RAHAB. A GOSPEL ADDRESS.
(Joshua, chaps. ii. and vi.)
WE have here, beloved friends, a beautiful picture of a
sinner saved by grace. Jericho is a type of the world. We know that the things
that happened to Israel, as the apostle tells us, "happened unto them for
types, and are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world have
come." (I Cor. x. 11.) Jericho is a type of the world under doom from God -
doom which is continually threatened by His word, which comes only after a day
of grace, and a long announcement of judgment. On the one hand God makes and
uses this announcement of judgment to alarm souls and wake them up to fly for
safety to the hope set before them; on the other hand, because it goes on for a
long time, men harden themselves against it, to worse destruction.
Jericho is a striking type of the world under the curse, as we see here, devoted by God to utter destruction (as we know the world is), seated, however fair its surroundings, by the "river of death," Jordan, very near to the Salt Sea, the sea of judgment, into which it flows. The word Jericho means "Sweet Savour," in striking contrast with what it was to God. The whole land really stank before God. And this city of Jericho was branded with His special curse.
But this name (which they, of course, themselves had given it) only shows how differently men estimate the world from the way God estimates it. How highly esteemed among men is that which is an abomination in the sight of God. Our natural thoughts are totally opposed to Gods thoughts.
Most surely, if we look around upon the world about us, we shall find everywhere the tokens of Gods goodness. His mercy makes the "sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust." That is quite true. And if people call the world fair and beautiful, we can allow fully that the evidences of His goodness, who created it, are not effaced even by the fall, and that assuredly His mercy lingers over it. But if we look at it in its moral character, what is it? "All that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father." There is not a good that has not been abused to evil, not a pleasant note which has not been perverted into discord.
There are, of course, plenty of natural resources - things which show us that God had given man a goodly portion naturally. This we believe: and people are finding out these resources, and getting the mastery of them more and more: all that is permitted to man; but there is nothing for God, or for one who sees with God, to rejoice in all that. Do you think there is joy in heaven when people invent railways or telegraphs? Can you possibly suppose that anything of the kind can give joy really up there? You know it does not hinder the display of the greatest wickedness. You know that, on the contrary, people are turning this into ruinous self-confidence - are arguing that, having done so much, they can do more. They have mastered so many difficulties, they will master their whole condition, if you only give them time.
Yet they die! None the less rapidly does the river of death flow down to the lake of judgment. Nothing that men have done or can do has contributed in one iota to remove the stamp of Gods wrath, or the sin, which is, alas! everywhere; and if His judgment tarries, it is not hindered by the marvelous development of human intellect, but by His long-suffering, and because that long-suffering is for salvation.
"Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest," and that was the time when judgment was, in the Israelitish army, advancing toward the city. The time of judgment was the time of harvest, the very time the citizens were going out to reap their fields, and bring in the products of their labour. Has not that got a voice? Does it not speak? Man thinks God is waiting for His harvest. In one sense He is. Waiting, on the one hand, in mercy, until the last limit of it has been reached; on the other, waiting until sin, too, has reached its full maturity. And then? Why, as they of Jericho never treasured up the produce of their fields, but the swift executioners of Gods wrath were the reapers, so, when the worlds harvest comes, God, and not man, will put in the sickle.
Alas, because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the heart of the sons of men is thoroughly set in them to do evil. How long a respite Jericho had! Four hundred years before this, the iniquity of the Amorites had already approached the full. (Gen. xv. i6.) Forty years ago God had cleft the waters of the Red Sea, and brought His people through. Their journey through the wilderness, also, was one constant, miraculous display of Divine power. They had only a little while before seen the destruction of those kings of the Amorites, Sihon and 0g. They might have known, their hearts were witness, who it was that was really coming with those Israelites. It was not their own power which was so terrible, that was plain; but there was One coming with them who had power to dry up seas, and make mountains fall down at His presence.
What was all this but a warning of judgment, which would be gladly stopped by mans repentance? And so it ever is; so it is now. Why give such wide and public assurance that He is going to execute judgment, but for them to take the sentence home to themselves, and so to prevent the need of actual execution? He speaks it aloud; He utters it in mens ears, in order that they may turn to Him. Never a soul turned to Him with a sense of coming judgment that did not find from Him mercy - the freest and the fullest possible. We find a striking instance of this in the case of Rahab here. She certainly had a history with nothing to recommend her in it. Certainly, in all Jericho, there was none who might seem to have less claim to mercy than she: a sinner amongst sinners she plainly was. Yet the one thing distinguishing her from the rest was, that while, with the rest, that delay of judgment only hardened their hearts, she kept it in her heart, and sought escape from it.
There is nothing in that to make anything of her indeed - nothing morally great or meritorious in the desire to have salvation; but yet very great indeed was the result. Just as with the prodigal son, away in a far-off land, there was nothing particularly to recommend him in the fact that, starving and destitute, his hunger forced him to think of the bread in his fathers house. Yet in result it set his feet upon the way back to his father. It is nothing to recommend us when, by need and famine, we are forced to turn to God. No! Yet, blessed be His name, we do not need recommendation! That is what we have here. One soul hears in the voice of judgment an invitation, so to speak, to escape from judgment; and that one soul is saved by faith. The visit of the spies to the city was made the occasion, in Gods hands, of her getting the thing she was seeking. She was part and parcel of the city, shut up in it, with judgment approaching, and except those spies had found their way into the city, there was, humanly speaking, no way of escape for her. God sought and found her there. He never fails to hear the first breathing of a soul after Him. Rahab might have thought herself outside of all interest to the God of Israel - that He scarce would even hear her prayer - yet He had. We make a great mistake if we think the first sighings of a soul in distress are not heard. He himself is in them; and He cannot fail to respond to the cry which He has aroused. So here, Rahab, who had nothing else to distinguish her, pronounces judgment upon herself beforehand, and escapes in the mercy of the One coming near to judge. The two spies come to her house, and are the means, so to speak, of dividing between the living and the dead. Theirs was a message of judgment rather than of mercy - they were sent to search out the land; but nevertheless, they are made the means of distinguishing between the city and those appointed to salvation out of it.
Instead of the king and citizens of Jericho availing themselves of any hope of escape from the judgment so near, they only conspired against the men who came. All their thought was to rid themselves of them, and to stop the voice which might have been raised, as in Rahabs case, in their behalf. And, beloved friends, how many are doing this very thing! How many rise up against the message of judgment, as if to stop that would be to stop the judgment itself! The judgment comes none the less surely, if it comes silently and unannounced. Yet how many stifle the voice of conscience, and then suppose that judgment is cancelled too! But that is plainly as false as can be. Conscience is not the arbiter in any wise. Conscience can be bribed, and falsified, and hardened, almost to any extent. It is Gods word alone that gives true witness, whether to His wrath or to His grace. Jericho might be walled up to heaven, and with store sufficient to defy starvation, and her citizens might frame strong arguments from these. But if Israel had no battering rams for the siege, it availed nothing when at Gods word these walls fell to the ground. And whatever our hearts may say, though we may be as comfortable as possible in unbelief, it does not make the wheels of judgment linger for a moment. Do we not already see it taking effect on every side? Is not the world as a condemned cell, and each tick of the clock the summons of souls to meet their God? Why must we die? It is Gods original sentence because of sin. Ought we not to hear that voice? Does it not appeal to us solemnly on every side, in the stilled and silent voices of our nearest and dearest? People may call it natural; but we do not feel that it is natural. Our hearts bear contrary witness to such words. We feel that if God break the staff of our lives, it is to prostrate us at His feet with whom mercy yet rejoices against judgment, - who can make judgment itself the handmaid of mercy.
A free gospel can be published freely in a world like this to everybody, without exception, and without mistake, because we can be sure that without exception all are sinners. Rahab had no such gospel indeed, but faith in her, with an instinct that belongs to it, laid hold upon God for mercy. The spies - enemies of her people, nature said - were for her identified with the God she sought. She shelters them at her own risk, sends them forth in peace, and commits to them the matter of her deliverance from the doom approaching. She finds them ready to pledge themselves in her behalf, and to give her a token in assurance of mercy. "Our life for yours," they say to her, "we will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by; and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy fathers household, home unto thee. And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless; and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be upon our head, if any hand be upon him."
How sweet this assured and abundant mercy! How precious to find these Israelitish messengers able at once to give the needed assurance, without hesitation or per adventure at all! Such is God throughout all dispensations, that those who know Him can always answer for His gracious response to the cry of need. Faith has indeed in her to be in exercise all through; and so it is with all of us. But if she can trust the token they have given her - if she has confidence in those who have given it to her - then she is not only safe, she is at rest also; although judgment is still before her, and ever approaching nearer, she can meet it (as far as she herself is concerned) in unruffled peace. Is it not more than a faint type of those Thessalonians of long afterward, who turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, even Jesus, who delivered them from the coming wrath?
Let us look at this token closer - this line of scarlet thread, under the security of which, not Rahab only, but her whole house, abide. Some of us know at once, and know well, what it refers to, and have no doubt at all that here we have one of those allusions, always recurring, to what was always in the mind of God from the start - to what the ages were hastening on to as their foreordained completion - to what divides in two all human history, as it divides the human race itself - the blood, the precious blood of Christ. The more you look, however, the more certain and significant does the type appear.
That scarlet line was the sign of a life given up, however lowly a one - a lowliness which has itself significance. It was the product of death; although but a worm it might be, and was, that died. Death none the less provided the token of salvation for Rahab, as for us the death of Another has furnished us with the certain pledge of ours.
Nothing but death would do, and that not a natural death, as men speak, but a death surely most of all unnatural - a violent death, at mans' hand deliberate murder, but Godward a sacrificial death, in which the innocent paid the debt of the guilty, the just died in behalf of the unjust. This is that which saves us, and alone saves us.
But we can trace this further, and find in the very fact of the death of a worm, a parallel with the death of the Lord of glory which should make us bow our heads in adoring worship. Who speaks really in the 22d Psalm? Who knows not, as we cite its opening words - words that find their echo and application in the New Testament alone?
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why art Thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 0 my God, I cry in the daytime, and Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent!
"But Thou art holy, 0 Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
"Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered; they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man!"
Who is this holy Sufferer? Who is it that justifies God in the midst of (as far as himself was considered) in explicable abandonment? Who is it that is the one solitary exception to all Gods ways with the righteous? - righteous above all, and yet forsaken, as no righteous person ever was beside?
Yes, it is the Lord, the Life-giver, the Saviour! It is the Highest in the place of the lowest! Lower than man - a worm - but oh, for what, but that the token of salvation might be ours ?- the pledge of a mercy which puts those who take shelter under it in absolute and assured security, and gives, with Rahab, "boldness in the day of judgment" itself!
Christ had to take that awful place of a worm and no man; not treated as other men, but apart from all that was natural in Gods holy ways of government. For when were the righteous forsaken? Never! They had gone through death, but they had gone through it with God, with the Lord as their Shepherd, fearing no evil, His rod and His staff their comfort. But when the Lord went through it, over whom death had no title at all, it was a totally different thing. That cloud of darkness that hung over the cross was but a symbol of deeper darkness which pressed upon the soul of Him who made atonement for our sins there. It was not that, as a very beautiful hymn says, but here misinterpreting, "The darkness sought His woes to hide;" here it was rather our darkness, the due of our sins, which fell upon Him who bore them for us, and blotted out the sun at midday: the terrible shadow of our curse borne, and needed to be borne, by Him who was made a curse for us,
But Rahab has more than the scarlet thread. Indeed, of what use would this be to her, if she had not her pledged and living witnesses in the camp of Israel? After all, her hope must be in the living, not the dead. Death alone would not do as her security, if she had not the living as witness in her behalf. And so it is again with us. Not only Christ has died - He who died liveth! Risen and gone up on high, His life is the pledge of our life: "Because I live," says He to his disciples, "ye shall live also." If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
It is a living Saviour who thus makes good to us the value of His death. It is one who has not only pledged His life for us, as the spies did theirs for Rahab, but has laid it actually down, and whose resurrection is the assurance of His work being accepted for us. It is His voice still which speaks from heaven - the old invitation, the old assurances which He gave on earth, but now with a love no more straitened in its expression. It is not only of forgiveness He can now speak, but of justification, of acquittal; for we are "justified by His blood," and His blood has been shed. "Through this Man is," therefore, "preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts xiii. 38, 39.)
Wonderful it is for sinners such as we are to be forgiven - more wonderful, a great deal, for sinners to be justified. As forgiven, Gods mercy reaches out its hand to us; but as justified, His righteousness shields and covers us. God, with all that He is, is for us. Himself is our "hiding-place." What arrow of the enemy can pierce through such a defence?
He who has been in death as the due of our sins has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father. The brightness in the face of Him who represents us to God is the assurance of how complete has been the putting away of cloud and distance between us who believe and God. The two spies back in the camp of Israel were Rahabs security: how secure are we, who have our pledge in the risen Saviour at the right hand of God!
When judgment should fall upon the devoted city of Jericho, then would appear how safely the scarlet line could protect Rahabs house of refuge. The crash of Jerichos walls would only be to her the announcement of deliverance, complete and final. The time of the worlds judgment will be for us the time when we, too, shall be displayed in the full completeness of our salvation.
But let me guard against a possible mistake here. We must not imagine that we have to wait for the day of judgment in order to realize salvation for ourselves. Rahab had indeed to wait for it; but in applying the figure here, we must remember that faith anticipates and substantiates to us things not seen as yet, and that, for faith, the cross of Christ is already the judgment of the world. So the Lord expressly says: "Now is the judgment of this world; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Rahabs deliverance then more closely represents to us how the worlds judgment is passed through and escaped. The cross is both the judgment of the world and our salvation.
Faith can see judgment passed over already, and realize already deliverance out of a present evil world, To it we belong no more - no more of the world than Christ is of the world.
Just as it was in the night of the Passover, when the blood of the Lamb was put upon the door-post, and Israel, in order to their first step out of Egypt, had to learn the shelter of the blood, to see the judgment upon Egypt come and rollover, and to know it passed and gone, and themselves saved.
Christ's death for us is what Scripture teaches us to reckon as our death, and by that death with Him to know ourselves free from condemnation ; - dead to sin, to law, and to the world. We look back on judgment, and not forward to it. We have heard the blessed words of Him by whom alone God will at last judge the world, saying, "He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment" (so the words really read), "but is passed from death unto life." (John v. 24)
Thus furnished, we start upon our journey. Gods perfect love casts out fear for him that is perfect in the lesson He would teach us. For "herein is love made perfect with us, that we should have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world." (I John iv. 17, margin.) As He is, - Christ, who is now with God,- so are we. And when He comes to judge the world, we shall be, not shut up with Rahab within the walls of the doomed place, but rather, like the liberated spies, in the army of the Avenger. "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" But let us return for a short time to Rahabs house within the walls. How beautiful that request of hers for all her house! How sweet the grace that invites now all within the City of Destruction to take refuge where the scarlet line protects equally all who take refuge there. In the house or outside it, that was the only question. The different conditions, experiences, feelings, aye, or degrees of guilt or of goodness, found among those assembled there had naught to do with their safety. Salvation was the common lot and portion of all of them. They were saved by that scarlet line in the window, and not by anything in themselves at all. Every one is welcome, invited, besought to take shelter under the precious blood of Christ. It is not a question of our thoughts, or our feelings, or our experiences; no, it is not any question even of faith, except just so far as this: that it be faith sufficient to carry us there where the only effectual shelter is to be found. No way to God is there but by Christ; no faith, save faith in Him, will avail at all. And thus God preaches to us in this wonderful way, in these records of the past, what He is just now telling us so plainly in the gospel. These types are so precious be cause in them the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New are so plainly one. Thus He would press upon us what He is, and invite our hearts to confidence in Him.
And oh, if we reject the loving mercy which has cost Him so dear - the loving mercy which He delights to show - what will it be for us when, unsheltered and unsaved, we have to meet God in wrath and judgment? The scarlet line was no safeguard for the city at large; the cross of Christ, whatever the dreams of dreamers, is none for the world. There was one place of refuge only, where an insignificant scarlet thread was proclaimed, in a womans story, a safer trust than the city walls. The very house was itself upon the wall; who could have supposed that a line of scarlet thread would hold up the house when the wall fell?
And the cross is foolishness as great to men. Why should faith in it have so much virtue? Yet the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.
How will it be with you? I want you to realize, beloved friends, while we are speaking here so quietly, yet that judgment is surely, silently coming nearer on the wings of each passing moment. Up to the very time when it took its course in Jericho, the people held out defiantly. They quaked, no doubt, when they heard of the Jordan passage; but after that, what took place would only reassure them. Seven days of mere marching round a wall, and blowing trumpets! Did it not look like consciousness of utter impotence in face of these walls, of which they had long ago spoken so hopelessly? Yet at the word of the Lord those walls fell flat, and judgment came upon all but those saved by the sheltering token of the scarlet line.
Will you accept that foolishness of God which is wiser than men? or will you take your refuge in human wisdom, to prove its folly? The Lord grant that you may realize that salvation which is offered to you tonight freely! It has cost God an infinite deal; it will cost you nothing, because you could not possibly contribute to its purchase. Will you, beloved friends, tonight accept it? God only knows when the end will be - when the last trump will be sounded - when the last word, so to speak, of reconciliation will be uttered - when the Master of the house will rise up and shut to the door. Then, with doom in view, it will be vain to say, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" Your lips will utter that cry when too late.
How solemn to think that it may be so with some now here! The Lord grant in His grace that that story of old may speak to your souls tonight, and that you may find shelter under that precious blood of Christ, of which Rahabs scarlet thread is only the type and pattern!
Go To Chapter Six
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