Courage to Change (Rahab) – Joshua 2

All of us desire to change something about our lives. All of us have a past. Rahab certainly did.  Rahab desired to change and God worked in her life, regardless of her past.  He wants to do the same with us.  The Promised Land is for everyone!

Only two women are personally named in Hebrews 11, “The Hall of Fame of Faith”: Sarah, the wife of Abraham (v. 11), and Rahab, the harlot of Jericho (v. 31).

Sarah was a godly woman, the wife of the founder of the Hebrew race; and God used her dedicated body to bring Isaac into the world. But Rahab was an ungodly Gentile who worshiped pagan gods and sold her body for money. Humanly speaking, Sarah and Rahab had nothing in common. But from the divine viewpoint, Sarah and Rahab shared the most important thing in life: They both had exercised saving faith in the true and living God.

Not only does the Bible associate Rahab with Sarah; but in James 2:21-26, it also associates her with Abraham. James used both Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the fact that true saving faith always proves itself by good works.

But there’s more: The Bible associates Rahab with the Messiah! When you read the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 1, you find Rahab’s name listed there (v. 5), along with Jacob, David, and the other famous people in the messianic line. She has certainly come a long way from being a pagan prostitute to being an ancestress of the Messiah! “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” Rom. 5:20.

Let’s dive into this incredible life of courage and change.  The account picks up here we left off last, Moses has died and Joshua is now in charge. He’s about to lead the people of Israel to cross the Jordan river and enter Canaan. 500 years earlier God had promised Abraham that He would establish his descendants in this land, which is why it is referred to as “the Promised Land” and the people of Israel are finally about to cross the Jordan and lay claim to this land that God had said would be theirs.

D-day is almost here. And, like any good commander, before the invasion begins Joshua wanted to gather information about the enemy. So, as it says in verse 1, “Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. [He told them] ‘Go, look over the land-especially Jericho.’”

The Hebrew nation was camped about seven miles east of the Jordan. Jericho was located about seven miles west of the Jordan almost directly opposite them. And Joshua specifically mentioned this city as the focus of this particular reconnaissance mission because it was a formidable fortress city guarding the pass leading westward into the mountainous regions of Canaan. Conquering it would give Israel an important foothold into the Promised land, which is no doubt the reason Jericho was so fortified in the first place.

And in Joshua’s mind it was important to find out as much as possible about it’s defensive capabilities before they mounted an attack. No doubt this brand-spanking new leader wanted these two to bring him information of Jericho’s walls and gates, its state of preparation, the number of its inhabitants, the size of its army, etc.

One thing I would point out is that the people of land had been marked for destruction way back in Genesis 15:16 when, after foretelling the exodus from Egypt, God said to Abraham, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here [to Canaan], for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

The time had now come. The Amorites had used their God-given freedom of choice to sin, to turn away from God, such that their culture had degenerated past the point of no return, degenerated to the point that it had reached God’s maximum tolerance level. Understand: our Heavenly Father didn’t cause this to happen but He knew it would, so He had promised this land to Israel.

The activities of these two spies was absolutely top secret. Unlike the 12 spies who had entered Canaan 40 years ago, the work of these two were known only to Joshua. In my mind they were similar to television’s Mission Impossible teams-only the highest level of government knew of their assignment. Perhaps they received their orders on a special scroll designed to self-destruct after telling them that if they were captured Joshua would disavow any knowledge of their actions. That’s stretching things a bit but Joshua did have them go secretly. Not even the Israelites knew of their assignment. Verses 23-24 tell us they were to report back to Joshua and Joshua only.

And understand: He wasn’t asking them for feedback, just to gather the information and get it back to him. He wasn’t going to give them a press conference when they returned so the people could discuss what they found out among themselves and then decide whether to cross over the Jordan or not. No, only Joshua knew they were going, and only he would hear their report when they returned.

John MacArthur writes,

“Israel had traveled down the dead-end road of popular opinion already and it cost them almost forty years’ time. Joshua was taking the role of a decisive commander. He would assess the spies’ report personally and decide (with the Lord’s help, not a vote of the populace) how his armies would proceed.”

Apparently, the spies were able to at least enter Jericho undetected. It was a large city and people came and went all the time. Perhaps they posed as traveling merchants or traders.

Verse 1 says that once they were within the city’s thick walls, they entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and they stayed there. Now this sounds like something James Bond would do, but not two Jewish spies. So why would two members of God’s chosen nation enter a house of ill repute?

There are several potential reasons. First, the presence of strangers in this kind of establishment would not arouse undue suspicion. Kingdom foreigners, travelers, were common there so they wouldn’t stand out. Plus, someone in Rahab’s line of work would be knowledgeable of public affairs, no pun intended. A house of ill repute was a good place back then to gather information.

And the fact that the house was located on the top of the wall would make it a great place to complete their assignment. They could look out over the city and monitor troop movements and defenses.

Another reason to choose her house was that it offered a method of escape since it was located on the exterior city wall which meant it’s windows faced outward.

I think the main reason they went to Rahab’s house was that God led them there. We’ll talk more about this later but for now suffice it to say that God sent them there because He knew the desires of her heart. He knew she yearned to know Him and serve Him.

Now, for about 250 years some biblical critics claimed that this story was mythological or at best historical fiction, because at the time there was no evidence that there were houses built into city walls in the ancient near east. But the excavations at the Tel in Jericho after the turn of the century showed that the city was indeed surrounded by double walls with 12 feet between them. These excavations also uncovered evidence that simple houses were in fact built on top of timbers that were spread between the two walls-which sounds exactly like Rahab’s home.

Unfortunately the spies failed in their efforts to remain undetected. Perhaps their disguises weren’t good enough or maybe a client overheard as they identified themselves to Rahab. But someone found them out and told the king, perhaps hoping to claim a reward for finding spies of the huge Jewish nation that everyone knew was camped directly across the river.

And the king immediately dispatched soldiers to Rahab’s house, no doubt expecting Rahab to do her patriotic duty and turn the spies in. But instead she committed the capital offense of treason! She hid the men under stalks of flax which she had laid on her roof, stalks that were probably always kept there in case a client needed to be hidden from his jealous wife.

  1. Rahab Chose to Take a Side

When the guards came looking for these to agents Rahab said they weren’t there and sent the soldiers on a wild goose chase. Now, in my study I found that commentary writers argue over whether or not Rahab sinned by lying to these soldiers. And I’m no scholar but I for one would say no, she did not sin. Kingdom, many people have been honored for deceiving the enemy in war time, and this was a time of war. In my mind, she was simply resisting an evil, corrupt government to protect people who were serving God.

Plus, the Bible does teach that it’s okay to lie in order to deceive a godless government. Exodus 1 tells of the time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt and their nation grew so that the Pharaoh told the midwives to kill any baby boys that were born. But verse 17 says that the midwives feared God and did not do what the Pharaoh had asked. When he summoned them to ask why, they lied and said, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. They are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” And verse 20 tells how God felt about their deception. It says, “So God was kind to the midwives…”

A more modern day example of this can be found in the life experiences of Corrie Ten Boom. In her book The Hiding Place Corrie tells of her father, a devout Christian man who hid Jews in his home and helped smuggle them out of the country under the noses of the Nazis. His pastor came by and urged him not to do these things, saying, “Christians must obey the law.” But, Father Ten Boom responded by saying that Christians are to obey God first, above any human law that conflicts with His laws.

So, Rahab lied. But in my opinion, she didn’t sin. She sensed there was something unusual about these two men, something different from the other men who frequented her home. Perhaps these spies were the first to come through her door without sinful intent. But in her heart she knew they were the good guys and so, at risk of her own life, she lied to the king’s soldiers.

After the soldiers left, Rahab asked the spies to spare her life and the lives of her family when the city was destroyed. And the spies agreed. As a secret code, they instructed her to leave a scarlet rope hanging in the window of her home so that the Jewish army would know not to destroy it and then she helped them escape via a rope from a window on the wall giving them instructions so that they could avoid capture and return to Joshua and the rest of the army.

After the soldiers left on their wild goose chase, Rahab spoke to those two spies. She told them that she had heard of the miracles God had been doing with and for the people of Israel. Perhaps her customers, travelers from afar, had brought her news of how God had dried up the Red Sea so that the entire nation could cross on dry ground and that He had led them to conquer the Amorite Kings Og and Sihon, including the total destruction of their walled cities.

But somehow this lost, pagan woman had heard of the mighty works of the God of Israel and it made her believe in His power. In fact she spoke of the takeover of all Canaan by the Hebrew people as if it were already an accomplished fact. Look at verse 9 of chapter 2 where she says to them, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you.” Rahab also said that all of Jericho was afraid of the people of Israel. Listen to her words: “…a great fear has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.”

In short, Rahab and her countrymen saw God at work in and through His people! And unlike her fellow Amorites, Rahab’s response was to leave her sinful lifestyle and embrace a personal faith in God. In essence Rahab said, I believe “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Now, in this statement she referred to God as “YAHWEH.” She didn’t use a Canaanite name for God, but the covenant name that the Hebrew people used for their personal God.

  1. Rahab Chose to Profess Her Faith

And this reminds us that, even today, when people like Rahab see things happening in the lives of other people that can only be explained by their relationship with God, well it makes them yearn to have that kind of covenant relationship with God as well. They believe that God really is God because they see His people doing things that could only be explained by His presence and power.

Rahab heard with her own ears and then saw with her own eyes the power of God working in and through His people. This made her long to know Him.

God’s love wasn’t limited to the Hebrew people! The spies learned-even before Peter penned these words-that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

They saw that God loved even the Amorites, that it was they who rejected Him, not the other way around. They discovered this because when this Amorite woman sought God, He answered. When she reached out to God, she found Him reaching back to her! These spies learned that as God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” They found that as Isaiah 30:18 says, “The Lord longs to be gracious…He rises to show compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

God knew that Joshua didn’t really need to know the city’s defenses. God knew how He was going to enable them to conquer that fortified city. But He didn’t stop Joshua from sending the spies, did He? why did he let Joshua send those men on an unnecessary and potentially dangerous mission?

God did it because their mission, unbeknownst to them, was not to scout the city’s defenses but rather to get to Rahab, this woman He knew longed to know Him.

The situation here is similar to that in John 4:4 where we are told that Jesus, “had to go through Samaria.” Jesus didn’t have to take the Samaritan road because it was the only road to Galilee; it was not. Usually another way was taken. No, He had to take that road because there was a seeker, a lonely woman thirsty for God, residing there. And so Jesus entered Samaria to save that woman and the rest of her village who would respond to His message.

In a similar way these two spies were sent to Jericho to save Rahab. This is why they had to go to Jericho.

  1. Rahab Chose to Change Her Future

Think of it. Rahab had nothing going for her, humanly speaking. She didn’t deserve to know God.  She was a gentile-a foreigner to the covenant between God and the Hebrew people.

She was an Amorite, part of a corrupt and vile nation that had been marked for destruction, people who sacrificed children in their depraved religious practices.

She was a prostitute, someone who made their living by breaking God’s law.

Yet when she decided to change and reached out to God, in His amazing grace our Holy God reached back and not only saved her but used her life in a powerful way! After the literal fall of Jericho, Rahab was taken back to live with the people of Israel. She married a Jewish man named Salmon whom tradition says was one of those two spies, this is the romance aspect of this story, and together they had a son named Boaz. Boaz was the husband of Ruth and the father of Obed which would make him Rahab’s grandson. And Obed was the father of Jesse, who was her great grandson. And Jesse was the father of David-yes, the King David-who was her great, great grandson. And not only that, but as Matthew Chapter 1 reminds us, out of the line and lineage of David and his great great grandma, came Jesus, the Christ, the only Son of God.

So in His amazing grace God used Rahab, in spite of her sin. She’s a perfect example of the principle of grace that we find in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 where Paul says,

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; .and the base things of the world and the things which are despised. “

So, Rahab’s life shows that we don’t receive God’s gift because we deserve it. We aren’t given eternal, abundant life because of what we do, but because of our faith in what He has done we are saved because of our faith in His grace, His power.

Do you remember the secret code that the spies gave Rahab to prevent her home from destruction when the city fell? She was to hang a scarlet chord out her window, and if she did her life would be spared. In my mind this is a symbol of the fact that we too are saved from destruction by our faith in the crimson blood of Jesus. As 1 John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.”

The same message is issued to all of us here today. Perhaps your past is not as difficult as hers, maybe you think your sin is somehow different. In God’s eyes it is the same. Sin is sin and forgiveness is forgiveness and he offers it to all who will receive it. Do you have the courage to change?



Message Audio/Video and Outline:

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 23-28.

The Faith of Rahab – John MacArthur

Redland Resources – Mark Adams

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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