Today we continue to look at the hall of faith as recorded in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11. And we have spent several weeks looking at various Old Testament characters who exhibited faith, the kind of faith which Hebrews says in chapter 10 results in righteousness, which in turn results in life.
Last time we looked specifically at how faith perseveres unto death, and even beyond death, to lay hold of the promises of God. The title of that message was Facing death through faith. I would encourage you to go to our website and read that message if you missed it last week. I don’t want to review all that I said last week, but rather press on in regards to this subject of facing death in faith. Death is inevitable for all men. Heb 9:27 says “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” But there is a choice that is given to us in the gospel. And that choice is to believe God, to have faith in God, and receive life that continues after the physical death of this body, or to disobey God, and to receive eternal damnation.
Now though the focus of our sermon today is on Rahab, and her faith, there is verse 29 we don’t want to skip over which mentions the faith of the Israelites as they passed through the Red Sea. And I would just mention that in that example we see the choice between life and death pictured very clearly. The Israelites after leaving Egypt were caught between the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian army behind, and hemmed in by mountains on either side. They were facing death, but they believed in God’s word, and they were saved by marching through the Red Sea, as though they walked on dry land.
The Egyptians though, they were disobedient and unbelieving. Time and time again God had given them the word of God through Moses, accompanied by signs and wonders from on high, and yet they continued to harden their hearts. The result was that even when they finally gave in and let the children of Israel go, they changed their minds and pursued them with the intention of doing them harm. And so though they had an equal courage to that which the Israelites had, and went boldly into the Red Sea on dry land, they did not have faith in God, and in fact were disobedient to what God had said that they should do, and so God caused the waters to return so that they were all drowned.
Now this illustrates the essence of the gospel. Man is under the condemnation of death, and by faith in God we are granted life. That’s the essence of the gospel. And in a short form, that’s what is illustrated in vs29. It also illustrates that faith must be founded in the truth. The Egyptians illustrate a type of faith in going into the Sea, but it is not united in truth and so it failed. Faith is not a saving entity in and of itself. It is faith in the truth of God.
The author then proceeds to give another illustration, exhibiting in part the faith of the Israelites, and in part the faith of Rahab the Canaanite. Now Rahab is who I would like to really focus on here today, and yet we are going to touch on a lot of other things in relation to our study of her faith. But as a precursor to that, I must mention the fact that Rahab’s inclusion here in this list of the heroes of the faith, is a really remarkable thing.
First of all, it’s remarkable in that she is a woman. Of all the Old Testament heroes mentioned in this text, Rahab is the only woman to get prime billing. It’s very interesting when you think of all the women of the Old Testament, and yet Rahab is the only one that is singled out as a woman of faith. Now some of you perhaps are ready to raise your hand and say what about Sarah, wasn’t she mentioned in vs 11? And you’re right, she is mentioned. But if you were paying attention a few weeks ago when we got to that text, you will recall we spoke of the fact that the original Hebrew indicates it was the faith of Abraham and not Sarah who was being commended. Remember Sarah laughed at the prophecy of the Lord? But, irregardless, many translators believe it should be better interpreted as “By the faith of Abraham, Sarah received the power to conceive…”
But my intention is not to debate that again today. Sarah as well as many other women such as Deborah and Esther and Ruth have many exemplary traits which are given as examples to us. But I would point out that the author of Hebrews choses to highlight out of all of them, Rahab. And that is extraordinary because of two things. One she is a Gentile, a Canaanite, belonging to the city of Jericho, the enemy of God. And secondly, that she is a prostitute.
Now of the first point, from our perspective, being a Gentile is not such a big deal. But from a Jewish perspective it was everything. Gentiles were considered on a par with dogs. And in those days, people didn’t have the same view of dogs that we have today. They didn’t make pets out of dogs. They didn’t buy them expensive toys and food and spend hundreds of dollars on them at the dog salon. They didn’t pick up their poop from the sidewalk. Dogs were considered a public nuisance. And Jews considered Gentiles as dogs. They despised them. So for a Gentile to be brought into the family of God, when Jews thought they were the only ones deserving of God’s grace, was a real shocker. And as you know, we all are Gentiles. We too were outside of the covenant of God to Abraham. But God has extended his grace to us by faith in Him, that as Galatians 3:7 says it might be the children of faith who are the sons of Abraham, and not just the descendants from the flesh.
The second point we can more easily identify as problematic. And that is that Rahab was a harlot. Notice, even the author of Hebrews writing hundreds of years later still gives her this title. Harlot. There are some sins that go before us, and other follow after. 1Tim. 5:24 “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their [sins] follow after.” Being a harlot seems to be one of those sins that do both. It’s hard to lose the stigma of being a harlot in any age, no matter how contrite they may later be, or what they may later become.
But the fact is that sin is sin. And most of us have committed sins that are just as grievous, if not worse than harlotry. The only credit we have is our sin is not so obvious. But there are no such things as secret sins. We may think so, but God sees all things, and He sees our hearts. Heb. 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” So there are no secret sins. But we tend to look more disdainfully on those whose sins go before them. Those sins which have immediate, drastic results like addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, etc. We look down our noses a lot of times at such people caught up in those sins, and yet the sins of jealousy, lust, covetousness, idolatry, rebellion, hatred, lying, and such things we do not judge as harshly. Because perhaps they are not so easily seen by others, and we hope are not so evident in us.
Nevertheless, God sees all. And He certainly saw the sins of Rahab. And yet she is commended for her saving faith. Well, that’s God’s way of letting us know that the gospel comes to people who are in the natural sense unlikely prospects for God’s grace. Jesus said I have come to seek and to save those that are lost. We aren’t good prospects for salvation because of our merits, or because of our morals, but we are good prospects because we are sinners.
So Hebrews commends Rahab for her faith. Twice in the account in Joshua 2 it says that she was spared because she hid the messengers Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. But if you read the story, then you know that there is a problem with the way she does that. The king hears of the spies and he sends men to Rahab’s house to seek them out, and demand that she give them up. Rahab had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof.” So she deliberately deceived the king’s men.
Now perhaps I would be better off to avoid this subject, but I can’t help but comment here because so many commentators over the centuries have made this out to be a sin on the part of Rahab. And their argument is that if she would have told the truth, God would have delivered the spies another way. But while I don’t doubt the purposes of God will be accomplished, I don’t know if I wholeheartedly agree with the premise that what she did was a sin. And that is because the whole idea of a spy is to deceive, isn’t it? And these men sent by Joshua were spies. If you go into a land to spy out the land, the fact is you’re going to have to be devious, deceiving if you expect to be successful. And so the question is, is it permissible to deceive in such cases. At that point, I think Rahab had decided to be true to God rather than be true to her country. Her theology was already established, and this was her chance to act in faith to God rather than in fidelity to her nation. Her nation was an enemy of God.
And I realize that this raises a lot of sticky questions that are not easily answered. Some of you may be familiar with the story of Diettrich Boenhoffer. He was a pastor and theologian in Germany during the time of Hitler. And he participated in some degree in a plot to overthrow Nazi Germany and specifically to assassinate Hitler. And eventually he was captured and hung at the galllows, just three weeks before the Allies liberated the prison camp. He is considered a modern day martyr for the faith. And yet there are some questions that arise from his working as a intelligence officer for the Nazi’s. And yet at the same time working secretly to overthrow the government and assassinate Hitler. I’m not sure how much subterfuge he had to do in order to do that. But isn’t subterfuge in reality false representation? Are we going to say that a Christian could never be a spy in a foreign country? I think we are sometimes too quick to judge that which we are never likely to have to endure ourselves. But I mention this today not to be controversial, but because there may come a day in our lifetime, when we may be faced with similar situations and have to make decisions as to what to do. I will say one thing dogmatically. It’s never right to deny Christ under any circumstances. In vs35 we find the statement that people of faith who were persecuted did not accept release so that they might obtain a better resurrection. I think that refers to them not recanting their faith. Christians in particular during Roman times were given the option of recanting and they would be freed. It’s never ok under any circumstances to deny Christ. Because our faith is expressed in our confession of faith. So as a Christian, it’s unthinkable that we could ever deny our faith for the purpose of saving our lives or any other lives.
Well, I’m not going to try to answer every question there, other than to say that Rahab is commended for her faith in regards to how she treated the spies. Now there is another aspect of Rahab which is given as a type to us. And that is she was a part of a condemned people. God pronounced His judgment upon the land of Canaan, and particularly upon the people of Jericho. They were under the condemnation of death. They were destined for destruction. For 40 years they had watched the Israelites, and seen the power of God manifested towards His people. Little did most of the Jews realize as they traveled through the wilderness that they were intended by God to be a testimony to a watching world. And yet most of the time during those years all they did was complain. They turned again and again to rebellion and complaint and mumbling against Moses. And so God was not pleased with them and let that generation die in the wilderness.
But nevertheless, the Gentiles living in Canaan and it’s surrounding areas had multiple witnesses to God’s grace towards Israel. Rahab recounts in Joshua 2 what their perception had been of the events since the Jews were delivered from Egypt. She said in Joshua 2:9-13 “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard [it,] our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
That’s a pretty incredible testimony, isn’t it? This is from a woman who had no scriptures, had no prophet, had only the testimony of God’s faithfulness in the life of the Jews, and yet from that she manages to come to faith in God. That illustrates something that I have said many times, and that’s the greatest sermon that is ever preached is lived out in the life of a person transformed by the Spirit of God. You are preaching a message to the watching world around you by your day to day life. They may not seem to listen to what you say, but they see the way you live your life, and that speaks more to them than any sermon. And that goes for your family as well. They are watching what you do more than hearing what you say.
So God had determined that Jericho is going to be destroyed, Rahab is one of the citizens of the city of Jericho and in this condemned city, she belonged with the others as condemned men and women. That, of course, reminds us of what this world is like, for that is what we all are naturally as we are born. We are part of a condemned world. We are condemned men and women. The Bible makes it very plain that by virtue of the one sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, all have sinned and are condemned. But just as salvation from death came to Rahab on the basis of faith, salvation from condemnation comes to us on the basis of faith.
Now let’s look at this faith of Rahab. Her faith comes not as a result of hearing about the love of God. But her faith comes in response to learning of the judgment of God. She knows that God is going to destroy her city. And she responds in faith to that impending judgment. I think that we tend to minimize the judgment of God today. We dare not speak of hell. Of judgment against sin. But without God’s judgment then there is no appreciation for the cross. Before we can appreciate the love of God, we must come to understand the justice of God and learn to fear God. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” So on the basis of that fear of God she asks for salvation from death for herself and her family.
Then in response to her confession of faith, the men offer her exemption from death. But only if she does what they tell her to do. Notice vs14, So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” … 17 The men said to her, “We [shall be] free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood [shall be] on his own head, and we [shall be] free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood [shall be] on our head if a hand is [laid] on him.”
I believe it was Clement in the first century who first published a sermon on the typology of the scarlet cord as a type of Christ. When Rahab hung the scarlet cord outside the window upon the wall of Jericho, it was a sign of her faith in God. It was obedience to the command of the spies. If she failed to put out the cord, if she failed to bring in her family members under her roof, then she and her family would perish along with everyone else in the city. The basis of our salvation is suggested by that cord of scarlet that was hung from the window, fastened in the window. When we think of the fastening of the cloth hung from her window, we think of the Lord hanging on the cross, and we are saved by His shed blood for us. So the scarlet cord is a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ.
Many years ago I used to deal in antiques and specialized in antique American Indian items. And one of the things I used to look for were old Navajo blankets. The ones that were really valuable were ones that had the very early dies. And one of the first dyes that they had access to came from trading with the Spanish, and it was called cochineal. Cochineal was used to make scarlet thread from ancient times. It was derived from crushing a tiny bug. And so it was very costly. So perhaps there is even some symbolism to be found even in the cost of the dye. Scarlet was a very costly dye color then as well. And furthermore it came as a result of crushing. Isaiah 53 says, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” Rahab did not realize all that cord symbolized, but she had faith in what had been revealed to her, and was obedient to it.
Well, the story is familiar to all of you, I’m sure. The Israelite spies made it back to the camp of Joshua, and the Lord instructed the Israelites to march around the city for 6 days, never uttering a word. And on the seventh day, they were to go around 7 times, and then let out a shout and the walls would fall down. I can imagine the townspeople of Jericho watching this from the walls. These walls by the way were immense. Moses is recorded as saying that they reached up into heaven. And Rahab her home built into the outer wall, so that her window faced out of the city.
But I can imagine how the citizens must have reacted to the sight of a million Jews marching around the city without saying anything. It must have seemed bizarre, maybe even comical after a while. I imagine they hurled insults and various objects at them, calling them names and so forth. They ridiculed them, I’m sure. And I can’t help but think of the correlation to the verse which says that “The word of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness. But unto us who are being saved, it’s the power of God.”
Why seven days? Is 7 a magic number? I don’t think so. Seven represents completion in the Bible. And for seven days God gave them time to repent and they did not. I believe that the possibility of salvation by faith was extended to Jericho just as it had been to Rahab. And yet they hardened their heart during the patience of God, whereas Rahab prepared her house. Peter says in 2 Peter 3 that we are to regard the patience of God as salvation. God patiently waited 120 years during the time of Noah before bringing on the flood, and yet no one was saved but Noah and his family. The invitation of God stands until the patience of God runs out. And one day the patience of God will be completed here on earth in our day as well, and the door will be shut, and the wrath of God will commence upon the condemned. I wonder if we truly believe that. If we did, I can’t help but think we would be more fervent in our appeals to those that are lost.
But by faith the result is that the condemned sinner is brought to safety. And we read in Joshua chapter 6: 25, “And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day.” After the walls collapsed, which must have killed most of the people especially as they were probably standing on the walls, the Israelites rushed in and slew every living creature as God commanded. And then they set the city on fire. And Rahab being saved from Jericho, which is burning, is a beautiful illustration of the saving of a brand from the burning, and an illustration of the destruction of the heavens and earth by burning as Peter describes in 2Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
Notice also the witness of her faith. She brought her family under her roof, having convinced them of their need to trust in the God of the Israelites. And as a result they were saved from destruction. Any Christian who has been converted and has no concern for his own family, does not bring them before the Lord in prayer, does not seek opportunity to say something to them concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, his faith is a very doubtful kind of faith. The very first thing that she’s concerned about is her family.
I am sure that you all here are concerned about the faith of your family. And yet I will ask you, when you have the opportunity to invite them to church, where they can hear the gospel preached, where they can see the testimony of Christ being lived out, do we find an excuse for not bringing them? Do we seem to care only about our own destiny and not really about our loved ones? In Charles Spurgeon’s message on Rahab he says, “The spirit of proselyting is the spirit of Christianity, and we ought to be desirous of possessing it. If any man will say, “I believe such and such a thing is true, but I do not wish any one else to believe it, I will tell you, it is a lie; he does not believe it, for it is impossible, heartily and really to believe a thing, without desiring to make others believe the same. And I am sure of this, moreover, it is impossible to know the value of salvation without desiring to see others brought in.”
And that leads us to another aspect of her faith, which is the exclusivity of salvation. There was no salvation anywhere else. In John chapter 10, the Lord says, “I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, shall go in and out, find pasture.” And elsewhere He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” There is but one place of salvation, when Jericho is destroyed, and that’s Rahab’s house on the outside wall of the city. One safe place! Today, there is one safe place and that place is Jesus Christ! There is one safe place, and that is where the word of God is preeminent and authoritative and true, in the house of the Lord.
There is another place in scripture where Rahab is talked about and that is found in James 2:25 “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without [the] spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” So the faith of Rahab was a faith that was working. It wasn’t just a profession of faith. Notice back in our text in vs 31, it says that Rahab did not perish along with those who were disobedient. So there is a link between faith and obedience. Faith requires action. It requires stepping out in obedience to God’s word.
And, finally, Rahab’s faith provides a picture of spiritual blessing. In Matthew 1:5-6 we read that a prince of Judah by the name of Salmon was the father of Boaz by a woman named Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king, and thus of the line of Jesus Christ. Think of that, Rahab, a harlot, brought into the family of God, not only brought into the family of God, but in time married Salmon, a prince of Judah, and from the prince of Judah there has come the true prince, making her one of the great, great-grand mothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rahab, the harlot, shows that no one need despair at the judgment of God coming upon the world. As Paul said “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Faith in Christ results in life everlasting for those who were formerly condemned to destruction. I hope that you have such faith in Christ, and have committed your life to live for Him. There is hope in none other. And I trust like Rahab, you will see the blessing of God upon your life, as you live in His service and that you will see the salvation of your family, through the witness of your faithfulness. If you do not have the assurance of eternal life in Jesus Christ, then believe in Him today, and call upon Him to save you.
Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”