The Peril of Faith – Rahab
Believing God • Message 10
Joshua J. Masters
August 23, 2020
I’m so grateful we can be together this morning (both here onsite and with those of you joining us in our Online Campus).
Today we continue our summer series called, Believing God, as we walk through Hebrews 11.
So far, the author has given us 10 examples of active faith from Jewish men and women in the Old Testament.
And now, as we pick up in verse 31, the author of Hebrews gives his Jewish audience one last specific example of faith before he begins the summary of his argument.
But this time, it’s not a Jew.
It’s a gentile woman who was a prostitute in Jericho.
I guess we could say that’s surprising, but is it?
Haven’t we been surprised by a lot of people in the list?
God builds up the weak to bring glory to His name.
Here’s what Hebrews says:
It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Hebrews 11:31 (NLT)
A foreign prostitute found courage in her faith so you can too.
That’s the easy message here.
But Rahab isn’t an object lesson.
She’s a person.
See, I think it’s easy for us to distance ourselves from Rahab.
She was a prostitute that lived thousands of years ago.
I’m nothing like Rahab.
But maybe we are.
My hope this morning is that we can remove the label for just a few moments and see her as a real person—as a person with past hurts and difficult choices.
Because we all have difficult choices to make in our faith—choices that require courage.
>>Faith gives us the courage to do what’s right.
Every believer faces peril in our walk with Christ.
It might be physical peril like Rahab,
but it could be emotional or spiritual peril as well.
And in those moments, it is faith that will give us the courage to obey and trust God.
So, let’s look at the life of Rahab.
B. MAIN MESSAGE
Our text in Hebrews 11 this morning is that single verse we just read.
But the bulk of her story is found in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 2.
(Pg. 180 in the BAB or you can use the Bible tab in our online campus)
And as you turn or swipe there in your Bibles, let me give you a quick recap.
Last week we discussed how faith makes the impossible become possible.
We saw how God brought the walls of Jericho crashing down when the Israelites marched around the city in faith.
And we left off with the Israelites charging straight UP into the city to capture it.
We’ll continue with what happens in that siege, but first, we have to go back to just BEFORE God parted the Jordan for the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land, and just before Joshua has that encounter with the Lord.
Joshua Chapter 2:
Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove (Ah-KAY-Shah Grove). He instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.
Joshua 2:1 (NLT)
Okay. I know what you’re thinking.
But there is no language in the text that indicates the spies went to Rahab’s house to enlist her services.
All the ancient texts indicate that Rahab would have been a prostitute AND an Inn Keeper.
So, a Brothel/Inn would have been the least conspicuous place for strangers to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
But that obviously didn’t work at all. Because…
But someone told the king of Jericho, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: “Bring out the men who have come into your house, for they have come here to spy out the whole land.”
Joshua 2:2–3 (NLT)
So, here’s what’s interesting.
Could God have protected the spies from detection?
But sometimes, God will allow seemingly perilous situations to enter our lives, so we have the opportunity to exercise our faith and reveal courage in our faith.
Because that’s what happens as we’re drawn closer to Him.
Let’s look at 4 ways faith gives us courage.
B. Faith gives us the courage to…
1. Bravely face OBEDIENT RISK.
Rahab had hidden the two men, but she replied, “Yes, the men were here earlier, but I didn’t know where they were from. They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.” (Actually, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out.) So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut.
Joshua 2:4–7 (NLT)
Now, I want you to understand what kind of danger Rahab is putting herself in by protecting these men.
Jericho was a morally bankrupt and dangerous place.
It was known as a city where every sexual perversion was available.
And cruelty was the primary attribute of its people. These were people who routinely sealed living babies in jars and then buried them alive inside the walls of the city as a sacrifice.
No wonder God wanted to tear that wall down Himself.
So, what do you think these people would do to Rahab if they found out this castaway, what they would see as a dirty prostitute had betrayed them?
It took incredible courage to protect these men.
It’s the same kind of obedient faith we saw from Christians like Corrie ten Boom in World War II who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis.
Do we want more of that courage in our faith today?
Do we want more of that faith-filled courage in our churches?
Because there’s a lot of injustice in our world.
Do we want the kind of faith that risks our own comfort or even our lives to defend those who can’t defend themselves?
But be careful.
You’ll notice our fill-in says, “obedient risk.”
The key word in making a difference in this world is obedience, not risk.
It is obedience and the pursuit of God that gives the courage to risk the right things at the right time.
There are too many social warriors in the church armed with their own agenda rather than God’s direction.
We must seek God and then bravely take step into the peril He is calling us to—not create our own peril and expect God to follow.
That’s why the first step of courage is always to seek an encounter with God.
Rahab showed obedient risk.
Why would a gentile betray her own people for Israel?
Because she’d already had an encounter with the one true God.
And when she put her faith in Him, she was bold in saying what she believed.
Faith gives us the courage to…
2. Boldly SPEAK of God’s glory.
So, the king of Jericho sends warriors out to look for these spies and barricades the city.
Now Joshua’s spies are trapped inside, hiding under the drying flax on Rahab’s roof where they’ll spend the night.
Try to put yourself in that moment.
The spies are hiding out of earshot.
They have no idea if Rahab will betray them.
And Rahab has no idea if the Israelites will kill her to escape.
Yet she boldly goes to the roof, completely defenseless, to talk to these two Israelite warriors.
And she says this:
“I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon (SEA-hon) and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.
Joshua 2:9–11 (NLT)
Having no idea if the Israelites will harm her, she goes to them boldly and proclaims the God of Israel.
For those who like Bible trivia—this confession of faith and what follows is actually the longest speech given by a woman in Scripture.
And there are several extremely important things about what she says.
First, her confession begins and ends by proclaiming God’s authority and power.
Second, she calls the Lord by His personal name.
And third, Rahab starts her confession with the words: “I know.”
This Hebrew word for “know” is Yada. It means “to know by first-hand observation or experience.”
So, her confession is this:
“I have experienced how YHWY has given you the Land… that YHWY is the supreme God of the heavens and the earth.”
That’s how her profession of faith begins and ends.
And the middle is about Jericho’s position before a holy God.
Every commentary I looked at said the middle of her confession is a direct quote from Exodus 15 with references to Numbers and Deuteronomy—that she’s using language the spies would have been familiar with and received as God’s word.
But none of them addressed or even mentioned a pretty obvious problem with that.
So, walk through this with me.
Who wrote the books she’s quoting? Moses.
Where did Moses write the first 5 books of the Bible? In the desert.
When did Israel come out of the desert?
They HAVEN’T yet.
How does Rahab know the words of the Torah when Joshua still has the only copy on the other side of the Jordan?
I think (You decide) but I think that can only be a direct revelation from God Himself, God giving Rahab the exact words of truth she needs to know, and the spies need to hear.
Look at Luke 12:
“And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”
Luke 12:11–12 (NLT)
So why do we sometimes feel so hesitant to share the Gospel of Christ?
Rahab was risking her life, but many of us don’t even want to risk being uncomfortable.
We’re called to speak boldly of His glory.
But, be careful.
Some of us are afraid to be bold and others are bold in the wrong way.
--I’m not talking about cramming the Bible down people’s throats.
--I’m not talking about judging people.
--I’m not talking about spouting our self-righteous opinions on Facebook.
--I’m talking about sharing our own experience with God just like we see Rahab doing here.
Here’s a good test before we speak:
A sincere proclamation of God’s glory will always bring an awareness of our own sin and brokenness.
So, if what we’re about to say or post seems to build us up or tries to prove someone else wrong, that’s never from God.
But if the words we’re about to say or post reveal our sincere brokenness and how God’s grace has worked in our lives, that is speaking with true spiritual boldness.
Rahab confesses the fear and condemnation that is deserved by her people but proclaims the glory of who God is.
And once we boldly speak of His glory…
Faith gives us the courage to…
3. Brokenly ACT on behalf of others.
Rahab takes action.
She pleads for the salvation of her family and takes steps to save the Israelites.
But why brokenly?
Because an understanding of our own brokenness should always lead to a consuming compassion for others.
And when I say broken, I don’t mean hopeless, depressed, or defeated.
I mean an understanding of our own position before God—an awareness of what our standing would be without the blood of Christ and the grace of God.
Verse 12 (And we’ll look at the NIV here, because in this case, it’s a much more accurate translation): case)
“Now then, please [I pray, I beg you] swear to me by the Lord [YHWY] that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
Joshua 2:12–13 (NIV)
Rahab is direct in her request but she’s also humble.
She doesn’t beg for her life first; she pleads for the lives of her family.
Take it off the page. Do you understand the vulnerability of Rahab in this moment?
Is there anyone here desperately pleading with God to save someone you love?
Anyone understand the feeling that judgment may come any day and your loved ones might be lost?
Rahab speaks in her brokenness, knowing that she and her family don’t deserve what she’s asking for.
But having discovered who God is, she knows she can ask boldly.
And we can too.
Don’t be afraid to show God your heart.
And what do the spies say on behalf of Israel and the God of Israel?
They say, if you don’t betray us, we will protect you and your family with our lives.
Now, we’ll come back to that.
But first, let’s jump down to verse 15.
Rahab not only acts on behalf of her family but acts to protect the spies.
Then, since Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, she let them down by a rope through the window. “Escape to the hill country,” she told them. “Hide there for three days from the men searching for you. Then, when they have returned, you can go on your way.”
Joshua 2:15–16 (NLT)
So, Rahab lowers them down by a rope through her window.
--She hides the spies,
--gets them out of the locked city,
--and tells them how to avoid the king’s soldiers.
She takes definitive action—in obedient risk.
Hebrews 11 exalts Rahab for receiving the spies, and the Book of James commends her for helping them escape.
Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
James 2:25–26 (NLT)
The beginning of Hebrews 11 showed us that we cannot please God without faith.
And here we see that faith without good works is dead.
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)
Our good actions don’t save us, but if we’re not:
--Moved by injustice,
--Filled with compassion for the oppressed,
--And compelled by the needs of others,
We must ask ourselves if we’ve ever truly understood God’s grace in our lives.
Rahab had barely met God, but just a glimpse of His glory (in comparison to her own sin) was enough for her to risk everything to save two men she’d never met.
So, faith gives us the courage to:
Bravely face Obedient Risk,
Boldly Speak of God’s Glory,
Brokenly Act on behalf of others,
But there was an even greater courage that Rahab showed. Maybe the most difficult.
Faith gives us the courage to…
4. Blamelessly OVERCOME our past.
Understanding our brokenness to serve others does not mean we STAY broken.
God wants to heal our brokenness.
He wants to replace the lies we believe about ourselves with His redeeming truth.
And THEN our actions for others will come from a place of gratitude rather than shame.
We are given the opportunity to overcome our past…
But takes courage.
It will take the risk of sharing your secrets.
It will take boldly speaking God’s glory in your life.
It will take acknowledging your brokenness.
But when we seek the courage of faith to do that, we see that faith has made us blameless before God.
I want to go back to Rahab’s broken plea for a moment.
“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. ...”
Joshua 2:12a (NIV)
If you read this too quickly, it comes across like this: “I helped you. Now you help me.”
But that’s not what’s happening. This is a vulnerable plea to change her life.
She says I have shown you “kindness,” will you show me “kindness?”
The word kindness here is “Hesed” (Hi-sed).
It’s one of the most revered words in the Hebrew language.
And it’s very difficult to translate into English because there’s no English word that really captures its full meaning.
It means this:
חֶסֶד cheçed, kheh’-sed: undying devotion, loyalty, acts of kindness, mercy, and love.
Not one of those. It means all of that at once. You can’t remove any of the pieces.
So, try to see this redemption scene in color.
Try to see Rahab’s heart.
She has no bargaining chips here.
Rahab is completely vulnerable.
What kind of life do you think she’s led?
And I don’t just mean her sin as a prostitute.
See her as a women.
She had most certainly been abused and mistreated.
She had been discarded and disrespected.
She had been told she was nothing…
She had been manipulated and thrown away.
And the only way she could survive was by selling her body.
And now, she stands before the representatives of a Holy God, pleading for her family.
And she says, please… I Hesed you.
I will turn my back on this life.
I want to be loved.
I offer you and your God my undying devotion.
And this broken woman who had been rejected by the rest of the world says,
“Will you have me? Will your God take me and my family?”
“We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,” the men agreed. “If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the Lord gives us the land.”
Joshua 2:14 (NLT)
And don’t get distracted by the phrase “If you don’t betray us.”
That’s a pretty logical condition.
What’s miraculous is that these representatives of God spoke on behalf of all God’s people and vowed their own lives to protect this Gentile in the siege.
What if that’s the way the church approached broken people in this world?
And the word THEY use when they say they will be kind to her, isn’t the same word for kindness she used.
It means “true.”
“We will defend you and your family with our lives… and we will be TRUE you.”
How often do you think Rahab the prostitute had ever heard those words?
How often have you heard them?
And the spies give her these instructions:
When we come into the land, you must leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window through which you let us down. And all your family members—your father, mother, brothers, and all your relatives—must be here inside the house. If they go out into the street and are killed, it will not be our fault. But if anyone lays a hand on people inside this house, we will accept the responsibility for their death. If you betray us, however, we are not bound by this oath in any way.”
Joshua 2:18–20 (NLT)
She’s instructed to leave the same scarlet rope that helped the Israelites escape hanging in her window as a sign.
And all of Israel will know that the house marked by scarlet is protected.
Does that sound familiar? It sounds an awful lot like the Passover, doesn’t it.
It sounds like the night God’s people marked their homes with the blood of a lamb so God’s judgment would pass over their homes.
Now, the scarlet rope is not blood,
But do you know what else this word for rope means in Hebrew?
It means: Hope.
Do you need hope that someone is coming to rescue you?
So, the spies go back to Joshua and tell him that the Lord had given them the land and they tell him about the faith of Rahab.
But just before they march around the city, you know what happened?
They had to stop… and celebrate Passover. Because it “just happened” to be time for the Passover feast. So as the Israelites prepared for Passover, Rahab prepared for hers—gathering her family into the home with the scarlet hope.
And then, everything that we talked about last week happened. Joshua encountered the Lord, they marched around the city for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
And you might remember from last week that Archeologists have discovered that the walls fell straight down creating a ramp for the men to charge straight up into the city.
But you know what Archeologists discovered in the 1950s? That all the walls of Jericho collapsed… except one small section on the North side of the city. A small section with a house built into the wall.
It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God.
Hebrews 11:31a (NLT)
First God showed His mercy, and then His people showed His grace.
So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day.
Joshua 6:25 (NLT)
And in fact, Rahab married an Israelite man named Salmon.
And we know two things about Salmon.
--First, he founded the city of Bethlehem.
--Second, he and Rahab had a child named Boaz, who married another Gentile named Ruth.
--And they became the Great-Grandparents of King David in the line of Jesus the Messiah.
God not only wants to hold you blameless for your past, he wants to give you a purpose for the future.
Rahab was a real woman with a painful past and difficult choices.
But when she encountered the redeeming character of God, for the first time, she found love and acceptance and purpose and courage.
Do you want more courage in your life?
Then you have to surrender.
Surrender your old life.
Surrender your hidden past.
Because when we come before God in our brokenness,
When you say, “Here I am! Please, God. I Heed you. Will you have me?”
Jesus says, “When the siege comes, I will protect you with my life. And I will be true to you.”