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R-Rated: Rated R for Redemption

God can redeem any person out of any situation.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "R-Rated". See series.


(Read Joshua 2:1-20)

In 144 AD, the church father Marcion was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, Italy, because he held to a dual authorship of the Bible. He could not bring together how there could be one God who authored both the Old and the New Testament because the God of the Old Testament seemed to be a God of anger and wrath, and the God of the New Testament appeared to be a God of love and grace. He looked at a passage like Mark 10:14 where the Son of God said, "Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven." Then he looked at a passage like Joshua 6:21, where God says the whole city is devoted for destruction. Kill the children, let the children suffer. The Son of God in Mark 10:14 says, "Suffer little children, permit little children." But Joshua 6:21, God said, "Cause the children to suffer death." The old men, the young men, the women, the cattle. Everything is destined for destruction. Marcion couldn't understand how there could be one author of both Testaments. Therefore, he denied the Old Testament in terms of using and preaching from it, but embraced the New Testament.

We are modern day Marcionites. We embrace the New Testament. We do not deny the Old Testament, we just ignore it and don't preach from it. But God wants us to assume a posture of second naiveté, to become a child again and to crawl up into the cranium of Yahweh with this text, and stay there long enough with this text until that which is familiar about this text appears to be strange. I believe that for every New Testament doctrine there is an Old Testament picture. The New Testament doctrine for this sermon is redemption, and the Old Testament picture is a rather dubious and doubtful and suspicious one, a prostitute by the name of Rahab.

Your mess is the message

Rahab the prostitute. She carries that designation. She can't seem to shake it. Rahab the prostitute. In Joshua 2:1 she is introduced. Joshua 6:22 says the spies enter the house of the prostitute, verse 23, whose name is Rahab. Verse 25, Rahab the prostitute. James 2:25, Rahab the prostitute was justified by her works because she hid the spies and sent them another way. Hebrews 11:31, one would think that if she is in the hall of the fame of faith that somehow or another this dubious title would be dropped. But she's introduced by faith, "Rahab the prostitute. Welcomed the spies and did not die with the disobedient of the city." It's a dubious title. Even after she has been inducted, if you will, into the family of Jesus. There she is, right there in Matthew 1:5. She is in Jesus' family because Rahab married a man by the name of Salmon, and Rahab and Salmon had a son by the name of Boaz, and Boaz married Ruth, and Boaz and Ruth had a son by the name of Obed, and Obed had a son by the name of Jesse, and Jesse had a son by the name of David, and David had a son by the name of Jesus. She becomes one of the great great great great great great grandmothers of Jesus, and yet she still has residing in her resume Rahab the prostitute.

It's almost like referring to Jacob all the time as Jacob, not as Israel. God changed his name from Jacob—swindler, trickster, supplanter, wrestler, and deceiver—to Israel, "God who fights." But we always refer to him as Jacob. It's Naaman who was a leper, but even after he has been cleansed of his leprosy and has dipped seven times in the Jordan River and comes up clean, we still call him Naaman the leper. We still refer to Ruth as Ruth the Moabite. Moabites, a country that was cursed. We still refer to Mary Magdalene as the woman out of whom Jesus has cast seven devils even though she is the first human being to ever see the resurrected Lord on resurrection Sunday morning. We still refer to Zacchaeus as the tax collector, even after Jesus sees him up in the tree and calls him to come down from the tree, and Jesus takes and renegotiates his life and calls him a son of Abraham, and we still call him Zacchaeus the tax collector. We still call Thomas the doubting one even though in John 11:16, he says, "Let us also go and die with him."

Paul struggled himself with dubious designations. In Philippians 3:13 he wrote, "I have not yet apprehended but this one thing I do, I forget the things which are behind." Yet he keeps saying, "I am the least of the apostles and I am the chief of sinners because I persecuted the church." Then he says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "Do you know that there are certain people who will not inherit the kingdom of God?" He begins to enumerate them. This is not an exhaustive list at all. He says, "The individuals I'm talking about are the fornicators, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the drunkards, the greedy, the swindlers, the slanderers, the thieves." Of course the Corinthian Christians are sitting there, some of them are very, very pompous and proud and thinking, Well, I know I'm going to make it. Then Paul says, "But such were some of you but now you are washed. You are justified, you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus," the second person of the Trinity, "by the Spirit," the third person of the Trinity, "of God," the first person of the Trinity, which really makes redemption a Trinitarian transaction.

It is the words of Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts, the mother of Robin Roberts, one of the anchorwomen on Good Morning America. Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts died on August 28, 2012. She did live to see her daughter Robin undergo a bone marrow transplant to eradicate the cancer that she had, breast cancer. God used it to save Robin's life. But the one thing she said to her daughter before she left this earth, she said, "Robin, cancer has made a mess of your life but make your mess your message." Make your mess your message.

All of us know what mess is. I know we want a Savior that's not bloody but you can't spell Messiah without mess. He has come to get us out of mess. "And they shall call his name Jesus," Matthew 1:21, "for he shall save his people from their sin." If you've been abused and accused, God can use you. If you've been baffled and befuddled, God can use you. If you've been criticized and castigated, God can use you. If you've been defeated and depleted, God can use you. In fact, I know sometimes when we preach and teach we will have to preach and teach with the burning lips of an Isaiah who has just had a major loss in his family, the loss of his relative Uzziah, the king of Judah who has sat on the throne for 52 years. Yet God sends an angelic being with a live coal from the altar to touch his lips. Isaiah has to say, "Here am I, send me." Sometimes you'll have to preach with the burning heart of a Jeremiah who has just tendered his resignation to God and said to God in Jeremiah 20:9, "I said I would not make mention of his name anymore but his word was in my heart like fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary of holding it in, indeed I could not." He stands between two inescapable realities. He says in the opening verse of Jeremiah 20, "I said I would not speak," but now he says, "I cannot help but speak." The thing that moved him from "I will not" to "I cannot" was that God's Word was in his heart like fire shut up in his bones. When the Word gets in your heart, he'll move you from "I will not" to "I cannot," so that you can't help but to speak the things you have seen and heard.

Sometimes you'll have to preach and teach with the broken heart of a Hosea, who has his wife leave him. Yet he has to go and buy her back from the auction block. Now he can identify with a God who was brokenhearted when Israel left him and became a backsliding heifer and a woman, spiritually speaking, that had left the bridegroom.

I remember very well, 15 years ago I had gone to a city to preach. It was the pastor's anniversary. His wife was not there because he said that she was sick and would join us for the culmination of the anniversary that afternoon. He went home after the service to get her, she was not there. She had already arranged for the truck to come to move her things and when he next heard from her she was living in Texas, and he had to decide that in spite of that, "I have to preach because God has called me and I have an indomitable spirit and an irrepressible call, and I cannot help but do what God has called me to do." God can make your mess your message.

We never know when we will be like Rick Warren and his wife and our son or someone dear to us will take their lives. You keep looking at the great men, people like Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church and his daughter goes back into the world and goes back into the night scene before she comes back home. All of us have mess in our lives, but God will make your mess your message. Stop lamenting, spending all your time on what you have lost. Save some time to thank God for what you've got left because it's not just what you've lost, it's what you've got left that counts. I can celebrate that even though there have been major losses, it's what I have left that counts. Because it's what I have left that counts I can still go on in the name of the Lord. Rahab's life is a mess, but God makes her mess her message and she becomes a testimony to all of us of what God can do to redeem our situation. Not only from sin, but redeem our lives from destruction and embarrassment.

The first verse of chapter two states that spies are sent out by Joshua and these spies are sent out to spy out the land of Jericho. Some 40 years ago, spies had been sent out. 12 of them were sent out at the time and the only two that came back with a favored report were Caleb and Joshua. The other 10 came back with a giant report. They said that the giants were in the land and made them look like grasshoppers. But two came back with a not giant report but a grape report. They were fascinated by the grapes.

The grapes were so large that it took two persons to carry a stalk of grapes. They were not concerned about the giants because they knew that God could take care of giants. They were fascinated, they were mesmerized, and they were moved by grapes. They came back and gave a faithful report but the ten discouraged the crowd and the crowd decided not to trust the faithful report, and spent almost 40 years in the longest funeral procession in history, marching around the wilderness because God was waiting for that faithless generation of age 21 and older to die out. Now Joshua has learned; he's not going to send 12 spies, he's going to send two.

Escape through the window

These two spies enter into the city of Jericho. They want to be incognito. They want to be anonymous. They come to Rahab the prostitute's house. I don't know why they went there. Maybe because that was the gathering place, maybe that was where the news was received. But they went there and someone spotted them and reported this to the king of Jericho who sent the members of the JPD, the Jericho Police Department, to Rahab's house to ask Rahab about their whereabouts. Rahab said, "Yes, they came here, but I don't know where they went. They have left. I can't tell you exactly where they are now but if you will take and pursue them immediately you will be able to overtake them." That is a lie. Did God need it, no, because God had already promised Abraham the land and God had already said to Joshua "as I was with Moses, I'm going to be with you. And every place you put your foot down is going to already be yours." God doesn't need our help and God doesn't need our lies, but what God will do is transcend our lies and still work out his purpose. Because his purpose cannot be thwarted. Don't be too hard on Rahab, she has faith but it's flawed faith.

In fact, the human founder of the Hebrew religion, his name was Abraham. At that time he was Abram. He went down to Egypt because the first place he landed in in the Promised Land, Shechem, there was a famine. Then they went all the way down to Egypt for some bread. He got to looking at his wife and she was beautiful, and he got very insecure about that and thought, Well, the Pharaoh will kill me to take her. So he got intentional amnesia and said, "This is not my wife, this is my sister." But still God took his flawed faith and used him as the founder of the Hebrew race.

So here these two spies had been hidden on top of the roof. The Bible says in Joshua 2:15 that Rahab's house was built inside of the Jericho walls. According to Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, the walls of Jericho were so thick and so wide that two chariots could ride side by side without falling over. It was a very stable wall. So when she sends these members of the JPD to search for the spies outside of the walls, she goes up to the top of the roof and removes the flaps and says to these spies, "I have told the members of the Jericho Police Department that you have left, and I have saved your life. What are you going to do for me? If I have scratched your back, how will you scratch mine?" They said to her, "If you will take and put a scarlet cord outside of your window, then when we attack the city you and all of those in your household will be spared."

Here is a woman, Rahab, in Joshua 2:10, who knows what God has done. In fact, the whole city of Jericho knows it. She speaks really for all of them. She says, "Look, we know that the city has been given to you. We know what your God has done, He has fought for you. He dried up the Red Sea for you 40-some years ago. He has killed the king of the Amorites, Og and Sihon." She says in verse 11, "he is not only God in heaven, he is God on earth." In other words, he is sovereign and our hearts are melting in fear because of this. They know they were on the docket for destruction. Therefore, she began to negotiate how her family could be saved because she knew that Jericho was going to fall.

The text says in 2:7, that the gates would be shut. Verse five says that the gates were shut. In 6:1, we see that the gates would be shut. Now, if the gates are shut so that no one can go out, how will these spies escape? The text says in 2:18 that she let them down through the window. The gates are shut, the doors are shut. But when the doors have been shut God has opened up a window. I want you to know that God still has some windows that he wants to let you through. I don't care how many gates have been closed in your face. God can take you through the window. God has a window for you. I don't care how the committee stacks up against you, I don't care what the doctor has said. Whenever God says yes nobody can say no. Never put a period where God has put a comma. God has a window to let you escape through. That's exactly what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "There is no temptation that has taken you but such that is common to a human being, but God is able to provide a way for you to escape that you might be able to endure it."

We're not here because we've been so agile and so great. Some of us who are here right now shouldn't be walking. Some of us here right now were voted in high school the most likely not to succeed. Some of us are sitting here right now, the doctors have given us up and told us we'd never live. Some of us are sitting here right now, even we gave up on ourselves. But when the doors were shut, God opened up a window and he is still able to open up a window.

Here is Joshua, he gets the presence of these spies who return telling the good news, which Joshua already knew because God had already promised the land to them. Joshua had already had 40 years of experience on what God was going to ultimately do. This passage forces us to look back at the Passover because this red scarlet cord is emblematic, it's symbolic, it's metaphorical of salvation. That's really what happened down in Egypt. God sent an order and told Moses, "Tell the head of the tribes in every home to kill a lamb that's blemishless, no broken bones. Smear the blood over the doorposts and lintels of the house. I'm coming by here tonight with a death angel and when the angel sees the blood he will pass over." Now, he didn't pass over because everybody in that house were ethically acceptable, morally impressive, but they were in the house. They were under the blood. It had nothing to do with works at all. They were under the blood. What these spies say to Rahab is, "If you get your mother, father, sisters and brothers, and anyone else you bring, under this red scarlet cord, then we guarantee in the name of God you will be spared." I keep trying to tell people it's not by our works at all, it's by his grace. It's by his blood that we are saved.

I look at this passage, and I am not only reminded to look back at the Passover but I am reminded to look forward at the Lord's Supper. Because at the Lord's Supper Jesus will say to these disciples, "Look, here is something I want you to always remember. Remember my broken body by this bread, and remember my spilled blood by this wine." He says in Matthew 26:29, "I will not eat of the fruit of the vine anymore with you until I do it in my Father's kingdom." So that makes me look at this passage in light of eternity future. There at the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9, there Jesus will gather with his saints and will drink of, if you will, the fruit of the vine because everything will now be fulfilled. I can't look at this passage in isolation. I've got to see this passage in light of redemptive history, salvation history from Genesis to Revelation. This passage is about God's grace.

God uses the unlikely

The text says in Joshua 6 that God spared Rahab. Spared a prostitute. Oh, how much he loves us. I hear the apostle Paul saying in Romans 8:32, "He who spared not his own Son but gave him up for us all, shall he not freely with him give us all things?" I've been spared because he wasn't. I've been saved because he was crucified. Because he died I can escape eternal death and separation from God.

Here is one of the great heroines of the Bible. Her name is Rahab. She carries still the dubious title of the prostitute. In the genealogy of Jesus there are five women: Bathsheba, her name is not even mentioned, it's the woman who is the husband of Uriah, who committed adultery with David but she is in the genealogy of Jesus. There is Tamar, who was the daughter-in-law of Judah in Genesis 38. She would really be accepted immediately on the Jerry Springer show because she dressed up as a prostitute. When her father-in-law was a widower and refused to give the youngest son, Shalah, to her. Because it had been some time and he still had longings, he paid in advance for the sex. Without the money but with three things: With his signet and with his staff, which was a way of saying, I've given you my driver's license, I'm giving you my credit card to hold until I come back from the sheep shearing festival, and then I'll pay you with some livestock that is material. Well, she got pregnant by her own father-in-law and had a son. Therefore, the son was fathered by his own granddaddy which made the granddaddy the father. It's really a mess but yet here is her son, Perez, in the genealogy of Jesus. Here is another woman. Her name Ruth, a Moabitess. She is in the genealogy of Jesus.

Here is Mary, well, Mary was immaculate—no, Mary was not immaculate. Mary was a sinner. No such thing as a sinless human being. The only one that existed was Adam and he lived in a state of innocence for a while and disobeyed God. But Mary was a sinner. The reason why I know she was a sinner was she needed to be in the upper room with the other 119 people in Acts chapter one to wait on the Holy Spirit. Well, why would she have to wait on the Holy Spirit? The one that she had was with the Spirit without measure. She was impregnated by the Spirit. But it had nothing to do with automatic salvation. She had to have faith in the God that she was bearing in her own body.

But then here is Rahab the prostitute, and God will use her to glorify himself to let us know that all of us at some time have been Rahab's but he wants to give us redemption. Because Rated-R is for redemption. R is the designation, this is an R-rated sermon, but it's for redemption. What patience God exercises. Think about it. Rahab had no idea that she would have this opportunity of salvation. She had heard, and "Faith does come by hearing," Romans 10:17, "and hearing by the word of God." The spies came and the spies entered her house. Why her house? She got a chance to talk to the spies. She got a chance to testify and to confess her belief in God. Then she told the spies, "Now, go back and stay in the hills for three days." That took some time. Gave her time to evangelize. The most difficult people to evangelize, people in your own house.

She had time when the spies got back to Joshua, they stayed on the east side of the Jordan River for a while, they crossed, they got to Gilgal. God says, "Now, stay at Gilgal, you've got to be circumcised." They had to wait until they got healed of circumcision. Then he said, "Now, I want you to march around the wall one time for six days, then on the seventh day march around seven times." She had about three weeks to evangelize, to tell people about God, so that when the spies came not only did she get saved but all of those who were in her house. Every time you find yourself among unsaved people—sometimes on airplanes, sometimes other places—God has put you in this world to be a witness about his Word and about his grace.

God does not slack, according to 2 Peter 3:9, concerning his promises, as some people count slackness, but God is longsuffering toward us, "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." But the day is narrowing down to the place where he is coming again and it could be tonight. If it's not tonight, I'm waiting on him to come tomorrow, and if I'm here tomorrow and he doesn't come tomorrow I'm waiting for him to come the next day. But his imminent return is a sure thing and he could come at any time.

The power of forgiveness

One of the amazing things about Rahab is that she is justified by her works. That's what James says. James says in James 2:25, "Rahab was justified by works having hid the spies and sent them home a different direction." But Paul says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith." Now, let's get this straight. Both of you are apostles. James, you're saying Rahab was justified by works. Paul, you're saying Rahab was justified by faith. Both of you can't be right.

They are right. It's a sequence. It's putting the indicative first. It's who I have become by faith. Because of my faith in him, he justifies me. That is, he gives me alien righteousness, righteousness outside of myself. He brings to my bankrupt state what I don't have. All he gives me is what I don't have intrinsically, and that's faith. He enables me to believe by faith, and because of that I show my justification by affirmation through my works. I'm justified by faith, but because I'm justified by faith, through grace alone, then grace is never alone. Grace is always accompanied by works. Therefore, when you get saved you don't work to be saved, you work because you are saved. You don't work for salvation, you work from salvation. Because of what God has made me, I'm just like Peter and John in Acts 4:20, "We cannot help but to speak the things we have seen or heard." Now, if you haven't heard much and you haven't seen much you don't have much to talk about. But when you've heard much and when you've seen much, and when God has brought you from a mighty long way, you can't help yourself. It's that knee-jerk reaction. You can't help but to tell somebody that the Lord is risen indeed.

Charles Colson, in his book Loving God, has said that oftentimes people who really need to hear the gospel don't hear it because we continue to evangelize the same people over and over again until in the final analysis we exist to entertain ourselves. As if the church is a Sunday club for perfect people instead of a hospital for sinners.

I remember so very well one October 30th, I will never forget it. Perhaps the darkest day, it was really, in my life and in my wife's life. Our son was working at his restaurant on that night when he was robbed at the restaurant. Four young men got into the store, jammed the safe, and then grabbed him after jamming the register. When he could not open it the other three fled and the one stood on top of the counter and fired one shot into his body. 34 years of life ended suddenly. Brokenhearted, painful. The Lord moved on my heart to write the young man, he's in prison now. He was 17 when he murdered Tony. I wanted to write him because the Lord had been working on my heart. I really believe that forgiveness is not difficult, forgiveness is just impossible without God, and therefore I wrote the young man because God had worked on my heart. I wrote him in prison and it took him over two years to respond in writing, and this is the letter that I just recently received a few weeks ago.

Dear Mr. Smith, let me say that I am truly sorry for your loss. I really am. Also, I hope that this is really you that I am writing because I have received a lot of threat mail from your family members and friends. So that's why I never wrote back. But today I thought that I should give it a try because I really wanted to talk to you. I just felt that it would be a waste of time to write you back, if it was another person threatening me. Well, I've been locked up three years now and the worst three years of my life. I don't think that I'll make it much longer though. You know, I grew up in church my whole life. I just hung with the wrong crowd on that night. I'm sorry. You probably know my pastor. (Gives the pastor's name, sends me pictures of the pastor.) Yes, this is not for me at all. But there is a consequence for everything in life. I would write more to you but I'm not sure that this is really you or if this is someone playing games. So I hope to hear from you very, very soon. Thank you for forgiving me. Can you keep praying for me too? This is getting too hard for me to bear, and sometimes I feel just like giving up on life.

Well, the Lord just kept working on my heart because the Lord let me see what it took for him to forgive me. He let me see what a mess I was. He let me understand that when he forgives, he forgives unconditionally. He wanted me to understand that if you ever want to get beyond this you've got to forgive, that you can't do it on your own. I've have to understand, by the miracle of the Spirit, he will give you what you need to forgive. So I wrote this young man because I want to be on his visitation list. I want to go up to see him, I want to go up to tell him about Jesus. I want to let him know that I love him. I want to let him know that God wants to forgive him. I want to let him know that one day I want to see him and Tony hug together in the celestial city of glory. Because forgiveness is not difficult, forgiveness is impossible without God.

That's why God spoke to Job. In Job 42:10, it says that when Job prayed for friends, then God restored his wealth twice as much, gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. But it didn't happen until when?

Some of us have been hurt by members of our congregation, we've been hurt by members of the clergy, we've been hurt by members of our family, and we have become victimized. We are still playing those DVDs at night and repeating and memorizing and visualizing what somebody did to us 15 years ago. Some tricky trustee, some devilish deacon, some cantankerous choir member. You've got to take and destroy those DVDs. You've got to tell God to take your heart and change it because Bishop Desmond Tutu was exactly right. In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, he says that forgiveness takes the sting out of memory. It takes the sting out of memory. What that really means is this: When you really forgive don't let anybody tell you that you must forgive and then you forget. You don't forget. But when you forgive it keeps you from being immobilized. When you forgive it keeps you from being paralyzed. When you forgive it makes you lose weight. You trying to lose weight on Jenny Craig? That's not enough. When you get the weight off of you of holding things in, let God fight your battle. Let God make a way. Stop trying to figure it out in a smoke-filled room and let God do it.

Quit trying to make sense of God

The thirteenth revolution had now been made and Joshua had instructed the people when the thirteenth revolution has been made, shout. The shofar will blow, the trumpets will blow, and the walls will come down. In Joshua 6:20, the Bible says that the walls fell down flat. It was a cataclysmic catastrophe. Without a bulldozer or crane, God brought the wall down flat. The last time I understood flat it meant flat.

I struggle with that when it comes to logistics. If Rahab lived in the wall, her house was a part of the wall, and the wall fell down flat, how did the spies rescue Rahab, her mother, father, family, and anyone else she had in the house? Doesn't make sense to me. It's not logical to me. But God is not logical. God is supra-logical. I don't need to use my sanctified imagination. It seems to me that if God's name is at stake because the offer has been made, the guarantee has been made in the name of God, that if Rahab's house was in the wall and the wall fell down flat, it seems to me—can't prove it—that God did some selective demolition and kept that section of wall standing. You can argue with me all you want, say I'm not logical. You're right it doesn't make sense. But how do you understand how man can have a reservation for an underwater hotel for three days and three nights because he wants to go to Tarshish when God wants to send him to Nineveh? How does he stay in that underwater hotel? Where's the ventilation? Where's the oxygen? How's he going to deal with this high acidity? I don't worry about that because the Bible says God made the fish. If he made the fish, it was a customized fish, and God can keep you when he puts you there. How in the world can God say in Genesis 1:3, "'Let there be light,' and there was light on the first day." But on the fourth day he makes the sun. How are you going to have light on the first day when you don't have the sun until the fourth day? It doesn't make sense. But then I read what John says in Revelation 22:5, that in that city there will be no sun but there will be light because God will be the light of the city.

Stop trying to figure God out. Stop trying to demystify the mystery of God. Stop trying to figure out the unthinkability of God. Stop trying to unschool the unschoolability of God, and understand that God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. He pressed his footsteps on the sea and he rides on every star. That's not what really gets me. I can still live with the fact that God may have done some selective demolition so that the whole wall around this section had fallen, but this part was still standing. That's impressive, but that's not what impresses me most. What impresses me most is that when everything around me is falling and crumbling, I'm still standing. I don't know how he does it, but I'm still standing through many dangers, toils, snares, I have already come. It was grace. Aren't you amazed that you're still standing? God can let everything else fall around you. Relational rifts, bad diagnoses, people fighting on the job. All kinds of physical catastrophe, and yet you're still standing.

Rahab received mercy while the city was a recipient of misery. God saved her by grace. I can't prove it but I would guess that Rahab's life was changed forever. I can't imagine her after escaping the catastrophe establishing another brothel and becoming the madam of the best little house. I can't imagine that she'd go back. What she saw, what God did to save her, I can't imagine that she would go back. What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart. Floods of joy, oh my soul, like the sea billows roll since Jesus came in to my heart. I like to think that her life changed because Jericho was a city of great idolatry, but now she would come to worship the one true God as evidenced by her faith and her inclusion in the Hebrew hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11.

I think she now began to worship the real God. I think that she affects ecclesiology because she's a Gentile and what she is doing is anticipating what Paul would later say in Galatians 3:28: "In Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile." She affects eschatology, that is the future, because she knows that the church will not be composed of folks who look like us, but according to John's report in Revelation 7:9, there will be people from every tribe and nation and kindred and tongue. She affects all of those. But she's affected most by God, and this is evidenced, I believe, by her worship.


Perhaps you've heard the story of Henry Ford and Charlie Steinmetz. This account is referred to in David Seamand's work, Healing for Damaged Emotions. Seamands had pastored the United Methodist Church in Wilmore, Kentucky, and was counselor to the staff and students at Asbury College and Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore. He said Charlie Steinmetz was a dwarf. He was ugly—those are his words—deformed and a Jew. But he had one of the greatest minds in the field of electricity that the world had ever known. In fact, Henry Ford hired him when he built his first plant in Dearborn, Michigan. He hired him to build the generators. Charlie Steinmetz built the generators. The cars started coming off the assembly line, making Henry Ford richer and richer. But one day the generators stopped and they failed. Being the cheapskate and the miser that Ford was, Ford hired some ordinary mechanics to fix the generator. But they did not fix the generators, and Ford was losing business. He finally had to go back to Charlie who had built the generators. He said, "Charlie, I want you to restart the generators." He went back, and Charlie walked around the generators for an hour or two just puttering and tinkering. Finally after a couple hours, he threw the switch and the generators started again, and the cars started coming off the assembly line, and Ford was very happy. But a couple of days Charlie sent a bill. It wasn't itemized, it just said, "Charge $10,000." which was a whole lot of money back then. Ford wrote him a little note on that same bill. He said, "Charlie, $10,000 is a lot of money for a couple hours of tinkering." Charlie got the bill and gave him an itemized explanation. He said, Mr. Ford, "$10 for tinkering. $9,990 for knowing where to tinker." Then he wrote at the bottom, "Total $10,000."

I want you to know that God knows where to tinker, God knows how to tinker, and God knows when to tinker. Since he made you and made me, whenever he gets ready he can pull the switch and begin a life process over and over again. Well, I'm glad that I serve a tinkering God for goodwill. God will tinker in your soul. In fact, I know he knows how to tinker, because one day on Friday the generator of salvation got started on the Cross and put in the grave. There was no production on Friday and no production on Saturday and no production on Saturday night. Then Sunday morning God threw the switch and Jesus rose from the dead with all power in his hand. One of these days he's going to tinker one more time. The dead in Christ shall rise, and those who are alive shall be caught up to meet him in the air. So shall we ever be with the Lord. We are all Rated R for redemption.

Robert Smith, Jr. serves as professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Your mess is the message

II. Escape through the window

III. God uses the unlikely

IV. The power of forgiveness

V. Quit trying to make sense of God