By David Halbrook
The account of the life of Rahab is one of the shortest accounts recorded in Hebrews 11, yet God places it among the accounts of Abraham and Moses. As 2 Peter 3:8 says, “a thousand years is as a day to the Lord.” Had man writ-ten this chapter, he would have written of those who were currently famous for their faith, but the passing of time does not affect God, who sees all. He remembered her faith as if she were still alive. Rahab never raised an army or took part in any battles like the siege on Jericho, but God recognized her assistance. By helping Israel’s spies, she over-came her past and saved the life of her whole household. Ultimately, she became a part not only of the nation of Israel but of the lineage of Christ Jesus himself (Matt. 1:5). Because of the Hebrew writer’s record, we continue to recognize her faith as an example for us today.
When reading Hebrews 11, we must realize that this chapter is not a chapter of perfect people. Rahab was a harlot by trade. (She obviously had to give up being a harlot, for Israel would not have accepted her into their nation as a prostitute because the law condemned prostitution [Lev. 19:29; 21:91). Everyone in this chapter sinned, but it is their faith that God records for our benefit.
Rahab has received much criticism because she lied when the King asked about the spies. Whether she lied because of a lack of faith under pressure or whether she did not consider lying wrong because of her past life, God does not tell us. Her faith in God, however, caused her to bring the spies into her house and proved her faith (see Jas. 2:25). Furthermore, it was for her faith, not her dishonesty, that Rahab was included in this chapter.
Proponents of situation ethics have attempted to use this event to justify their stance. Situation ethics teaches that there is no standard of morality, but that every situation calls for different actions. Situation ethics would justify the sin of lying in certain situations, for example to save your life. The situation was no different for Abram in Egypt when he lied about Sarah’s identity because he was afraid. It was just as wrong for Abram as it was for Sarah, and we are just as wrong when we lie today. Situation ethics does nothing but wear down convictions. It is an easy way out in a troubling situation.
As Christians we face hard decisions every day, but regardless of our situation, we have responsibility to obey God’s commandments if we love him (John 24:15). The Bible nowhere approves of situation ethics. In fact, Revelation 21:8 lists liars among those who “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Obviously, God disapproved of her lie, but his will was still done despite the sin of Rahab.
The writer of Hebrews mentions her in Hebrews 11 for the faith in God that she displayed in her confession of God in Joshua 2:11, “for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” and this faith is what caused her to take care of the spies. God does good unto the nations today, despite their often wicked rulers. God, through providence, continues to exercise his will today, despite the sinful acts of man.
Through her confession of God’s existence and power, we can see Rahab’s faith. But “faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (Jas. 2:17). Without her expression of faith, Israel would not have saved her. James 2:14-16 ex-plains that unless our faith causes us to take action it is worthless. James 2 gives the example of a believer who sees a hungry, ill-clad indigent and wishes him good luck and God’s blessings but does nothing to meet his needs. Today, if we pray that those who are lost in sin will have the time and opportunity to find the truth yet we stand by and do nothing, confident in our faith, then we have no works that support our faith. Our faith is then dead. What good would Rahab’s faith have been had she met the spies and told them that it was too risky for them to be in her house, but that she had heard of their God and hoped that their mission would be successful? The Israelites would have exterminated her along with the rest of the population of Jericho.
When we are searching for souls to teach, we often have the kind of person in mind that we are looking for. We over-look people who we do not believe would care whether or not God exists much less would be interested in the gospel. But in Rahab we see a woman who was a harlot, who heard about the works that God had done for Israel, and recognized his power. Even those in Canaan who did not believe in God recognized that Israel had something different and powerful working for them. When the people of Jericho heard how God had parted the Red Sea for Israel, Rahab said that their “hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer” (Josh. 1:11). No record is given of how the spies became acquainted with Rahab and what they told her about God, but she was in awe at the works of God and recognized him as the true God. Though a harlot, she evidently had an honest heart.
Were we spies sent ahead into the land of Canaan, would Rahab have been the kind of person that we would have approached? For some very good reasons, probably not, but the point is that we must constantly keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities to help anyone who would hear us. In John 7:24 Jesus told the Pharisees not to judge others according to what they perceived, but to “judge righteous judgment.” Only God can see the hearts of men, so we have no right to withhold the gospel from anyone. There are no limits to the effects that the gospel can have on honest hearts.
Knowing that the destruction of her city was imminent, Rahab talked to the spies about sparing her life. They agreed that because of her help, they would save her and her household if she hung the scarlet cord from her window. Then those in her house at the time of the destruction of the city would be spared. They told her that unless she complied with these conditions, her blood would be on her head.
We have all been in this situation. At some time we have sinned, and in God’s sight what we did was no worse than any sin that Rahab had committed. We then reach a point where we realize that there is a coming destruction and, unless we have God on our side, it will destroy us too. When we come to this realization, our hearts melt within us as we realize our lost condition. Then we look to God for a way out, which he has provided. God has always been willing to accept those who meet his conditions for salvation. Would Israel have saved Rahab had she not hung the scarlet cord out the window? Could she have chosen the “house of her choice” to be in when the Israelites conquered Jericho and still have been saved? After all, she had faith in God and his power and had done good deeds to his people, was not that enough?
Obviously the answer is no and the same applies today. Faith is an important part of our salvation, but God has commanded other steps, which some refuse to accept. Whether men recognize his commandments or not does not change God’s plan for salvation (Acts 5:29). Baptism is as much a part of our salvation as any other step, no more, no less. Some deny baptism and ask us if we “really think that there is any saving power in the water?” What if Rahab had said, “Is there any saving power in the scarlet cord?”
Christ established his church on earth (Matt. 16:18) and there is only one true church, or body of Christ (Eph. 1:23; 4:4). We have no power to pick the “church of our choice” and expect to please God. Let us have the faith of Rahab and confess his power and salvation to all the lost!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 7 p. 18-19
April 3, 1997