By Barbara Ste. Marie
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:5).
Rahab was a woman from Jericho. She had a home on the wall of the city and her whole family lived in the city as well. Life probably seemed good to her, until the city heard of the mighty deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt by the Lord God. Let us read the portion about Rahab from the account of the taking of Jericho.
“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window. And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them: And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (Joshua 2:1-24).
Rahab was living an independent, worldly, do as you please lifestyle. She was living in open sin. All was good until the news of the Israelites coming to conquer Jericho was spread throughout the city. Still this would not have been such terrible news; they had their own mighty men to protect the city and the city walls were tall and broad. Wide enough to have houses built on top: Rahab’s own house was atop the wall. This news would not have been horrifying enough to make their hearts melt with fear and drain the courage from the men and make them faint, but for the fact of Israel’s God.
The inhabitants of Jericho had heard of the deliverance from Egypt, how the Lord God dried up the Red Sea for their passage through, then released the waters and destroyed all of Pharaoh’s armies; how the Lord gave them victory over the Amorite kings on the other side of the Jordan River; how the Lord kept and prepared them in the wilderness. They heard of the power of the Almighty Lord.
Rahab heard all of this too, and she took it into her heart. This news changed her – changed her whole life. Hebrews 11:31 says “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Rahab had faith in Israel’s God. She had true living faith, faith that made her risk her own life for the spies from Israel. She took them in, hid them, lied about their whereabouts, and after speaking with them sent them away in another direction.
Rahab could have been overwhelmed by fear, like the rest of the people of Jericho. She could have turned over the spies to the king’s men to try to stop what was coming, but she saw the One True Living God. She had not seen His mighty acts with her eyes but she “saw” them clearly with her heart of faith.
She abandoned whatever gods her people had and whatever they would expect her to do, to serve the Living God by hiding the spies. Rahab then asked them to promise by the Lord that they would save her father’s household. They swore they would save her and her father’s house, and Rahab gathered her family into her house on the wall and bound the scarlet thread in the window as a sign. She had faith that even though destruction would come, she would be saved and even her relatives with her.
“And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (Joshua 6:24-25).
Rahab had a living faith, a faith that makes one do things they never would have done before, trusting and believing in God’s power and direction, a faith that causes people to leave the world and surrender to God’s will.
Rahab loved the Lord the rest of her life while dwelling in Israel and her reward here on earth was to bring forth a son in the line of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).
Rahab’s faith changed her. James 2:24-26 says “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Rahab’s faith allowed her to hide the spies and send them out another way because she trusted God and put her life in His Hands.
A natural outpouring of her faith was to do good to His people. She did not just believe with her mind and then go about her worldly life, living the same but thinking “I will be saved from the destruction to come.”
Let us remember the actions of Rahab and ask ourselves, has my faith changed me? Have I seen God’s mighty works through the eyes of faith? Do I have faith in action? Is my faith dead (without the Spirit) or alive unto good works?
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
Originally published in The Witness 10(7) (July 2012)