In Joshua 1 we saw the dedication of the scriptures to God’s new leader of Israel, Joshua. We have noted in previous weeks Joshua’s dedication to the scriptures and faithfulness to the Lord. But rather than continue talking about Joshua and his leadership, the scriptures stop and spend time talking about a woman who lived in the land of Canaan which was to conquered by Israel.
Protection of the Spies (2:1-7)
The scriptures tell us about a woman named Rahab. She is not an honorable woman that we would expect to read about in the scriptures. We are told that she is a prostitute. The command of the king of Jericho was to be on watch for Israelite spies. Rather than turn these two spies over to the king, she decides to allow them to stay in her home. Somehow, the king of Jericho finds out that the Israelite spies are staying with Rahab and he demands that she turn these spies over to him. Instead of turning them over, Rahab decides to hid the spies in the stalks of flax on the roof. She also sends the Jericho soldiers on a wild goose chase. Why would Rahab do this? Why would Rahab go against the laws of her king in an effort to protect these two spies who are seeking information to conquer the city she lives in?
Knowledge of God (2:8-11)
In verses 8-11 Rahab makes a tremendous confession for the power of the Lord. She says that she knows that the Lord had given Israel this land. In fact, the people have been in fear of the Israelite invasion. The inhabitants of Jericho have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea and what happened to the two Amorite kings. The courage of the people has failed because they knew that the Israelites were coming to conquer the land. Her understanding of God is the reason why she protects the spies. She declares, “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.”
I think it is interesting and important to consider how Rahab had the faith to fear God more than the government. Her fear of God was greater than her fear of the king. Rahab reveals great faith by protecting the spies because of her faith in God rather than hand them over to the king of Jericho.
Fear of God (2:12-14)
Rahab’s fear of God is so great that she pleads for mercy when Israel comes in to conquer the land. “Now please swear to me by the Lord that you will also show kindness to my family, because I showed kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belong to them, and save us from death” (2:12-13). Rahab knew that this was the end of Jericho. She knew that she needed the salvation of the Lord that could only be obtained through the spies. The men assure her that they will give their lives for her and her family’s because she had showed them kindness and protection.
Faith to Obey (2:15-24)
Rahab lived in a house that was built in the city wall. Rahab lets the spies down by a rope through the window. The men place conditions upon her family’s salvation. The first, and most obvious, is that she does not report the spies’ mission to the king. But the other condition was that the scarlet cord used to let the spies down the city wall remain in the window when the Israelites attack. Rahab and her family were to have the cord in the window and remain in the house during the attack and they would be safe. With this agreement, the story ends as the spies return to camp and report to Joshua that the people of Jericho are melting in fear because the Lord had given them the land.
It is interesting that the New Testament spends time talking about the salvation of Rahab. “By faith Rahab the prostitute hid the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed” (Hebrews 11:31). “And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them by a different route?” (James 2:25). Rahab stands as a timeless figure of salvation.
1. Rahab’s past did not matter. The story is beautiful in so many ways. But the first point that must be considered is that Rahab’s past did not preclude her from salvation. She had a number of strikes against her such that she would not be a likely character to receive God’s salvation. She is a Gentile and not an Israelite. She was a prostitute and not a holy person. But her past did not matter at this one moment in time when she was forced to make a decision to protect the spies or not. Her past was not a deterrent for her to decide at that moment what was most important. Our past is not in the way of our salvation. Too often we can think that we have done something things that are just too awful for God to forgive. We may think that we are not deserving of salvation because of things we have done. But there is nothing too awful that God will not forgive. God will forgive every sin. Yes, we are not deserving of salvation. This is the essence of God’s grace.
2. Rahab feared God and sought salvation. Rahab asks for salvation. She is not passive to the process. In verse 12 she pleads with the spies that she and her family be shown kindness when the Israelites return to conquer Jericho. She wanted to be saved. We must want salvation. We are not going to find salvation if we do not want it. Perhaps we have forgotten this aspect about our salvation. We must desire deliverance from our sins. If we do not care, why would we think that salvation will be extended to us?
3. Rahab feared God above the commands of others. It is strange to me that we think we will find salvation by putting the laws of God last. This is not the example of Rahab. She did not put the laws of Jericho or the laws of the king above what she knew she needed to do for the Lord. She could have made the excuse that she would love to help but that she needed to protect herself and her family from what the king would do to her if he found out that she was protecting them. She could have made a number of excuses why she could not or would not help. The fear of the Lord must override the opinions and laws of all others. We must put God first regardless of what our spouse may say. We must put God first regardless of what our family may say. We must put God first regardless of what our country commands. We must put God first in every decision.
4. Rahab confessed the Lord to be the only God. Rahab’s confession in verse 11 is a great confession for each person to center his or her life around. She does not simply acknowledge that there is a God. She declares the Lord to be above all else. “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Rahab confesses that the Lord is ruler over all of the creation, in heaven and on earth. This is an amazing confession for a Canaanite living in Jericho, a Gentile. The Canaanites along with many of the surrounding nations believed in gods of locality. They would have a god on a high hill who would be over that plot of land. But Rahab says that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth. God rules over all things.
5. Rahab had faith in God to obey the conditions for salvation. Just as the previous four thoughts are important in regards to the salvation of Rahab, so also it is important to see that Rahab obeyed all of the Lord’s conditions for salvation. She could not simply sit back and expect salvation by doing nothing. We have already seen that she was seeking salvation and that she confessed the Lord to be the only God. But there was more that she needed to do. Recall the conditions of her salvation: (1) She could not report the spies. (2) She had to leave the scarlet cord out her window. (3) She and her family had to remain in the house during the invasion. If she did not do any one of these things then her deliverance would be lost, and the spies are very clear about that in verses 17-20. Meeting these conditions for salvation was so important that the New Testament writers describe our salvation in the same terms.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of the conditions of Rahab’s salvation in terms of obedience. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). The writer of Hebrews speaks of Rahab’s faith in terms of her obedience while the rest of the inhabitants of the city were disobedient. She had to receive the spies in peace to not perish with the rest of the disobedient in Jericho. James paints the same picture in his letter.
“24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Rahab could not simply believe that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth. It was not enough to ask for salvation. She had to act. The conditions were laid out and she had to accept the conditions for salvation. She protected the spies. She did not report them. She helped them escape. She left a scarlet cord out her window. She remained in the house during the invasion. By doing these things we read in Joshua 6 that she and her family were protected during the invasion.
God has also left us conditions to receive his grace and his salvation. It is not enough to simply believe that the Lord is the God heaven and earth. It is not enough to ask God for salvation. We have to act. We have to meet God’s conditions for salvation. “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). How do we show our faith in the working of God for salvation? We must be buried with Christ in baptism. Immersion is a necessary condition for salvation. We see that infant baptism or child baptism is not appropriate because Paul teaches that faith in required. What we believe in baptism is important. We are to have faith in the working of God to cut off the sins of the flesh. Baptism is not for the purpose of joining a local church. If you were baptized believing you were joining a church, you did not have the proper faith and did not meet God’s condition for salvation. We must believe that our sins are being cut off.