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“Rahab: Getting Serious About Faith”
A man fell off a cliff but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down.
• Immediately he began to cry out, “Is anyone up there?”
• A voice soon came from above, “I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?”
• “Yes, Lord,” the man shouted, “I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer.”
• And the Lord said, “That’s alright, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch.”
• A couple of seconds past and the man cried out, “Is anyone else up there?”
Fortunately, this doesn’t describe the person we’ll be looking at today. Today we’re going to be looking at a woman who according to the standards of this world would be considered unfit, unprepared, and ill-equipped to be someone we could look up to as a rousing example of a “good citizen.” And yet, despite her immoral lifestyle and sinful past, God so radically changed her life that she is not only mentioned in the greatest genealogy ever recorded, but also made it into God’s Hall of Faith.
Now, when we look at her life, normally we would think that she would have absolutely nothing at all to say or teach us about faith. With that being said, think about those people others had written off.
• On his high school report card it said, “This person doesn’t wear socks; doesn’t cut his hair; might be mentally retarded.” The young man they were describing was Albert Einstein.
• Another man was being interviewed for a football coaching position. They came back and said, “He knows a little bit about football, but probably won’t go too far.” They were interviewing Vince Lombardi.
• Another report of two young men said, “They have crazy ideas. They are idealistic and somewhat comical.” These two young men were Orville and Wilbur Wright.
And this is exactly the type of thing that many would have said about this woman whose faith we’ll be looking at today, and that is, Rahab, or as she is more commonly referred to as “Rahab the Harlot.”
In Matthew Chapter One, it mentions four women from the Old Testament. They are part of the greatest genealogy ever recorded, that is, the genealogy of Jesus Christ. These women are Tamar, Bathsheba, Ruth, and Rahab. Now, those we see in this genealogy are some of the greats of the Jewish faith. You have men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You also have David and Solomon, along with the other kings like Jehoshaphat, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
But then you have these four women, and for them to be listed in the first place is quite remarkable, because it was unheard of in those days to include women in a genealogy. And on top of that, two of these women were not even Israelites, Ruth and Rahab, and the other two were not as virtuous as you would expect to be in such a genealogy. But God puts them in, and one of them, Rahab, ends up in the Hall of Faith.
Well, let’s look at what the writer of Hebrews says.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:30-31 NKJV)
Let’s take a moment and look at this story. It happened right after the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, after wandering around in the wilderness of 40 years. And so, the first test of their faith came in the form of a well-fortified city just six miles away by the name of Jericho.
When I say well-fortified, that is exactly what it was. It was said to have two fortified walls, whose total height would have been about 4 stories in height, and into the outermost walls stores and Inns were built that housed and catered to the less savory crowd. One of these places was where Rahab lived.
Now, to check out these fortifications to see what they were up against, Joshua sent two spies. Now, the best place to find out this kind of information without causing a stir was to go where the talk was cheap and the conversation flowed freely.
Now you might say that Rahab had been around the barn a couple of times and so she understood the intention of these two men. It wasn’t for bed and breakfast, but for information. It would seem it also caught the eye of others, and it wasn’t long before the king of Jericho found out.
Immediately he sent for Rahab to turn in these two young men, but instead of turning them over and receiving a reward, she hid them on her roof when the king’s men came looking. She said, “I know who you are talking about, but they left a little while ago before the gate was shut. If you hurry you might be able to catch up with them.” (Joshua 2:4-5 paraphrased)
Now, this is not an endorsement for lying, nor is the Bible endorsing it here. Instead, the Bible is recording what she did, which is one of the reasons we know what is written in the Bible is true because it doesn’t sanitize the story; rather tells the true condition of humanity with all its faults and failures.
There is a good lesson here, especially when it comes to our faith relationship with God
God Takes Us Just As We Are
God is so gracious because He doesn’t tell us to clean up our act before He accepts us; rather He takes us just as we are. He doesn’t demean or condemn us but starts with where we’re at, and then, as we walk with Him, He polishes us up and changes us from the inside out. He changes us, as the Bible describes, from glory to glory, or even better, into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s called transformation. And this process is called a walk of faith. It is being part of a living loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, Rahab realized that she hadn’t been living the way she should have been. It’s called having a conscience. And it was her conscious that brought her to her senses. She realized that although she had been in this lifestyle for many years, there wasn’t something right about it. It was acceptable and tolerated by society, but she was coming to a point where God was speaking to her heart and she now finds herself saying, “This isn’t right, and I’ve got to make a change, and I’ve got to make that change now.
Now, this process began long before the spies came into town. She had been hearing about the God of Israel for some time. She heard about how He had dried up the Red Sea and brought the children of Israel through on dry ground while drowning the Egyptians. She heard about how God kept them in the wilderness and how He helped Israel defeat their enemies. And so, she had concluded that the Lord is God, and her gods weren’t, and the Lord began to do a work in her heart revealing who He truly is and that he truly exists.
We see this in her declaration to the two spies.
“I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us … for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9a, 11b NKJV)
And so, her faith in God began when she started to understand who God was, and the same goes for us, that our faith begins when we understand who God really is.
She knew who the one true God really was, and she made a choice, and because of that, she identified with the God of Israel, and no longer with the gods of the people, Baal and Ashtoreth. She, therefore, hid the spies and requested that they spare both her and her household when the Israelites defeated the city.
The spies agreed and gave her a scarlet cord to hang on the window so that when the city was defeated, she and her household would be saved. And by her faith in God, she would be given a new beginning, a new chance at life, and to now live with God’s people and serve the Lord.
Look now at Rahab’s response.
“According to your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.” (Joshua 2:21 NKJV)
Now, this binding of the scarlet cord is reminiscent of the first Passover back in Egypt. There, the Jews put the blood of the lamb over the lintel and upon the doorposts of their homes, so that when the angel of death came by, he would pass over those who were under the covering of the blood. Placing the blood upon the doorpost, therefore, saved their lives.
Well, that is what happened here, as Rahab hung the scarlet cord outside the window of her home. That when the troops saw this red cord, they passed over that home, and Rahab and her family were saved. And in the New Testament, we are told that these things were a shadow of things to come, but the substance is Christ (Col. 2:17).
The Apostle Peter said, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
And so, what we are being taught through the story of Rahab is that she got serious about her faith, and forgiveness was achieved. She grabbed hold of faith for dear life and did something with it, and it transformed her life and gave her a brand-new beginning.
Now, there are a lot of people who have been forgiven, but there is little if anything to show the change that such forgiveness produces. And so, God uses Rahab’s faith and forgiveness to teach us what it means to have faith.
We must get serious about our faith and the forgiveness we have received, and not just use it as something to soothe our guilty conscience. We must do something with it.
Going back to another cliff-hanging illustration. Let’s say we slip off a cliff and are hanging for dear life. And so, we cry out for help and a person above us says, “Do you need some water? How about a Big Mac? Maybe what you need is a TV and DVD player and watch a show.” And we say, “I don’t want water, a Big Mac, or entertainment. I need help. Send me down a rope.”
Well, they get a rope and drop it right next to us. Now comes the question, “What do we do?” Do we start singing, “Amazing Rope, how sweet you look, to save someone like me.” Or “Rope of Jesus, dropped for me, let my eyes gaze upon thee.” No, we don’t sing about the rope, we grab hold of it and get serious about getting ourselves out of our predicament.
Well, faith is that rope, and for it to do us any good, we’ve got to grab hold of it and use it to get out of the mess we’re in and the mess we’ve made of our lives.
Rahab knew she could lose everything. She could have been caught, jailed, convicted of treason and of being a traitor, and put to death. But she took hold of this God opportunity by faith and was saved.
Look at the outcome.
“And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” (Joshua 2:25 NKJV)
Forgiveness is available for each one of us, but it isn’t cheap, it was bought at a great price. Jesus paid that price when He died upon the cross; paying the price for our sins and thus offering forgiveness to all who grab hold of it by faith.
It’s like Jesus is saying, “Take hold of the forgiveness I have for you and use it to set yourself free from the sin, pain, and shame that keeps you bound in despair and disillusionment. I paid the price, and I am offering it to you.”
And so, let’s grab hold of God’s forgiveness, and we do so by faith believing in what Jesus did for us upon the cross, as He died the death we deserve for our sin, and He took our place. Therefore, by faith grab hold of it.
And so the first lesson is that God takes us just as we are.
Take Our Place in God’s Plan
Rahab took hold of God’s forgiveness and used it. This is what the Apostle James alludes to when He uses Rahab to make this point.
“Was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:25-26 NKJV)
Rahab acted by faith and made a commitment and became a follower of God. Faith is useless unless it is acted upon and leads to a commitment to God.
I absolutely love the balance between what the writer of Hebrews and the Apostle James tells us about Rahab. The writer of Hebrews praises her faith, while James praises her actions. The argument of James is that faith when it is not accompanied by action is dead.
Rahab believed, she had the words right, she understood who God was, and then she acted in accordance with her belief. When she was offered forgiveness, she acted and made the change. She abandoned the way she was, left her home, and moved in with the people of God. She took her place as one of God’s children.
There is a lesson from the life of Rahab here for all of us. And that is, our lives need to match our words.
There is a story about four preachers who were discussing the merits of the various Bible translations. One preacher like the King James Version the best because of the poetry of the language. Another liked the American Revised Standard Version because of its being closer to the original Hebrew and Greek language. The third preacher like the New International Version because of its up-to-date vocabulary. But the fourth preacher was silent for a moment and then said, “You know, I like my mother’s translation best. She translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation I ever saw.”
It has been said, and rightly so, that our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. And so, how well are we translating the words of the Bible in how we live our lives?
God was so pleased with Rahab’s faith that He placed her in the genealogy of the Messiah. She was the great-great-grandmother of King David.
“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.” (Matthew 1:5-6a NIV)
And as a side note, it has been said that eight of Rahab’s descendants were prophets, including Jeremiah.
And so, this woman of questionable reputation, by faith took hold of God’s forgiveness, got serious about it, and took her place in God’s plan for our redemption. How great is that?
God used the lowly, the despised, the abused, and the rejected in order to glorify His wonderful and marvelous grace and His kingdom’s purposes. And if God can use someone like Rahab, then there are truly no limits to who He can use today. That which is in our past becomes irrelevant once we grab onto, by faith, the forgiveness God is offering.
Rahab had once been a woman of ill repute, but by faith, she became a child of God, and the mother of Boaz, who would grow up to be the great grandfather of King David. And the forgiveness she received was passed down to her children.
This truth is seen in the story of another foreign woman found in the genealogy of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ. Her name was Ruth. She was a Moabites who accompanied her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel. In other words, Ruth, like Rahab, understood who God was. She said, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Now, Boaz, Rahab’s son, when he saw Ruth knew the pain of what it meant to be an outcast because he was taught well by his mother. His grace, mercy, and compassion towards Ruth were a direct result of Rahab’s teaching of what it was like. And so, he took up the mantle and stepped forward and did what was right and took Ruth to be his wife, being her kinsman-redeemer.
We all have a say in the future generations that will follow, through what we teach and show our faith in God, and the grace that is ours through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, let’s take seriously our faith and the forgiveness God provides through faith in Jesus, and make that difference to the next generation, helping them understand who God is, the forgiveness He offers, and of His great and glorious plan and purpose for all of us.
Forgiveness is a rope to be used, not a trophy to be set upon a shelf. So, take hold of it by faith and get serious about it and then let’s watch what God can and will do in our lives.
Rahab was such a person who got serious about her faith, and it changed the world.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study