FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?
Food For Thought:
The legacy of God’s word to [Abraham] lived on – not only in Israel’s [identity] but also in the haunting bottom line – ‘through you all nations will find blessing.’ Somehow, sometime, there would be universal effects from these [words]. For YHWH, the God of Israel, is also the God of all creation, to whom belong the whole earth and all its nations. – Christopher J. H. Wright
The gospel is Jesus Christ given to us with all the blessings of God contained in him. – Ian Murray
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: 2 Samuel 11
Note: During Advent and Christmas we are going to look at the 5 women of Christmas from Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. Who were these women? Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and Mary (Matthew 1). Why does Matthew include these women in Jesus' genealogy? That's the question we will be trying to answer as we listen in on the story Matthew is telling us about Jesus who came to save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21).
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus - Advent
Holy, Holy, Holy - Adoration
Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Grace
All Things New - Response
Angels We Have Heard of High - Communion
Our steering committee for Hope For Birmingham met for the first time last week. We had a really good meeting. We are planning to meet monthly as a committee, an aspect of which will be to plan four congregational wide gatherings over the next year. Depending on a number of factors we may even try to pull together a Friday-Saturday Hope For Birmingham Conference with opportunities for learning and dialogue around issues of mercy and justice to our city. In the mean time I want to keep putting resources in front of you that will deepen your understanding of the scriptures and the issues that face us. Here are five books and one video.
1. Generous Justice by Tim Keller
2. When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett
3. Video: Helping Without Hurting - Part 1: Reconsidering the Meaning of Poverty
4. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miraslov Volf
5. Public Faith In Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote With Integrity by Miraslov Volf
6. Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in Americaby Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
It's always important to mention that recommending a resource doesn't mean agreement at every point along the way. I put these resources in front of you as good places to begin wrestling with the implications of the Gospel for loving our neighbors and seeking the common good of our city.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the saints Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust and self-love. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. And make more vivid to us the gift and power of your love on the cross. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness. Amen.
Words of Grace
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text: Joshua 2
2 And 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. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 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.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 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.” 6 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. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 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. 10 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. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22 They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. 23 Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
God is Committed to His People
1. Those Inside His Community
2. Those Outside His Community
We humans have a hard time getting our commitments in balance. On the one hand, we can be too lax where we should be committed. On the other hand, we can cling so hard to our commitments that we forget their original purpose. In my family, we started reading The Hobbit to our kids because we felt that we were too lax in spending quality time together. However, we got so committed to reading the book that we forced our kids to listen even when they didn’t want to. We were so committed to our task that we forgot its purpose. This is s similar situation to Israel in Joshua 2. They are on the cusp of crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. On the one hand, there is a risk that they would be too lax in their commitment to God’s law, thereby forfeiting their place in the land. On the other hand, there is a risk that they will be so committed to God’s law for their own sakes, that they will forget their original purpose for being there. The inclusion of Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, provides a reminder that Israel’s whole purpose in the Promised Land is to extend God’s blessing and grace to all peoples and nations.
In the wonderful way that the Old Testament does, the Rahab story aligns our commitments by illustrating how God is committed to His people. It does this in two ways. First, it shows God’s commitment to those inside His community. There is an awful lot at stake with Israel, both as a corporate nation and as a moral people. Will they be able to defeat much more powerful armies in their conquest of the Land? Will they again fall into disobedience as they had so often done in the journey to the Land? As these questions provide a great deal of tension at this point in Israel’s narrative, the plot reveals some extraordinary findings. First, the spies learn on their journey that God is already at work ahead of them. The people in the Land are deathly afraid of Israel and their God. Second, a Canaanite prostitute somehow knows God’s true character and covenant name. Not only that, this prostitute, who was a great risk to the spies’ fidelity to God in this moment, actually shows them what commitment to God really looks like. She puts her own life at risk for the sake of God’s mission. The only explanation is that God is already at work, and is committed to His people.
God’s commitment in Joshua’s day means a great deal to us in ours. We often fear that the church is becoming more irrelevant in our culture, that it is ineffective in people’s lives, and that God is not preserving its existence. However, this story shows that God is greatly committed to the success of His people as a whole. Christians today inherit stories like this, and belong to the same people. Therefore, we can have great confidence in God’s commitment to us. In an even more meaningful way, however, the inclusion of Rahab in Jesus’ genealogy is a further fulfillment and demonstration of God’s commitment. Through the many ups and downs of Israel’s story, He did not give up on them. He rather, sent Jesus into the story, to ultimately become the heir of all things. Jesus brought not the Promised Land, but a creation wide kingdom that He would rule over in prosperity. No longer would God’s people be under threat of losing such an inheritance because of their lack of commitment. The gift of Jesus answered the hope of those inside God’s community, in Rahab’s day, and in ours as well.
Second, the Rahab story shows God’s commitment to those outside the community as well. Rahab has everything against her in her day. She is a national outsider as a Canaanite, she is a moral outsider as a prostitute, and she is a social outsider as a poor woman. However, her covenant with the spies, and her inclusion into God’s people, demonstrates God’s commitment even to such outsiders. Rahab’s covenant is an interesting plot feature, as Ex.34:11-16, and Deut.7:1 forbid Israel from making any covenant with the people of the land, lest they be drawn into Idolatry. The difference with Rahab, however, is in her confession in Josh.2:11. She throws away all loyalty to anything but God, and serves His mission. This demonstration of faith changes her status from being a dangerous outsider, to a committed insider. Rahab is an important character in this story because she provides a glimmer of God’s original purpose for Israel. God’s call to Abraham in Gen.12 says that Israel would be blessed, so that they would be a blessing to all people and all nations.
This glimmer of God’s larger purpose is a reminder that God is not just committed to those who are of the right nationality, right family, right skin color, right gender, or right character. God is committed to extend His grace and blessing to those outside His community. He is committed to bless all people groups, and great sinners as well. To those who are outside of God’s community, this provides an invitation to come in as Rahab did, and taste the blessing that God provides. To those inside God’s community, this provides a call align our commitments with God’s. We belong to God’s people not only for our own sakes, but to extend God’s grace those outside as well. That is what the community is all about.
This is all especially true because of the gift of Jesus. God sent Jesus into the story, to make atonement for sins, so that no one would be denied entrance into His people because of their nationality or moral record. Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s commitment to outsiders. He is also the ultimate invitation to faith and repentance like Rahab: by throwing off all other loyalties, and throwing all commitment and safety into the hands of God’s grace. Many of us often feel that our lives are too messed up to ever think of ourselves as insiders. It is ultimately the work of Jesus that reminds us that His timely gift allowed even a Canaanite prostitute to stand righteous before God. However, it is also the gift of Jesus that reminds insiders that they stand side by side in righteousness with a Canaanite prostitute. The only righteousness that matters is that which is given in Jesus. Jesus invites all of us this Christmas to celebrate Him as the commitment of God to both insider and outsiders. There is no better place to cast our commitments than on the God who is committed to the prosperity of His people, and the God who gives a home to idolatrous prostitutes.
- What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- Where is it hardest for you to believe that God is committed to His church today?
- What outsiders in your own life (people groups, demographics, sinners, etc.) has God committed to bless?
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.