But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:25)
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel. (Joshua 7:1)
Joshua 6-7 recounts the story of two battles—one a victory, the other a defeat. Along with each battle a key figure emerges—one a Canaanite prostitute, the other a family man from the tribe of Judah. Each figure does something surprising—one fears God and acts faithfully, the other robs God and acts deceitfully. As a result, one’s actions are used to advance God’s purpose, while the actions of the other provoke His disfavor.
In this sequence of unlikely contrasts, we find the tension of grace.
Rahab the prostitute demonstrates that there are times when the coming of God’s presence is not necessarily contingent upon the agreeable repute of human actors.
In other words, God did not need Rahab to adopt a godly lifestyle before she could recognize that He was at work. Though a pagan and a prostitute, she wasn’t required to clean up her act before participating in His purposes. No, God saw fit to use her powerfully to give His people the victory over Jericho. Her involvement was an act of His confounding grace.
Achan represents the reality that God may choose to withdraw His presence over an individual’s refusal to be holy.
Israel lost the battle at Ai because the Lord was not with them. Achan’s disobedient actions had caused a blockage which kept God’s people from victory. God’s presence then returned after Achan and his family had been put to death, giving Israel the victory over Ai.
Taking these two cases together, we come to see that God is gracious beyond all measure, yet when it comes to how we experience His presence, He has not left open to us the option of presuming upon His grace.
We must, therefore, understand that our actions as individuals can have an impact upon what God is willing to do among His people. The way we conduct our lives can attract His presence, or block it. On the other hand, there are seasons when key manifestations of God’s presence are not precipitated by our best efforts. At times, He hits the “override button” so that His purposes can advance in spite of our misdeeds and missteps. This is the tension in which the church lives and worships—it is the tension of grace. In it, we can neither make too much of our actions, nor too little; what we do is not absolute, yet our actions can have tremendous consequence.
So as we come to church this Sunday, let us each take the initiative to put to death all sin and idolatry in order that we might be attractive to God’s presence, for He is still repulsed by the Achans who are flagrantly sinning in our midst. At the same time, though, let us never rule out the surprising nature of God’s grace, that He so often does what we least expect; He still raises up Rahabs among His people. This is a tension we must embrace.
PRAYER AND REFLECTION
- Is there anything in your life that might be creating a blockage to God’s presence? Are you harboring unconfessed sin? Is it possible that God is waiting for you to repent before He pours out greater manifestations of His presence among the people of LifePoint?
- Do you tend to overemphasize your performance when it comes to the Christian life? Do you ever find yourself presuming that, because you do the right things, God is more pleased with you than He is with others? Do you look down on those who are immoral or less spiritually inclined? In what ways have you failed to see that holiness is a gift you have received, not a work you have achieved by your own strength? How might God want you to start seeing potential in unlikely people?
- God wants LifePoint to be a church that takes holiness seriously. At the same time, however, He desires for us to be a church where sinners find grace. Will you take a moment to pray that LifePoint would be faithful in both regards? Ask that LifePoint would worship in the splendor of holiness. Ask also that LifePoint would be a refuge of mercy where Rahabs can find their place in His purpose.
Set List for Sunday, September 22, 2019:
- Kingdom Come (Lift Up Your Head) (R. di Castiglione)
- King of Kings (J. Ingram, B. Ligertwood, S. Ligertwood)
- Your Mercy (M. Dawes, A. Ivey, B. Land, J. McCreary)
- Heart Abandoned (S. Curran, K. Stanfill)
- Great Are You Lord (J. Ingram, L. Jordan, D. Leonard)