I know that the LORD has given this land to you…We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea…the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Wow! Did you hear that? This foreigner, this former prostitute, this lady who lived a life of sin, and what does she know? She knows the LORD! The LORD, the God of free and faithful love, the LORD who made a covenant with Himself to send a Savior into this fallen and corrupt world! This is 40 years after the Red Sea event and they’re still talking about it! Clearly the news about the LORD has traveled and it hasn’t gone without effect. In absolute grace God, the LORD of love, has wooed and won another sinner into His kingdom through faith. The outsider was brought into God’s kingdom.
You know, really, we’re all like Rahab. We’re all outcasts and outsiders in God’s kingdom. None of us should be included. We were born estranged from God. Essentially prostitution is giving your body to be used in degrading ways in order to get a cheap pay off. Perhaps we haven’t done that physically, but what about spiritually? Have I used my body to harbor greedy thoughts? That means I’ve degraded it for the cheap pay off of maybe feeling like I deserve more than what I have. Have I used my body to speak words that hurt or cut or tear down? That means I’ve degraded my body for the cheap pay off of feeling better about myself at the expense of someone else. Have I neglected showing love and compassion and care for someone who is hurting? That means I’ve degraded my body for the cheap pay off of being lazy.
You see, we might look at Rahab and think she was a special kind of sinner, perhaps someone who deserved to be an outcast. But the reality is, we’re no different. And it’s important that we realize that. It’s easy for us to look down on others as if someone else needs more saving than we do, that God has to work harder on others than He has to on us. If we think that, then we have the same problem the Pharisees had with Jesus. Jesus had the reputation of associating with whom? Tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Jesus came in order to rescue everyone. But it’s only the sick who need a doctor, only those who know they need Him who will receive Him.
Each of us is in desperate need of God’s rescue. Interestingly in Matthew chapter 1, we hear the genealogy of Jesus, and at that time a genealogy was like your resume. And who is listed? Rahab. By faith in the true God she left her life of sin, was included in the nation of Israel, got married, and became the mother of Boaz who was the father of Obed who was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David from whom finally Jesus was descended. One of Jesus’ ancestors was a former prostitute. What does that show us? It shows us that Jesus came from a line and lineage of sinners. And yet, He himself was not a sinner, not a tax collector, not a prostitute. But He came to be Rahab’s true Son, although He was without sin, He became the ultimate outcast. Rahab faced imminent death and destruction but was spared by the grace of God. Jesus, the only one who was ever “in” with God, the only one who ever deserved to be “in” with God, became the ultimate outcast, from birth He was an outcast being born not in the inn or a home, but a stable, He was an outcast by His friends when the disciples abandoned Him, became an outcast of society when people cheered for His crucifixion, and became an outcast from God when God forsook Him on the cross.
Why? He became the outcast to save all outcasts. He put Himself on the outside of God’s love so that we could be forever on the inside. Jesus came to save Rahab, Jesus came to save every prostitute, Jesus came to save every sinner, Jesus came to save you and me. Jesus came to sanctify all sinners. Sanctify means God looks at you and says, “I want you included as mine! I want you to be set apart as my special possession, to live as someone clothed with my holiness.” By His blood Jesus set a well-known sinner apart as special, washed her clean of her sin, brought her into his kingdom and won her for eternal life.
He’s done the same for you! Let’s prepare for his coming this Advent season by being sanctified, by jettisoning pride from our lives, confessing our guilt of selling our own bodies to evil for cheap thrills, and trusting in our God who has brought us close to Him, made us insiders in His kingdom through faith in Jesus, our Sanctifier. And may we ever have hearts that seek to bring more outsiders into Jesus’ kingdom that they may be sanctified by Rahab’s son, our Savior. Amen.