Have you ever been in one of those situations where you thought to yourself, "I could never do that". That happens to me every time I read the book of Hebrews.
Because in it there is this roll call of the heroes of the faith and when I read that list, I think to myself. . . If that's the kind of person God is looking for . . . well, you should probably count me out.
Let's look at some of the heroes' of faith listed in Hebrews and you'll see what I mean.
- Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, who offered a better sacrifice.
- Enoch, who was so holy that he didn't die. One day he just took a walk and ended up in heaven. (Heb. 11:5)
- Noah, building an ark for years before the rains fell. (Heb. 11:7)
- Abraham, who picked up his entire life and moved because God said go. (Heb. 11:8)
- Moses, the greatest figure in the Old Testament, the one who did God's greatest work before the time of Jesus. (Heb 11:23)
- Joshua (although not mentioned by name), leading the people across the Jordan, and dropping the walls of Jericho with trumpets. (Heb. 11:30)
- And the prostitute, Rahab. (Heb. 11:31)
Wait a minute; a prostitute named Rahab?
Yep. Right there in the middle of this list of heroes and without missing a beat it lists a prostitute - and I have to be honest that at first glance, I have to wonder if this is an error.
How could God list a woman of ill repute in a list of the heroes of faith?
How could the name Rahab be found in the same list as the names of Noah, Moses and Abraham?
But perhaps the name Rahab is there to remind us that being a hero of the faith isn't about the character of a person, it's about the character and nature of God.
You see, throughout scripture we find that God has this habit of picking unlikely people, obviously flawed people, to further his Kingdom. And this morning we are going to look at one of those "flawed" people . . . Rahab . . . a harlot turned heroine.
We first "meet" Rahab as the people of Israel are about to cross the Jordan River and enter Canaan - the land that God had promised to his people.
And like any good commander, Joshua wanted to gather as much information about his enemy before they attacked. So he sent two spies to look over the land and to see what they were up against- In Joshua 2:2 we see what he asks them to do . . .
"Go, view the land, especially Jericho"
Now, the reason Joshua specifically mentioned Jericho is because it was the fortress city guarding the pass leading westward into the mountainous regions of Canaan. If they were to take the land that God had given to them, it was important to find out as much as possible about the defensive capabilities of Jericho.
Well, the spies were able to enter Jericho and they end up in the house of a harlot named Rahab and it is said that there are two reasons they chose her home:
- The presence of strangers wouldn't be that unusual and so it shouldn't draw attention
- Her home offered a method of escape since it was located on the city wall with its windows facing outward.
- But I think that perhaps there is another reason that they ended up in the home of Rahab. I think that perhaps it wasn't the spies who chose her home but rather Rahab, who invited them to her home because she felt something stirring in her soul - I believe that perhaps God was already at work through Rahab.
Well, the spies failed in their efforts to remain undetected . . . officers of the king apparently noticed them during their surveillance of the city and they reported their whereabouts to the king, who immediately dispatched soldiers to Rahab's house.
And with the knock of the door, came a moment of truth for Rahab.
Before the knock, she could have helped the spies without any real commitment. But now she had to choose sides. She had to decide if she was going to protect these spies or warn her city?
But something was still stirring in her soul and this is what she told the soldiers
Read Joshua 2:4-7
She made the choice to protect these strange men from a foreign country. She was deceptive and she was not obeying the law of her country, but she was listening to the stirring in her soul.
After the soldiers left on their wild goose chase, Rahab went up to the roof where she was hiding the two spies.
She told them that she had heard of the miracles God had been doing for the people of Israel
- l How He had dried up the Red Sea so that the entire nation could cross on dry ground
- l How He had led them to conquer the Amorite Kings and destroyed their cities.
- l She had heard of the God of Israel and she had believed in His power.
And In Joshua 2:9 she says . . .
Rahab and her countrymen saw God at work in and through His people!
And it was this evidence that was causing the stirring in her soul and what led her to leave her sinful lifestyle and embrace a faith in God.
And then she says Joshua 2:11 Rahab said, "...for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."
This is significant because in this statement she referred to God as "YAHWEH", the covenant name that the Hebrew people used for their personal God.
And this is important because she reveals an understanding of God beyond her capacity considering her background - a Canaanite woman who worshiped Idols and other Gods.
Perhaps it was the very nature of her life that caused her to recognize the power of God. She had been entrapped by sin for so long, that when she was faced with the Divine, her soul cried out in faith and a longing to be free from those things that would separate her from her creator.
And in this simple phrase, a Canaanite harlot, who had only heard of the wonders of God, speaks with more assurance of the truth than many of the eye-witnesses of those wonders, many of whom perished because of their unbelief of God's promises.
And then she asked the spies to spare her life and the lives of her family when the city was destroyed. And the spies agreed.
They instructed her to leave a scarlet rope hanging in the window of her home so that the army would know not to destroy it and then she helped them escape with that same rope from a window on the wall and gave them instructions so that they could avoid capture and return to Joshua and the rest of the army.
The story of Rahab is an amazing story of Faith by a despised member of society from a godless nation. It is a story about how a harlot became a heroine. But more importantly it is a story that tells us of the nature and character and nature of God.
God took a despised person who committed great sins and placed her name among the greatest in the history of Israel as an example of what it means to have faith. And God can do the same thing for each of us. It doesn't matter how despised we may feel or how flawed we may be. God loves us as much as he loved Rahab. And he can elevate us from a confused, frustrated, discouraged sinner to a hero of faith. All we have to do is believe on him.
But the story of Rahab doesn't end here in the book of Joshua. After the fall of Jericho, she was taken back to live with the people of Israel.
- l She married a man named Salmon - whom tradition says was one of the two spies
- l they had a son named Boaz.
- l Boaz was the father of Obed
- l And Obed was the father of Jesse
- l Who was the father of David
and as Matthew chapter 1 reminds us, of the line and lineage of David came Jesus Christ, the son of God, who came into this world to bring sinners, like Rahab and like us, into the Kingdom of God.
The story of Rahab tells us that we too can turn from our sin and come to God . .. and when we do, He will do great things through us.