Rahab’s Story: A Story of Risk Worth Taking
Text: Joshua 2: 1-18
2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. 2:2 The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 2:3 Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” 2:4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 2:5 And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 2:6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. 2:7 So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. 2:8 Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof 2:9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. 2:10 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 that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 2:11 As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. 2:12 Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 2:13 that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 2:14 The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the LORD gives us the land.” 2:15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. 2:16 She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.” 2:17 The men said to her, “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear to you 2:18 if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family.
According to the book of Joshua, at this time Israel has encamped on the East side of the Jordan River and was ready to cross into Canaan. The land of Canaan was inhabited by various peoples and ruled by various kings. And the first city kingdom bordering the Jordan River was Jericho, a fortified city. While Israel’s army was coming with slings, arrows and spears, the city of Jericho was protected with thick stone walls, ready for any possible siege.
We should remember, however, that Israel’s march toward the Promised Land left a wake, a footprint of fear and amazement among the people it had passed through. And that was not because of their skillful use of the sword or their spear, but because Yahweh, their God, had been at their front and back. Yahweh, the Almighty God, began his victory march from the moment He defeated Pharaoh and his mighty army in Egypt.
As Joshua prepared to begin his conquest, he sent spies into Jericho, which chapter 2 narrates so beautifully.
What Joshua did not know was that their reputation as God’s people had spread faster than they could move. So when the two spies arrived at Jericho not long before the city gates were shut, they were hosted by a woman who lived along the city walls. Her name was Rahab. For what purposes did the author have to indicate her profession or as to what reasons he did not withhold from telling, we do not know. But we are told that she was a prostitute.
Rahab recognized these men were not locals but from the marching army of Yahweh which came out from Egypt. And she knew what their intentions were, thus hid them, just to hear a knock on her door. The king had sent men with the orders that she deliver these men into the king’s hands. But the spies had been tucked among the stacks of flax in the rooftop.
Rahab was kept abreast of all kinds of rumors that spread in the city, possibly by her clientele. And she knew the terror and panic which have stricken her people. And she confessed to her guests in the rooftop, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear 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 so on…” She also confessed, “The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.”
Dear friends, here is a woman whose trade likely might have arose from an inner desert and dryness in her soul, thus trying to find comfort and love but could not. Yet upon hearing the name of Yahweh and his wondrous works on behalf of his people she longed to share in that grace. Here is a woman who has lived a lonely life regardless of how many men have come into her life but none had been able to bring the real love until she found the Real Lover of her soul—Yahweh the God of heaven above and the God of earth below.
And what would she not do in order to become part of that people lavished with such love and care? For Rahab there was no risk too big she would not take in order to prove she believed in Yahweh, and she wanted to be part of his people. She risked her own life; she risked everything she knew had been her source security. She became to deserter to her people and a traitor to her king. But she was crowned with the title “a hero of faith” and became the part of the ancestral line of none other than Jesus, the Messiah of God and our Redeemer.
Her confession of faith not only was so well articulated, but it also reflected an enviable conviction we should strive having. She said to the peeking spies hidden among the stacks of flax: “The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.”
Something most have happened in Rahab’s heart the day she first heard the stories of God’s marvelous act that her heart was transformed. A divine light broke into the darkness of her soul and she came to the knowledge of God, not only as the God of the Hebrew people but as the God of heavens and the God of the whole earth and all its inhabitants. Rahab was willing to risk her life to live only in obedience to this God she now feared and believed in. Her restlessness was quenched and her loneliness dissipated in the merciful hold of God’s arms of protection she knew was possible if she only obeyed. Her fear was transformed into faith. Her longing to live a life of fullness of joy and real security was promised to her if she would only heed to the instruction of the spies of Joshua.
When the author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament listed out the heroes and heroines of faith, he could not leave Rahab out, thus he writes:
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient (Hebrews 11:31). Although Hebrews seems to imply that the difference between the fate of Rahab and her people was her hospitality to the spies, while the king and his people sought to destroy them, a closer look at the text will reveal that the main difference was her willingness to obey.
Rahab told the spies: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before …As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.
Fear of God had befallen upon the whole city including the king. They all came to acknowledge that the army coming from the desert was of God. They were filled with fear. But regardless of their knowledge, and regardless of their fear, they all chose to fight against God. In James 2:19 we read: But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deed. Show me your faith without your deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Rahab surrendered her heart before God. She pleaded for grace and to be spared. She interceded on behalf of her extended family. She chose to become a traitor and defector in her own nation and against her own people because she was convinced God is the God of heavens above and God of earth below.
Dear brother and dear sister, what risks are we willing to take for the sake of obeying God? How deep a conviction do we have about the Lordship of God and his Christ? Rahab story is a story of a woman forsaking her people while embracing another based on what she heard of Yahweh and his works.
Will you stand for righteousness?
Will you stand for justice and peace?
Are you willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of Christ and his work?
Are you willing to offer more of yourself to God?
May our faith and fear of God move us to action this year. Let me therefore close with the words of James 2: 24-26
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, 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? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. Amen!