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.

 

2 thoughts on “A Closer Look at the Magnificent Faith of Rahab, Part 1

  1. Thank you for sharing this Erika-
    Good reminder that the Lord uses imperfect people to accomplish His will. I’m reminded that I don’t have to “have all the answers” in order share the gospel or even talk about the Lord with others. Just to live in obedience and speak the truth in love and let the Holy Spirit do the work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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