Dr. Harold Sightler told of a fallen woman from Greensboro, NC who listened to his radio broadcast in Greenville, SC and wrote him. “I’m a vile woman, I have broken every one of the 10 Commandments. I hesitate even to write because you would have to handle the same paper I have handled. Can you help me?” Dr. Sightler was able to tell this modern day Rahab how to be saved.
Three writers of Scripture call Rahab a harlot: Joshua, the writer of Hebrews and James. Rahab illustrates Jesus’ words to self-righteous, religious leaders in Matthew 21:31: “The tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” Jesus then gave the reason: “The tax collectors and the harlots believed: and you when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe.” There is no one beyond the reach of God’s grace.
The events of Joshua 2 take place after the forty years of wandering in the wilderness in unbelief. Moses is dead and Joshua is the new leader. He will lead God’s people into the Promise Land when he crosses Jordan River. His first major obstacle is the city Jericho. Jericho covers only eight or nine acres. But it’s walls are forty feet high and thick enough for two chariots to run side-by-side across the top. Jericho is more like a giant bunker than a city. It is humanly impossible for the Israelites to defeat. But with God all things are possible and God is going to use the most unlikely person to help Joshua. The last individual whose act of faith is mentioned is Rahab the harlot. Her act of faith is recorded in Joshua 2. From Rahab we learn
1. All People are Sinners (Joshua 2:1)
A. By Birth
Rahab was a Gentile (who later believed). This should have shamed the Hebrew believers, to whom the writer of Hebrews wrote. Rahab was a Canaanite in Jericho, which was under the judgment of God. The Canaanites were a very wicked people. “They frequently put live babies in jars and built them into their city walls as foundation sacrifices. They were begging for judgment” (McArthur Hebrews, 364). All sinners, however, are under God’s judgment (John 3:18)
B. By Choice
Rahab practiced the oldest profession. She was born a sinner. She was not born a harlot. She chose to be a harlot. People are not born drunkards. People are not born homosexuals. There is no Gay Gene. But sinners can break these wicked lifestyles with God’s help just as Rahab did.
2. All People Can be Saved Sinners
A. She had witnesses (Joshua 2:2-3)
These men were not Bob Harringtons ministering on Bourbon St in New Orleans among the strippers. Rahab’s brothel was the least suspicious place for traveling salesmen and merchants to visit. These visitors were much different from her previous clients. These godly men were led of God to a woman seeking more knowledge about the one true God.
B. She still had weaknesses (Joshua 2:4-5)
Rahab lied at least four times. Alexander Maclaren observed, “A lie was a strange kind of first-fruits of faith” (Exposition of Holy Scripture, 144). God did not condone her lie but God forgave her sin. Rahab was a new convert. Abraham who was older in the Lord lied twice.
John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace and one of the early fathers of the Evangelical movement in the Church of England, continued to participate in the slave trade for over a year after his dramatic conversion. He was still a new convert.
I read about a veteran missionary who came to Christ in the midst of a hard-drinking business environment—-and how he fortified himself with six martinis to get the courage to share Christ the first time! An inebriated evangelist? This missionary did not continue to practice drinking and evangelism. He too, like Rahab, was a new convert (Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word, Hebrews, Vol Two, 139).
C. She did become a new person (Joshua 2:6-8)
She ceased her adultery. She became a virtuous woman. The reference to flax in her house reveals she now possesses one of the qualities of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:13. Like Lydia, the seller of purple at Thyatira who became the first convert to Christianity in Europe when Paul preached at Philippi, Rahab was the first convert in Canaan who seems to have been a seller of linen.
3. All People Can be Saved by Faith (Joshua 2:9-11)
A. The other inhabitants heard also and according to Hebrews 11:31 “believed not.”
That is the only time in Hebrews 11 that unbelief is mentioned. Both Rahab and the rest “heard” but only Rahab believed. “All the inhabitants feared and had heard” (Joshua 2:9-10).
B. At first, the residents of Jericho were terror stricken, but soon hardened their hearts.
Every trip around Jericho, was like one of the plagues on Egypt, it was an opportunity to respond to God’s invitation but they rejected.
C. Rahab believed when she only had the bits and pieces of witnesses from her client concerning the millions of Jews on the other side of Jordan. We have the full canon of God’s Word.
4. All People Who Believe Will Have Evidences of Salvation (Joshua 2:9-18)
A. Assurance of salvation (2:9).
She had a very short doctrinal statement, but enough. “I know….the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
B. Burden for her family (2:12-14).
Charles Spurgeon, “If you do not want your children saved, you are not saved yourself.”
C. Love for fellow brethren (2:15-17).
James says works are the evidence of faith. One work of faith is love for other believers. She welcomed the spies into her home. She engaged them in conversation. She made provision for the spy’s safety.
D. Public confession of her salvation (2:18).
Some believe this red rope was the advertisement for her former business. It was the red rope district of Jericho. Now she unashamedly is letting others know she is identified with God’s people.
5. All People Can be Saved from Judgment (Joshua 2:19)
A. The Promise in Joshua 2:19.
There may be a parallel between the blood of the Passover that was painted on the door posts of each Israelite’s house to deliver from the judgment of the last plague so they could be delivered from Egypt and the this red rope which was hung from her window so she could be delivered from judgment and enter the Promised Land. The word “token” (2:12) or sign is used in both passages (Exodus 12:13).
B. The Fulfillment of the Promise (Joshua 6:20-25).
After seven days of circling the city of Jericho by Joshua and his people by faith, God judged all the Canaanites because they believed not and also because they would have corrupted God’s people. Rahab and her family were spared because they believed and did not reject God. Apparently the portion of the wall on which her house was built did not collapse. Have you ever been driving in the country and you see the remains of an old house out in a field and all that is standing is the chimney? That is what Jericho looked like with Rahab’s house on top and intact. While Rahab was saved by faith, the rest of the inhabitants of Jericho died and were burned with fire.
Stephen Davey notes: This scene becomes a metaphor of judgment and redemption. All who do not personally surrender to God will one day be judged by everlasting fire.
C. Salvation is not just deliverance from judgment but deliverance to God’s blessings.
Matthew one records the family tree of Christ and mentions only four women, who are infamous for one reason or another: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth. Bathsheba. Matthew records four women who by God’s grace become mothers in the Messianic line of Christ. Their past sins in no way limited their spiritual reward of being born again into the family of God.
God’s grace activated by faith did not record their sin. There is a striking omission in this reference to Rahab: The reproachful epithet “Harlot.” After the wall collapsed, and Rahab and her family were spared she married an Israelite named Salmon and she became the great, great, grandmother of King David.
It is not Tamar the prostitute, nor Ruth the Moabite, nor Bathsheba the adulteress, nor Rahab the harlot. But Rahab, the great, great, grandmother of King David through whom Christ was born.
Just as God struck her ignominious title from the genealogy of Christ so has He struck our sin from His remembrance.