23. Faith and Understanding

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 23.  Faith  and Understanding

Heb 11:31    By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient

Rahab is an interesting case to study. Some suggest she was merely an innkeeper in Jericho, others (as with the NIV text) that she was a prostitute, neither of which come to mind in the thoughts of good Christian people for a potential follower of the Lord but, nevertheless she earns the right to appear in these halls of faith. As before, let’s look at the story and then see what it teaches us.

The story involves two spies sent by Joshua who enter Jericho and find their way to Rahab’s house. (Josh 2:1) Presumably it was known as either a lodging house or a house of ill-repute. Either way it seemed to be a place to stay. However the entry to the city by the two Israelites had not gone unnoticed. Someone at the gates must have noticed these two strangers and identified them for what they were. They were obviously followed and the king of Jericho was told (v.2).  He sent a message to Rahab to bring out the two men who had come to stay (v.3) but, we are told, she had hidden them (v.4). She also had clearly recognised them for what they were and had hidden them up among the stores on the roof (v.6) but told the messengers from the king that the men had left the city at dusk (v.4b,5) and so pursuers were sent out of the city and the men were saved.

But the story doesn’t end there for we are then told that before the men on the roof went to sleep (v.7) Rahab went to them and explained why she had done what she had done: I know that the LORD has given this land to you 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. 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. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (v.9-11) I always find that amazing. They had heard how the Lord had led Israel through the Red Sea and then what they did to the two kings who had opposed Israel and when they heard they were fearful. She makes an amazing statement of faith: “I know that the Lord has given this land to you.”  Wow! She understood the will of God, and it was that which made her act as she did to save them.

She then pleads with them to save her life and that of her family when they come and conquer Jericho and this they agree to do (v.12-14). Because her house was built into the city wall she was able to let them down a rope from one of her windows with instructions to go and hide in the nearby hills until the search for them was called off (v.15,16).  To ensure her safety and that of her family they instruct her to keep her family in her house when the army comes, and to hang a scarlet cord out of the window to indicate where she is so that they may spare them (v.17-21).

The end of this part of the story comes later in Joshua: “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho–and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” (Josh 6:25) But the fascinating real end of the story comes in the New Testament: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” (Mt 1:4) It is believed – because only well-known women in Israel’s history are included in Matthew’s genealogy – that this Rahab, who we read ended up living with Israel, eventually married a man named Salmon and they had a child named Boaz who ended up marrying Ruth who had a son named Jesse, who in the passing of years had a number of sons, the youngest of whom was David, (see 1 Chron 2:11-15), later to become the famous king and one named in the family of the Messiah often referred to as “the son of David”. Because of her faith, Rahab ends up being part of the family line of the Messiah! James also adds a note about her: “was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” (Jas 2:25) Again the link between faith and righteousness we’ve seen before.

Thus the writer to the Hebrew sums this all up: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”  Studying the taking of the Promised Land, Canaan, it is clear that God’s objective was to drive the Canaanites out of the land and only if they resisted was death on the agenda. A third option, that Rahab took, was to join the Israelites and become part of God’s people.

Rahab – the possible  disreputable woman of Jericho stood out by listening to the gossip, hearing the reports of Israel’s activities, and recognizing that this was the work of God, and so joined herself to it. She trusted by her activity that she and her family would be saved and they were and went on to join Israel and even more become part of the Messianic family line. How amazing.

At the very least an example of how God receives into His family even the disreputable who He is not ashamed to identify with. From her side an example of how a heart can be caught by hearing testimony of God’s activities and become linked to them. This is faith. When we hear of God’s activities do we respond with a rising of faith within, that links us to His works and rejoices in them, or do we feel defensive and judge and remain out in the cold?

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