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  • « Human Dignity | Main | Farewell Emerging Church »

    Images of the Savior (2 – The Salvation of Rahab)

    Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this cord of scarlet on the window through which you let us down, and your father and your mother and your brothers and all the household of your father you shall gather unto yourself in the house. And it shall come to pass that, anyone who goes out from the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we shall be guiltless; and anyone who shall be with you in the house, his blood shall be upon our head if a hand is laid upon him. – Joshua 2:18-19

    It is implied by the very term “savior” that there is an enemy from which the people need to be delivered: if there were no enemy before whom the children of Israel were unable to stand, then they would have no need of a deliverer, or savior. But furthermore, in order to save a people who are in bondage to an enemy stronger than themselves, it is also necessary that the savior be stronger than this enemy, and able to overcome him. So then, it is manifest that, if one is truly a savior to one people, then he must also be a conqueror and destroyer of another, stronger people, to whom the people of his salvation are in subjection. We have already seen that Joshua, the successor to Moses, was a mighty savior of the people, and that he prefigured thereby the great and coming Savior, Jesus Christ; but now, as we continue through the history of Joshua, we will see that, just as he embarked upon his role of saving some, he entered at the same time upon the complementary role of destroying others. In this, as well, he was acting as a type of Jesus, who in saving his people was utterly destroying their fierce enemy, the devil, who was holding them captive to sin and death (Heb. 2:14-15).

    From the very beginning, though, before he embarked upon his role of devoting the many enemy nations of Canaan to utter destruction, he magnified his mercy by sending out spies, through whose words the prostitute Rahab was saved from the coming destruction, and made a part of the people of God. In this, as well, he was prefiguring the Christ, who, before he comes in judgment, is always pleased to send warning ahead of time, and snatch out sinners from the cities of destruction, which he is about to send to everlasting torment.

    We may see this very clearly in his first coming, when he devoted the great enemy of the people, Satan, to utter destruction by his triumph on the cross; for before he came, he sent many messengers to the hostile people that he was about to destroy, along with their father the devil (cf. John 8:44-45); and these messengers were greatly outnumbered, as were the two spies, and so they were killed and beaten and disgraced (see Mark 12:1-12) – but by their difficult ministries, they saved many a poor and helpless sinner, who believed their word, and applied the blood of Christ to their houses, that they might be saved from the wrath to come.

    But if this pattern of judgment and salvation is true with respect to the first coming of Christ, how much more may the same example be seen with respect to his second advent? For his people are still overwhelmed by many strong enemies, and the world, the flesh, and the devil beset them on every hand, and seem always to overcome them – and why does their Savior not yet appear to save them forever? Only that he might send out his few, weak messengers into enemy territory, so that by the foolishness of the gospel they might call out many a prostitute and beggar to apply to the cross for pardon in advance of the coming destruction. The Son of Man will soon return in much glory and fury of wrath, and devote to eternal destruction the world of men (2 Thes. 1:8-10; 2 Pet. 3:10); but first, just as his foreshadow, Joshua, sent two spies in advance of his invasion, so he has sent his witnesses, which the apostle John saw in vision as two despised and hated martyrs whom the wicked world would kill but not overcome (Rev. 11:3-12), that they might snatch sinners from the fire of impending judgment which the gospel-mercy of the Savior is now, for a brief space, holding back from them.

    Let us, then, look at just how this event of the salvation of Rahab prefigures the salvation of other sinners, which Christ is accomplishing through the testimony of his outnumbered and despised witnesses, before he comes to destroy the world with fire.

    First, this event, when the two spies went to search out the land, took place at a time when the title to the promised land was theirs by right; and yet, even in the land that they should have possessed, they were vastly outnumbered, and forced to dwell in a very precarious and dangerous situation. In the same way, we who belong to the Savior are heirs of the world, and will possess the earth (Rom. 4:13-16; Mat. 5:5); but right now, we wander as strangers and outcasts (1 Pet. 2:11), and have often to hide and flee from the great strength of the enemy who still dwells in the land of which we possess the eternal title. How many believers today, huddling together in secrecy in the lands of China, North Korea, Iran, Columbia, and many other such places, prove the accuracy of this typical event? They are the meek, the whole earth is theirs by right of inheritance (Mat. 5:5), and yet they are outnumbered and pursued, and find refuge only among the sinners and despised who will hear their message and not give them up to destruction.

    Second, although they have to hide and live surreptitiously, for fear of being betrayed and killed, yet they are ready to give the message of salvation to any who should ask them how to be saved, no matter how despised and sinful a person it may be whom they encounter. Thus, the spies promised salvation through faith to Rahab, a despised prostitute, and signified the nature of redemption by the scarlet cord which marked her house, which was just like the blood of the Passover Lamb, that marked the houses of Israel in order to save them from the coming destruction, and meant much the same thing. It was as if the spies had told her, “the judgment that is coming to your city ought by rights to have come upon us, as well; but we were saved when our houses were marked by the blood of the Passover Lamb, and so we are now about to enter our inheritance; only mark your house too, and you shall be saved even as we”. In the same way, the ministers of Christ today, whenever they find a poor, distraught sinner, tell him, “We, too, deserve to be destroyed when God comes to judge the earth, but the Spirit has applied the blood of Christ, our Passover Lamb, to our hearts by faith, so that when he comes, we will be delivered, and enter our inheritance. Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and wash your hearts with his blood, and you will be saved as well!”.

    Third, we must notice that this salvation by the blood of Christ was made to apply to the whole household; but that, any who stubbornly refused that salvation, and left in unbelief, would be destroyed with the rest, and his blood would be upon his own head. So too, as we have very many examples of in the Book of Acts, the messengers of Christ have very often called out whole households into the Kingdom, just as God has been wont to work throughout all redemptive history. When Lydia believed, she was saved with her household, just as Rahab (Acts 16:14-1); and so also with the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30-34), and the household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16), and others. Thereafter, their offspring, born into their houses, were holy to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:14). But woe to those who wander from the faith, for they will be destroyed with the world, if they do not repent; and thus it is a matter of great urgency that we raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4); for our household will be saved with us, when the Lord comes to judge the world; but if they leave the house and family of faith, then their blood will be on their own head when they perish with the city.

    Fourth, we may observe that these spies joined the pattern of their lives to the truth of their message; for they had just promised the harlot Rahab life and salvation, if she would apply the blood of the Lamb by faith to her house; and in this, they were requiring her to believe that a Lamb that had been slain could save and protect her from all her enemies. But how could a slain Lamb save anyone at all, unless he came back from the grave in newness of life? So then, they were really requiring her to believe in the power of the resurrection of Christ, once slain for his people's sins. For three days, Christ would be hidden away from the world in a grave; but then he would arise, so that he might come back and destroy the world and deliver those whom he had covenanted to save by his death. Thus, when Rahab ordered the spies to hide themselves for three days, and then to go back where they had come from, that they might come again from there to save her according to their promise, she was speaking by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and foreshadowing the Christ, who after three days in the grave would arise and ascend to the place from whence he came, that he might soon return and save his people, devoting all their enemies to eternal destruction. This, also, is seen in Christ's gospel ministers today, who follow in his steps, and suffer for righteousness' sake without resisting, and thereby display the truth of their proclamation of the gospel through lives which follow in the pattern of Christ; and when this life example is joined to their messages, sinners are saved and brought into the Kingdom.

    Finally, we must look more particularly to this Rahab as a type and pattern of all those who would come to be saved by the gospel-message of Christ's wandering spies in this present world of evil. First of all, she was a notable sinner before she heard the gospel; and so, too, all of us who are saved are the chief of sinners (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15) and the basest of people (1 Cor. 1:26-31); for Christ did not come to save the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). Second, she had come to tremble at the wrath and power of God; for she had heard, not yet of the gospel, but only of the coming destruction, first shown by the overthrow of Og and Sihon (Joshua 2:8-11). So it is today: for before God is pleased to bind us up with the promise of the gospel, he breaks us down with the terror of his Law, and impresses upon our hearts the certainty of his coming judgment, which we may see in the examples of all those whom he has judged before us, such as the world in the days of Noah, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and many other such places; and what's more, in the examples of earthquakes and natural disasters and many other things which cry out to the guilty, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish! (Luke 13:1-5). Third, she was moved by the knowledge of her terrible plight to cry out for mercy and deliverance (Joshua 2:12-13); and fourth, when she heard in response the beautiful message of hope, that if she but apply the scarlet cord to the window of her house she would certainly be saved, she responded with joy and faith, and hastened to tie on that cord as her sure salvation. So, too, the sinner who has been broken down by the Law and made to cry out for mercy, when he hears the gospel, leaps up at once to cling to the scarlet cord cascading down from the spear-pierced side of the Savior, and will not leave that blessed stream at all, but steadfastly hopes in its saving power. Fifth and finally, the verity of Rahab's saving faith was proved by her works when, at risk to her own life she helped the ministers of Joshua, and showed that her hope and inheritance was not in the city of her birth, but that her lot was now bound up with these men who, strangers though they had been, were now dearer to her, in the family of God, than all others beside; which is indeed a vital point that James, the brother of the Lord drew out for us, and applied most pointedly to our lives as well (James 2:25-26).

    Is there perhaps a Rahab out there even now, trembling and melting like wax at the terror of the coming judgment? Sinner though you be, come to the cleansing fountain, tie the blood of the Savior fast upon the window of your heart, and if you continue in faith in that house where the blood of Christ has been applied, then I solemnly promise you this: if a hand is laid upon you to your final destruction, when Jesus the Savior comes to judge, your blood shall everlastingly be upon my own head.

    Deep in the valley far below
    A thousand well-worn pathways go
    To meet at ancient Jericho;
    And high on the city’s mighty wall
    There sits a house well-known to all:

    It is the home of the harlot;
    There, in the tower’s shade,
    She sits, all clad in scarlet,
    Plying her shameless trade.

    Deep in the city two men lie,
    And wait in secrecy to spy
    The mighty walls, the towers high;
    Closely pursued by the guards behind,
    They chance a humble house to find:

    It is the home of the harlot;
    There, in the tower’s shade,
    A woman clad in scarlet
    Rises to give them aid.

    Deep in the house the two men bide;
    Far under the flax in which they hide
    They pass the evening undescried;
    The harlot watching from below
    Confounds the men of Jericho,

    There in the home of the harlot
    Far on the city’s edge;
    She lowers a cord of scarlet
    Down from the window-ledge.

    Deep in the night the two men drop
    From the window-ledge in the high rooftop
    By the slender cord; they only stop
    To tell the woman clad in red
    To hang from her ledge a scarlet thread.

    It is the home of the harlot
    Far on the city’s edge;
    A simple thread of scarlet
    Hangs from the window-ledge.

    Deep in the vale below the wall
    A mighty shout, a trumpet call,
    Bring down the gates; the towers fall,
    The mighty city is undone,
    But one small house is saved alone:

    It is the home of the harlot
    There in the desolate town;
    From the window a thread of scarlet
    Still can be seen hanging down.

    Deep in the valley far below
    The violets bloom, the wild vines grow,
    On top of mighty Jericho;
    There in the barren, rocky ground
    An ancient ruin can be found:

    The home of the well-beloved harlot!
    Its stones have sunk into the earth,
    But its humble thread of scarlet
    Is traced to Messiah’s birth.

    Posted by Nathan on April 28, 2010 11:21 AM

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