The Book of Joshua Series
Conquering the Land
“By Faith Rahab”
Joshua 2; 6.22-25; Hebrews 11.31; James 2.24-25
Last week we began a new sermon series in the book of Joshua entitled “Conquering the Land.” Even though the possession of the Promise Land had deep historical and redemptive significance, it is also a metaphor for the Christian life. As believers we should always be progressing out of the wilderness and pressing on in our spiritual journey.
COVID has made it difficult to be forward thinking about anything. Remember a decade ago when it was trendy to set goals and objectives for 2020. Everyone had a “2020 Vision” but now after living through 2020 it is difficult to set any goals or objective for the future. Forget “Canceled Culture” COVID has canceled everything. But there is one thing that believers in Christ cannot allow to be canceled. We cannot cancel pressing on in our spiritual journey. We must arise, cross this Jordan, and enter into God’s promises! (Josh.1.2)
Last week we saw Joshua overcome his fear by renewing his faith in God’s promises and issuing marching order to the people to make provisions for in three days they were going to cross this Jordan, to go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God is giving you, to possess it. (1.11)
The City of Jericho
The Israelites were encamped in the Jordan valley opposite Jericho, ready to cross the river. Jericho means “place of fragrance” and it was located about five miles west of Jordan River. It was the most important city in the Jordan valley (Num. 22:1; 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was a key stronghold in conquering the Land. Joshua, an experienced “5 Star General,” understood how important intel was before making an attack. So as the people gathered provisions for the journey Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” (2.1a)
A Prostitute Named Rahab
At this point we might expect Scripture to give us a detail scouting report of what these two spies discovered but the next thing the Bible tells us is that they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (Josh.2.2) What?! What in the world are these two Jewish boys doing in a brothel? Now before you start having negative thoughts about these guys it is interesting to note that the first century historian Josephus, mentions that Rahab was an innkeeper. As well, it was common for both an inn and a brothel to function within the same building. As well, it was common to both for an inn and a brothel to have a bar. So, I ask you, what better place to gather information than a bar? These two spies being sent on this special mission determined the best place to gather information was by sitting at the bar. You might call it “Bar Stool Espionage.”
Rahab Hides the Spies
Rahab was an experienced barkeep. Through the years she had seen thousands of guys pass through her establishment and when she saw these two guys she knew that something was different. And as she listened to them asking all those questions she became quite curious about exactly what these two guys were up to. For years Rahab had listened to hundreds of stories from travelers but it was the stories about the divine deliverance of Israel out of slavery in Egypt that she enjoyed hearing the most. Stories about the plagues, stories about crossing the Red Sea on dry land, stories about the Passover, stories about the One and Only God who delivers His people out of bondage. These stories of deliverance intrigued Rahab as she considered her own personal slavery to sin and licentious lifestyle as a prostitute. The Bible doesn’t hide Rahab’s immorality. As a matter of fact, four times in the book of Joshua and two times in the New Testament she is distinguished as “Rahab, the harlot.” (Josh.2.1; 6.17, 22, 25; Heb.11.31; Js.2.25) It seems that the Holy Spirit wants to make the point that God was doing a divine work in this hooker’s heart.
As Rahab heard these stories her heart began to melt as she dreamed of the day when the God in heaven above and on earth beneath would come and deliver her out of her own personal despair. As she listened to these stories, God worked faith in her heart enabling her to embrace the God of salvation. Most recently these stories of deliverance had resurfaced with intensity. The people of Jericho had heard the news that Israel was camped just across the Jordan River and had utterly destroyed the neighboring kingdoms of Sihon and Og. (Josh.2.10; Num.21.21-35) Rahab knew that if God destroyed the kingdoms of the Amorites He would most certainly destroy Jericho. So, when realized that these two travelers were spies she knew that this was God’s divine providence – her opportunity to seize salvation. But there were others in the bar that also figured out that something was up with these two guys and they went and told to the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to spy out the land.” (2.3)
Rahab knew that their cover was blown so she brought them up to the roof and hid them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. (2.6) The fact of her covering the spies with bundles of flax that was lying on her rooftop is an interesting “coincidence.” You see, it was the time of the barley harvest and bundles of barley and stalks of flax were drying on the rooftops throughout Jericho. The world calls it a “coincidence.” The Christian Theologians calls it “Divine Providence.” The common everyday Christians calls it a “God-thing.” Call it what you want the fact is God always provides a covering to hide His people from the enemy. As the hymn writer wrote, “He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand, And covers me there with His hand.” (Fanny Crosby) Brothers and sisters, the Lord always provides a way of escape! (ICor.10.13) The Lord knows how to rescue the godly? (2Pt.2.9)
Before Rahab covered the men with the barley stalks she said, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have despaired because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard these reports, our hearts melted and no courage remained in anyone any longer because of you; for the Lord
your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother, and my brothers and my sisters, and all who belong to them, and save our lives from death.” So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the Lord gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” (2.9-14)
After tucking the boys in, Rahab snuck back into the bar and shortly receives orders from the king of Jericho to bring out the men who had come to search out the land. (2.3) Rahab responded saying, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about, when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” (2.4-5) Many have wondered if it was right for Rahab to lie. Let me respond by answering, “yes.” Why, because the events of Old Testament Israel are redemptive in nature. If you stand against Old Testament Israel, you are standing against God. So, in this narrative the spies are the good guys and the authorities of Jericho are the bad guys. So for Rahab to protect the spies was the ultimate act of faith in God. God’s Word confirms this by telling us that Rahab the harlot was justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. (Js.2.25) Hiding and lying about the spies was an definitive act of faith. The Bible tells us that because Rahab welcomed the spies in peace she was acted out obedience not disobedience. (Heb.11.31)
Even in the course of non-redemptive events it is just and righteous to defend the lives of others. Let me ask you, was it just and right for many Europeans to hide Jews in secret rooms in their homes and lie to the Nazis to save lives? Yes! Was it just and right for those involved in the Underground Railroad to lie to authorities about a network of secret routes and safe houses that were used to help enslaved African-American to escape to free states and Canada? Yes! He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8) So let justice roll on like a river, and
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5.24) And that is exactly with Rahab was doing!
When Rahab knew it was safe she went back to the rooftop and let the spies down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. And she said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not encounter you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” And the men said to her, “We shall be exempt from this oath to you which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather into your house your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. And it shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house outside will have his blood on his own head, and we will be innocent; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be exempt from the oath which you have made us swear.” She then said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window. (2.15-21)
As the spies slipped away into the shadows of night, Rahab prayed that the spies would not be caught and waited to hear any news. After hearing nothing for three long days she assumed that they must had made it back to camp safely. But now, she still had to wait. She had no idea what was going on or what plan Joshua would use to attack Jericho. She waited in faith believing in the God of heaven and earth, the God of deliverance, would come and deliver her and her family.
Waiting is an aspect of faith that most of us don’t enjoy. We all want fast faith, drive thru deliverance, and microwave miracles. But waiting purifies our faith. It burns away the dross of deception and melts our hearts so that God can mold our motives. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. (Ps.27.14) Brothers and sisters, even when we have done the right thing we sometimes have to wait on the Lord. But we should never be afraid to trust the unknown future to an all-knowing God. Rahab had done everything right and now she had to trust the unknown future to an all-knowing God and we should follow her example. The Lord had worked faith in her heart to believe in the God of deliverance but now she had to wait for her personal deliverance to come.
During this whole time of waiting Jericho was on lockdown. No one went out and no one came in. (6.1) Then finally one day Rahab heard the sound of trumpets. She rushed to the window to see the children of Israel marching around the city. She ran and gathered her father, mother, and the rest of her relatives into her house. She hung the scarlet fabric outside of her window and she waited with her family for deliverance.
Rahab and her family watch as the children of Israel for the next six days march one time around the city not saying a word, just blowing their trumpets, and returning to camp. There was a sense of bewilderment of actually what was going on. Then on the seventh day the children of Israel marched around the city but this time they went around a second time, and a third, and a forth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and a seventh. (6.2-15) Then Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. (6.16-17) So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, everyone straight ahead, and they took the city. They utterly destroyed everything in the city. However, Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (6.20-21a; 25)
The story of Rahab reveals that this one time prostitute became a woman of faith. The Lord loves to produce something beautiful out of our sinful past. The Lord loves to bring beauty out of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Is.61.3) He loves to make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called to His purpose. (Rom.8.28) The Lord by His grace can break through our past and use us for His own glory! And that is exactly what He did with Rahab. Let me explain.
Verse 25 reads, “However, Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” This is last time we hear about Rahab in the Old Testament. But we do find her on the opening page of the New Testament in the genealogy of Christ in the book of Matthew where we are told that, “Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab. (Mt.1.5) Most scholars agree that Salmon was one of the two spies that Rahab hid on her rooftop in Jericho. Wouldn’t you love to know more about that love story? But even better than that, Salmon was from the house of Judah, and thus, Rahab, the one time harlot, married into one of the leading families of Israel, and became the great-great–grandmother of King David, which was the family that would eventually produce Jesus Christ. (Mt.1.5)
Yes! The Lord use an ex-prostitute to fulfill the genealogy of Christ Jesus the One who would save His people from their sins. (Mt.1.21) Brothers and sisters, the Lord by His grace through Christ can break through our past and use us for His own glory! Did you know that Rahab is the only woman besides Sarah, the wife of Abraham, named as an example of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven? What a manifestation of divine grace to find this one-time harlot listed with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David! Truly God had enabled Rahab to laid aside every encumbrance and sin that so easily entangled her so that she could run the race of faith with her eyes fixed on Jesus. (Heb.12.1-2)
As I mentioned in the opening of my sermon the possession of the Promise Land had deep historical and redemptive significance, it is also a metaphor for the Christian life. As believers we should always be progressing out of the wilderness and pressing on in our spiritual journey. And this is what we see in Rahab. She trusted that the Lord would deliver her out of the bondage of Jericho and bring her safely into His covenant care. And we as God’s people must trust that the Lord will do the same for us today. Let us seek the Lord to cover us with His grace, to bring deliverance, and use us for His glory.
Call to Prayer
For on the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
He will hide me in the secret place of His tent;
He will lift me up on a rock. (Ps.27.5)
To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and made us into a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev.1.5-6)