Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you that God is never idle, even when we can't see it.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God is at work in the most corrupt settings, putting faith into the hearts of those that He has chosen. It’s a mystery how this happens. But the work of God in regeneration, in salvation, is always a mystery. It’s a mystery how it happened in my heart. It’s a mystery how it happened in your heart.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for Tuesday, August 4, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

God is everywhere. That means He’s in some places you and I might not usually visit. He’s there wooing the hearts of people in dire situations. Nancy will explain more in a series called, Rahab and the Thread of Redemption.

Nancy: We’re looking at the life of Rahab. And if you have your Bible with you, let me invite you to turn to the book of Joshua chapter 2, a whole chapter that is devoted to the story of this woman who came from a Canaanite, pagan, wicked, immoral, corrupt background.

We started in the last session in verse 1. We see that,

Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.

We’ve seen that these two spies came from east of the Jordan. They walked, or forded, across the Jordan. And then they went to Jericho, which was five or six miles west of the Jordan River, to see what the land was like, to see what the people were like. They ended up somehow in this house of a woman named Rahab, who was a prostitute.

Now, the obvious question is, why did the spies go to the house of this prostitute? The answer is that we don’t know. We’re just told that they did. It’s possible that this place had been recommended to the spies because of its convenience. It was located on the city wall. It was easy to get to.

The spies may not have known anything about the character or reputation of this woman before they got to her house. For sure, two young men going into this woman’s house would not have attracted a lot of attention. Presumably, young men were coming and going from this house with a degree of frequency.

It was probably a good place to gather information, and the spies were looking for information. Here’s a woman who had a lot of contacts, if you know what I mean.

Her house was probably a stopping place for travelers from other parts of Canaan because Jericho was on a main thoroughfare. A road went from Jericho to the north of Canaan and another road went to the south. So people would stop by, and they would bring news of what was happening in other parts of Canaan.

So it was a good place to exchange news. And she would probably give them some news without asking questions in return. The spies certainly didn’t want to answer a lot of questions.

Her house was built into the city wall. So if the spies needed to escape quickly, they would be able to get out. And that may be another reason they chose this location.

We don’t know. This is all just speculation. But one thing we do know for sure, and that is that it was the providence of God that led them to this particular house and this particular woman. God knew that in this depraved, debauched city that was ripe for destruction, ripe for judgment, there was one woman who believed in Him. She didn’t know a lot about Him, but she believed what she knew.

And God had a purpose for this woman’s life. God was intent on redeeming Rahab and her family from destruction.

Rahab had become one of God's own. She didn't know a lot, but God was standing watch over her. And in His providence, though He was unseen, He directed those spies to that woman’s house, where they came across an amazing story.

Now verses 2-4: "It was told to the king of Jericho”—cities in Canaan were individual kingdoms with their own kings, so Jericho was its own little city-state.

It was told to the king of Jericho, "Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land." Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land." But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.

As I read this passage, I wonder if Rahab perhaps hadn’t had to do this before in her former trade—hiding clients from jealous wives who may have come looking for their husbands.

Well, she said,

True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.

But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof (vv. 4–6).

Now, just to give a little background here, in that day there was a strong tradition of hospitality, even in this pagan, corrupt culture. And it was considered the duty of a homeowner to protect and care for any guests who would come their way.

But Rahab went further than just fulfilling a cultural obligation to show these men hospitality. She ended up, as we will see, risking her life for them.

According to the ancient law of Hammurabi, which was written about this time, if Rahab had been caught hiding the spies, she would have been found guilty of treason and executed. And she knew that.

But she went ahead and hid the spies on her roof under some stalks of flax. Flax was used to make yarn and linen cloth. After it was harvested, it was often stacked on the rooftops of homes in order to dry out.

So she sent them up to the roof to put them under these stalks of flax. And then she sent the messengers away in pursuit of the men. Subsequently, we’ll see that she helped the spies escape from the city after those who were searching for them had gone.

Now, we’re going to see that what motivated her to be so courageous was her faith in the God that these men represented. That’s what made her willing to put her life on the line and risk everything.

But first we have to ask the question that everyone wants to know and that commentators have spent a lot of ink trying to answer. And that is: What about the fact that she lied? Was that right? Was that wrong? Was it okay?

Let me say that I’m convinced that whether it was right or wrong is not the main point of the story. But I want to take a moment to address it. It’s a difficult question. There are just some things you may want to consider.

Some commentators would say that what she did was acceptable under the circumstances—that it was not really a lie, but it was a legitimate tactic to throw off the enemy in what was a war environment.

Then there are others who, without excusing the lie, raise the question of what any of us would have done if we had been in that same situation—if we had been asked to betray one of God’s servants.

I like here what Charles Spurgeon said in the 1800s. He said, “I do not want to say a word of apology for the falsehood. Far from it. It is wrong. Altogether wrong. But before you condemn Rahab, be quite sure that you do not condemn yourself. And ask yourself first what you would have said or what you would have done under the circumstances.” So he raises that perspective.

Now, we need to keep in mind that Rahab was a Canaanite. She had grown up in a culture that had no ethics. She had no sense of right and wrong. In that culture, lying was an accepted way of life. She may have had no idea—never having been instructed in the ways of God—she may have had no idea that it was wrong to lie. At best, she was a baby believer. 

So the bottom line, as I’ve reviewed some of this back-and-forth on this subject, is that we don’t need to try to justify the lie that she told. But we realize that Scripture doesn’t commend Rahab for her ethics or for her lie. It commends her for her faith. The fact that the lie is recorded in Scripture doesn’t mean that the Bible approves or excuses what she did.

Matthew Henry, an old-time commentator, says it this way. He said, “God accepted her for her faith and pardoned her infirmity.” And I think that’s a good place to leave that question.

Verse 7:

So the men pursued after them [the men who had been sent from the king] on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.

Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.” (vv. 8-10)

We won't take the time to tell that whole story. But if you want to find out more about that incident, you would turn to the book of Numbers, chapter 21. There you would read how the children of Israel had come up against Sihon and Og who were kings of the Amorites east of the Jordon.

Sihon had refused to let the Israelites pass through his land, and God had said to the children of Israel, “You are to destroy these pagan, corrupt kings.” And God had supernaturally given victory to the Israelites over these Amorites. They were the ones east of the Jordan.

And now this woman who lives west of the Jordan says, “We’ve heard about this. We’ve heard the stories. We know what God did to the Egyptians forty years ago when you crossed over the Red Sea and God destroyed the Egyptians."

Verse 11: “As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted.” That word melted in the Hebrew is a word that literally means “to liquefy.” Our hearts liquefied. Some of your translations say, “Our hearts fainted.”

"Our hearts melted. We had no courage left in us, no strength left in us. We were in awe and in dread as we heard of what God did through you to these enemies, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you.”

That word spirit literally is a word that means “air” or “breath.” It took our breath away. We could hardly breathe. “We lost our courage,” the King James says.

For the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath (v. 11).

That’s quite a remarkable speech this woman gives, considering that she is from this pagan, corrupt, immoral Canaanite background, and is herself a prostitute by trade. This is the first confession of faith recorded in the Scripture.

Can’t you imagine that it really surprised the spies to land in this house and find that here is a woman who has become a believer in God because of what she has heard? We see that God had been working in this woman’s heart. There was a seed of faith, a seed of repentance, a seed of grace that God had planted in her heart. It had taken root and was already beginning to bear fruit.

She calls God “the LORD.” That’s the Hebrew word Yahweh. This is not a Canaanite name for God. This is the Jewish name for God, the personal covenant name that referred to the God of Israel. She calls him the Lord.

She had come to know something about the Lord and had become a believer in Yahweh, the Israelite God. She realizes now that those other gods she had been brought up to worship all her life are not gods at all, that Jehovah is the one and only true God. This is all implied in this statement of faith that she gives to the spies.

And by acknowledging that He is the only true God, she is acknowledging that He alone is worthy of worship, worthy of the allegiance of all those who live on the earth.

Now, Rahab knew the strength of Jericho. And as we’ll see, Jericho was a well-fortified city. But she knew that the God of Israel would triumph over Jericho. She said, "I know that the LORD has given you the land.” I think that’s kind of ironic.

Thirty-eight years earlier, Caleb and Joshua—who had been among the twelve spies sent into the Promised Land—had come back and had said to the Israelites, “God has given us the land.” But forty years earlier, nobody believed them. Everybody doubted.

Now those words, “The LORD has given you the land,” are being spoken by a woman who had been a pagan, a woman who is in the enemy camp.

Don’t you see the irony there? Here’s a woman. The children of Israel had all been unbelievers except for Caleb and Joshua. And they knew God. Here’s a woman who had never known anything about God until recent days. And now she is a believer in that God.

She says to the spies, “We have heard. We have heard what God did to the Egyptians. We’ve heard what God did to those Amorite kings east of the Jordan.”

Where does faith come from? Faith comes by hearing—hearing the Word of God, hearing what God has done. That Red Sea incident had taken place forty years earlier. Rahab had probably been no more than a child in those days.

But she had heard, God gave her faith to believe that the stories she had heard, even as a child, were true. She had heard those reports.

I’m thinking that we don’t know when those seeds of faith took root in her heart. It certainly was before the spies arrived. It may not have been long before. But what we know is that she had heard those reports, she considered them, and she believed them.

She placed her faith in that God. In the midst of this pagan, debauched culture in which she lived, with no other means of spiritual light, those reports had led her to faith—faith that Jehovah was the tru God, faith that He was total different than all the gods she had been raised to believe in, faith that He reigns supremely over heaven and earth.

Rahab believed when no one else did—literally . . . no one else! Others knew the same stories, others had heard of this God, but no one else, just Rahab alone, repented and believed when she heard those reports. Everyone else perished, but she was saved. She was kept from perishing because she believed what she had heard.

It’s just an amazing thing for me to think of how the Spirit of God had been at work in her heart, how He had revealed through those reports to her the true and living God. And it was the Spirit of God who had revealed to her that the idols that everyone around her worshiped—that she had worshiped for all of her life leading up to this time—that those were not real gods.

Others had heard the same stories. Others knew about the Red Sea crossing. But Rahab believed when no one else did.

This says to me that God is at work in places that you might not imagine. God is at work in the most corrupt settings, putting faith into the hearts of those that He has chosen. It’s a mystery how this happens.

But the work of God in regeneration, in salvation, is always a mystery. It’s a mystery how it happened in my heart. It’s a mystery how it happened in your heart.

How was it that, as a four-year-old child, God put faith in my heart to believe that Jesus was the Savior of the world, that He had come to redeem me from my sin, and I placed my faith in Him there as I knelt at the side of my bed on May the 14, 1963? How did that happen? It’s a mystery. It’s the Spirit of God.

How did God find you? How did He put faith in your heart? We don’t know. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter 3, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (v. 8).

I think of that old song we used to sing when I was a child. You don't hear it much any more.

I know not why God's wondrous grace to me He hath made known,
Nor why unworthy Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
I know not how this saving faith to me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in him.

But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able,
To keep that which I've committed, until Him against that day.

I don't know how He does that, the hymnwriter says, how He moves. I don't know how He found me or put faith in my heart. But one thing I know and am convinced of is that He has saved me and is able to keep me against that day of judgment.

One thing we know as we read this story is that as we respond to the light we have, God gives us further light. Rahab had heard these stories. She had believed what she had heard, and though she didn’t have any visible means of support for her faith, she believed there was a God, the God of Israel.

She believed that He was going to destroy Jericho and that the land would be given to the Israelites. And because she believed the little bit that she knew, the little bit God had revealed to her, what did God do?

He sent those two men to her house to give her more light, to lead her out of Jericho before the destruction came, and to lead her to take her place in the community of faith with the Israelites.

No one will ever be condemned apart from having rejected light that God gave to them. The Canaanites had light. They had the same light Rahab had. But Rahab believed. They rejected the light. Because she believed, God gave her more light.

Rahab’s life was changed because she realized the power of the living God. And we’re going to see, as the story unfolds, that her faith was genuine. Now, at this point her faith wasn’t strong. It wasn’t well-developed, but it was real.

There will always be evidence in the life when there is faith. When there is no evidence, we can say there is no faith. We’ll see how the New Testament uses Rahab as an example of that very point.

But as we close this session, I just want to point out the power of what happens when people hear reports of God’s mighty deeds. All the Canaanites heard these reports of the Red Sea crossing and the destruction of the Amorites east of the Jordan.

What happened to the people in Jericho, the Canaanites, who did not believe? They heard the reports, and they were terrified. God’s enemies were terrified. Their courage melted away. But what happened in Rahab’s heart? Those same reports worked faith in her heart. So when people hear the reports of God’s doings, of God’s deeds, something happens.

I think about the impact on non-believers when they hear about the powerful deeds of God. They may dig their heels in and be stronger in their unbelief, or they may come to faith in Jesus Christ.

The question is: What are unbelievers today, in our culture, hearing about God? What causes them to tremble, to be terrified as the Canaanites were? What causes them to believe as Rahab did?

This is one of the reasons that I pray and ask God to send revival to His Church today, because when the lost world sees evidence of the supernatural hand of God moving in and among His people, something will happen.

Some will be terrified; some will believe. But no one will be able to stay the same.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray. She’s been giving us a vision for revival in the Church. It's one of the reasons why Revive Our Hearts exists as a ministry.

Aren’t you glad that God is at work, even in places and hearts that to us seem unlikely? If He can use stories of His miracles to rescue a pagan prostitute named Rahab, He can redeem even you, even me, in whatever our circumstances are.

The teaching you’re hearing this week and next week on Revive Our Hearts forms the basis of a Bible study on the life of Rahab. It’s the newest in our lineup of studies on the Women of the Bible. This is something you can go through on your own, or with a group of friends. And this month, we’ll send you a copy as a way of thanking you for your gift in support of the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

You can always purchase more copies, too, for use in a group. The title is Rahab: Tracing the Thread of Redemption. There’s more information at our website, So contact us there with your donation, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Ask about the new Bible study on Rahab when you contact us.

What do you believe about God—not just in your head, but in your lifestyle? Consider that question when Nancy picks up with the story of Rahab tomorrow. Now she’s back to pray.

Nancy: O Lord, how we pray that in our day You would visit Your people, that You would bare Your arm, and that You would demonstrate Your power and Your greatness so that this lost world in this country and in every country of the world would hear that there is a God. There is a God. He is real. He is to be feared. He is to be believed.

And some will come in faith and kneel at the cross, and they will say, “God is God in heaven above and in earth below.”

O God, grant that they may hear the reports, and that hearing they may believe. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Reminding you that God is always at work. Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.