These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 13 ~ Mar. 23-29
Rahab: From Floozy to Faithful
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,
because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Background- Joshua 1
Joshua 1 sets the stage for the story of Rahab and the spies. Moses had recently died, and God “promoted” Joshua to take his place. It was finally time for the Israelites to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. As God “installed” Joshua into his new position, He reminded Him:
- Stay true to My word and you’ll be successful in what I command you to do.
- Be strong and courageous (4 times in ch. 1); I will never leave you nor forsake you.
- Here is the extent of the land I promised. I will keep my promise.
Cities had to be conquered, and first on the agenda was Jericho. Joshua began planning for the conquest by readying the people and by gathering intelligence about the city.
Gathering Intel (1-2, 9-11, 24)
Do you remember one of the first stories we studied in which Joshua played a major role? He was one of the two spies in Numbers 13-14 who brought back a good report about taking the land of Canaan. I wonder if Joshua was thinking about that incident here, forty years later.
Joshua sent two spies, compared to the twelve who went to spy out Canaan, of which he was a part. Jericho was a much smaller area than Canaan, only two were needed, and a larger group would have been more easily discovered. Interestingly, unlike the story of Joshua and Caleb, we never discover the names of these brave spies who risked their lives and their reputations to bring back a good and faithful report. What did they find out and report back to Joshua about Jericho? (v. 9-11,24)
The Hiding Place (1-6)
Why would two nice, godly Jewish boys hide out in a prostitute’s house? Why not a nice, clean hotel? Well, first of all, they generally didn’t have hotels as we know them back then. When people traveled, they brought tents with them and camped out, stayed with friends or relatives, spent the night in the town square (Gen. 19:2), etc. And, sometimes, if it was immoral men traveling without their families, a prostitute’s house was a preferred option for a night’s lodging.
Rahab’s house would have been the perfect place for the spies to hide. They were foreigners, they were travelers, and it wouldn’t have been abnormal for them to be surreptitious (covering or disguising themselves) when entering and leaving her house. Plus, Rahab had men arriving and departing at all hours. Since she was a prostitute, many of the townspeople may have avoided her and her clientele, so it was probably the best option available for the spies.
Rahab’s house was built into the city wall. At that time, kings of various cities/countries would regularly attack each other, so many cities were built like fortresses with tall, thick walls around them and gates that could be opened or closed. The back wall of Rahab’s house was also the city wall and had a window the spies could escape from. After the gates had been shut, there would have been no other way to get out of the city.
The Faith of the Spies (24)
The main focus of this story is, rightfully, on Rahab’s faith. But, what about the faith of the spies? These men, out of faithfulness to God, and loyalty to Joshua and Israel could have been tortured and killed had they been discovered. They stayed in the home of an unclean prostitute, which was a BIG deal. (Think back over all the clean/unclean laws we just studied.) They followed the instructions of someone who was: a) a woman, b) a prostitute, c) an enemy and an pagan, and d) had no military/spy experience of her own that we know of. (Although, perhaps, in her profession, she was skilled in hiding men who were being hunted down by people on the warpath). They found an impossibly heavily fortified city. There was no human way to successfully attack it. And still, they were confident in their trust that God would somehow keep them safe and give Israel the city.
The Faith of Rahab (9-13, Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-15)
Rahab was a pagan. How could she have had faith in God? How did she even know about Him? The Bible tells us that ALL human beings have a basic knowledge of God in two ways: through creation (Rom.1) and through our consciences (Rom.2).
But Rahab knew some other things, too. She knew how God treated His children and His enemies. She had heard what God had done at the Red Sea (10)—how God had protected His children and destroyed the Egyptians. She knew how God had defeated the kings of Sihon and Og (10). She knew that out of all the gods she had ever heard of, this One was the real thing- God of heaven and earth. She knew, and she was afraid. Her fear and her defection prove her faith. If she had not believed in who God was, and that He was able to do all these things she would have had no reason to be afraid, nor would she have helped the spies and aligned herself with them against her own people.
Rahab became so convinced in her mind that God was indeed who He had shown Himself to be that she gambled everything on it. Think of what the king would have done to her if she had turned out to be wrong and had gotten caught. At the very least, she would have been killed. but as a traitor, she certainly would have been made and example of. She probably would have been publicly tortured to death, and maybe her family too. This was no small thing she did. She bet her life on a God she didn’t know. That’s the faith that saved her and led her to hide the spies and her other actions. The actions did not save her, it was the overwhelming belief in God which drove those actions.
Two Different Faiths Then (John 4:22, Luke 10:21, Deuteronomy 32:39)
There is a qualitative difference between the faith of the spies and the faith of Rahab. As Jesus said to the woman at the well, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4)
The spies were God’s people. They knew Him personally. They were born into God’s house and grew up as obedient sons. They were chosen by Him and belonged to Him. They had seen Him work as eyewitnesses. They had, and knew, His word. They would have been like the older brother in the prodigal son story if he had been faithful.
Rahab, on the other hand, had none of that. She was the prodigal. She did not know God personally, but only, as an outsider, by reputation. She likely knew nothing of God’s love and promised blessings for obedience, but only of His wrath towards sinners. She was not born into God’s house; she was a pagan. She was not an obedient son; she was a woman, and as sinful a woman as she could be. She was not chosen by God and did not belong to Him. She was an outcast. She had no idea what God might do next. All she knew was that she didn’t want to die.
The spies knew. God had laid it all out for them. They were obeying God, not out of fear, but out of love.
Two Different Faiths Now
Rahab’s faith versus the spies’ faith reminds me of unchurched people coming to Christ versus churched people coming to Christ. We “spies” who were raised in church by Christian families grew up knowing all the Bible Stories, all the whys and wherefores of Jesus and salvation. It is the blessing of a godly heritage.
Rahab, like the unchurched, lived her whole life not knowing God, just doing what sinners do. When she finally heard about Him, all she had was the basics, and, knowing only that He was “Lord of Heaven and earth” (Luke) and “able to kill and make alive” (Deut.), she flung herself unashamedly on His mercy—which, at the time, she probably wasn’t sure would catch a woman like her—all because she wanted to live instead of die.
The Object and Outcome of Our Faith (Joshua 6:17, 22-25, Matthew 1:5, James 2:25)
But no matter our background or how we come to faith in Christ—Rahab or spies, unchurched or churched—the object of our faith is what matters, and the object of our faith is Christ. And because the object of our faith is the same, the outcome of our faith is also the same.
What was the outcome of this whole scenario for the spies? For Rahab? They were saved despite the destruction all around them. After it was over, they all lived in the Promised Land together. Rahab and her family became part of God’s family just like the spies were. She even got to be one of Jesus’ great, great…grandmothers (Matt.), was commended in the “Hall of Faith” (Heb. 11, above), and was cited as an example of good works giving evidence of our faith (Jas.).
God loves the prostitute just like He loves the good little girls. He sent His precious Son to save both of us and to display us as trophies of His grace.
The Walls of Jericho by Answers in Genesis