Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 The Story of Rahab

Joshua 2:1-24


In the second chapter of Joshua, we are introduced to a woman by the name of Rahab.

Rahab lived in the city of Jericho; in fact her house was built on the outer wall that surrounded the city for protection.

From her window overlooking the wall, she would be able to see the travelers who would come to her city before they even entered the gates.

If she eyed a handsome young man about to enter the city, she could capture his attention by leaning out her window and calling down to him, if she wanted.

Rahab could not have asked for a better place to live than right here on the outer wall of her city.  And the reason for that was because Rahab was a prostitute.

She was a woman who would sell her body for the pleasure of men.

When men who had traveled from great distances would come to her walled city, all she would have to do to let them know that she was available, was to pretty herself up, lean out her window and call down to them.

How many hearts do you think she had broken?
How many homes do you think she had destroyed?
How many families had she torn apart?
How many marriages had she ruined?

And she did it all for the love of money.

It wasn’t like she was homeless or living in the streets that forced her into this lifestyle.

It wasn’t that she had no one to help or give her encouragement and support.

The Bible tells us that her mother, father, brothers and even her sisters lived right there in the same city.

And yet she traded loot for lust.

All through the Bible, whenever her name is mentioned, right next to it is the words, “The Prostitute”.  Rahab, the Prostitute.

That is how she will for ever be remembered.

She will forever be remembered for what she once was and probably not for what she became.

You see, one day her whole life changed.

She eventually met a man who loved her more for who she was than for what she did and he happened to be a prince.

In time they married and had a child together, the child’s name was Boaz.  And like all love stories, as far as we know they did live happily ever after.

But let’s get back up to the beginning of the story.  Back to the time, where Rahab first comes into the picture, during her days of harlotry; back to Joshua, chapter 2.

One night, she met two men who had come from a distant land; they came to her city to spy out the place.

These two men belonged to a larger group of people who were the grown children of former slaves.

They had just come from wandering in the desert for forty years because their fathers had refused to believe in the God that had freed them from slavery.

And while the rest of their people are waiting on the other side of the river, ready to come and conquer this land, which had been promised to them by God some 400 years earlier; these two men find themselves in the company of a lady of the night, named Rahab.

Rahab’s story really is quite unique, not simply because she was a prostitute, but because she was a prostitute that expressed her belief in God more than the people who claimed to have belonged to Him did.

Let’s read her story from Joshua, chapter 2.  I will use the Living Bible Translation.

1 Then Joshua sent two spies from the Israeli camp at Acacia to cross the river and check out the situation on the other side, especially at Jericho. They arrived at an inn operated by a woman named Rahab, who was a prostitute. They were planning to spend the night there,
2 but someone informed the king of Jericho that two Israelis who were suspected of being spies had arrived in the city that evening.
3 He dispatched a police squadron to Rahab's home, demanding that she surrender them. "They are spies," he explained. "They have been sent by the Israeli leaders to discover the best way to attack us."
4 But she had hidden them, so she told the officer in charge, "The men were here earlier, but I didn't know they were spies.
5 They left the city at dusk as the city gates were about to close, and I don't know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them!"
6 But actually she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath piles of flax that were drying there.
7 So the constable and his men went all the way to the Jordan River looking for them; meanwhile, the city gates were kept shut.
8 Rahab went up to talk to the men before they retired for the night.
9 "I know perfectly well that your God is going to give my country to you," she told them. "We are all afraid of you; everyone is terrified if the word Israel is even mentioned.
10 For we have heard how the Lord made a path through the Red Sea for you when you left Egypt! And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan, and how you ruined their land and completely destroyed their people.
11 No wonder we are afraid of you! No one has any fight left in him after hearing things like that, for your God is the supreme God of heaven, not just an ordinary god.
12,13 Now I beg for this one thing: Swear to me by the sacred name of your God that when Jericho is conquered you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families. This is only fair after the way I have helped you."
14 The men agreed. "If you won't betray us, we'll see to it that you and your family aren't harmed," they promised.
15 "We'll defend you with our lives." Then, since her house was on top of the city wall, she let them down by a rope from a window.
16 "Escape to the mountains," she told them. "Hide there for three days until the men who are searching for you have returned; then go on your way."
17,18 But before they left, the men had said to her, "We cannot be responsible for what happens to you unless this rope is hanging from this window and unless all your relatives--your father, mother, brothers, and anyone else--are here inside the house.
19 If they go out into the street, we assume no responsibility whatsoever; but we swear that no one inside this house will be killed or injured.
20 However, if you betray us, then this oath will no longer bind us in any way."
21 "I accept your terms," she replied. And she left the scarlet rope hanging from the window.
22 The spies went up into the mountains and stayed there three days, until the men who were chasing them had returned to the city after searching everywhere along the road without success.
23 Then the two spies came down from the mountains and crossed the river and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them.
24 "The Lord will certainly give us the entire land," they said, "for all the people over there are scared to death of us."

In verse 9, she tells them that everyone in the city is frightened about the presence of the Israelites, who are on the other side of the Jordan River.

Notice, that she does not say that it was their large numbers or fierce fighting men that had instilled this fear into the hearts of her people.

She and her people are frightened, because of some events that had transpired some 40 years earlier.  Specifically, the crossing of the red Sea, and the defeat of the kings of Sihon and Og.

Now, Rahab did not experience any of those events directly.  She did not see them with her own eyes.

Personally, she knows nothing about God.  She has no idea of any of His teachings.

She does not know what is required of her to be forgiven of her sins, for God has not revealed to her what kind of animal she is to sacrifice as a sin offering.

All she has to go by is what she has heard about this awesome God and that was enough for her to be willing to put her life on the line.

And so, she gets the two men, who have come to spy out the land, to promise her that they would spare her life and that of her family in exchange for keeping their presence and their plans a secret.

The men agree, but there are two conditions.  First, she must keep a red cord hanging out her window on the city wall.

And secondly, she must have her father, her mother, her sisters, her brothers and all their families in her house when the conquest takes place.

If any of them were out in the open when the battle starts the deal would be off and their blood would be upon their own heads.

Can you imagine the difficulty Rahab must have had in convincing her family to come and live in her home?

For all we know, they could have been fine, respectable citizens of that city and to have to stay in a house that was known as a place of passion; what would the neighbors be thinking now.

For those of you who have tried to share your faith with family and friends, you know first hand how difficult that can be.

But Rahab stands as an example, that it can be done, so don’t give up.

Well, the men use the red cord, which is hanging out her window, to escape into the night.

Notice that they did not give her any deadline.  They did not tell her when the battle would begin or even when they would return.

All they gave her was their word, and that was enough for her.  And because of that, God regards Rahab as one of the great women of faith.

In fact, Rahab is the only woman mentioned by name in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, where we have the roll call of God’s faithful. 

Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith--because she believed in God and his power--Rahab the harlot did not die with all the others in her city when they refused to obey God, for she gave a friendly welcome to the spies.”

Also in the book of James, her faith is compared to that of Abraham, whom the Bible calls, the father of the faithful.

In James 2:23-25, we read, “And so it happened just as the Scriptures say, that Abraham trusted God, and the Lord declared him good in God's sight, and he was even called "the friend of God."  Abraham’s great faith in God was evidenced by his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Rahab, the prostitute, is another example of faith that is demonstrated by actions.  She was saved because of her faith, for her faith came before what she did, when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.”

In Hebrews 11:39, the Bible tells us that she was commended for her faith and in the passage in James that we just read he tells us that she was considered just as righteous as Abraham was, for two things that she did.

First, for taking in the spies.

Second, for sending the posse off in a different direction.

Remember, that the men of the city had come to her by order of the king of the city of Jericho.  And they commanded her to give up the spies that they knew had come into her home.

Did she tell them the truth as to their whereabouts?  No!  In fact, she lied and sent them off in the wrong direction.

And it was for that lie and her actions that accompanied it that put her right up there with the faithful and the righteous, in God’s sight.

James says she was considered righteous for lying.

There is only one other example in the Bible where a person is commended for lying.

In Exodus chapter 1, the king of Egypt has given a command to the Hebrew Mid-wives to kill all the newborn Hebrew male children.

But because they feared God, they did not do what the king had commanded and when he called them into his presence to explain their actions, they lied.

They told him, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the Mid-wives arrive.”  That was a lie.

And in Exodus 1:21, we are told that because they feared God and lied, God blessed them and even gave them children of their own because of it.

Does this mean that it is OK to tell a lie?  No!  Does it mean that we should never lie?  No!

Notice some of the things that the Mid-wives and Rahab have in common, when telling their lies. 

First, each of them was in a life of death situation.

Secondly, in each situation the ones who told the lies did so to protect the lives of others and not their own.

Thirdly, by telling these lies, each woman put themselves in greater danger than if they had simply told the truth.

In other words, in telling these lies, it did not benefit them personally in any way.  In fact, it only put them in greater risk of losing everything, including their very lives.

Rahab lied, the Mid-wives lied, but, in neither one of these examples, are these lies told for the benefit of the one’s who told them nor were they told for their own protection.

If we are to conclude anything from this, it would be that the protection of human life justifies a lie, if we are willing to put our own lives on the line in order to protect the lives of others.

Perhaps a good illustration of this would be, the lies told by those hiding Jews during World War II, when the Nazis asked for their whereabouts.

And those who were hiding them lied, thus putting their own lives at greater risk than if they would have told the truth.

So, if the last lie that you told was not under these circumstances or for any of these reasons, you sinned and it was not pleasing to God.

Let us return to our story to find out what happened to those two spies after they left Rahab’s house.

According to verse 22, after they left her house, they hid in the hills for three days.  Then, according to 3:1-2, after arriving back at camp, they stayed there for three days.

After those three days are over, the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, as their fathers had when they crossed through the Red Sea.

Once they crossed the Jordan River, they stayed at least three more days resting and erecting a pillar of twelve stones as a memorial for their children to remind them of what great deeds God had done for them.

Then Joshua had all the men take upon themselves the sign of the covenant, circumcision, and so more time was required for healing.

Joshua then re-instituted the Passover, and the manna from heaven ceased for ever.  Then in chapter six, the marching begins.

The entire Israelite army in full armored array is commanded to circle the city, one time around, and they are to do this for six consecutive days, without a word being said.

Each day, after the Israelites have circled the entire city in complete silence, the troops turn back and go back to camp for the night.

Can you imagine Rahab’s excitement on that first day when she saw the troops march around the city?

Surely, she must have thought that all her efforts in getting her mother, father, brothers, sisters, and their families to stay in her place of ill repute must have all made sense to them now.

But can you imagine her disappointment when all they did that day was march around the city in silence, and then leave.

As she sees this happening from her city wall window, she has only two things to rely on.

First, the promise of the spies, that they would spare her life and that of her family.

Second, the red cord that hung from her window which was not only a reminder of their escape, but also of their promise to return.

And keep in mind that this red cord was visible to all.  It was hanging from the city wall.  And it was scarlet in color.

How many times do you think people, asked her what it meant?  How many times did she have to bite her lip in order not to tell what was about to happen.

Remember, if she told, the deal would be off.  But would they know it?  No!

She must have believed that the God of heaven above and the earth below would.

Can you imagine what her family members must have said to her each day after the whole Israelite army would march around the city and then leave in silence?

They must have reminded her, “Rahab, you’re a prostitute.  Don’t you know what men always tell prostitutes, that they’ll be back, but never do?  They must have just said those things to keep you from talking.  They may have wives and children of their own; they’re not going to save you.”

What must Rahab have been thinking of God, during her time of waiting?  How did she explain his actions to her family?

While the crossing of the Jordan must have been impressive, what about the piling up of a bunch of rocks?

What about the UN-warlike actions of cutting off foreskins and lying around recovering for three days?  And what about the Passover, that must have looked like one big barbeque?

And then to see them do nothing more than to march around and around and around the city without even a whimper from any of them.

The men never even gave her a deadline or a date for their return.

She had taken all the risks, she had kept up her part of the bargain, by hanging a red cord out of her window for everyone to see and question.

She had put the credibility of her family on the line by getting them to live with her.  Just because she was a prostitute doesn’t mean that her father and mother, brothers and sisters were bad people.

Can you see why God would use her as an example of faith for all those who would come after her?  Her faith was greater than those who had witnessed with their own eyes, the crossing of the Red Sea.

With all they’d experienced, they still didn’t have the faith in God that a pagan woman would have some forty years later.

Here was a woman who had risked everything to be on God’s side.

Now, here is the main point of this lesson, and I will pose it to you in the form of a question.  Ready?

What tactical knowledge had the two spies come to Jericho to obtain?

Did they need to know how thick the walls were?

I don’t think so; because they didn’t even know themselves that God was intending to knock them down.

Did they go in order to determine what kind of weapons they were going to need, to defeat these people?  I don’t think so.

None of these things were factors in conquering the city, were they?

God wasn’t going to need any of that stuff in order to bring down the walls of Jericho, was He?

I believe that those spies were sent to Jericho for one purpose and for one purpose only.

They were sent there to find Rahab and to assure her of salvation and to mark her home so that she would be protected when the fighting started.

I believe that God delayed the taking of the land for His people in order to rescue one solitary woman whom He knew had the heart to believe in him.

And He knew that she believed in him in spite of the fact that she never saw one single miracle of His.  “The just shall live by faith and not by sight.”

And God gave her the conviction needed to persuade others to believe in Him also.

Of all the places to be on the seventh day, when the Israelite army marched around the city one last time, the most dangerous place to be was on the wall, because that was going to come crashing down.

And yet, when the troops of Israel marched around the city six times, and on the seventh time blew their trumpets and shouted, the home of Rahab did not come crashing down.

That part of the wall remained standing.  She and all who were in her home were saved.

What’s the lesson in that for us?  We, too, live on the basis of promises by a Man, who came to our sinful world and then left, assuring us that He’d be back.

And like the spies in Rahab’s story, this Man didn’t give us a specific timetable either.  Why did He come?  It wasn’t just to look around.

It wasn’t because He needed to know if He was going to be able to accomplish what He wanted to do.  He came for you.  Just for you.

And if you were the only person on this planet who believed in Him, He still would have come, just for you.

But He is coming back for us, all of us, because He knows that we are as sinful as any prostitute, after all, to Him, one sin is as evil as the next.

They all separate us from the Father.

Many times it must look to us like His actions aren’t very productive.

Why does He do things like pile up rocks in our lives?

Why doesn’t He just remove the heavy burdens that we must bear?

Why does it seem sometimes as if God is just moving in circles in our lives?

Where is He?  Where is His mighty hand?  Doesn’t He even notice us?

And we too, have been given the responsibility to try with all our powers to persuade our families to stay in the only safe place, which is within His kingdom.

Sometimes we must convince our loved ones that His promise is worth risking everything for.

He left us with the Holy Spirit and the promise of His return.

And the scarlet cord of our lives must be the reality of the blood of Jesus Christ that streamed down the cross; it is our only hope for salvation.

But we must be brave enough to display it, talk about it, and to live by it.

Because He is coming back.


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