Unsung Heroes of the Bible: Rahab

Unsung Heroes Rahab    The 1982 World Series winner the St. Louis Cardinals were a team of unsung heroes. While it DID have 2 future Hall of Famers on the roster- Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter- it was, for the most part, was made up of what I call “situational players”- guys who may not have been the biggest names in the game but who worked together to get the job done. But perhaps the MOST unsung hero on that team was Glenn Brummer. You might be saying, “WHO?” And to that, I say, “Exactly!” Brummer was a 3rd string, back-up catcher for the ’82 Cardinals. On August 22, in the middle of the pennant race, Brummer was on 3rd, tie game, 9th inning. Now, Glenn wasn’t exactly known for his speed, so no one expected what was about to happen.

On the pitch…Brummer attempted to STEAL HOME. The place went up for grabs, Brummer ran, slid in under the tag and scored the winning run. One sportswriter described him as not only the slowest guy on the team but probably the slowest person in the stadium. And he stole home! Amazing!

Fast forward several years. I was going to preach on Glenn Brummer and I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight so I called KMOX, THE sports radio station in St. Louis, to ask the sports department about the event. Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck had just been on the radio MOMENTS before I called, so I asked to speak to him…what was I thinking?…and they said, “Just a second.” A few moments later, there was that highly recognizable voice on the other end! I was floored! So, I picked my jaw up off the floor and told him why I was calling. He talked with me for about a minute or two about that game. I then said, “Did Herzog send him?”, meaning did the manager tell him to do that. Buck laughed and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding! NOBODY knew he was going to run!”

Fast forward again. Our older son was a student at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Cardinal Winter Caravan was coming to IWU and Brummer was one of the Cardinal alumni on that tour. I sent a baseball to my son and asked him if he would go to the event and get Brummer’s autograph. He said that when he got to Brummer, he said, “My dad sent me to get YOUR autograph on this ball.” He said Brummer looked at him and said, “REALLY?” Even he was surprised!

Great heroes, both men and women of faith have been recorded throughout the Bible. However, there are many Biblical characters who can be easily overlooked and yet should be regarded as heroes, not necessarily because of their extraordinary feats but because they simply chose to stand on the right side of history. They chose to align themselves with the promise made to their ancestors and to the spread of the Gospel. With all of that in mind, we will spend the next few weeks considering the lives of s handful of these unsung heroes and how significant they were to their time and generation…and to us.

Joshua 2:1-4 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from.

Rahab was a member of the oldest professional. Or to quote those great theologians over at Steely Dan, one of “the workin’ girls in the county jail”. We all know what I mean, right? I’m trying to save those of you with kids conversations on the way home that you don’t want to have!

Rahab lived in Jericho- part of what the Hebrews saw as The Promised Land. And she is one of the most thought-provoking and astonishing heroes in the Bible. She is significant for her great faith, to be sure. But she is also significant for her place in the lineage of Jesus. A closer look at this remarkable woman gives us more insight into God’s plan for His church as well as how He deals with us when it comes to grace and mercy.
So, Rahab’s story is found in the Book of Joshua, during the taking of the walled city of Jericho by the Israelites. Jericho was the most important Canaanite city in the Jordan Valley- a military stronghold that was right smack in the path of the advancing Israelites. Joshua, the successor to Moses, has his people amassed at the banks of the Jordan River. But before they cross, he sends two spies to check things out- advance scouts. They cross the Jordan and head to Jericho. The king of Jericho somehow finds out about it and orders them captured and brought to him.

The spies end up at the home of Rahab. Some ask, “What were the two spies doing at HER house?” Ancient historian Josephus lists her as an innkeeper…and nothing else. Also, it was not uncommon for someone to run BOTH an inn and a “house of ill repute” in the same building. So, we don’t have to try too hard to question the spies’ presence there.

She tells them how the citizens of Jericho have been fearful of the Israelites ever since they defeated the Egyptians through the Red Sea miracle. She agrees to help them escape, as long as they promise that her family will be spared when the Hebrews take the city. The spies agree, as long as three conditions are met: 1) she has to hang a scarlet rope out the window of her home so they’ll know who to spare; 2) her family has to be inside her house during the battle; and 3) she can’t turn on the spies later on. She agrees, hides them on the roof under some branches and tells the king’s men that they left at dusk and they’d better hurry after them before they get away.
The two spies safely escape Jericho and report back to Joshua that the “whole land is melting with fear.” The Israelites cross the Jordan, attack Jericho and the city is destroyed. Only Rahab and her family are spared.

Rahab was perceptive, smart and well informed. She identified the spies for what they were, hid them, and had a plausible story ready when she was questioned. She said they left at dusk- when it would be hard for any witness to be sure of clearly seeing anything. She created a sense of urgency so that the king’s men, rather than searching her house and risking letting the spies get away, went after them. And she gave the spies excellent advice- hide in the hills for three days before trying to cross the Jordan.
Given her chosen occupation and her subsequent reputation, Rahab is NOT a very likely candidate as a hero of the faith. And spiritually, she wasn’t the ideal candidate to believe in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture that was under God’s condemnation. But she had a change of heart. Let’s be clear- she betrayed her people. And she came to know God. It was that change of heart, that faith that ultimately saved her and her family. And that faith makes her the first recorded Gentile convert in history.

Through Rahab’s story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Jesus. Once we come to Jesus, our past no longer matters- the slate is wiped clean for all who believe. Her story also reminds me that, although we are saved by God’s grace through faith, true faith requires action. We have to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and then live in a way that shows our faith is real.

The late, great singer/songwriter Rich Mullins perhaps said it best when he said, (Video of song and lyrics that include the words, “It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine. Faith without works, Baby- it just ain’t happenin’!”) “Faith without works, Baby- it just ain’t happenin’!” Living by faith should lead to righteous works- NOT as a requirement but as a response. What “good works” are you producing that demonstrate your faith to the world?

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