Obedience and Favor 2

Deuteronomy 28:13-14 (NKJV)
13 And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Yesterday we made the connection between obedience to the commandments of God and the blessing of the covenant found in Deuteronomy 28. This blessing, which will come upon us and overtake us, includes the kind of favor I believe God wants to pour out on his church. Although this blessing is part of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants, these things will not come upon Israel if they do not keep the commandments connected with the covenant.

In Israel’s day, their relationship with God depended upon keeping the Law of Moses. It is clear in today’s scripture that if they do not keep the commandments of God the blessing, or favor, will neither come upon them nor overtake them. Verse 15 says that the “curse” will be what comes upon those who do not keep the commandments.

We are not under the Old Covenant and not subject to the Law of Moses. Our relationship is based on Grace and the sacrifice of Jesus. Our salvation is a free gift. Galatians 3 tells us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Does that mean that the favor listed in Deuteronomy 28 will be ours no matter how we live? No it does not.

We do not live under the law. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord says there is a new day and a New Covenant coming. This New Covenant will not be based on an outward law. The Lord says he is going to write his laws on our hearts and minds. That is a description of how grace works. We keep the law because it is now our nature to do so. Under the Mosaic Law Israel kept the law outwardly in the flesh. We keep the law by allowing the law written on our hearts to dominate our flesh. We keep it from the inside out not the outside in.

Either way the result is the same. We must keep the commandments of God. We are not subject to the rules, regulations and sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. We are not excused from keeping God’s commandments or living according to this standards and principles. If we choose to sin, the New Testament tells us the wages of this behavior is death. (Romans 6:23) If we understand grace correctly, it is the means by which we are able to keep the commandments, not license to break them.

If the qualifications to receive the blessings listed in Deuteronomy 28 were that the readers had to keep the Law of Moses. We might conclude that we were exempt from them. We might assume that these blessings would come into our lives automatically and our behavior would not matter. However, it says we must obey God’s voice and keep his commandments. Those qualifications apply to the Christian as much or more than they applied to the Israelite.

Every believer knows that he or she must choose to obey the Lord. We know that sin still rears its ugly head in our lives. We cannot read the New Testament and conclude that behavior does not matter. All of the New Testament writers address the need for righteous behavior. The way we walk in righteousness is different from how the Old Covenant believer did. They walked in righteousness by keeping every element of the Law of Moses no matter how small. We walk in righteousness by believing that the sacrifice of Jesus has made us right with God by nature. We then must develop the inner man, renew our mind and choose to die daily to the flesh so that we can walk in the spirit and not in the lusts of the flesh. (Romans 12 & Galatians 5)

If we want to see the blessing and favor of Deuteronomy 28 released in our lives we must obey the voice of the Lord and keep his commandments. If we do not do those things, we will not have the favor God wants to give us. He is not going to bring favor into the lives of people who compromise with the flesh. He is not going to bring favor to those who chose to live in sin even if it is just the fringes of sin. He will bring favor to those who obey the voice of the Lord and keep his commandments. Whether under the New Covenant or the Old Covenant verse 15 cannot be ignored.

Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV)
15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

Some will point to Galatians 3 and say that since Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law all that is left is the blessing. We are not subject to the curse. It is true that the curse is not part of our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Under the Old Covenant, it was part of their relationship because a blood covenant in the flesh always had both blessings and curses. If covenant partners did not keep the terms of the covenant, their own family would hunt them down and kill them because the whole family was cursed.

That is not part of our covenant relationship with God. Jesus already bore the curse and nullified it for us. As far as our relationship to God is concerned, we are heir only to the blessing. However, this does not eliminate the consequences of unrighteous behavior. I am not talking about ignorant mistakes. That is one of the differences between law and grace. Law makes no allowances for ignorance or human frailty. Grace covers both. When we chose to ignore the principles of the Word of God and yield our flesh to sin, there are consequences. Once again, the wages of sin is death.

Under law, these consequences fall in the category of reward and punishment. If you keep the covenant, you are rewarded. If you break it you are punished. As human beings, we are very familiar with this system. We all have experienced it growing up. When we were good, we were rewarded. When we were bad, we were punished. This extends into adulthood in many ways. If we break the law, we are punished. If we do well at work, we are rewarded.

As Christians we understand that Jesus bore the punishment for sin. We certainly can displease God and we should want to please him. He will discipline us because he loves us. (Hebrews 12) However, he does not punish us with sickness, poverty or the bad things that can come to anyone in life. God is good and good things come from him. (James 1:17) However, there are two other players in the game; life and the devil.

Let me explain it this way. A few years ago we had a very cold winter here in New York State. If you were indoors where there is heat, you were not cold. However, it was consistently more than 10 degrees below zero outside. If you went outside you got cold. You were not being punished for bad behavior. You were simply stepping outside the protection of the house. If we choose to step outside of the protection of God’s voice and commandments, we will not receive the blessing or favor he wants for us. It is not reward or punishment. It is simple cause and effect.

God wants to bless you. God wants to give you favor. You do not have to earn it. You do have to stay where those things exist. You do have to avoid behavior that takes you out of the protection of the covenant and makes you vulnerable to the things that bring pain into the lives of people.

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Obedience and Favor

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (NKJV)
1 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

In yesterday’s post I went through the blessings available to us as a part of our covenant relationship with the Lord. Deuteronomy 28:2 says that these blessings will “come upon you and overtake you.” To me this is a picture of what we have been calling favor. I believe that God wants to bring great favor into the church. This means people giving to or helping the church even when it might seem unlikely or impossible. Although the blessing in Deuteronomy 28 likely involves more than this, I believe favor is included in the package.

As we went through the list of ways God promises blessing and favor putting them in a more modern context, it is clear that this is something we want functioning in our lives. Since these are blessing of our covenant relationship with God, do they come to us automatically or is there something we must fulfill in order to see these blessings working in our behalf? Today’s scripture gives us the answer.

Verse 1 tells us that we must diligently obey the voice of the Lord. Verse 2 says these blessings will come upon us and overtake us because we obey the voice of the Lord. It is evident that to see these blessings and this favor, we must obey the Lord. Let us look at two more verses.

Deuteronomy 28:13-14 (NKJV)
13 And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

In these verses, the Lord tells us that we must not turn away from his commandments but we must carefully observe to do them. If we do not obey the commandments of the Lord, we cannot expect these blessings, or favor, to come upon us and overtake us. Verse 15 tells us that just the opposite will happen.

It is important to understand the nature of what God is saying here. We know that Israel lived under the law and not under grace as we do. In order for them to walk in relationship with the Lord, they had to keep all of the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law. If they broke the law, there were sacrifices they had to offer in order to get back into right standing with God.

Under grace, none of this is necessary. Jesus is the sacrifice and salvation is a free gift. We could never pay the price that would purchase what salvation in Jesus gave us. We learn in the New Testament that the law was a “schoolmaster” given to Israel that would eventually lead man to something better. That something is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace. (Galatians 3)

Grace means that we do not have to meet the requirements of the law in order to maintain relationship with God. We are his children by our relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 1:6-7 tells us that God accepts us because of redemption in Jesus. There is no more we must do to gain this acceptance. However, does this mean our behavior is now irrelevant?

This has been a question throughout the church age. Let us see how Paul answers the charge that this is what his preaching on grace implies.

Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV) 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Paul is adamant that there can be no place for sin in the life of the believer. If we love God, we should want to please him. If we want fellowship with God, we must understand that we must submit to his nature. The question is not whether we are required to live by the standards of the commandments of God, but rather how we do that.

Under the law, Israel walked in God’s commandments by following the dictates of the Law of Moses. They could see what was required of them written on paper. For example, there were certain things they could not touch. If they touched a dead body, they would have to offer a sacrifice before they could go into the temple again. The dead body made them ritually unclean. If they did not offer the proper sacrifice and follow the proper procedure, they could not be cleansed .

This is not necessary under grace. Our relationship with God is not dependent on ritual cleanliness. The reason it is not necessary to be ritually clean is because we are clean inside by the blood of Jesus. Jesus made this clear in his teaching

Mark 7:18 (NKJV)
18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him,

In this and many other verses, Jesus makes it clear that the standard under the law is not the standard that he has come to enforce. In Acts 10, the Lord speaks to Peter in a dream. Peter is about to be asked to go to the home of a gentile to preach the Gospel. Peter has been taught that this is unacceptable behavior and that to enter such a home would make him unclean. However, the Lord is about to change all that.

Acts 10:12-15 (NKJV)
12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

The Lord tells Peter that what he has been taught his whole life no longer applies. He is clean by the blood of Jesus. It does not matter what kind of house he goes into or what kind of food he eats. That has become irrelevant in Christ. God tells Peter not to call unclean what he calls clean. On one hand that means the food in Peter’s dream and the gentile home he must enter. It also means Peter himself. He is clean by the blood of Jesus so neither food nor the home of a gentile can make him unclean.

It is clear from the teachings of the New Testament that we are not obliged to keep the Law of Moses. The law is applied in the flesh. Romans 8 tells us that because the law is dependent upon the flesh, it is weak. Romans 6 tells us that we should not keep walking in sin. If we do not have to keep the law by the flesh, how do we keep from walking in sin under grace? What does any of this have to do with walking in the blessing of Deuteronomy 28?

More tomorrow.

The Covenant Blessing: Favor

Deuteronomy 28:2 (NKJV)
2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

In our last post I began looking at favor as part of the covenant given by God to Abraham and his descendants. Since the New Covenant flows from the Old Covenant, the blessing of the one extends to and is improved upon in the other. As we read the list of blessings from the Old Covenant in Deuteronomy 28, we can receive these blessings as part of the New Covenant.

I will use the New Living Translation to give a more contemporary feel to the elements of this blessing. I want to take this even farther and expand on each of these elements for a few moments today. Not many of us have flocks or fields, so let us see how these things might apply to us today. In this verse, it says that these blessings will “come upon us and overtake us.” To me, this is a picture of favor.

Deuteronomy 28:3 (NLT)
3 Your towns and your fields will be blessed.

No matter where you live, whether in the city or the country, rural or urban, God says you will have favor.

Deuteronomy 28:4 (NLT)
4 Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.

We can expect favor in both our business or work life and our family life. Most of us do not have herds or flocks producing offspring, but we have something that we do that represents productivity. To me I see this as telling me that whatever that may be will have blessing and favor upon it.

Deuteronomy 28:5 (NLT)
5 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.

We may not have fruit baskets or breadboards but we do have refrigerators, freezers and kitchen cupboards. This tells me that favor will see to it that they are all filled with whatever we need.

Deuteronomy 28:6 (NLT)
6 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

This requires little explanation. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, favor will be upon us. Praise the Lord!

Deuteronomy 28:7 (NLT)
7 “The LORD will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!

Who is our enemy? Ephesians 6 tells us it is not flesh and blood but the demonic kingdom. When our enemy attacks us from one direction, favor will cause him to be so thoroughly defeated that he will run in terror from us in seven directions. Satan is a cunning and dangerous foe, but the blessing and favor of God mean we do not have to fear him. (Eph. 6:12)

Deuteronomy 28:8 (NLT)
8 “The LORD will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

I particularly like this verse. The Lord guarantees favor in all we do. There have been times I have purchased products with a warranty that came from companies that went out of business. That warranty meant very little. I have good news for you. God, inc. is not going out of business! When he guarantees something, it will never fail.

This guarantee extends to our storehouses of grain and to the land to which God is giving us. A storehouse indicates surplus. I believe we can expect favor that will give us a surplus in life. We will have enough to save and to invest in the Kingdom of God.

The land of Canaan was Israel’s destiny. The land God is giving to us is our destiny. We should expect favor that will bring us into that destiny and make us effective as we occupy our land of promises until Jesus comes.

Deuteronomy 28:9 (NLT)
9 “If you obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways, the LORD will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do.

As I read this promise, I see God telling me that I am going to make it as a Christian. He will establish me as a member of a holy people. That means I can and will walk in holiness before the Lord. Romans 8 tells us that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. What could be more holy than that?

Deuteronomy 28:10 (NLT)
10 Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the LORD, and they will stand in awe of you.

I believe it is vital that we extend the Kingdom of God by our witness. This tells me that the people of the world will begin to take notice that I am blessed and favored by God. This will cause them to be drawn to the one who gives me such favor.

Deuteronomy 28:11 (NLT)
11 “The LORD will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.

This is a restatement of much of what has already been said with something added. It speaks of the promise God gave to our fathers. Hebrews 12:1 tells us we are “encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses.” I believe we have “fathers in the faith” who have been given promises that we will see fulfilled in our lives.

Deuteronomy 28:12-13 (NLT)
12 The LORD will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. 13 If you listen to these commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.

Even natural things will work to bring favor to us and we can expect to be on top of life in every way. The favor of God will keep us from having to borrow from the world. This does not say we should not borrow, it says we will not have to borrow. I believe there will be a time when the world will come to us because of the blessing and the only interest we will charge will be that they listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What will release all of this in our lives? We will look at that tomorrow

Covenant Favor

Deuteronomy 28:2 (NKJV)
2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

I believe the Lord spoke to me that God desires to release favor for the body of Christ. The idea of favor is goodwill shown towards someone where there is no obligation to show such goodwill. The scripture the Lord led me to initially is Exodus 3:20-22. In this scripture the Lord tells Moses that the Israelite women should ask the Egyptian women for gold, silver and clothing. The Lord tells Moses that he will give the Israelites favor and by this favor they will plunder Egypt.

We have seen favor extended in the New Testament at the birth of the church. God gave favor to the believers in Jesus and as a result people were added to the church daily through the process of salvation. I believe that favor has always been the heritage of those who believe but I think God is saying that we can walk in this favor at a new level. It is important to remember that everything in the Kingdom of God works by faith. If we are going to see this favor manifest we need to believe for it.

This week I want to look at favor from another perspective. The covenant that God made with Abraham becomes more defined and written down under Moses. Much of what Moses wrote had to do with the covenant and the requirements for keeping it. The book of Leviticus consists of all of the requirements of keeping the covenant, the consequences for breaking it in various ways and the sacrifices that must be offered in order to be made right with the covenant once it was broken. This written set of requirements is called the Law of Moses.

The book of Deuteronomy differs from Leviticus. Deuteronomy speaks often of the commandments given to Israel by God. We know them as the Ten Commandments. Where the Law of Moses is full of details for every area of life, the Ten Commandments contain only ten statements of what Israel must and must not do. I believe they are a revelation of the nature of God as much as a list defining right behavior.

The book of Deuteronomy is the last address of Moses to the people he has led out of bondage. He will not be taking them into the Promised Land. He wants them to know from his heart the things that are important if they are going to fulfill their destiny in God. Where Leviticus is a book of Law, Deuteronomy is a book of relationship. Moses knew something about relationship with the Lord.

Many Old Testament Characters had wonderful relationships with the Lord. David was called a man after God’s own heart. Samuel heard God call his name as a child. Abraham received God’s covenant and was known as the friend of God. However in Exodus 22:11, the bible says that God spoke to Moses “face to face.” There was something extraordinary about Moses’ relationship with God.

In this wonderful book, Moses is speaking to Israel out of that relationship. To me, this is a very poignant book because Moses seems to know that Israel is not going to keep his words. Repeatedly he exhorts them “not to forget” what God has done for them. He tells them they must keep the commandments the Lord has given them. This tells me that Moses, given his experience with Israel, does not believe they will do what he is asking of them.

Although this is an Old Testament book written to Old Testament people, I believe it applies even more to the Church than it did to Israel. Israel’s relationship was built upon the Law. Moses had relationship with God outside of the need of Law. The church’s relationship with God is built on Grace. Grace is the law fulfilled. For Israel, keeping the law was their relationship. We keep the law because we already have relationship. This is a very different thing.

For this reason, I believe Deuteronomy may apply more to us than even to Israel. We are a people of relationship and this book comes from one who spoke from a heart of relationship. In chapter 28, we read a list of the blessings of the Covenant. However, it is also the basis for the New Covenant.

In today’s verse, it says these covenant blessings will “come upon us and overtake us.” To me this is a picture of favor. We do nothing but live as real Christians. The blessings find us and overtake us. We do not pursue them. This is exactly how favor works. Although the Lord may direct us to ask for certain things, favor comes upon us and overtakes us.

As we read this list of blessings, we can make the connection that favor is a product of the Covenant. If we keep the covenant, we are blessed. When Israel walked in the Old Covenant, they had favor. If we walk in the New Covenant, we have favor.

Tomorrow we will begin to look at this list of ways we can expect favor. Today let me point out a couple of things. I like Young’s Literal Translation of the bible because it is a direct translation from the original languages to English. Although at times this can be cumbersome, I believe it can also give a slightly clearer picture of what the bible is saying since there is no attempt to fit the language into proper English usage.

In most translations, this list is in the future tense. In other words, it tells us we will be blessed. I believe it is good to know that these blessings do not end. However, Young’s give us another perspective. Young’s puts this list in the present. In other words is says we are blessed. These blessings are mine right now as well as in the future.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (YLT) 1 `And it hath been, if thou dost hearken diligently to the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all His commands which I am commanding thee to-day, that Jehovah thy God hath made thee uppermost above all the nations of the earth, 2 and all these blessings have come upon thee, and overtaken thee, because thou dost hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God:

I want to encourage you, as we read this list of blessings, to expect them to be a part of your experience today, not only in the future. We are currently blessed of God. We have favor today because we are in covenant relationship with the Lord through Jesus Christ.

This is going to be an exciting week!

Favor Fulfilled

Joshua 6:15-18 (NKJV)
15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! 17 Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.

As we have looked at the relationship between faith, patience and favor, we have been looking into the life of Rahab, the woman who sheltered the Israelite spies in Jericho. She showed kindness, or favor, to the two Israelites at great risk to herself. She chose to believe in the God of Israel and his power over her own city and king. In return, she received a promise that she and her family would be saved when Israel attacked. For this to happen she had to have all her family in her house and a red cord hanging from her window when the Israelite army came. She agreed to these conditions. Now there was nothing left to do but wait.

It was not a short time that she had to wait. Israel had not even crossed the Jordan River yet. Once they did that, all the men were circumcised to fulfill their covenant with God. This meant her wait continued. All this time she had to encourage her family to do what the two spies had asked. I do not think she would have told them why because it would have put them at risk to know that she was traitor. She just had to tell them that they must come to her house and wait there.

Finally, the day comes when she looks out her window and sees the Army of Israel approaching the city. She makes sure that her family is in her house and eagerly waits for what is going to happen next. We know the bible stories and sometimes we read them like the characters within the story know the outcome as well, but they do not. She had no idea what is going to happen. She only knows that she has been given favor with the two spies and they have promised that favor with them will result in favor with Israel. She believes the promise and expects that she and her family will suffer no harm.

When you and I are in the position of waiting for God to move, we do not know how he is going to meet our need either. We may have an idea as to what could happen. We may think we know who God has given us favor with, but often God moves in ways that we do not expect. If we are not careful, we will be discouraged when things do not work out as we think they should. We must continue to trust in favor and in God until we see the final result. This is the position Rahab finds herself in as the Israelite army approaches.

I can imagine how she felt as she watched the army surround the city. Surly this is the moment for which she has been waiting. She has lived in fear that her treachery would be discovered before the spies returned. If she were found out it would mean certain death. Now the army of Israel is at the walls. She has to trust that the spies will keep their word but anything is better than the waiting.

Israel marches around the city. Not one of their soldiers speaks a word. As they march, she can see what must be priests following behind a golden box. This box must be the famous Ark of the Covenant that she has heard about. There are men playing trumpets as the army marches. She can hear the shuffling of feet and blaring of the trumpets but there are no shouts of battle. There is no response to the shouts and jeers coming from the wall of the city.

She can tell that the army has marched around the entire city. This must be the moment of the attack! Instead, the army simply returns to their camp. This cannot be happening. After all the waiting and worrying this is all Israel does? They march around the city and then just leave? Rahab is confused and disappointed. She does not know what to do.

The next morning she looks out her window again and the Israelite army has returned. Once again, there is no sound but the marching feet and the blaring trumpets. Will this be the day they attack? After marching all around the city a second time, they once again return to their camp. This is like no battle Rahab has ever heard about. Will they ever take the city? Will she ever be saved from the nightmare in which she has been living?

This process is repeated four more days. The soldiers defending Jericho are now convinced that Israel will not attack. They wonder if Israel is trying to intimidate them into surrendering. The Israelite army must know that the walls of Jericho cannot be breached. The only way Israel can take the city is if they surrender and they will not surrender.

On the seventh day things, begin the same as the previous six. There is the marching and the trumpet playing but when they finish circling the city, they do not go back to camp. They begin to circle it again. Rahab, who has been sitting by her window, stands up to get a better look. Something is different. She runs to her family and brings them to the window. After all the time she has waited and after the disappointment of the last six days, she allows herself to hope. This must be it!

Once again, we know what is going to happen but Rahab does not. There is something interesting about the location of her house.

Joshua 2:15 (NKJV)
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.

She lived on the wall of Jericho! As the Israelites finished circling the city for the seventh time, they stopped in place. There was a long blast of the trumpets and then, for the first time, the Israelites shouted. It was like no shout Rahab had ever heard. As the shout rolled across the city, she began to feel the floor of her house quake. She looked out the window and shock and fear filled her. The walls were falling. To the left and right of her house she could see them simply flattening before her eyes. The only section of the wall still standing was her house!

Next, she sees the Israelite soldiers running towards the city. Each one enters straight in through the rubble that is all that is left of the once mighty wall. Rahab begins to hear screams of terror and pain. The air is filled with smell of shed blood. All she can do is huddle with her family in her house and pray that the rampaging army sees the red cord hanging from her window. How could such a thing stop an army in a frenzy of killing?

Soon there is someone at her door. She freezes in fear, but then she hears the voices of the two men she hid on her roof so long ago. They take her and her family out of the house and out of the city. They leave them just outside the camp of Israel. Favor has produced. Faith in God has preserved her and her family. Of all the inhabitants of the city, they alone are left alive.

You may not face what Rahab faced, but you and I face our own trials. God wants to give us great favor in 2013 but that favor will require faith and patience. Let the story of Rahab encourage you that God is working for you. You will see a mighty victory if you continue to trust in God.

Waiting for Favor to Work

Joshua 2:21(NKJV)
21Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

This week we are looking at the relationship between faith, patience and favor. Rahab received favor when she chose to hide the 2 Hebrew spies rather than turn them over to the King of Jericho. They promised her that she and her family would be protected when Israel attacked Jericho. They left and all she had was their promise. She could do nothing to control her situation. She was completely dependent upon the favor of these two men. She had to wait.

Most of us face this kind of situation in our lives. We have a promise from the bible and we stand by faith on that promise, but there is nothing we can do to make the promise happen. Many times what we are believing for involves God given favor. We must depend on someone else to do something for us. When God is the one who gives favor, he will move on whomever he needs to in order to do meet our need. We must wait in patience until that happens.

Patience is the ability to wait with consistent faith. When patience is working in us, we will not waver in our faith. We will not worry about what God is or is not doing to meet our need. We will be consistent in thanking God for his provision and praise him until we see the results. Most important, we will not quit.

Rahab had to let patience work. She had shown favor to the two spies and she received favor in return. However, she had no guarantee beyond her trust in them and their God that anything would happen. She had risked her life by betraying her city and the king. She could do nothing in her own strength except do what the men had required of her.

We pointed out yesterday that Rahab had to wait quite a long time. It is hard to say exactly how much time passed between Joshua 2 and Joshua 6 when Jericho fell, but it was not days. It was a matter of weeks and maybe more. In that time, Rahab is waiting patiently for her deliverance. Imagine yourself in her situation.

The spies tell Rahab that for her family to be saved they must all be in her house. She lists a father, mother, brothers and sisters as part of her family. We have no idea if there are spouses or children of her siblings, but even if there were not, this is quite a few people. She must get them all into her house.

I can imagine that during the weeks after the spies left she began to speak to her family about the need to come to her house when she called them. I doubt she would want to confide in them as to why. If they knew of her treason and did not turn her in, it would make them guilty as well and put their lives in danger.

Weeks go by and she hears nothing. There would have been no way to communicate with the men upon whom her life depended. I can imagine that every day she looked out the window through which she had let down the two spies, wondering if this would be the day she would see the army of Israel outside the city.

It is possible that there would have been news of Israel crossing the Jordan. The city would have heard that once again God was fighting for the Israelites as the flooded Jordan simply dried up while they crossed and flooded again when they were on the other side. At this point, she might have gone to her family and said, “Come. Stay at my house for a while.” I can hear her father asking, “Rahab, why would we need to do that? We can come for dinner or something, but we live right here in the city. We don’t need to stay with you.” However, Rahab would have insisted and, at some point, her family relented.

Once Israel crossed the Jordan, they underwent circumcision. The generation that did not die in the wilderness had never been circumcised, so it was necessary for them to fulfill the covenant before they could enter the Promised Land. This meant even more waiting for Rahab.

Very often when we are waiting for God to move it seems that the time for victory or provision has come. Then something happens and it seems that our answer is delayed even longer. This is when we must apply patience so that we will not become discouraged. I can imagine how Rahab must have felt as she waited for this army, now on her side of the river, to do something. Day after day, she looks out the window and there is no change. I can only wonder what her family was thinking as Rahab insisted that they either stay with her or come to her house every day.

Finally, the day arrives! She looks out the window and the army of Israel is leaving their camp and approaching the city! She tells her family, “This is it. This is what I have been waiting for. Now you will see why I want you in my house. Please do not leave again. Soon you will understand.”

The time when we feel the greatest pressure to quit believing in favor is the time when it is almost ready to produce results. Rahab has waited patiently to this point. However, the greatest challenge to her faith is about to come upon her.

Join me tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Rahab

Joshua 2:1(NKJV) 1Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from £Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

This week we have been studying the connection between walking in favor and faith. Favor is something God does for us. He moves upon people who can help us in areas where we cannot help ourselves. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate our need to walk in faith. In addition to faith, we must walk in patience, which is the ability to be consistent in faith and a good attitude while we wait for those upon whom God is moving to respond.

Yesterday we began looking at the story of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites. We saw that there were two characters representing two aspects of faith in this story. Joshua represents aggressive faith. He received the Word of God, believed the Word, acted on it and in seven days, the walls of Jericho fell. This kind of faith does not depend on favor because God is moving directly for Joshua and the Israelites. There are times when this type of faith is all we need.

Rahab represents a type of faith I call “waiting faith.” She received favor with the Israelite spies and obtained a promise from them. She accepted this promise as coming from the God of Israel and believed it. The spies gave her some instructions and then left. It was weeks before anything happened. Rahab had no control over the situation. All she could do was apply the conditions to the best of her abilities and wait for the favor of the spies to produce. That is the kind of faith we usually find ourselves operating in.

Let us look at Rahab for a few minutes. Who was this woman? The bible calls her a “harlot.” This is not a word we use much today, but most of us know what it means. We would use the word prostitute. However, was she really what that word implies? The Hebrew word used does mean someone who prostitutes themselves. It is used of Israel when they follow other gods. The word can also mean fornication. There is no question that Rahab could be just what we would think of when we use the word “prostitute.”

Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Old Testament gives another perspective. “Harlots and inn-keepers seem to have been called by the same name, as no doubt many who followed this mode of life, from their exposed situation, were not the most correct in their morals. Among the ancients women generally kept houses of entertainment, and among the Egyptians and Greeks this was common.”

The thought that Rahab was an innkeeper, and not strictly a prostitute, makes far more sense to me. These two spies were hiding in enemy territory. Surely, they were not seeking “company for the evening.” They were seeking a place to spend the night and found that Rahab had rooms to rent.

Another commentary disagreed with the idea that Rahab was not just a harlot because he felt that the point of her story was the wonderful redemptive power of God. He likened her to the woman in the New Testament caught in the act of adultery. I would agree that this woman received forgiveness and redemption. It may well be that some of her guests did more than stay in her inn. However, I like another picture of who this woman was.

I believe Rahab was just a normal person in a difficult situation. She was a woman who had no husband. We do not know why. She owned an inn, which put her reputation in question. She had flax piled on her roof. Could it be that she also had a business weaving cloth and making rope? That is what the flax was used for. I believe Rahab was like many of us. She was doing the best she could in her situation.

Into her inn come two men who are not from that city. This would not be unusual since her inn is one of the places travelers to Jericho would stay. She notices something different about these two men. Everyone in Jericho is aware that Israel is on the other side of the Jordan River. They all know that Israel claims Canaan as their own land. Jericho is the gateway to Canaan.

Everyone in Jericho has also heard of the plagues that came upon Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world. They know about the parting of the Red Sea, the miraculous provision of Manna and Israel’s defeat of the kings just east of Jericho across the Jordan. They know that Israel must attack Jericho and when Rahab sees these men, she knows they must be spies.

The King also knows about the spies. We do not know why the king immediately comes to Rahab to ask about them. It may be that Rahab’s inn is well known as a place travelers stay. It may be that someone saw them enter Rahab’s house. Either way, the king tells Rahab to send them out so he can capture them. Rahab has a choice to make.

Think of her position. She has the reputation of a prostitute in her city. She is a simple woman who is trying to run a business. If she gives these men to the king, it cannot hurt her situation. It may well help her considerably. It certainly would have garnered favor with the rulers of the city.

On the other hand, she knows that Israel is coming. She knows that they could not do what they have done without divine help. If she chooses to hide the spies, she is a traitor to her city. Nevertheless, when Israel attacks she may have gained favor with them. This could save her life. If she makes the wrong choice, she dies either way.

She decides to side with the God of Israel and his people. She hides the spies on her roof among the flax. She lies to the king saying, “They were here but they left. If you hurry you might still catch them.” She then goes to the spies and asks them for favor.

Joshua 2:12-13(NKJV) 12Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token,  13and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

I want to point out something in what she said. She showed them kindness. Another word for this kind of kindness is favor. The bible says we will reap what we have sown. I believe if we want favor, then we must be willing to show favor. The spies agree to her request with some qualifications.

If she wants her and her family to be saved, when Israel attacks, they must all be in her home. In addition, there must be a red cord left hanging from her window. If these conditions go unmet, her blood and that of her family will be on her hands. If they are met and anyone of her family is harmed, Israel will be accountable.

Rahab agrees to the conditions set by the two spies. She helps them escape the city and gives them instructions on how best to get away undetected. Soon the spies are gone and Rahab is left with a promise of favor.

Now she must wait.