The Faith of Rahab
INTRO: Good morning church.
In Bible class we have been studying the book of Hebrews and recently chapter 11. In this chapter the writer uses examples of faithful people to help his readers understand faith. Two women are mentioned by name in the list of the faithful. The ladies class is studying the Women of the Bible and there are many more then two. I wondered how these two happened to be selected by the Hebrews writer.
The first one that's mentioned, in Hebrews 11:11, is Sarah, the wife of Abraham. She was the wife of the one who is many times called the father of the faithful, and she was with him throughout his journeys and throughout his events of faith. She received the fulfillment of God’s promise that she would bear a son. There's a sense in which when we think about faith, we would expect that Sarah would be included. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”
The other woman that's named in Hebrews chapter 11 may come as a bit of a surprise. If we compared her to Sarah we would see some differences. Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Some people in the Bible are mentioned in connection with their occupation: Abel was a shepherd; Matthew was a tax-collector; Peter was a fisherman; Saul was a tentmaker. What was Rahab? Five times in the scriptures we are told that Rahab was a harlot, or prostitute. When we meet her, from our point of view it seems like Rahab’s character is the polar opposite of Sarah.
What I want to do today is take a look at Rahab and her faith. It is true that there's not a lot about Rahab in the Old Testament. We meet her in Joshua 2, we leave her in Joshua 6. Except for some references to her in the New Testament, like the one we find in Hebrews, we don't know a lot about her later life.
I. Rahab’s Story: I am sure you all recall the fall of the city of Jericho. Israel’s first conquest upon entering the land of Canaan was God’s work, not theirs. The fall of Jericho came about through faith when Israel closely followed God’s unusual instructions. Israel’s faith was not the only faith that God honored in the fall of this city. It is here that we meet Rahab.
A. Rahab was not an Israelite. She is an outsider in heritage and certainly character, or at least her morality is not what we would expect in someone mentioned in the book of Hebrews. The fact that this woman Rahab is included in this list, I believe is significant. It's significant to our understanding not only of her and the character of her faith, but I believe we also learn some things about God. Let's take a look at Rahab and consider her story.
B. We start reading in Joshua 2:1-3 – “Now 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. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.'' So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.''”. We see the situation quickly outlined here with the introduction to Rahab, the spies sent by Joshua, and the danger to them.
C. When we looked at the individuals in Hebrews chapter eleven, there has been clear indication that they had faith. Not only that, but in the context of explaining their faith, we have seen how their faith was tested. They exercised their faith in a practical, outward way so that not only do we recognize their faith, but that faith produced obedience. That's also what we find here in terms of the faith of Rahab. We quickly see that Rahab was put on the spot by the King of Jericho to make known those who had come to her house.
1. I wondered how these men ended up in Rahab's house. Why were the spies, who were sent by Joshua, at the house of a prostitute? The Bible doesn't tell us how they got there or why they were there. Scholars have expounded on this question and one of the most common ideas is that Rahab ran something akin to an Inn, or house of convenience, which provided accommodations.
2. God knew her heart and her budding faith. There was, in the confines of the city of Jericho, living on the walls of the city, a woman who could be touched by the knowledge of God and by the proclamation of what God was going to do to that city. Her faith would be tested.
3. We notice that Rahab is the only person who is named in all the city of Jericho. When God gives us the account of the fall of this great fortified city, it mentions the king, but doesn't tell us who he was. There are no statesmen, no warriors, nobody else in the city of Jericho that God sees fit to name except, Rahab.
4. What would possibly entice this Canaanite woman to help these enemy spies who were in the very process of spying out the land? I believe there's only one answer to that…the biblical answer. The biblical answer is faith. That's what we've seen about all of these people in Hebrews chapter eleven. Why they did what they did, was because of faith.
II. The response of her faith: She answered the request of the king. We are now at Joshua 2:4-6 – “Then the woman took the two men and hid them; and she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. "And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.'' (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.)”
A. She answered the request of the King and said, yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from, and as the gate was being shut at dark they left, I don’t know where they went. Then she suggests perhaps the spies could be overtaken if the king’s men went after them right away.
1. Interestingly the king's representatives were very easily deceived by Rahab, perhaps indicating that the king himself considered her to be dependable. We recognize immediately that Rahab lied when she said she didn't know where the men were. After all she hid them.
2. Of course, that immediately raises the question, does God condone her lie? Does the situation justify what she did? Is that what's being taught? Is it okay to lie as long as there is a greater good that will come as a result of it? Does God not care that she lied because she was able to save the spies? An interesting question… but for now remember that Rahab is commended in the Word of God, not for her immorality, (harlotry and falsehood), but for her FAITH.
B. Her faith is what we will focus on this morning. What prompted her to take the position of being on the side of Israel rather than on the side of her countrymen? She expressed her faith in the words of verses 4-6 by her willingness to be on God's side.
1. She was taking enormous risk standing up to the King and the militia and lying to them about where these men were. If she were found out, if those men were discovered where she had put them, she would have been in grave peril.
C. After the men of Jericho had left, Rahab goes to the roof and speaks to the spies. Joshua 2:9-13 “9. … and said to the men: "I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10. "For 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 the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11. "And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12. "Now 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, 13. "and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.''”
1. Rahab is not only concerned for the strangers but for herself and her family as well. Her words help us understand the development of her faith.
2. She, as well as others, had heard how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and how He had miraculously sustained them in victory over the Amorites. She is convinced that the God of Israel, is about to conquer her city. She wants to enter into an agreement with these spies and their God. She believes that God can save her and her family and is willing to beg for His mercy.
III. The Nature of her faith: In the text of Hebrews 11 Rahab is contrasted with those who “did not believe” implying that others may have had the opportunity to respond as she did, but were not convinced. She received these spies as the representatives of the God she now believed in, but how difficult was it for Rahab to become a believer?
A. She lived in a great walled city that had stood for hundreds of years. They had an ancient culture and worshipped many gods. How could all this end in just a matter of days? Yet, she did believe that God would prevail.
B. Rahab didn’t just believe in the existence of God, she literally believed what God revealed. That is, she believed it was He who was bringing Israel into the Promised Land. Risking her very life, she had no more evidence to go on than the reports from others, and thus was walking by faith, not sight. John 20:29 – “…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
C. Notice what she says in verse 9 “I know that the Lord has given you the land”. How does she know that? She didn't see the armies nor had opportunity to assess the military prowess of Israel first hand.
1. She says, I know that the Lord has given you the land, not that you're going to take it by your power, but she says; I know that the Lord of Israel, the God of Israel has given you the land.
2. Then she goes on in verse 10, and tells that they had heard how God brought Israel out of Egypt and had given them victory over the two kings of the Amorites. She says, “When we heard these things, our hearts melted.” “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Then Rahab asks that they spare her and her family and deliver their lives from death since she protected them.
D. Rahab, as well as others had heard about Israel and what God has done for them. She is absolutely convinced that the God of Israel, can conquer cities, can tear down walls, and can reach the enemy. She's willing to say to these folks, I know that your Lord has already given you this city.
1. That's interesting language because that's precisely what God had told Israel, I've already given you the city. The city of Jericho was a gift to them and though they were going to have to do something, it would be appropriate as a gift to faith.
2. This is the very way that this Canaanite prostitute, a citizen of Jericho, not Israel, expresses her faith in God. When the spies go back to give a report to Joshua they used Rahab’s words to express it. Verse 24 “And they said to Joshua, "Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.''”
E. Here in Joshua we see it is Rahab who really understands what God is doing. Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” It says that she received the spies with peace, not as enemies. This tells us about the nature of her faith. How difficult was it for Rahab to become a believer in God on this occasion? She lived in a great walled city that stood for 400 years. Could she possibly believe that all that was going to be dissolved? That's a test of faith isn't?
F. We are encompassed by and in the world and when we consider where we live, what we have, and who we are, do we truly understand all this will come to an end? Do we believe it is really all going to vanish away through the power of a God that we cannot see with our physical eyes? Peter says “… scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:3-4. It's only the true believer who believes that no matter how secure things seem now, God can bring it all down.
1. Rahab believed that God could bring it all down. She believed that the God of the Israelites would prevail. She believed that God was going to bring Israel into the land by His own hand.
2. Risking her life, she was willing to step out on that, on nothing other than what she had heard from other folks. Think about that, she had not witnessed the crossing of the Red Sea or the destruction of the Amorite’s cities. She had not physically been there and seen it with her own eyes.
3. The nature of her faith was that she believed the testimony of others. She believed what others had said about what God, not only had done, but would do in the future.
4. That's precisely the nature of our faith. We were not there, yet we believe. We haven't seen with our eyes, yet we believe the testimony of others. Our faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Our faith, as strong as it may be, is continually tested on the basis of that testimony, of what God has revealed through other individuals. In John chapter 20, after Thomas requested to see the actual physical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
G. Look at the marvelous confession that Rahab makes in verse 11. “… for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” She had replaced what ever she had believed in before; with a true faith, however weak it was it was a true faith that God, the God of Israel, was the true God.
H. In James 2 at the close of the chapter, Rahab is mentioned as an example of faith as a result of what she did. “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
1. This passage characterizes her faith in terms of her actions. James' point is not just that she had faith, but that she evidenced that faith. In discussing the nature of true faith as being that which obeys God, James brings up Rahab as one who showed the nature of her faith not by what she said, but by what she actually did. She risked her life and she was justified by what she did.
2. This characterizes Rahab’s faith and ours as well, recognizing that faith must be evidenced in what we do, not just in what we say or not just in what we believe or hold as conviction. It’s evidenced on whether or not we're willing to step out on that faith and obey God, to take God at His word and trust God enough to do what He says.
IV. I see something else here. Not only did Rahab need to believe that God existed, but she needed to believe that God was the type of God who would show kindness to someone who was a foreigner based upon her kindness to His servants that were there.
A. How could she know? How could she trust that the God of Israel would react that way?
1. We're used to believing in the God revealed in scripture and we know who the true God is. There are those who worship other gods, and many folks still do that today, all of those gods are not kind, loving, forgiving gods, like the true God is. Many of them are vindictive. Many of them have no compassion for human beings and are selfish. I suspect many of the Canaanite gods had that nature.
2. Yet, she had to believe that the God of the Israelites was not only a powerful God capable of the breaking down of walls, but that He was a kind and merciful God and would respond to her kindness with kindness. She pled for that.
3. She also had to recognize that it was all or nothing. She had to completely rely upon the God of Israel and the Israelites following their God for her to be saved. She could not save herself. She truly believed that God could destroy the city and she completely relied upon Him to save her.
B. That's the element of faith. That's the nature of faith as we see it in ourselves. It's not that we do a little and God does the rest. It's that God does it all. We must completely put our trust in God and rely upon Him for everything physically and spiritually that we have.
V. Rahab’s Deliverance: Read with me starting at Joshua 2:14. It says, “14. So the men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.'' 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. 16. And she said to them, "Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.'' 17. Then the men said to her: "We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18. "unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father's household to your own home. 19. "So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20. "And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.'' 21. Then 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.”
A. They made a covenant with her for her family’s deliverance. This also helps us to understand the nature of faith. In the context there were things that she had to do to respond, out of faith, in order to receive deliverance. She was now one who had faith in God and she is included in the list in Hebrews 11 because she met those conditions.
1. She, and her family, had to tell no one of the spies’ activities or plans. She had to convince her family to come to her home and remain there throughout the invasion.
2. She had to leave that scarlet cord in her window until it was all over. If she failed to do all of these things, would she have been saved? What does that tell us about faith & obedience?... Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” – That is the voice of faith. That's what people say to God when they recognize they must rely upon Him and they truly believe in Him. Whatever you say, God, so be it. Doesn’t matter what it is I’ll do it. I have faith in you. I trust in you.
B. Turn with me now to Joshua chapter 6. Can you imagine Rahab’s thoughts as she saw the Israelites circling around the city for the six days? She never took down the cord. She never went back on the agreement. She alone understood what was going on outside her city walls, who was really orchestrating this and what was going to happen in the days to come. That's the nature of faith.
C. We live in a world of people that don't understand what's going on. They don't know why they're here, what they're doing, or how it's all going to end. People of faith watch God working every day and realize what's really happening. They never quit trusting God even though others ridicule their faith, and how they live. They are called silly, and naïve. People of faith recognize it's all going to turn out the way God said it's going to turn out.
D. I’m now at Joshua 6:22 - “But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, "Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.'' And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel.”
E. Think how happy she was when she saw them at the door and it turned out just the way they said it would. Think how happy we will be when this world is tumbling down and we see Jesus and He says, come, you're coming with me. The reason that will happen is because of our faith.
F. It says in verse 25 “And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” I suspect that tells us that she was not an outsider anymore. She was one in the family of God as much as if she had been born an Israelite… because of her faith.
One thing that stands out to me is that Rahab was saved by grace, through faith. Things that made this outsider an insider had no claim in what she was before, not what she did for an occupation or where she lived or her heritage. Rather it had to do with whether or not she truly believed God at the point of her obedience. The exercise of God's grace was in response to her faith. She was saved just like you and I are saved spiritually today by God's mercy, through our faith.
We mentioned that she lied in the process, and God does not condone lies. She was also a prostitute at the time. I would suggest that she could not have remained a prostitute and remained a faithful member of God's family. In order to be included in the list in Hebrews 11, something had to change.
God did not condone her immorality or her dishonesty, but He did reward and respond to her faith. This also tells me that God is able to look inward, see faith wherever it can be found, and challenge it on levels that you and I do not.
Who was Rahab? Was what we find here in Joshua chapters 2 and 6 just a side note to the whole history of Israel? No, it's more than that. At one time, she was an obscure prostitute in a doomed city. In the end, after God's deliverance, she became more. Joshua six tells us that she would continue to live in Israel. We find she's mentioned again in Matthew 1:5 - “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,”. Both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles and both are mentioned through inspiration in writings of Matthew of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
The story of Rahab is the story of hope. It's the story of someone on the outside who expresses faith and comes inside through the power and the grace of God. It doesn't matter where you're from, it doesn't matter what you've done, or how you're living your life, God can deliver you.
Do we have and exhibit the faith of Rahab? There are a lot of folks who would never sell their bodies for money or involve themselves in such immorality, and yet they do not have the faith of this woman. They're not willing to risk anything based upon faith.
God does not disappoint those who express their faith in obedience to Him. Rahab’s story is really a story of hope. Jesus said, he that believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned. Our obedience to God and the practical aspect of our lives comes as a result of our faith and our confidence that we place within it. It begins in faith. It begins in that confidence. Sadly the person that does not believe has no other destiny than to be condemned by God and to face His judgment.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have faith like Rahab we urge you to step out, come forward and be baptized. If anyone that need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon by: David SchmidtPrint
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