Let’s turn to Hebrews 11 where we are looking at one verse, which needs to be supported by an Old Testament passage from Joshua 2. Before we start, let’s have a word of prayer:
Lord, I desire to preach, but I go weak and needy to my task. Yet, Lord, I long for Your people that they might be edified by Your word. I long that the Spirit of God would meet Your word with His power, drive it home to our hearts, and change our desires and wills toward You. Lord, encourage us at the same time, and lift us up to recognize what we have in Christ. We are special in Your eyes because we are chosen in the Beloved. Thank You, Lord, again. We praise You and ask You to use this day for Your glory. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.
We’re looking at the Honor Roll of Faith, and we’ve come to Hebrews 11:31:
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
This is an amazing statement about this first gentile woman mentioned in the Honor Roll of Faith. Before I look at that, don’t forget that the central figure, in the book of Hebrews, is Jesus Christ. He is God, the Creator. He is the eternal. He is the unchangeable. He is given the highest place in the universe. Christ is the object of God’s final revelation, and He is vastly superior to all spiritual angelic beings and others mentioned in the word of God.
When we are reading the word of God, this should always be in our mind. While we are studying this book and the whole word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus Christ is the central figure. The Bible is about Christ, what God, the Father, did through Christ, and how He is given us His spirit after Christ left.
Last time, I said that everyone does live by faith. However, the difference is that Biblical faith and non-Christian faith is the object of our faith. Everybody must have an object of faith, or there is no such thing as faith. The critical issue is what you believe or who you believe in. Faith has no validity without an object. It’s objective faith, not blind faith.
Objective faith means that you understand the one you are trusting in, and not taking a blind leap in the dark. We know who He is because He has told us in the word of God. Thus, the ultimate faith object is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The fact that God is unchangeable is what makes Him immanently trustworthy.
God cannot change. His word cannot change. His promises and purposes cannot change. His plan cannot change. He will accomplish everything He said from every jotted tittle to every little mark of the Hebrew language. He will do it all. This eternal consistency of God is why God is so faithful, and why we can put our full and complete trust in Him.
The struggle with our faith is not because our faith object has failed or has become insufficient. It is because we don’t have true knowledge of God and His ways. Our knowledge of God has to be adjusted every time we hear and read the word of God. Every time we are presented the word of God, He is adjusting our understanding of who He is. In fact, He is driving out all of the junk you think about God and what He ought to be by putting in the right stuff, so that you may truly have faith in Him. Faith in God fails only when people have a faulty understanding of Him.
If you want your faith in God to increase, then you must increase your knowledge of God. If you keep yourself away from the word of God, the church, the program of God, and the means of grace He has given you, then you will not grow. In fact, you will go backwards. It may even indicate that you never knew in the first place if you had a true saving faith in Christ.
In the Honor Roll of Faith, we have seen God’s faithful believing by putting their faith into action, displaying to us what faith is, and what faith actually does. Last time, Joshua and the people of Israel learned by stepping out in faith. God’s faith always has an action to it and it calls us to do something.
By stepping out in faith, they learned that the object of their faith can be unquestionably obeyed and trusted continually. When He says He is going to be present with them, He will be present with them. That can absolutely be relied upon at every single point, minute, and second of the day.
Once you begin to learn how to live by faith, it can be emphatically shouted about and praised from your mouth. Real faith has an action, and when you begin to grow in your knowledge of God, you cannot shut up about it. It comes out of you because you have to tell it to somebody. Did you ever shake up a coke and keep the cap on? Then when you take the cap off, it bursts out. Well, that’s how we ought to be as Christians.
When we grow in our knowledge, our faith is going to burst, which is where evangelism comes from. Evangelism comes from a desire from being with God, realizing His plan, and what He has done. Evangelism is not a program, or a set of points you give people. It is your relationship with God, so you are telling people what God is doing in your life. Then, people think you are crazy and don’t even believe you, which is how they should respond. Sometimes, that’s how it is.
Have you ever thought about the daily faith needed to walk the Christian life? Sometimes, your faith seems strong. From time to time, it feels wobbly. Other times, it is weak. One thing is sure: from salvation, through sanctification, and right up until the day you die, you need faith, or you will shrivel up.
You need to grow in your faith, and faith grows when you grow in your knowledge of God. The word of God tells us that without it, we cannot please Him. Moses summarize the book of Exodus and Joshua in Deuteronomy 6:23:
He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.
Doesn’t God bring us out to bring us in? That’s a good summary of God’s plan for the Christian. He brings us out of spiritual darkness and death, and He brings us into abundant life through Christ Jesus. Abundant life by way of sanctification and then onto glory. God’s plan is: you get saved, you’re sanctified every day, and He is growing you into Glory. If you are a Christian, it is an exciting ride. His mercies are new every day, and there is a whole lot of stuff that are new every single day to be excited about God, Christ, and His word.
In Hebrews 11:31, I want to direct your attention to a woman who personified an extremely unusual type of faith. Some have called it an overcoming faith. Her name was Rahab, and she lived in Jericho. Again, Hebrews 11:31 says:
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
The word after is very significant. Faith is described after she welcomed the spies because she believes something before she welcomed the spies. She was a gentile, and a woman well acquainted with sin. She was, as Scripture says, a harlot, which is a prostitute. Most likely, it was an occupation, and many women in Jericho were involved just to make money.
On top of all that, she belonged to the Amorite race, who were already under God’s curse for their gross, abominable immoral practices. God marked them for an appropriate time of judgement. After the children of Israel were in bondage for four hundred years, God says that the iniquity of Amorites would rise to the top, burst, and God would hold judgement. Genesis 15:16:
Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.
God gives time for people to repent. In fact, it is a good possibility that God was giving them time to repent for the sake of Rahab. Here’s the question: how did a prostitute get onto the Honor Roll of Faith? How did she get on the same roster as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua? Well, it’s an obvious answer in Hebrews 11:31, and it is by faith.
In fact, that’s how she got onto the roster. Actually, that’s how you and I get onto the roster – by faith. From what we gather from Scripture, Rahab had all ears. What I mean by that is that her ears were wide open, always longing in her heart to hear the stories concerning the God of Israel. Every time she heard something about the God of Israel, she was increasing in the true knowledge of God. Therefore, her faith in God was exponentially increasing. In Romans 10:17, faith comes by:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Our faith increases by hearing, and what a blessing it is to hear God’s word. These things on the side of our head to hear God’s word is a tremendous blessing and the mercy of God right to us. Faith is the key that unlocks the cabinet of God’s promises. Before we look at the Scriptures, let me just give you some background. The city of Jericho stood for about 400 years. Its inhabitants were actually thought to be invincible. During this particular period, when the nation of Israel was on the other side of the Jordan, its inhabitants were known by all those around to be invincible.
Probably, that’s why they were that fortified city right when you came across during that period of a long history, the tables were turned. The people of Jericho were actually scared. They remained on guard. The two spies that were sent out by Joshua entered the city. Then, they entered the harlots house, and when the guards came to get the spies, she said they already left the city, but they didn’t leave since she hid them up top where they were waiting.
Some have used this passage of Scripture to justify lying, but that’s not the point of the Hebrew narrative. In fact, the leap from prostitution to lying is not a big leap. Matter of fact, it’s most likely some of the skills of her profession. However, John MacArthur says:
It was not right for Rahab to lie. Even though her heart was open to God’s saving truth, her knowledge of Him was extremely limited. She was a victim of her own fallen nature, and her ethics were those of a corrupt canine culture. But, her lie was really unnecessary. No lie provides any assistance to God. He doesn’t need help from us, especially help that have sinful efforts.
Also, we don’t even know if she was saved yet. She definitely was not yet sanctified, but we do know she was soon to be saved. In fact, all the guards left and we’re in pursuit of the man outside the city, and she went up to the roof to talk to her welcomed guests. She was eager to express to the spies her faith in the God of Israel, and there are three important things to notice about the prostitute’s faith
Number one, it was expressed in a confession, and it was also personified in an action. She did something and then it was realized in the reward. Actually, God brought to pass what she hoped for. Thus, Rahab represents all people who have been an it alienated from the life of God. Also, she represents every one of us in the human race guilty of spiritual harlotry and unfaithfulness to God.
So, each of us can find hope to be saved, to be sanctified, to be used by God from Rahab’s example. By considering God’s dealings with a Rahab, I want you to take note of these three things. First, in Joshua 2:8-9, we will look at how this faith is expressed in a confession. Remember, you grow in the knowledge of God, you got to tell somebody, so she’s bursting here:
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land…
There’s one more confession right there. She was quite aware that her home, Jericho, was being taken by the Lord and going to be given to His people, the Israelites. She had been following the news closely, and she had been taking notes in her heart. She was convinced that the Lord God was different from all the gods that she had ever known.
She was polytheistic, so they worship many gods and none of those gods produced anything for her. She was afraid of the news that had taken its toll on the inhabitants. In Joshua 2:9, she also confessed the morale of the people:
… and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.
Here, there is no morale. If you know anything about soldiering and about going to battle, and if the morale is low, you’re in trouble. If there’s fear within the troops, you’re already in trouble. They were literally scared to death. In the inner man, the people had melted and become like water. They had no strength or ability to go up against such a formidable foe as the God who fights for His people and the God who speaks to His people.
Now, she gives a reason for such a drastic morale change. Fear alone never saved anyone but fear properly responded to can bring a tremendous result in someone’s life. Fear can actually be a healthy motivator to get some to see their true need of the true and living God and for their deliverance. In fact, Joshua 2:11 says:
“When we heard it, our hearts melted, and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you…
Ecclesiastes 3:14 tells us:
I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.
God has worked everything out in the world to bring all of us to a place where we begin to shake in our boots about how our condition is before a Holy God. God has worked that way. Therefore, God is concerned that when trouble comes in your life, when life gets all twisted and confusing, and you can’t even unravel it, then that is the very time we begin to ask the questions that God wants us to ask: where do I stand before God? Am I right with God? Am I not right with God? Am I heading for heaven or hell? Is there such a place as heaven and hell? I never believed it, but I will have to believe it. If God’s word says it, then it must be true. Fear is a motivator. As a matter of fact, Proverbs 1:7 says:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
When we’re born, we’re all foolish, and some people don’t grow to become wise. They stay being naive, they stay being they grow into a scoffer, or they just become more foolish. However, the plan for God is that as we grow every day of our life, we become wise and learn to use the word of God to honor Him and to be a good site to those who look at our life, not ever in perfection.
So, fear drove Rahab to think of the character of God. The character of God she had not known, but she sure would like to know. She heard about Him, but she has not known Him yet. The miraculous work done by the Living God on behalf of Israel had made such an impression on her that she was convinced of the truth. Again, her confession continues in Joshua 2:10:
“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…
She’s from the Amorites. In fact, the Amorites were Ruthless People. They were very powerful and ruthless people, and she was part of those people. They were vicious people, and no one could win against them. Then, it says in Joshua 2:10:
whom you utterly destroyed.
I love that word utterly. God annihilated them. Then, she confessed with one other thing in Joshua 2:11. She confesses the knowledge she had of the power and position of God:
When we heard it, our hearts melted, and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
Brethren, is that fulfilling a necessary condition of Biblical faith? In Hebrews 11:3, he says:
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
Then, in Hebrews 11:6, it says:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Then, he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Because of fear in her heart, fear in her City, Rahab is at the point where she thinks:
This God of Israel is awesome. He is a God who has done things I have never heard before. This God has annihilated my people, who I know have been ruthless, wicked, immoral, and powerful to win over their enemies, and God wipes them out, takes down their kings, and everything with them. I’ve never heard of a God like this.
Doesn’t this want you to get to know God more? God’s election of Rahab and Rahab’s reception of the truth about the Living God resulted in a faith that does something – she’s telling and she’s bursting. Secondly, faith is personified in an action verse. In Joshua 2:1-8, it says:
Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. 2It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5“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.” 6But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. 7So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate. 8Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof
Rahab was saved by faith that produce works. Though, Rahab’s faith in the living God put her at risk. She was at risk to receive the spies. She was at risk of her life, of her home, of her income, of her family, of her future, yet she held to trust in God. She held to the trust in God, in His power, and His mercy. Even James 2:25 picks up the subject of Rahab where he says:
In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
She proved her faith by her works. Protecting the spies was a demonstration of her faith. It was the action of her faith. She believed when she accepted the spies. It says in Hebrews 11:31:
…she had welcomed the spies in peace.
Meaning, she received them as friends, not as enemies to be delivered up. Thus, God was already changing her heart towards those who were supposed to be random. Now, they’re her friends.
A third thing that faith does is that it helps us realize the reward. After she received the spies, then everything exploded for her and everything changed in her life when she trusted the God of Israel, so what happened? Well, the first thing that happened is that she was picked out and chosen for protection. In Joshua 2:12-14, it says:
“Now therefore, 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, 13and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14So 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.”
Then, Joshua 2:19 says:
It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.
So, they’re making a covenant with one another. In fact, the very word for kindness also means a loyal, faithful covenant promise between two parties. The men are displaying to her the kindness of God.
She heard about the God who is powerful, the God who destroys kings and parts water for His people, but now she’s experiencing the love of God. The mercy of God is being displayed to her, so she is listening and believed their word and obeyed their covenant. Remember, Hebrews 11:31 says:
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient
Everybody else was disobedient, but she was obedient. She believed their word and obeyed their covenant. Obeyed is equated with faith, faith is equated with obedience, and unbelief is referred to as disobedience. John 3:36 says:
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
The same thing is going on there where obedience is equated with faith. In other words, salvation is an obedience to God, and those who don’t obey the call of God are in disobedience.
Here, we see that she is picked out for protection. She’s picked out by God to be set aside when Israel comes and takes over the city. In Joshua 2:18, she is identified for being passed over. Meaning, they would need something to identify her. They needed a sign to signify that they should pass over her for destruction and identify that she’s the one to be protected. The scarlet cord was the identifying mark for the spies to confirm their oath of protection. Joshua 2:18 says:
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 to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household.
Then, Joshua 2:21 says:
She 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.
She was in no way going to get passed over on this one. She had faith, and her faith is now producing all this action and work. Genuine saving faith is proven by the works that we have in our everyday living. This year, she has faith that the spies will identify Rahab and her family by the scarlet cord hanging in the window. Then, Joshua 6:24 says:
They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
Now, what was the identifying mark for Israel? Wasn’t it the blood? In Exodus 12:13 it says:
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Well, it’s the same thing that happened. The scarlet cord is a picture of Rahab’s faith in the God of Israel, and the identifying mark that the destruction should come on everyone else who was disobedient except this harlot, who’s been obedient to God’s word. Because of obedience, she gets to save her whole family, which is quite remarkable.
Today, you are saved because of Jesus Christ as your substitute. You’re saved because you were sprinkled with the blood of God, and that blood was applied to your heart. God can now passover you that’s the scarlet tread. That’s the sign over you, and you are only protected from the wrath of God and eternal destruction if you are under the blood of Christ.
If you are not in the blood of Christ, then you are still disobedient to God’s call to come and be saved, rescued from your sin come, and get rescued from the wrath of God. Come and get rescued by faith. With all your sin, come by faith because Christ is taking care of the just penalty of God for those who would come, believe, and obey God. That’s what God does.
If His blood has washed away your sin, then you are accepted in the Beloved. You are welcomed in the family of God. You are in the family of God. You have been given the authority to be called children of God.
I’m a child of the God, who created the heaven and the earth. I am a child of the God, who died on the Cross in my place to provide for me eternal salvation. He is the God, who is preparing a place for me where I will stay with Him and live with Him for all eternity. I am a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. How could you ever not want that? Joshua 6:17-25 says:
“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. 18“But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not cover them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. 19“But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” 20So the people shouted, and 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, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. 21They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her.” 23So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives and placed them outside the camp of Israel. 24They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
The evidence of true faith, real conversion, and real change is seen in this situation where she went from polytheism to monotheism, and from a pagan idolater to a worshipper of the true and living God. She went from belonging to the Amorites, who were under the curse of God because of their sin, to belonging to the people of God under God’s blessings. By faith, Rahab believed in the Lord God and she received the reward of living the rest of her life with the people of God.
She went from being an immoral prostitute to believing in the honor and institution of marriage. She married Salmon and raised the godly son. She went from being on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, the lowest you can get, to being in the bloodline that would bring forth Jesus, the Messiah.
In fact, she married an Israelite named Salmon. She had a son named Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, who had a son named Obed. To Obed’s family, Jesse was born. To Jesse was born David, the king. From the bloodline of David, the king, was born Jesus Christ.
She went from a prostitute to a prince because she came to Christ. She had to be saved on the other side of the Cross just as we’re saved on this side of the Cross. If it wasn’t for the centrality of the Cross of Jesus Christ, no one could be saved whether it was in the Old Testament or New Testament. Christ had to die for the sins of all humanity for those who believe in Him regardless of what side of the Cross you live on. To go from a prostitute to a princess, is that not a tremendous epitaph of someone who has faith.
In a sense, we go from paupers to kings to those who reign with Christ. In fact, you can find the genealogy of what I just gave you in Matthew 1:5-7:
Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.
Then, Matthew 1:16 says:
Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
Meaning, Rahab was a princess and ancestor of Christ. By Christ’s blood, she belongs to Jesus and Christ’s bloodline both physically and spiritually. She went from being a pagan harlot to a child of God, and all I can say is oh sweet and deep grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to save anyone.
In other words, if He can save a harlot, then He can save anyone. No matter how far you have fallen in your sin, mercy is there for you. The demonstration of the Cross of Christ is there for you to come and take of the water freely. Come over and drink.
That’s what salvation and faith is. If you’re thirsty, come and drink. I can be satisfied by trusting in Christ to fill me, satisfy my soul, save me, and make me right with Him. In the Old Testament, here’s the picture of true conversion. Hebrews 11:31 tells the story:
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
How did she get saved? By faith. Let’s pray:
Lord, thank You. I stand in awe of Your word. I stand in awe of Your mercy, Your grace, Your wisdom, Your power, and Your kindness that You display, not only to Rahab, but to all who have gone before her and even to us. It’s still available to us. Thank You, Lord, thank You. I praise Your name for all that You have done, and we’ll do it our mist. I ask You, Lord, to take Your word and stir people with it. For those who are believers, I pray they would grow in their knowledge of God until their faith explodes. For those who don’t know You, Lord, bring them under the fear of God until they realize and shake before an Almighty God about where they may end up if they don’t come and trust in the only provision. You have our sins forgiven to be made right with You. Oh Lord, please do that today. Holy Spirit, will You do that? Lord, as we come now this morning to obediently partake of the visible elements You’ve given us in the Lord’s table, I pray, Lord, that we would do it in an honoring and a worthy way. In a way that is serious, yet joyful. In a way that we realize the communion that we have with You, and the peace that we have with You because of Christ’s shed blood on our behalf. That we have been passed over and set aside, not for destruction, but for blessing. Praise the Lord for that and I thank You. In Christ’s name, Amen.