Hebrews 11:31 “By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient (or unbelieving)”. (NIV)
You can read about Rahab in Joshua 2 and 6:22,23 in the Old Testament and in Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 in the New Testament.
Rahab was a prostitute, a pagan and a Canaanite when we first read of her in Joshua 2. On the face of it, she may not seem the likely candidate to help fulfill God’s purpose at all! A prostitute?! But yet she became the heroine in this story which describes the conquest of the city of Jericho by the Israelites, led by Joshua. Jericho was one of the main places of idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. This place represented all that was most vile about the Canaanite religion.
Before trying to conquer Jericho, Joshua sent two spies to look over the land. Rahab hid Joshua’s two spies in her house and lied to the King of Jericho to protect them. Now there has been much discussion on whether Rahab was justified in lying to save the lives of the spies because most of us might agree that it is morally wrong to lie. Yet despite this, Rahab is commended for her faith in God in Hebrews 11:31 amongst other big Biblical names in Paul’s “Faith Hall Of Fame”. Her lie is not mentioned again. We could suggest that God forgave Rahab’s lie because of her faith. We could perhaps argue that this was acceptable behaviour in a war-time situation – Rahab was just deceiving the enemy. We could also suggest that because Rahab was not a Jew so she could not be held responsible for keeping the moral standards set out in God’s law. We could argue that lying was the “lesser of two evils” in her situation. Rahab broke a lesser principle in order to uphold a higher principle – protecting God’s people! There may well have been an alternative solution to save the lives of the Israelite spies. But under the pressure of the moment, Rahab needed to make a decision.
Rahab already knew that God was going to give this land to the Israelites. She spoke of a great fear that had fallen on the people of Jericho (see Joshua 2: 8-11) as they heard about what God had already done:
- drying up the water of the Red Sea for the Israelites when they came out of Egypt
- what God did in Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, who He completely destroyed
If we look at the fact that Rahab was a pagan, a Canaanite and a prostitute, we might assume that she would never have been interested in God. But she was full of surpirises. At this point in the story, I think Rahab has faith and strong faith at that. She had already made a choice to follow God and turn her life around. That is why she chose to help Joshua’s spies, despite the great risk to herself and her family. Imagine what might have happened if the King of Jericho had not believed her lies about the spies whereabouts. Rahab was willing to risk everything for a God she barely knew. Clearly we musn’t judge a person’s interest in God by his or her appearance, background or lifestyle
In verse 11 she says “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”. To me, this is a declaration of faith, a statement of belief. She is making it clear that she believes that the God that the spies serve, the God of Moses and Joshua is the one true God! Perhaps God directed the spies to Rahab’s house because He knew her heart was open to him and that she would be instrumental in the Israelite victory over Jericho.
I look back over Rahab’s story in Joshua 2 and I wonder how she got to this point of faith. Quite often, as Christians, we take great joy in recalling the steps we took to come to Christ, perhaps we heard a friend’s testimony of God’s goodness or we had an encounter with God. Sometimes conversions are dramatic and eventful and sometimes they are slow and gradual. Every journey to Jesus is special and unique, no matter what route we’ve taken. Rahab and the people of Jericho had heard of what God had done for His people. The majority of the people in Jericho were living in fear, their courage had failed as a result. Perhaps the people of Jericho had surcumbed to their fear and felt defeated but Rahab declares that the God of the spies is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
I believe that the stories she had heard had a dramatic impact on her and led to her conversion. She took the risk in helping the spies because perhaps she sensed that the Israelite God was a God worth trusting. The evidence was clear to see. I believe that this led Rahab to have faith and be victorious when she could have or should have given up and perished along with the rest of Jericho. I believe these stories, probably passed on by word of mouth (a lot like a game of chinese whispers), of God’s goodness and power had a huge impact on her life. This got me thinking about our own testimonies as Christians. We can see that word of God’s power spread, Rahab heard and responded.
If that was the case way back when in the Old Testament then surely testimonies can and should have the same impact today on non-believers? Do we as Christians have a responsibility to tell our stories too? Should this be happening on a larger scale than it is? Surely we should share our testimonies of God’s goodness in our lives so that people can see who God is and how God’s acts in the world today? Sounds easy I know!
So why don’t we do it? It could be face-to-face over coffee with a friend or via a blog , via Facebook/Twitter or a website. “Evangelism” can feel daunting I know. It always feels harder when we give it an official title lol. But let’s be bold and see people’s lives transformed by God’s Holy Spirit and the saving grace of Jesus Christ! We shouldn’t let anything get in the way of our telling people the Good News! 🙂
Some final thoughts on Rahab…..
- Like Rahab, who was probably a new believer when she helped the spies – God often uses people with a simple faith to accomplish a great purpose, no matter what kind of past they have had or how insignificant they seem to be (look at David and Goliath?!) So please be encouraged
- Rahab didn’t allow her past to keep her from the new role God had for her
- Rahab had to make a decision on the spot when faced with the King of Jericho – most of us will face dilemmas at one time or another. We may feel there is no perfect situation to our problem
- Thank goodness! God does not demand that our judgement be perfect in all situations. He simply asks us to put our trust in Him and to do the best we know how. Rahab did that and was commended for her faith (See Hebrews 11:31)
Life Application Study Bible (NIV) – Joshua 2, Joshua 6:22,23, Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25
John Macarthur, “Twelve Extraordinary Women”, Nelson Books/Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005, p51-68