Two Examples of Faith

30By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after they were encircled for seven days. 31By faith, Rahab the prostitute was not killed with those who were disobedient, because she had welcomed the spies in peace. (Heb. 11:30-31)

In this chapter we have chronologically been working our way through Old Testament biblical history that began with Abel back in verse 4. We have now progressed to the point of Israel’s conquest of Jericho at the time they first entered the Promised Land.

Two examples of faith are evident in this event—in Israel’s trusting God’s instruction that Jericho’s unbreachable walls would tumble down only by walking around the city once each day for six days and 7 times on the seventh day (Josh. 2:1-14) and in Rahab’s trusting herself to Israel’s God by protecting the two Israelite spies sent to spy out the land (Josh. 6:13-27). These two examples are the last ones the chapter describes in some detail.

Jericho’s massive walls and one of its occupants, Rahab the prostitute, are interconnected. Her house, as was common in those days, extended into the city’s outside barrier walls.

She let them [the two Israelite spies] down with a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. (Josh. 2:15)

An example of this has been unearthed in the ruins of Shiloh, where the tabernacle was set up when Israel entered Canaan (Judg. 18:1). Archaeologists have found in it foundations of houses extending back into the protective outer wall that surrounded the settlement. This was the case with Rahab’s house. Which means, if God was supernaturally going to cause the walls of Jericho to fall, Rahab’s house would disintegrate in the collapse, unless God also supernaturally intervened to protect it.

As we read in Joshua, Rahab’s faith was not theoretical. She demonstrated it in her behavior. Being convinced that Israel’s God was giving them the land of Canaan, she housed in her home the two Israelite spies. Learning that the king of Jericho was looking for them, she hid them under flax on the roof of her house, and told the king’s soldiers that indeed she provided shelter for them, but didn’t know where they had come from and that they had already left the city. When the spies were about to leave, she told them how to avoid the soldiers who were sent out of the city to capture them. Rahab’s bold actions expressed her belief that Israel’s God is the God of heaven and earth.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Josh. 2:8-11[b1] )

By faith she then trusted the two spies’ promise that the Lord would spare her family and her for her allegiance to God, as long as she tied from her window the red rope with which she let down the two spies in making their escape (Josh. 2:17-21).

Rahab’s faith in God was, in a remarkable way, unprecedented among some of the second generation of Israelites, who consorted with Moabite women and worshipped their gods near Shittim in the plain of Moab by the Jordan River across from, of all things, Jericho (Num. 25:1-26:3), less than 15 miles away on the other side of the river, shortly before entering Canaan and attacking the city!

Her behavior reminds us of Jesus’ declaration about the Roman’s centurion’s remarkable faith that Jesus could heal his servant from where he was without coming to his house (Matt. 8:5-13),

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (Matt. 8:10)

After Jericho was demolished, Joshua told the two men who had spied out the land,

“Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel . . . and she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Josh. 6:22-23, 25)

We learn in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ that Rahab was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth and whose descendant was David.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. (Matt. 1:5-6a)

By her actions she becomes a model of faith in the New Testament, recognized by James along with the writer of Hebrews,

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)

Rahab was not saved by works, but her works demonstrated her faith. Jesus’ says a similar thing in his teaching in Matthew 25:31-46, when he described his end-time judgment in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The sheep represent the righteous; the goats represent the unrighteous. The sheep are those who provided for Jesus when he was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick, and in prison (25:34-37). The righteous ask him when did they do this for him. Jesus replies,

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matt. 25:40)

Jesus instructs the disciples in an earlier passage,

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me [God]. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.  (Matt. 10:40-41)

The idea of people receiving means welcoming someone into their home. Rahab is praised because she had welcomed the spies in peace. The act of welcoming someone into a person’s home shows a favorable disposition toward the visitor, their people, and their God (or specifically, Jesus Christ, in the instance of the disciples). The backdrop is normally when a town or people group of the person showing hospitality is against those that they welcome. This act played itself many times in Germany during World War II, when German citizens would secretly welcome Jews into their homes and hide them from their Nazi pursuers. In Rahab’s case, it was the king of Jericho who has pursuing the two spies it was believed she was harboring in her home. Her actions reflected her heart, that she was favorably disposed to Israel and their God.

She is an example of marvel and God’s mercy. Rahab goes from a one-time prostitute in depraved Canaan to a woman perpetually remembered for her faith in God and in the family line of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

May we, too, with the help of the Holy Spirit, be brave like she was in displaying our faith in Jesus Christ by what we do in the challenging cultural matrix of our day. For like Rahab, our legacy will be as rich as children of God.