Theme: Mercy Even to Rahab
This week’s lessons describe how by faith Rahab became an unexpected recipient of the grace of God.
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 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.” And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
Continuing the idea from yesterday’s study, isn’t it striking that in this story of judgment, the first thing is not of judgment, but of an act of mercy as God reaches out to save this pagan woman. It should direct our attention to the mercy of God, in Rahab’s case and in other cases as well. The mercy of God is particularly evident in Rahab’s case because, humanly speaking, she had nothing going for her. You have to think of her liabilities. First of all, she was a Gentile. To be a Gentile was nothing. It was to be cut off from all the spiritual benefits that God had poured upon the Jewish people in history. Rahab didn’t have a Bible. Rahab didn’t have the patriarchs. Rahab didn’t have true worship. Rahab didn’t understand any of these things spiritually. She was a Gentile.
Not only was she a Gentile, but she was an Amorite. Now when the people of the land are named, the Amorites are just one of the peoples. There are about twelve different tribes that are named. And yet it would seem that of all these wicked people, the Amorites were very wicked. They performed vile sacrifices, even killing their own children. That’s why, when God spoke to Abraham, He said that the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. There was particular
wickedness associated with that tribal division.
So Rahab was a Gentile and, beyond that, an Amorite. But in addition to these, she was a prostitute. This has bothered some people, causing them to conclude that while she may have been a prostitute in the past, by this time she had reformed her sinful way of life. But that is not what the Bible says. It says that Rahab was a prostitute. Now, I do think that Rahab was converted before the story, and it may well have been that she had recently abandoned her profession or was in the process of abandoning it. But I do notice that when the king heard a rumor that two spies had entered the city and had gone into her house, he wasn’t at all surprised that strangers had gone there. After all, men were coming and going all the time. Thus, when she told the king that the spies had been there but left, he accepted that. I think it indicates that she really was an immoral woman.
All this might cause one to ask whether it was fitting that God should save a person like that. But Francis Schaeffer says in his commentary that it is most fitting because it’s precisely people like that who God saves. Jesus Himself said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And He said, “There’s more joy in heaven over a sinner who repents than over all the righteous who have no need of repentance.” Rahab was a woman who really did repent.
From the lesson, what are the three liabilities Dr. Boice uses to describe Rahab?
Given Rahab’s background, what does this story teach us about God and his grace?
God sometimes converts people we would least expect. We must beware of the temptation to think that we are somehow more worthy of God’s favor simply because we are not marked by the things that someone like Rahab was. Except for God’s restraining grace, each of us could be what Rahab was.