The Faith of Rahab
“By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe (were disobedient), when she received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31
“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?” James 2:24,25
Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho at the time when the Israelites approached the city led by Joshua, after they had escaped from Egypt and were entering the Promised Land. Most people have heard of the walls of Jericho falling as the Israelites marched around the city, blowing trumpets and shouting (this too was an act of faith), but many may not have heard or may not remember the actions of Rahab at that time that are mentioned twice in the New Testament. Her act of faith is included in the so called “faith chapter” of the Bible, chapter 11 of Hebrews. She is also mentioned by James when he was discussing the balance of faith and works. (Both of these verses are quoted above)
I would like to look deeper at Rahab’s story and find how we can learn today from her example, applying the same type of faith to our lives.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
Here’s the story of Rahab in my words (short version) from Joshua chapter 2:
Spies were sent to Jericho to scope out the land, and they somehow came to Rahab’s house and lodged there. While there, the King of Jericho learned of them and sent to Rahab to turn them over to him. Rahab hid the men and told the King’s men that they had been there but left already, saying that if they pursued immediately, they could catch them, so the men departed. Rahab then lowered the spies down through a window on her house, which was located on the wall, helping them escape, and giving them instructions about how to keep safe. Before the spies left, Rahab had them take an oath to protect her household including her father, mother, brothers, sisters, and their family. She hung a scarlet cord from her window to designate her house, and gathered her family into the house so that they would be protected. When the Israelites came and destroyed the city, Rahab and her family were spared.
Although there isn’t too much said about Rahab’s past, we know she was a prostitute. Also, the name Rahab means proud, boastful, insolent, we would probably use the term “cocky” today. I think it’s safe to say that Rahab was far from godly in her past. And yet, she did not allow her past to influence her decisions. I know that the enemy can use our past to discourage and dissuade us. God is a merciful God and, as in the case of Rahab, forgives and forgets our past, and deals with us based on our present actions only. In our case, the sacrifice of Jesus was payment for our past sins, and is assurance that we are acceptable to God the Father. Even the sins of our recent past, after our conversion, are forgiven upon repentance. We are constantly being changed and sanctified or purified from our past sins. We need to move forward without being held down by the past. Rahab is an example for us to stand upon the truth without allowing our past to hinder our stance.
Rahab’s Choice was based on her Faith
Rahab was faced with a major decision in her life. It was a life or death decision for both her and her entire family. She knew that she could be put to death for harboring spies, but she also knew the threat that was presented by the coming of the Israelites. She could have chosen, as the rest of the people of the city had chosen, to depend on the strength of the city walls. They must have thought that the walls were impregnable, and probably, from a solely human perspective, they were. She chose instead to accept and believe that the God of the Israelites was the true God and therefore she sided with the spies. Here’s what she said:
“Now before they (the spies) lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 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. 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….whom you utterly destroyed. 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.’” Joshua 2:8-11
Rahab obviously saw, or chose to believe, that God was in control of the circumstances. She believed the reports of the past exploits of the Lord in delivering the Israelites from Egypt and delivering other nations into the hands of the Israelites and having them destroyed. It may seem obvious to us now, knowing the outcome, but at the time, Rahab could have convinced herself that the reports of the Israelites were exaggerated or not true. I’m sure that the rest of the people of the city and the King had somehow disregarded these reports, or at least not taken action based on the truth of the reports. We seem to have ways to block out the truth and act foolishly as the people of Jericho did.
We are often faced with decisions. Some are even life and death decisions like Rahab was faced with. We have a choice of looking to the physical circumstances, like the impregnable walls of Jericho, or to look to the spiritual reality. Our decisions, and our actions resulting from our decisions, need to be based on what we know to be true because of God’s power and the reality of His promises. Deep in our hearts we know the truth. Our consciences also bear witness to the truth. Make your choice to be aligned with your faith.
This may seem easy for us to consent to now, but in the heat of the time of decision there will be pressures to concede to the worldly choice. The immediate physical threat will outweigh the future spiritual threat. Don’t give in, but remain strong and choose as Rahab did.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, but it could be that we would be faced with a decision in our future that would equal the severity of what Rahab faced. I pray that we would be as courageous and as wise as she was. She reaped her reward, having herself and her family saved from destruction.
Likewise, even in our smaller, daily decisions, let us choose the way of faith. Let us look at the reality of how God’s power and influence may impact the future, and decide accordingly.
As Christians we realize that a day is coming when Jesus will return to this earth at His second coming. Much like the fate of Jericho, our current world will be destroyed and replaced with a new heaven and new earth. And like Rahab, we have been promised to be protected from the destruction. Our decision to place our trust in Jesus and His redemption was our act of faith. We must now remain faithful to our choice and wait for Him to fulfill His part of the agreement. that is, eternal life rather than the second death that awaits those who have rejected Jesus.
Rahab was pulled out of a wicked, disobedient society that was under God’s wrath and was ultimately destroyed. She was placed in a godly position among God’s chosen people and remembered to this day for her faith. Some may have seen her as a traitor, who went against her own people. She chose God over wickedness. She faced the reality of God’s control of the circumstances and aligned her position accordingly. This woman, who once sold her body to men for sexual pleasure, became one of the most famous women of faith that the world has ever known. Let this be a lesson for us.