One of the things I love about the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew is verse five. This random woman pops up, not even Jewish. Not only was she a gentile though, she was a prostitute originally too. But there she is in the family tree of the Messiah no less.
Her name is Rahab.
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Anyone who is even semi-conscious of what I’ve been getting up will be aware that the church had a week of evangelism recently. Incidentally, Rahab came up. She was but a reference, a passing comment in a weekful of words, but she has stuck with me.
There is a particular block of flats in Edinburgh that once set twists of dread circling through my bones. I’ve been thrown out twice whilst attempting to leaflet and though that was some time ago, it very clearly impressed upon my mind that these are people who do not want to be reached.
A few weeks ago we gained entry to the fortress via the imposing buzzer entry steel gates and through the courtyard into the individually locked towers (I kid you not). To be able at last to put tracts through those doors gave me great joy, like reaching an unreached people group at long last. I will admit though that this was just plenty for me. I’ve never been comfortable around pomp and splendour. I would have been perfectly happy never to enter those immaculately carpeted hallways again.
Then, one morning, the pastor announced that I was to take a team and storm the castle and I laughed because it has become a joke among us.
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I just want to take a moment at this point to address a common criticism: ‘Why are you bothering these people? They evidently want to be left alone.’
If I were the pizza guy, I would take the hint. They can live without pizza. In fact, it might do them good.
But we’re not the pizza guy. We’re not even the passionately political canvasser guy. We’re the guys with the gospel and I know full well that they don’t want it. That’s stating the obvious. I certainly didn’t want it either when it took hold of me. A dead person is never looking for a cure. They don’t even know that they are dead. But more on that another time.
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So when he assigned me to my favourite place on earth, I laughed and asked what he wanted me to do that day.
He was deadly serious. I was to take a team and go and storm Jericho.
Go find Rahab.
I suppose that sentence put it all in perspective for me and rightly so. All this time I’d only been seeing the high walls and impregnable gates, the intimidating grandeur and the prowling janitors, guardians of the solitude. And I had missed the most beautiful part of the story; the mercy shown to a single, undeserving soul and her family. I had done an Israel and seen only the looming stones, overlooking that single red cord.
Our mission is not to storm the castle. It never was. Our mission has always been to find Rahab.
I suppose you are wondering whether we got into Jericho at all. Well, for several reasons, one of which was that we prayed before we even tried, we walked right in to all four towers without a hitch and knocked on every door. Strangely enough, no one was rude to us although there was plenty of polite disinterest. No one in that place will be able to say that they never knew.
Did we find Rahab?
I have no idea. But God does. We can only watch and pray for that thread of scarlet. So often these things take time.
Though it didn’t feel like it at the time, door knocking in Jericho was one of the best things about this week. As strange as it sounds I can’t deny it.
Firstly, it made the power of prayer evident and I am convinced that we wouldn’t have got past the gates were it not that we asked God’s blessing first. As one of the guys reminded us, what God opens, no man can shut. The Gospel will get out there regardless of anyone’s high security buzzer entry systems.
Second, it reminded me that God desires to save people whether they want to be saved or not. I know this already of course but it is good to be reminded.
In keeping with the tradition of the Baptist Three, lastly it reminded me of what our evangelism is. Reaching Jericho is a picture of all evangelism in any context.
No one wants to be reached. They’ve built walls and locked themselves in where no one can get to them. They live in Sleeping Beauty towers and cut their hair short, letting technological thorns and briars grow up around the stones.
It’s not just those who live in Jericho though is it? Perhaps that block of flats is most obvious because of the physical walls but every unbeliever does this.
The atheist builds his walls from Darwin’s bones. The agnostic shrouds himself in a maze of uncertainty. The philosopher stands on the ever shifting sand of rationality in the middle of a logical minefield. The postmodern lives in a castle of moving entryways and mirrored halls. Those of other religions post homemade deities as sentries.
Every tenement building, every suburb, every housing estate, every multi is another Jericho and we go there searching for Rahab. It may be years before we find her (in fact, we may not find her at all) but we must persevere in the search.
One of the most encouraging things about being a Calvinist when engaging in evangelism is that we have no reason to be discouraged. We believe that those who are lost will be found. We aren’t casting our pearls before swine, we’re calling sheep to recognise their Master’s voice. We’re searching for Rahab.
This world will one day fall, just as Jericho did. And just as in that day, faith in the mercy of God and the sufficiency of Christ will mark us out in undeniable scarlet. But we aren’t sitting waiting for that day, rubbing our hands and cackling with glee at the knowledge of what others will suffer in that day (wicked heathen that they are).
No. We have a responsibility to warn others. We all were Rahab once, without fear of God, living our lives how we pleased without a second thought for him. Then we met his servants. They warned us. We believed.
Someone told you once without ever knowing how (or if) you would respond. God himself bothered enough to tell us. Shouldn’t we then tell others?
Shouldn’t we take our lives in our hands to reach Jericho, believing that Rahab is there and she will be found? Wasn’t she a single lost sheep in a city of a hundred goats?
So don’t be discouraged in evangelism. Obey the command, fulfil the commission, and when you feel downcast, remember that Joshua’s spies thought that the whole city would be destroyed bit God still saved one family. Not only that but she, a Gentile prostitute, made it to the family tree of the Messiah no less.
Don’t give up though you are weary and worn. Go on searching for Rahab. In time, God will make her known.