In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon made an interesting statement. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” In Joshua 2, we see an example of that statement. We meet a woman who was prepared and ready, so much so that when the message of deliverance came, she risked everything she had to take advantage of it. The story of Rahab and the two spies demonstrates that true faith is active faith.
Faith takes bold risks (2:1-7). The book of Joshua begins with a transition. Moses died and General Joshua is in charge of the nation of Israel. God gave Joshua the command to cross the Jordan River.
In verse 1, Joshua demonstrates that planning and faith go hand in hand. While trusting God for the outcome, Joshua sends two spies on a reconnaissance mission. They are to “look over the land, especially Jericho.” Before moving forward, Joshua wants to gather as much intelligence as he can.
The spies enter Jericho and try to blend in as best they can. A prostitute named Rahab takes them in and gives them lodging. Is this merely a coincidence or an example of God’s providence? Since she is the only one in the city who believes in the God of Israel, I believe God sovereignly and providentially brought them together.
Over the centuries, people have tried to soften Rahab’s profession by referring to her as an innkeeper. The idea of God using a prostitute as part of his plan offended their sensibilities. While she has a checkered past, she also reveals the beginnings of faith and a willingness to risk everything to follow God.
The spies certainly failed the secrecy test. The king of Jericho learns of their presence and asks Rahab for some answers. Her first step of faith is to lie. In fact, she tells three lies: “I did not know where the spies came from;” “They already left;” and “I do not know where the men went.” Unbeknownst to the king, Rahab had hidden the spies on her rooftop under sheaves of grain.
Rahab’s actions beg the question, Does God approve of lying? Does the Bible teach situation ethics? We need to understand that while the Bible records lies, it doesn’t condone them. Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20), Isaac (Genesis 26:6-11), and David (1 Samuel 21:2) all lied on occasion. The Bible faithfully records their actions, but does not give approval to them.
On the one hand, Rahab risks her life to protect the spies. On the other hand, she lies to protect the spies. While she makes a strong statement of faith, her lifestyle has not changed. At best, we might classify Rahab as a young, immature believer.
Faith makes bold requests (2:8-14). Prior to going to sleep for the night, Rahab meets with the spies on the rooftop. She demonstrates the beginnings of her faith with four “I know” statements. “I know the Lord has given you the land.” “I know the fear of you has fallen on us.” “I know all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.” “I know the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” She had heard the evidence for God and she chose to believe.
Based on her knowledge of God’s judgment and her belief in his sovereignty, Rahab asks the spies for mercy. “Please spare my family.” Rahab cries for mercy and God extends grace to her.
Faith is rewarded (2:15-24). Rahab begins to act on her growing faith. The two spies give Rahab three instructions: “Hang a scarlet rope in the window;” “Gather your family into the house;” and “Tell no one anything.” If she follows through, they will spare her and her family when Jericho is attacked. Rahab obeys and helps the men escape the city by climbing out a window.
Rahab’s faith is rewarded in four specific ways. One, Israel was encouraged by the spies’ report (2:23-24). Two, Rahab and her family were spared during the attack (6:24-25). Three, Rahab was declared righteous because of her actions (James 2:25). Lastly, Rahab became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5-6).
How can you put your faith into action this week?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 30, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.