8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”
So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.Joshua 2:8-21
“I deserve it,” the kindergartener says after the first week of online/in-person school with masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, etc. as she sits down to eat an ice cream sundae. “I deserve it,” the high schooler says after turning sixteen driving by the dealership full of shinny freedom on wheels. “I deserve it,” says the woman grabbing a second cart at Target to catch the overflow of items guaranteed to make life better. “I deserve it,” says the man staring at a new backyard contraption guaranteed to cook meat and vegetables of all kinds in a better way than the other three, four or five grills, smokers and barbeques scattered throughout the yard. “I deserve it,” is a phrase we are all familiar with, but have you ever asked yourself, “Do I really deserve it?”
We all struggle with this concept of deserving. Some of you may struggle more with feeling you deserve more than what you have because you’ve earned it in some way and others tell you how great you are, while others of you struggle with feeling like you do not deserve anything because you do not feel like you have much to offer anyone and no one seems to expect much from you. Jesus ministered to both groups with the message of his forgiveness. And, in Matthew 15, Jesus had spent time preaching to the people of Israel, who ought to have known their sins and been eager to hear Jesus forgive them to free them from death and hell. Instead, they believed they simply deserved to be taken to heaven because they were part of God’s chosen nation and worked hard at keeping God’s law. They constantly met Jesus with “I deserve,” and wanted nothing to do with him, so Jesus moved on from Israel to the region of Tyre and Sidon, cities to the north of Israel on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
While Jesus was there, a Canaanite woman came to him asking that he heal her daughter suffering from demon possession. Jesus did not answer her at first, but then 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” At this point, it would seem hopeless to keep asking, but the woman did not give up. Then, 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” At this point, it seemed that Jesus agreed with many of the people at this time that God wanted nothing to do with those outside of Israel. It seemed like the Israelites were God’s own children, while everyone else was no better than a household pet. It seemed that Jesus did not think she deserved anything, and that this woman believed she deserved to have Jesus help her. Then, 27 … she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She did not give up asking Jesus. And, her response to him showed that she did not think she deserved it. Instead, her response revealed faith. Specifically, she had faith in Jesus’ mercy.
When the woman first asked Jesus to heal her daughter, she did not tell Jesus she deserved to have her suffering demon possessed daughter healed. Instead, when she first asked Jesus, she cried out, 21 … “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This woman from another country with its own gods, a country many in Israel did not care for or believe deserved anything from God had heard about Jesus, and she believed. She addressed Jesus as the promised Son of David, her Lord, the ruler of the invisible Israel, the Israel and people of God by faith, not by ancestry or from a physical nation. This woman was a fulfillment of the words God gave the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier in Isaiah 56, 7 … “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The house of God, his kingdom of heaven is for people from all nations. And, when this woman heard that Jesus had come to her nation, she came to him asking for his mercy. And finally, 28 … “Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.” We are much more familiar with the term “deserve,” than the word “mercy.” Yet, God does not deal with us how we deserve, but by his mercy.
God shows his kindness through his mercy. Centuries before Jesus and the Canaanite woman, there was another woman even less deserving of anything from God from our perspective. Rahab was a prostitute, living in the city of Jericho at the time when God was going to destroy that city in order to give it to Israel. She and everyone in the city were afraid because they had heard about all the other places Israel had defeated. Then, Israel sent spies into the city of Jericho and Rahab hid them, allowing them to escape back to Israel. While they were with her, she asked them if she and her family could be spared from the attack on the city. 14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” This was mercy. A woman who had a long list of sins, whose very job and livelihood centered on sin, who faced war, death and feared the loss of her family, made her request of hoping the spies would have mercy on her. Mercy is not treating someone how they deserve. It is withholding punishment when someone has done wrong. Mercy does not give you what you deserve.
The Canaanite woman, Rahab and you did not get what you deserve. God’s standard for those who deserve good things has no room for error, mistakes, off days or excuses, he expects you to be perfect, but because of your sin, you are not perfect. So, you do not deserve anything good from God…a terrible truth to ponder. Yet, God wants to give you all good things forever and have a peaceful, joyful relationship with you. So, God does not treat you as you deserve, but with mercy. God treats you with mercy meaning when you were lost in sin, he punished Jesus for each of your sins. When you faced death, Jesus was raised from the dead. And, when you faced condemnation to hell, God opened heaven by giving you Jesus’ righteousness, his good record, his life that deserves good things without cost, obligation or threat. Paul described his hope that those who chant, whisper and live by the phrase “I deserve,” many of his own Israelite brothers and sister, would put their hope in God’s mercy in Romans 11, 13 … “Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.” Paul hoped that God’s mercy to all people would cause those who believe they deserved God’s kindness, love and a place in his kingdom would see their hopeless sinful situation, stop trusting in themselves and turn to faith in Jesus’ mercy.
Mercy is kindness. God’s mercy comes from a heart that does not want to see you lost. God’s mercy wants to free you from punishment not for a reward, but out of love, out of caring that you live and do not suffer, die and go to hell. God’s mercy is for you. His mercy is for you in moments of despair that you have done something no one could forgive. His mercy is for you when you look back on sin after sin, and for short struggles and then long embracing what is wrong. When you wonder in your heart if what you have done can change God’s mercy…in other words, can you do something that undoes what Jesus did for you on the cross? NO! God’s mercy for you always remains the same. Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, gives you God’s forgiveness, eternal life and the joys of heaven.
Rahab was a prostitute, in an unbelieving city facing war with God’s people, but she trusted in God’s mercy. When the walls of Jericho fell and Israel plundered the city, Rahab and her family was spared. She was shown mercy. And, even more than having her life spared, God showed her mercy by allowing her to be included in the genealogy of Jesus. In Matthew 1, we read, 5 “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.” And, she is included with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and Moses in Hebrews 11 for her faith in God.
“I deserve it,” has nothing to do with kindness and leaves no room for others in life. “You don’t deserve it, but I’m going to give it to you.” That is mercy. That is kindness. That is your God who is there for you when you are struggling against being lost to an attitude of “I deserve it” or struggling to feel you do not deserve anything even from God. Wherever you are from and wherever you are at in your life God shows you kindness through his mercy. Amen.