In the book of Joshua, we are introduced to a faithful woman known as Rahab. She is one of the only two women named in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible. Her amazing story portrays how God accepts a person no matter what his or her background is.
The story of Rahab can be found in Joshua 2-6. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, it is now time for the nation of Israel to enter the Promised Land. However, they are immediately faced with a great obstacle, the city of Jericho.
Rahab’s story illustrates that God’s purpose is not limited to your past.
Joshua, now the leader of Israel, sent two spies to scout the city. In the course of event, these spies happened to come to the place of Rahab and the King of Jericho ordered for these men to be captured. Rahab kept them safe and helped the spies to escape.
Rahab is a harlot or prostitute living in Jericho, a Canaanite city. Because of her faith, she and her family were spared from the total destruction of Jericho. Ultimately, she was used by God to play a role in forming the lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 11 has this to say about Rahab’s faith:
“By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (verse 31).
Is it possible for us to learn something from the life of Rahab, a harlot and gentile, despised by men? The answer is a glaring, YES! Let us now learn the important and powerful lessons from the story of Rahab.
Lesson no. 1: Godly fear should lead to faith
After helping the spies to escape the soldiers of Jericho’s king, Rahab spoke these words:
“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. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, HE IS GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON EARTH BENEATH (Joshua 2:9-11).
Notice that it is not only Rahab who feared the Israelites. The whole city has already heard about the miraculous crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea. Though it was already about 40 years ago, this kind of miracle won’t go unnoticed, especially after the army of the greatest power of their time was destroyed by God.
Though many feared, it is possibly only Rahab who took one step further. She didn’t let her fear to drive her to cowardice and stagnation. Instead, her fear transformed her from being unbelieving to a believing gentile. She acted upon her fear and recognized that the God of Israel is truly the God of heaven above and on earth beneath.
Every opportunity to fear is also an opportunity to trust God.
There is no doubt that Rahab could have initially felt worldly fear — the kind of fear that can make a person irrational and unstable in their thinking. However, as the years passed by, Rahab continually has thought of how the God of Israel delivered His people from the mighty Egyptian empire and the two kings of Amorites.
Slowly but surely, the worldly fear of Rahab turned into a godly fear. This type of fear helps a person to think in the right perspective. Fearing God does not mean to constantly cower in terror in His presence. Because if this kind of fear forces you to obey God, it will not produce the right kind of relationship with Him.
Godly fear means recognizing the immense power of God and recognizing ourselves as insignificant in comparison to Him. In spite of this, God still chose to send His Son, His beloved and only begotten Son, to die for our sins. Because of this, God deserves our highest respect and reverence.
Rahab recognizes that this God has set in motion spiritual laws that when we choose to break, they will break us instead. Because of Rahab fearing God, she was able to begin developing godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 15:33). Rahab feared God and as a result, her life and the life of her family was spared from the destruction of Jericho (Proverbs 10:27; 14:27).
Like Rahab, dedicate your life to learning the right kind of fear towards God. Our Father does not want us to live in worldly fear, but He wants us to have the spirit of power, love, and sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). Like what Solomon, the wisest man during his lifetime, had said:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Lesson no. 2: Lying, which is a sin, will always be a sin
To save the Israelite spies, Rahab lied to the king’s soldiers. She took the spies and hid them. When asked where the spies were, she replied and said;
“Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them” (Joshua 2:4-5).
In this passage, Rahab obviously was lying to protect the two spies. Sadly, some people use this example to make an excuse and prove their reasoning that lying is not always bad. They would argue that the example of Rahab shows us that lying is okay if it is done for a good cause.
In this point in time, we must remember that Rahab, like any of us, is not perfect. She is commended and mentioned in Hebrews 11 because of her faith and not her lying. The Bible clearly tells us that lying is not acceptable in the eyes of God (Proverbs 12:22; Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 6:17).
There is no excuse in telling a lie.
Rahab grew up as a gentile and may have not been fully “educated” in the ways of God. All of her life, she had lived apart from the knowledge of God. She may have not yet even fully understood the magnitude of her past sinful way of life. As this might be the case, having the faith to believe in God and follow His commandments is the first step to becoming part of God’s people.
James 2:25 has this to say about Rahab:
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
In the situation of Rahab, the natural response of her faith at that time is to hide the spies and lie to the soldiers of the king. However, if she had known the truth about lying, she could have acted different. She could have a stronger faith to know that God is able to deliver the spies with or without her help. We can be sure that as she continues living the way of life God has called her to, she would eventually learn that lying is not good.
As Christians, we must develop a strong sense of commitment that sin is always a sin and this include lying. Of course, it is not always easy to prevent lying when it comes to saving a life, just like in the case of Rahab. God would ultimately judge you according to your motive and attitude. Jesus Christ later said that the weightier matters of the law are judgment, mercy, and faith. God will always have mercy to those who would do their best to follow His way of life.
Lesson no. 3: There is no sin too great for God to not forgive
God is a very merciful God. Throughout the Bible, we have seen many descriptions of His undying mercy towards His people. Just to give an example, here’s what Lamentations 3:22-23 state:
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
We have seen that Rahab has been a prostitute and as Halley’s Bible Handbook suggests, she could have been a temple prostitute. This line of work, in the eyes of Canaanites, is acceptable. However, this does not excuse her for living a sinful life according to the standards set by God.
The city of Jericho is one of the central and most prominent places for idol worship. The Canaanites are bent on worshiping Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. Rahab is living in the midst of the vilest and most abominable Canaanite religion, which she is part of.
In our society today, prostitutes are looked down upon. Some people see them as one of the lowest of people who don’t deserve to be part of any of God’s church today. The word harlot has been forever attached to her name.
No sin is greater than God’s mercy.
In Hebrews 11, Sarah and Rahab are the only women mentioned. There is no question that Sarah’s life qualified her to be part of the faith chapter. After all, Sarah showed, in most cases, the Christian values and qualities we are called to have.
But how about Rahab? Why would even a righteous, holy, and powerful God call a harlot, gentile, and sinful woman to be part of His fold?
The answer lies to the great and incredible mercy of God. God does not play favoritism (Romans 2:11). Though during Rahab’s time God is primarily working with the Israelites, salvation is not limited only to them. As long as you recognize that God is God and follow His will for your life, you will be welcomed to the family of God.
There is no doubt that Rahab lived a sinful life. Nevertheless, she had the faith to believe that God is able to forgive her of the many sins she committed. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive but we must also recognize the part we must play in repentance.
Through the mercy of God, Rahab was given an opportunity to repent of her sins and turn her life the other way around. Rahab was living in faith when she recognized that she needed the forgiveness of God. She knew that she cannot continue living in sin.
Rahab did not just asked for forgiveness, but she showed her repentant attitude by turning away from the society, culture, and way of life she knew all her life.
Repentance came from the Greek word, metanoia. It means a reversal or change. Repentance is asking for God’s forgiveness and having the determination to have a 180 degree turn from our sins.
Repentance would NEVER be complete without changing our way of life. No matter how sorry and remorseful we are, if we don’t have the evident change that God is looking for, all of that would be in vain. Just like what the Apostle Paul said:
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (II Corinthians 7:10).
Remember that Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice covers ALL sin. As long as you repent and turn from your wicked way, God will always forgive and ready to accept you. So instead of running away from God when we commit sin, we must run toward Him and ask for forgiveness, just like what Rahab did.
Lesson no. 4: God protects many for the sake of one
Rahab is not the only Canaanite who was saved. It could have been very easy for Rahab to think about her own safety but she was better than that. Before letting the two spies escape through her window, she said:
“Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:12).
This is the type of faith Rahab has. Remember that she only heard the stories on how the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and defeated mighty kings. Though she had only heard this, she come to the point to believe this report to be true. She didn’t just believed that God does really exist, but she also developed the faith that God is the most powerful being who would be able to protect her and her family from the sure destruction that would fall on the city of Jericho.
Rahab could have placed her faith on the great and strong walls of Jericho. She could have just dismissed the power of God who is able to defeat foes mightier than the Israelites. She could have just betrayed the two spies and turned them over to the king’s soldiers.
But no, she didn’t. In fact, she put the safety of her entire household in the belief that God is able to deliver them from danger.
Instead of trusting the walls of Jericho, Rahab trusted in God’s wall of protection.
In this situation, it is worth noting that God is willing as well to save other people for the sake of His people. Of course, it is possible that the family of Rahab could also have the faith similar to her. After all, they wouldn’t be in the house of Rahab if they had not believed her report.
Christians must always remember that God’s mercy extends to all people. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the whole of humanity and not just for a select few. Therefore, through the faith of some, many will eventually be saved.
This should also show us the future plan of God. The story of Rahab, a Canaanite and gentile woman, represents the promise of God to extend salvation to non-Israelites (Romans 9:22-26; Acts 2:21).
Lesson no. 5: We worship God according to His own term
Rahab was raised in a pagan city. She was deprived of the teachings and knowledge of how to righteously live this life. Because of this, she did not have the right guide and “instruction manual” to become a godly woman.
By the time she knew of the Israelites, she heard the amazing stories about their deliverance from the land of Egypt and how God promised them to have a land they will call their own.
After helping the two spies from the nation of Israel, she would be saved on two conditions. She should bind a line of scarlet cord in the same window where the two spies escaped from and they should all be inside that house during the attack of the Israelites (Joshua 2:18).
Notice, for Rahab and her family to be saved, they must do something. God is willing to save those people who are also willing to save themselves. There is no doubt that God is “not willing for anyone to perish but that all should to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). Through God’s grace we are saved and not of our own. But God still expects us to do something to develop the righteous and godly character required to rule in His Kingdom.
We cannot believe in God and at the same time, go against His will. Our faith and action must be consistent.
Rahab could have easily dismissed the condition set by the two spies and follow other conditions she deemed to be more convenient and rational. But by doing so, the Israelites would not know which house to save. This should teach us that worshiping and following God must be according to His will and not ours.
So many so-called Christians are now accepting Christ but are not accepting His way of life. It is like saying, “God I believed in you but I will not follow what you commanded”. God expects us to worship him in truth and spirit (John 4:24).
Just like Rahab, though she was a former pagan and idol worshiper, she did not argue to God and brought along with her the abominable knowledge of how to worship a deity. Instead, she submitted to the will and commandments of God. Instead of continuing to worship God according to her knowledge, she gave up all of those and genuinely worshiped God in truth and spirit.
Rahab, like any of us, is a sinner. But this does not mean that all hope is gone. All you have to do is to call on God, repent, and live a life pleasing to Him. The life of Rahab showed us that no matter what your current circumstance is, God will still accept you as long as you have the right attitude.
The story of Rahab did not end in saving the two spies. Later we can read, “Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwells in Israel even to this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Rahab and her family” (Joshua 6:25).
The plan of God is greater than your failures.
Rahab eventually learned more about God. She exponentially grew in the knowledge of God and had developed the character that attracted a prominent tribal leader of Judah, Salmon. The marriage of Salmon and Rahab gave birth to Boaz that would eventually lead to the birth of King David and ultimately, Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind.
Rahab’s life should inspire and lead us to obey God. No matter who you are, God can use you. So be faithful and learn the lessons from the life of Rahab.