Summary: This sermon is an appraisal of faith from a unique perspective, the story of Rahab. The sermon suggests four main components of the faith exhibited by Rahab
BEYOND THE OBVIOUS: FAITH’S SECRETS
At the beginning of each year, the Queen of the United Kingdom bestows certain New Year’s honours on people who have made special contributions to their respective fields. Some receive the MBE, others the OBE. In doing so, these individuals are being recognised for their accomplishments and contributions.
In the USA, sports governing bodies conduct a similar exercise. From year to year famous players are inducted into a Hall of Fame relevant to that sport. Again, to find a name in the Hall of Fame speaks volumes concerning the standing of the player.
In Hebrews 11 we encounter faith’s Hall of Fame. In this roster we read the names of truly famous biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, and David. The list is an extended one, as we would expect. Most of the names speak for themselves. However, there are a few names whose inclusion into this Hall of Fame raises a few eyebrows.
One such name is that of Rahab. We cannot help but ask: Why is Rahab in faith’s Hall of Fame? What is her claim to fame?
Rahab’s story is recorded in Joshua 2. That record itself lends credence to the ‘dubiousness’ of her inclusion in the list of Hebrews 11. Josh 2:1 tells us who Rahab was, a prostitute in Jericho. The term ‘inn keeper’ may suggest that she ran a brothel. We ask, “How could a prostitute be placed alongside Abraham?”
Josh 2:2-7 describes her assistance to the Israelite spies sent by Joshua. The story says that she hid the spies among some rooftop flax and then deliberately misled the king’s soldiers who ended up on a wild goose chase. We must ask ourselves: Was this an act of courage? Was this treason against her own country? Was this an act of revenge against a city that surely ostracised her as we do those in her profession today?
Josh 2:8-13 provides an account of her apparent profession of faith. She told the spies that she is convinced that God had given the city of Jericho to the Israelites. Yet we cannot help but wonder: Was this an expression of commitment and faith or was it self-preservation and fear at work?
We must restate our original question: Did Rahab really deserve to be in faith’s Hall of Fame?
Heb 11:31 emphatically answers: “By faith the prostitute Rahab . . . was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Rahab had faith! Her faith qualified her for Hall of Fame status. What an amazing proposition! That’s all it took. That’s all it ever takes.
Nevertheless, a question begs to be answered. What was this faith that Rahab had?
Confidence in Unconfirmed Reality
Heb 11:1 reads: “Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is confidence in unconfirmed reality. Rahab faced an uncertain future. I am certain that she must have asked herself, “what if Jericho does not fall to the Israelites?” Rahab had heard about the amazing victories of the Israelites as they marched relentlessly towards Jericho. But all their victories so far had been largely fought against the desert tribes. Jericho was their first true test against a fortified city. Jericho was renown for its massive fortifications and double ramparts. The city was well-defended and well-stocked. It could last a fairly lengthy siege. Furthermore, the Israelites had no siege-warfare training. They had no weaponry capable of taking such a city. Why did Rahab think they could take Jericho?
I am reminded of what holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom once said: “Although the threads of life often seem knotted, I know by faith, that on the other side of the embroidery there is a crown.” Rahab had this confidence in unconfirmed reality. She had faith!
Reliance upon Unproved Knowledge
Rahab claimed that she knew about all the amazing exploits of Israel. This apparently convinced her that God was on their side. Let’s reflect for a minute. Rahab’s knowledge was all hearsay. She told the spies that “we have heard” what the Lord has done for Israel (Josh 2:10). However, she had no direct knowledge of any of the things she had heard. Her faith appears to be based on the reports of others. What if the reports were wrong? Did Rahab wonder about this?
Yet we cannot help but admit that our own faith works very much the same way. We are dependent upon indirect knowledge. We have placed our faith on the reports of others. These reports are recorded in the Bible but many people have found it difficult to accept their veracity. The simple truth is that we cannot prove any of the truly crucial facts of the biblical record. We believe in a creator God and in creation (Gen 1:1), but how do we validate this truth? Can we put God into a test tube, conjure up a formula, and then claim that we know? The Bible promises that Jesus is returning for his people and that he is right now preparing special residences for them (John 14:1-3). Yet none of us has been to heaven and none of us has seen any of these so-called mansions. We believe that Jesus lived, died and was raised for our sins, yet none of us has ever seen the risen Christ.