It was the strangest of sights. Bird enthusiast from places as far as Wisconsin and Indiana flocked to see it. On a wood piling sticking up from the water of Nessmuk Lake perched a white-winged tern. One might have expected to see this bird in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia; not in America, let alone Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. People have theorized how this bird got here. Some said a storm pushed the bird from its migration path, forcing it to traverse the Atlantic, and somehow make its way here. The exact cause remains a mystery.
My partner in ministry Pastor Rich Hanlon was the first to spot this rare sight. I asked him if he found a sermon illustration in it. He exclaimed, “Grace.” He took the theme in a different direction, but I thought to myself, “just as this bird was found in an unexpected place, so too is God’s grace.” That’s what happened in the ancient city of Jericho, thousands of years ago.
Before leading the Israelites into the land God promised them, Joshua sent two spies to scout out the land, especially the city of Jericho. In Jericho, the spies found refuge in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Fearfully, the spies were discovered. The King of Jericho sent messengers to Rahab to apprehend them.
We know today that the prostitution business preys on society’s most vulnerable. One would have expected Rahab to have submissively handed over the spies, rather than risk her life to protect them. But, Rahab showed incredible bravery. She hides the spies on her roof and tells the king’s messengers that the spies were no longer there.
Why did she do this? Because she had heard about the LORD, how he mightily delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Because of things like these, she decided to trust in the LORD. “Swear to me by the LORD,” she said, “that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you (Joshua 2).” The word translated as “kindness” is the Hebrew word hesed. It is frequently used of the LORD’s gracious dealings with his people (Exodus 34:6-7). Rahab is essentially asking for the spies to reciprocate the LORD’s kindness that she has shown to them. Rahab becomes one of the most significant people in God’s redemptive story (Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).
As we engage God’s mission, let us open our eyes to see God’s grace in places we may never have expected. Where might you find God’s grace today?
For further study: