Rahab: A Women of Faith
Read Joshua 2; Hebrews 11:31
“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and earth beneath.”
The story of Rahab (the 2nd woman mentioned in the genealogy of Christ) is one of intrigue. She has been an enigma for a number of commentators, not because she is a Canaanite woman, but because of her stated profession. While some have suggested that she was just an innkeeper, but the fact that she is specifically referred to as a prostitute in both the Old and New Testament leaves little room for doubt. The other question that confronts us is why did the spies go to her house, especially with her chosen occupation? Certainty there seems to be no hint of impropriety regarding the spies. It may well be that her lodging also served as a way station or inn. What we do know is that it was not by happenstance, but part of God’s redemptive plan for protecting both the spies as well as the deliverance and salvation of Rahab. What might seem like a chance to the casual observer is part of God’s divine design. God directed the spies to go to the one place where their presence would not provoke suspicion, and to the one person who would offer them protection even at the risk of her own life. When she hid the men up on the roof and then lied to the town leaders, she was placing her own life at risk. If the men would have been discovered, they would not only have been executed as enemy spies, but she would have been put to death as a traitor as well.
But the real question that confronts us is why this pagan woman, whose life was marred and broken would become a quintessential example of faith? Within the story, we see her faith both expressed and confessed. Her faith is expressed by her action of protecting the spies. When she hid them, she was doing more than just offering protection for foreign travelers. She was ending her identification with her own people and identifying with the people of Israel. Genuine faith involves action, it involves a willing identification with God and his people.
Second, she gave a confession to her newfound faith as well. Her statement in verse 11 was more than just an affirmation of the religious viewpoint of the Jews, it was a repudiation of the religious idolatry of the Canaanites who believe in a multiplicity of gods who were confined to localized areas. When she states that the God of Israel is God in heaven above and on earth beneath, she acknowledges the genuineness of the monotheistic faith of the Jews. Genuine faith recognizes that there is only one God and one way to obtain salvation and that comes through faith in the one true God of the Bible.
But here the Old Testament goes silent and the Old testament reader is left to wonder what became of Rahab and her family. Where the Old Testament is silent, the New Testament brings clarity. In Matthew 1, we find Rahab not only accepted the faith of Israel, but she subsequently married a named Salmon who would become the great, great grandfather of David. Rahab, the Canaanite harlot, would become the mother of the kings of Israel. While that in itself brings significance to her story, she was remembered most for her faith. The writer of Hebrews places her in his list of people with profound faith. James would use her expression of faith as an example of how genuine faith results in life-altering actions.
The most unlikely person, a Canaanite harlot, becomes a woman who exemplified genuine faith. Such is the wonder of the Christmas story and the nature of genuine faith. Our faith in the Christmas story is not revealed by the singing of carols or the putting up a nativity scene in our front yard. Faith involves both our confession and acts of obedience. As we approach the holiday season, ask God to give you opportunities to reveal your faith in tangible ways for others to see and to verbally confession of your faith to others.