A Closer Look at the Magnificent Faith of Rahab, Part 1

“and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before 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 devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13

The profession of faith from the lips of a Canaanite prostitute is astounding. The Canaanites were a grossly wicked people. The city of Jericho where Rahab lives was “put under the ban” to be utterly devoted to God—in this case for destruction with the entire city and its inhabitants (Joshua 6:17).[1] Their demise was a just consequence of the overflowing wickedness that was prevalent there. Grisanti says it succinctly, “By this time, the cup of iniquity of the Canaanites was full and flowing over (Gen. 15:13-16; cf. Lev. 18:24-25).”[2] The Canaanites had ample time and opportunity to repent. The ungodly influences of the land needed to be removed as not to lead God’s people away from the LORD.[3]  Rahab and her household are surprisingly spared and even brought into His sheepfold. This formerly immoral woman displays God’s love and mercy and His blessing that goes out to all peoples.

The story of Ruth advances the realization of the theme of the book of Joshua, which is the conquest of Canaan and God bringing about the promise to Abraham.[4]  The character of Rahab in the conquest of Jericho plays a significant and positive role model for us. Despite her past immorality, she received the God of Israel in repentance and faith, fought with His people, and enjoyed the same privileges as His people. The moral of this story is crystal clear—that of immeasurable mercy and grace. In Rahab’s narrative, we also see courage and faith coming from a woman transformed by His power.

The question to ask is not why the Lord would use such an immoral woman, but what she had become by God’s grace. God did not judge Rahab based on what she was but on what she was becoming.[5]Even more than the picture of the prefigured church, we see the mystery of Christ and His propitiation for any people who would put their faith in Him, and His transforming work through the Spirit.  The genuine faith of Rahab is evidenced in her words and works.

When she said, “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below,” she acknowledged Him as having absolute dominion, sovereignty and superiority over any Canaanite gods (Joshua 2:11b).[6] Her confession was rich in Deuteronomic themes and phrases (Deut 4:35, 39:7:9, 10:17).[7]  She goes on to confess that He alone is Lord.[8]  The Rahab of Canaan became anew with faith in the God of Israel. “Rahab, the harlot became Rahab, the believer.”[9] She did not merely acknowledge Him as the true Lord, but she demonstrated by her works that she trusted in Him (James 2:25). In a linguistic study on the book of James, Dr. William Varner chooses not to use the word “works” for its misinterpretation of external merit for salvation.[10]  Dr. Varner’s definition is, “The word in James simply refers to actions that demonstrate Christian love and give evidence of genuine faith.”[11]

By hiding the spies, Rahab put her life on the line based on her faith in Yahweh. Righteousness was imputed to her because of the faith that was evident by her works following her profession.[12]  We can assume that Rahab continued a transformed life of faith and learned God’s law as she was embraced marriage with Boaz’s father and would have lived entirely different than the ways she had known. Dr. William Barrick points out what Rahab’s conversion would have looked like, “Elements involved in conversion in the OT included the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, knowledge of God, confession, faith, and repentance. A total change in a person’s life was the obvious outcome of conversion.”[13]

In Rahab’s conversion, we see the beautiful redemptive purpose of God to use sinners. If God wanted to emphasize deliverance from His hand alone, He could have done so without using Rahab to accomplish Israel’s feat. Rehab’s actions dominate the scene of the commencement of the conquest.[14]  Yahweh chose to use a tainted vessel beautifully transformed from a child of wrath to an adopted child of the LORD for His purpose to show His glorious grace (Eph 2:3-5). The Old Testament seems to insist on using seemingly inappropriate characters to carry out His sovereign plan as seen in His choosing of David or Jerimiah (1 Sam 16:1, Jer 1:6).[15] May we be encouraged that no matter what our past might look like, God wants to use us to adorn His gospel with His matchless beauty and grace.

 

[1] Grisanti, Michael. History of the Covenant People. (TMU Online), 62-63.

[2] Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4] Longman, Temper, David E. Garland. The Expositors Bible Commentary 2: Numbers-Ruth. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 863).

[5] Mulder, Chester, Clyde R. Ridall, W.T. Purkiser, Harvey E. Finley, Robert L. Sawyer, C.E. Demaray.  Beacon Bible Commentary: Joshua through Ester. (1965.

Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1970), 30.

[6] Howard, David M, Jr. 1998. “Rahab’s Faith: An Exposition of Joshua 2:1-14.” (Review & Expositor 95 (2): 271–77), 274-275.

[7] Ibid. 

[8] Ibid.

[9] Barrett, Michael. 2015. “Who Fought the Battle of Jericho?: (Joshua 2, 6).” (Puritan Reformed Journal 7 (1): 5–14), 10.

[10] Varner, William.  The Book of James: A New Perspective. (The Woodlands: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), 107.

[11] Ibid.

[12] MacArthur, John.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: James. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 140-142.

[13] Barrick, William D. “Living a New Life: Old Testament Teaching about Conversion.” (The Master’s Seminary Journal 11, no. 1 , Spr 2000): 19–38), 19.

[14] Stek, John H. 2002. “Rahab of Canaan and Israel: The Meaning of Joshua 2.” (Calvin Theological Journal 37 (1): 28–48), 38.

[15] Soggin, Alberto J. Joshua: A Commentary. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972). 41.

 

A Prayer for Valentine’s

“Valentine’s Day was a special day for me.  The Lord saved me as a single mom out of an immoral lifestyle on August 16, 2008.  By God’s grace, the Spirit worked a powerful and transforming work of repentance in my life.  Soon after, I started praying for a godly husband and father for Noah.  February 14, 2009, was my first Valentine’s Day as a born-again Christian. I had just turned 23.  I was sad God hadn’t answered my prayer for a date that day.  Noah was only two years old so I decided to take him on the trolley.  He had been wanting to go on the ‘train’ for some time.  That date with little Noah, my heart was flooded with God’s love.  The Lord used a verse reference printed on the bottom of a Forever 21 shopping bag to open the door for me to share the gospel with a young girl.  It was exhilarating.  I remember driving to the train station and asking God to reveal to me the extent of His love.  On our way home, I was awestruck by the thought of how overwhelmingly great His love is.  I told Josh this story, and we agreed on a Valentine’s Day wedding.  Josh was happy our anniversary would be easier to remember.  I thought it sweet of the Lord to answer my prayer for a “date” on Valentine’s Day four years later with a husband.”  (On Loan from the Lord).

  Praise the Lord for this answer to prayer! Marriage was one of the best gifts of my life after salvation. At trying times, I’ve been tempted to wonder why God would take this wonderful gift away? Honestly, I don’t know and may never get the answer to this question. However because of how sure I am about God’s goodness and love I can say like Job, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” For I know the Father’s loyal love never abandons His children nor forsakes us because Jesus was forsaken in our place as a result of our sin. There is now nothing that can take His love away (Romans 8). As another Valentine’s Day approaches I can pray again now with even more expectation that God would show me how much he loves me, and look to the cross, “God demonstrates His own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Yet I can still pray for another “date” with a godly man if He wills. The Bible says young widows should marry so I believe He does will. Some will judge widows and widowers for the desire to remarry, but I doubt they have walked the rocky road themselves. All young widows I’ve asked about this, said they desire remarriage. It’s not that one is looking to replace our old spouse. That would never even be possible—nor our hearts desire. The one who has tasted the goodness of the Lord in marriage by God’s design naturally would want to smile again and embark on a new adventure. It would be a new journey. And a completely different person and thus a distinct relationship. Parents love their children the same even if they have more than one, or if a child has died and they have a new baby. In the same way a widow can love a new man as much as she loved her deceased husband. When we look at what the Bible defines as agape love this become crystal clear. Love means sacrifice—laying down our life for another. “Jesus demonstrates His own love that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” For a widow to love again would mean that she is willing to lay down her life and live a new life devoted to a new man. For a man to be willing to love a widow would mean laying down his life to embrace her and her children. Wouldn’t that just shout the gospel? The story of my late husband redeeming me in marriage beautify displayed the gospel and that is why I would do it again if God gave me the opportunity. Moreover, I would want to take all that I learned from the past (mistakes and victories alike) to be an even better wife. A widow desires to remarry because they want another chance at human love as a reflection of God’s love. And they will likely never take their spouse for granted—for they know by experience that marriage is not eternal but momentary portrait of the forever love of Christ.

*”On Loan from the Lord” is available on Amazon and Kindle