Rahab the prostitute was a woman of courageous faith. Although a Canaanite, Rahab became one of Israel’s national heroes. She is one of only two women that Hebrews 11 lists among the great heroes of Faith.
Lessons from Rahab
We read about Rahab in the book of Joshua chapter 2 and 6. Fourty years after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites stood at the border to the Promised Land. Before they entered, two spies went out to inspect Jericho. When their cover was blown, Rahab hid them. In doing so, she prevented their capture and certain death. Rahab’s courage eventually brought the Israelites a great victory at the fall of Jericho.
There are a number of important lessons we learn from Rahab. Scroll down for an in-depth study. Here’s a brief overview:
- Salvation is by faith alone: Rahab was saved only because she had trusted the spies’ promise they would spare her.
- Courageous faith means taking risks: In hiding the two spies, Rahab risked her own and her family’s life.
- Faith comes at a cost: As Rahab sided with the Israelites, she turned her back on former way of life and on her own people.
- Believing God is not blind faith: Rahab believed she would be saved, not because she wished for it but because the Israelites had promised
- God’s redemption is far reaching: When he saved Rahab, God also redeemed her past and gave her a new identity.
- Faith and works go together: Rahab not only believed, but acted on her faith by tying the scarlet cord into her window.
Rahab and the scarlet cord
At the centre of Rahab’s story is a somewhat mysterious scarlet cord. We can understand the meaning of the scarlet cord (or crimson cord) that Rahab tied in her window (Joshua 2:21) when we look at an event forty years earlier. During the first Passover night, the Israelites had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on their door posts. That night the angel of death passed through Egypt. But on whatever house he saw the blood of the lamb at the door post, he passed over and everyone inside the house was spared. In almost the same manner, the scarlet cord protected Rahab and her family from the destruction of Jericho.
But not only was the cord a visible sign to the Israelites to spare those gathered in that house. Something supernatural took place here: Rahab’s house was located in the most dangerous part of Jericho: it was built into the city wall. And when the walls came tumbling down, Rahab’s house miraculously remained intact. Why?
The scarlet cord had no power of its own. The power for salvation lay in Rahab’s faith. When she and her family gathered inside the house, they expressed their trust in the God of Israel, that he would show mercy and save them.
Rahab’s salvation from the destruction of Jericho is an image of our salvation from eternal death. Like Rahab, there is nothing we can do to be saved. The only thing we can do, and this is the only way to be saved, is to entrust ourselves entirely into his mercy. As we’ll see later on, this kind of faith must be grounded on a solid foundation.
Rahab had courageous faith
Taking great risks
From Rahab we also learn that faith sometimes means taking a risk. Rahab had heard what the God of Israel had done, how he had led the Israelites through the Red Sea (Joshua 2:9-13). She was convinced that the LORD had given the land of Canaan – her native country – to the Israelites. It probably was tempting to betray the two spies to the authorities of Jericho. Maybe she would have gotten a financial reward, and would have become a hero!
Instead, Rahab made a difficult decision and turned away from her own people, from her past, and grabbed that one opportunity of salvation. She was saved by faith in the God of Israel. And what was the basis of that faith? A promise. Nothing else.
In putting her trust that God and his people would keep their promise, Rahab took more than one risk. Had the people of Jericho found out that she had hidden the two spies, they would have killed her. And she also took a risk when she put her faith into a God she did not yet know.
The cost of our faith
Faith can also come at a great cost. God calls us out from this world and our life in sin. He invites us to join his people, his family. If we follow his invitation, we risk the relationship with those who reject Christ. Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour has a price: we will face hostility, sometimes even persecution. Rahab chose not to go down with the inhabitants of Jericho, but instead to side with God’s people. It came at a cost, but she chose a better future.
Following Christ comes at a cost too, and we accept that for a future we cannot yet see. We cannot yet see Heaven. We have no physical proof that when we die, we will go to Heaven and it’s all going to be as the Bible says! All we have, all we can cling to, is God’s promise to save us and like Rahab believe that our decision to serve him, to suffer hostility and rejection, will one day be worth it!
Rahab’s faith was not blind faith
It is important to emphasise, that Rahab’s faith was not blind faith. Her faith built on the promise of the Israelites. Had they not promised to spare her, the scarlet cord would have had no use. Beware of “believing God for something”, if God has not actually promised it!
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT)
God is trustworthy! He will keep his promises, but we need to be certain, that our faith is built on what he actually has promised. That is why we need to know God intimately and be grounded in his word, the Bible. Regular, personal Bible study teaches us what he has promisedand we can then mix it with faith.
Rahab’s family tree
Some find it demeaning that does the Bible repeatedly refers to Rahab as “the prostitute” (see Joshua 6:25, James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31). But it is not to demean her. In doing so, the Bible emphasises how far reaching God’s redemptive power is.
Rahab’s family tree is evidence that God’s salvation is much more far reaching than being spared a terrible fate. God didn’t just save Rahab’s life, and that was it. No. Rahab was accepted into God’s people and later on married an Israelite man.
Her husband’s name was Salmon. Rahab and Salmon had a son, Boaz, who also married a Gentile woman called Ruth the Moabite. One day, one of Rahab’s greatgrandchildren became Israel’s greatest king – David. And about 1400 years later, Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of the world, was born from her lineage (Matthew 1:5).
Rahab, the former prostitute became the mother of a royal dynasty. For thousands of years, Jewish people have remembered her courageous faith. The epistle to the Hebrews lists her among other heroes of faith like Moses and David (Hebrews 11:31). The Apostle James even compares Rahab to Abraham, God’s friend (James 2:23+25).
This is the power of God’s redemption! He does not only want to save us from hell. God wants to give us a future and a hope. God wants to give us a new identity and a vision for our life, a legacy to leave behind.
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How Rahab illustrates faith vs works
According to be epistle of James, Rahab’s story illustrates the relationship between faith and works. It wasn’t the scarlet cord (her works) that saved Rahab. It wasn’t the blood of a lamb neither that saved the Israelites. Instead, it was their faith and trust in God, that he would honour his promise. But Rahab’s faith was not “dead”, she acted on that faith. She tied that cord into her window as a proof of her faith.
This does not mean that we are saved by works. We are saved by faith alone. But faith calls for action. God does not need a proof to see if our faith is sincere – he knows our heart. We are the ones who need that proof! Taking a step of faith does something inside of us. Choosing to do something that makes no sense humanly speaking reflects our total surrender to God. We need to decide if we put all eggs into one basket. It’s all or nothing.
Rahab had faith despite herdoubts
Did Rahab and her family still have doubts? Were they fearful? I am sure that inside the house, they were trembling as they heard the Israelites marching around Jericho. Surely they asked themselves: “Will this be sufficient? Will this cord truly make a difference?” Rahab, a prostitute, maybe even asked herself: “Will the God of the Israelites really save a woman with a past like me?”
Courage is not the absence of fear. Faith is not the absence of doubts. Faith is trusting in God’s faithfulness despite our doubts.
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Be sure to read about other famous women of the Bible: