Hebrews 11:30-31 (NKJV) 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
In our study of Hebrews 11, God’s Hall of Fame of Faith, we have come to Joshua and Rahab. In our last post we spent time looking at the faith of Joshua. Verse 30 of chapter 11 says that the walls of Jericho fell by the action of faith upon them.
In the taking of Jericho, Joshua was operating in a kind of faith we will call “active faith.” We see how active faith works in the story of what happened in Jericho. First God gave Joshua a Word. This was an active command from God. In his case it was delivered by an Angel. It may come from a Word from the Bible that God makes alive in your heart. It may come from the still small inner voice of God. It may come through prophecy or a sermon that speaks to you. The Greek word for this kind of direction from God is “rhema.”
There are two Greek words translated “word of God” in the New Testament. Logos means a word that God said, past tense. The Bible is the primary source of what God said. The Bible is always true. It contains everything we need to know about God and every promise for our life. We can stand on what God said and it will change our lives and circumstances. The word Rhema means what God is saying now
Active faith must start with a Rhema word of God. In Jericho, God spoke to Joshua through the angel. He gave him a plan to follow. Joshua followed the plan. He acted on the Word of God. The result was that in seven days the walls fell. You can see the force of faith being applied to the object obstructing the will of God and in a relative short time the results were manifest. I have applied active faith many times in my ministry. The results often took longer than 7 days, but they were actively obtained by hearing from God and acting on what I heard. I like active faith! It is usually spectacular as are the results. It is not the kind of faith we usually are required to walk in. There is another kind of faith we will call “passive faith.” Today we will begin to look at that.
Hebrews 11:31 says that Rahab did not perish with those who did not believed “when she received the spies.” It almost seems that it was the act of receiving the spies that saved her. The problem with that thought is that Hebrews 11 says she did not perish because of her faith. Receiving the spies was how Rahab released her faith in God. However, her faith worked very differently from Joshua’s. We are going to see how, and we will find that most of the time, our faith will be more like Rahab’s than Joshua’s. First let us find out about Rahab.
Joshua 2:1 (NKJV) 1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.
We see here that Joshua sent out two spies on a reconnaissance mission to the west side of Jordon. He wanted to know what they were up against. Of course, the first thing they see is the city of Jericho. It is not hard to understand that if the children of Israel are going to take Canaan, they must take Jericho, so they enter the city. They will need a place to stay. The Bible says they came to the house of a harlot named Rahab.
I have heard messages of how God could even use this “evil” harlot for his purposes. He protected her because she repented of her evil ways. I believe God’s love did reach out to her, but I do not see any repentance. What is even more interesting is why these men of Israel who were hand picked by Joshua would immediately find a house of prostitution. Did they get a little distracted from their mission? I hardly think so. We need to find out about this “harlot.”
The word translated “harlot” in this verse certainly means just that. It was the common term for a prostitute and for prostitution. In the Bible, it usually referred to spiritual prostitution with other gods. However, according to Adam Clarke’s Commentary it could also be used in another way. If a woman kept an inn, it would be assumed that she was of questionable character. She would often be called a “harlot.” I think it is likely that Rahab was such a woman.
We do not know what her character was. She may have included prostitution as part of her business. Again, I find it hard to believe that two trusted Israelite men would enter the city and go to a place the was against the holiness of God. One more piece of evidence comes from Matthew 1:5. Here we find that Rahab married a prince of Israel named Salmon. Would such an important man marry a common prostitute even if she had been reformed? Maybe, but I find it doubtful.
I think Rahab was probably a woman who was single for reason’s we do not know. As we read on in Joshua 2, it becomes clear she has a family. Verse 18 says she must bring herself, her father, her mother, her brothers and all her father’s family into her house when the time of deliverance comes. Could it be that she was helping to support these people? We do not know, but we do know that she hid the spies among flax drying on her roof.
I cannot completely prove this but it would seem that she ran an inn where travelers lodged. It makes far more sense that the two spies would have gone there to rest than they would have gone to a brothel. Flax was used to make cloth. Could she have been in the weaving business as well? She had a scarlet rope she used to lower the men to safety and as a sign when they returned. Colored dye was not cheap in the ancient world. Could she have traded in such things. I see a woman who is entrapreneurial doing many things to support herself and maybe her family. Her reputation probably was not good in the city. I see her as someone who did not care what people thought. She did what she had to. I am inclined to doubt that sex for money was part of her business.
Here are some other things we do know. Whatever brought the men to her caused her to be in position to make a choice. These Israelites came to her. They were simple travelers who went to an inn to rest and probably eat. They were not advertising who they were. Even so, Rahab recognized them. She knew they were Israelites and figured they were there to spy out the city as a prelude to attack.
Another interesting thing about Rahab is that the king of Jericho knew to look there for the Hebrew spies. It says that some of the king’s agents heard the spies were in the city. When he was told of this it says the “King of Jericho sent word to Rahab, “Send out the men who entered your house.” Does the mayor of the city know the madame of the brothels in the red-light district of town? Only if he has a “special relationship” with them. Rahab’s inn was known by the king himself.
Let us look at this for a moment. Spies have come to Rahab. The king knows they are there. It would give her great favor with the king if she sent them out. Instead she chose to hide them. Why would she do that? She tells us in verse 9
Joshua 2:9 (NKJV) 9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.
Rahab makes a choice. She chooses the God of Israel over the safety of Jericho. Her faith puts her in position for one of the greatest stories of deliverance and restoration in the bible.