Joshua chapter 2 is one of the most captivating passages in all the Word of God. It appeals to the imagination, to the heart, and to the faith of the child of God. It appeals to Christians; to Hollywood script writers; to children; to virtually everyone. There is sin here, but then there is also wisdom, faith, and bountiful grace. I could preach this chapter using the New Testament as my text in stead of Joshua. Paul takes a reference from here and transplants it into Hebrews 11. James takes an illustration from this chapter and puts it into his letter to the scattered saints.
I hope you’ll forgive me for my love of the biographies of the Old Testament. I know the doctrine of salvation is more systematically taught in the New Testament. But many of the Old Testament saints are clear pictures of New Testament doctrine. Some of them are types and illustrations of Christ or perhaps New Testament believers. But in the case of Rahab there is no illustration or type; she is the real deal. Rahab is a sinner saved by the grace of God. Generally speaking, she is like every other rescued soul. And then again, there are specifics in her story which make her testimony even more individual.
Let’s begin with a historical review. Joshua sent two men across the Jordan river to evaluate the strength and defenses of Canaan. Knowing the prior history of Israel, we can assume that these were carefully chosen men. Joshua selected them; it wasn’t left to the leadership of the tribes to pick their favorites or relatives. That had gotten Israel into trouble forty years earlier. They were ordered to take special notes when it came to the city of Jericho. This was the first major obstacle to occupying land which God had promised them. Jericho was a well-fortified, well-stocked frontier community; the first step into the heartland of Canaan.
Some commentators criticize Israel for sending out those two intelligence officers. They say that it was a display of faithlessness on Joshua’s part – but I disagree. Joshua had the precedence of the twelve spies of Numbers 13. And it was God who ordered that first exploratory expedition. “The LORD spake unto Moses, saying, send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.” Notice the words “the land of Canaan, which I give them.” Jehovah had promised a place for Israel, just as His Son has prepared a place for us.. There is a parallel between Israel and Rahab and believers and Heaven. And besides, faith does not necessarily require blind acts of stupidity or ignorance. There is so much of that in the false cults of the 21st century. Even when God directly speaks, we are urged to show Godly nobility and “receive the word with all readiness of mind, searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so.” But make sure that it really is the scriptures you are searching. Sending out the spies was not an act of unbelief, but an act of prudence guided by faith. It is wise to pray that the Lord protect us in our beds at night. But it is not unbelief to lock the doors before we turn off the lights. It is wise to ask the Lord to give us our daily bread, but its not unbelief to get a good education and job. And then, finally, there is the undeniable blessing of their contact with Rahab. If those two unnamed reconnaissance officers had not stealthily crept into Jericho, the foreordained means to Rahab’s salvation would have been overturned. Impossible, you say? I agree.
So as we see, the spies entered Jericho. And their trained eyes quickly learned about the strength of the city’s defenses. But before they could slip back out, the gates of the city were closed behind them. They were trapped like couple of mice with hundreds of cats, snakes and owls looking for them. In that precarious position God providentially led them to the only person in all the city who could save them. Rahab saved their lives, and they played an evangelistic part in saving her soul. With this background information we can step into the marvelous world of the grace of Almighty God.
Rahab was a harlot.
First, we notice how specific God gets with our sins. He doesn’t dodge our condition, and neither should we. When something is black, God says it is black. When someone’s god is called “Jehovah,” but it is not, the Lord’s prophets say so. Just because a someone can’t see his deed as sin, the omniscient God does and declares it as “sin.” But oh, how our natures rebel against such revelations; we don’t like to make such admissions. “What you are calling sin, is nothing more than a minor mistake in my life.” “Yes, what I said yesterday was a lie, but it was only a white lie, not a black one.” It is against our nature to admit that the religion in which we were raised could possibly be wrong. For example, some Bible commentators try to say that Rahab was an “inn-keeper” – she ran a hotel. They see that Rahab became a grandmother of King David, so they try to sanitize her. But the fact of her sin, and the nature of her sin, were apparently rather clear to everyone. Perhaps she did run a “hotel,” but what kind was it?
But was she was still practicing her former wicked trade? That Rahab was working with flax, leads me to believe she was no longer trying to sell her body. Flax is, and was, a plant from which several important products could be made. Strands of flax can be pulled, dried, and then woven into linen. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 was commended for her handiwork in flax and wool. From there, Rahab may have become a seamstress, or she might have been making oil with the seeds. But, someone asks, “If Rahab was now honestly employed why is she still called ‘The Harlot?’” Because it is a common thing among wretched human beings to make sure that ghosts like this haunt us for the rest of our lives. Some will never let us forget the mistakes we made in our youth and the sins we have committed. For example, Simon the Leper, of Matthew 26, had been cured, but he was still “Simon the Leper.” It was his title, even though it was not a part of his body any longer. And “harlot” was Rahab’s title, but it was no longer a part of her life or soul.
The point is, Rahab was a sinner, and we are told so in one word. The fact of her sinfulness does not need to be magnified any more than that. And furthermore it shouldn’t take too much to convince any of us that we are sinners either. The first time I heard the gospel, the preacher didn’t needed to prove my sinfulness. That, my friend, is part of the evidence of the working of God in a person’s heart. If we must cajole and convince people they need to be converted, they are not ready to be converted. We should all be overjoyed to accept God’s GENERIC statements about our sinfulness. “Lord, it is enough, you don’t have to get any more specific than this.” Roman 3:23 – “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Isaiah 64:6 – “We are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Rahab the Harlot, and Oldfield the sinner, are in same class; there is very little difference between us. And the penalty for our sins is exactly the same, no matter what words our title might contain. For adultery, the Biblical penalty was death – Leviticus 20:10. But the penalty for the rest of our sins is not much different: “The wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23. “Wherefore as by one man sin came into the world and death by sin and so death passed upon all for that all have sinned” – Romans 5:12. “The face of Lord is against them that do evil,” whether their name is Rahab, Ahab, Jacob or Sir Galahad.
But then Rahab had heard the message of God’s judgment against her.
Rahab “said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” She said to the spies, “I know that Jehovah has given you this land.” “I know that you possess the blessing of God, while my race flounders around awaiting God’s judgment.” “I have heard of God’s great blessings upon your people.”
Perhaps this should remind the Christian that people are interested in hearing what God is doing in you. Tell people about the joys of your salvation, including the peace which God has given you. Give them the facts of Heaven; and speak of your hope in the Second Coming of Christ. Tell them about John 14 and about the Book of Revelation. In a society so filled with various kinds of escapism why not let God use that to touch their hearts.
Rahab said, “I have heard how your God dried up the Red Sea and redeemed Israel out of Egypt.” This is very similar to someone today hearing the Christian describe the Lord’s saving grace. “I was religious, and for a while I was content and satisfied with myself while down there in Egypt. I didn’t realize that I was bound in sin and in very deep trouble before God. But the Lord purchased my redemption; Jesus, the lamb of God, has taken away the guilt of my sin. Christ is my Passover, and he sprinkled the blood of his own sacrifice over my soul. The Death angel has flown over me, without stopping, simply because he saw the blood of the Lamb of God.” Jesus was “bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace was laid upon HIM.” “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for me, for it is written cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Rahab had heard that others had partaken of the Lord’s grace, and she hungered for it too. Christian, it is our job to whet people’s appetites by repeating what the Lord has done for us, and living in the joy which that peace and salvation provide.
And she also said, “I know that God is angry with me, I know that God intends to punish Canaan for our sins. I know what judgments fell on wicked king Sihon and wicked king Og.” Those two kings died for their resistance against the Lord and His people. Perhaps they were zealous in their own religion, but it was a human corruption of the Truth. Christendom is filled with deadly deviations from the pure and simple gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Like Sihon and Og, every soul who rejects the only means to forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ will eternally perish. Only, “he that believeth (only) on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not shall not see life… “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the (pure) doctrine of Christ, hath not God” – II John 9. Rahab knew she was a sinner and in trouble with the Lord, and yet God had forgiven and accepted others.
Tying these things together, she was convinced to turn to the Lord.
She said, Our hearts melted in fear of Jehovah; our courage was sapped from us. It is futile for me to trust in our warriors, our chariots, and our defenses – our gods and our religion. I won’t trust in science to give me perpetual life. I can’t trust my priests; what can they do? They are sinners just like me. I won’t place my confidence in Slimly River Creek and the waters of baptism.” “I need God’s healing; He is the only One who can save me now.” “Jehovah, your God, He only is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.” I need someone bigger than I am, and greater than my bishops.. I am seeking nothing less than the mercy of a gracious God, who can help sinners like me.”
his is the need of modern Americans, as well as old Jerichoans. God knows our religious professions, but He also knows our hearts and its many corruptions. He knows that by nature we deserve Hell. “The Lord is in his holy Temple, his eyes, behold, his eyelids try the children of men.” “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Rahab was convicted and convinced of her need and the only answer was the God of Israel. Perhaps, as far as her soul was concerned, she was saved by faith, before she ever met the spies. She testifies of bearing all that is necessary to redemption – spiritual humility and faith in the Lord.
From there this woman merely asked for salvation.
“Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” Is prayer for salvation necessary before God will forgive a person’s sin? The Bible teaches that the answer is “no” – with some qualifications. Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is no reference in that scripture to prayer. It doesn’t say, “For by prayer are ye saved through faith” or “by grace are ye saved through prayer.” The Bible clearly declares, “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” That is, “Put your trust – your entire dependence on Christ alone, and thou shant be saved.” Faith – trust in Christ as our substitutionary sacrifice is the means by which we are delivered from sin. Rahab became a saint of God by believing the promise of God. That is how any sinner can become a saint of the Lord.
But that faith must be built upon the foundation of a broken heart. ” Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” No one will truly turn to the Saviour, who is not convinced that there is no alternative to the Saviour. As long as he wants to add things to his faith in Christ – faith in other things, or deeds which he might perform, his faith is corrupt, and he proves himself not to be a child of God.
Could Rahab have become a child of God, if she had NEVER confessed her faith to the two spies? Absolutely, because God sovereignly saves whomsoever He wills to save without human assistance. If that woman’s repentance and faith in the Lord were genuine, I’d have to say that the spies were unnecessary to her conversion. But I will add this: Her confession before the spies and her assistance of the spies gave evidence of her changed heart. We might say that by her testimony and assistance to the spies she produced the fruit of repentance. “If any man, or woman, be in Christ he or she is a new creature, old things are passed away behold all things are become new.”
I have already used a Bible term much confused by modern Christendom – “conversion.” Most people believe that it refers to changing religions – converting from Protestantism to Catholicism. No, Biblically speaking it refers to becoming a new creature in Christ – from sinner to saint. So many are asking “Jesus to come into their hearts” and save them, but they don’t want conversion. They make a profession of needing God in order to avoid judgment, but there is no indication new life. Rahab, on the other hand, was truly converted. She gave up her adultery – spiritual and otherwise. Her opinion about Israel and the God of Israel was 180 degrees different from what it had been. She was willing to let God be God in her life. She risked her life to assist the spies and save their mission. She was willing to accept persecution if it came to that. She also yearned for the salvation of the rest of her family. She forsook the gods she had been serving. She was willing forsake her own nation and people if they continued to refuse Jehovah. There are a dozen or so great changes to her life and her faith, once she met the Lord’s grace.
This great woman of courage, wisdom and faith, became a great mother in Israel. Rahab eventually married a man named Salmon and became the great-grandmother of King David. She was therefore in the lineage of Christ Jesus, Himself. And how did this come about? Rahab the Harlot knew that she was to die under God’s judgment against Jericho. She humbled herself before the Lord, and repented of her sins. And she clung to the Lord by faith, trusting Him to deliver her. These spies didn’t become her priests; they didn’t absolve her of sin; they were only witnesses. Proof of her repentance and faith can be seen in her genuine service and worship of the Lord.
OUR needs are not one iota different from Rahab’s. Examine whether or not you have responded to the Word of God, the same way that she did. Humble yourself before God. In the sight of the Almighty, acknowledge that you are a hell-deserving sinner. And then simply trust the Lord Jesus to cleanse you from the guilt of that sin. Leave the work of your salvation entirely in His hands. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” If you put faith in anything besides Christ or in addition to him and you have nothing but dust and eternal destruction.