Summary: This is week six of our series from Hebrews 11. Here we look at what made Rahab a candidate for the Faith Hall of Fame.
Every story has a beginning and this one begins in a most unlikely place. . . a brothel. Not many stories in the Bible start in a house of ill repute, as a matter of fact I can only think of one other.. The scripture was read earlier and there is a lot that was left unsaid in the Hebrews account that could lead to some wild speculations.
Let’s read it again Hebrews 11:31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Nod Nod, wink wink. Friendly welcome indeed.
And that is why a text out of context is a pretext. You see the original readers of Hebrews 11 would know exactly what was meant by “a friendly welcome” while the rest of you just think you know. And as a boss of mine used to say “The only thing you get from jumping to conclusions are sore feet.”
And to be fair Rahab may have given the spies a “friendly welcome”, nod, nod, wink wink, but that wasn’t what she was being commended for in Hebrews 11. So let’s go back to the beginning and find out the rest of the story.
You know the history here. Moses has led the Hebrews in the greatest escape every chronicled. You can read about it in the book called Exodus, which is the second book in the Bible. Now what should have been a fairly straight forward trip across the desert turns into a 40 year epic because of the disobedience and unbelief of the Hebrew people.
Now however the promise is about to be fulfilled. The Promised Land lies just within their grasp, the people have left the desert, now they have to cross the Jordan and get past the city of Jericho. And so we read in Joshua 2:1 Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night. Seemed a little focused in their trip, the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute. But to be fair a brothel would be a place where people would be used to strange men showing up at all hours. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that there were strategic reasons for ending up at Rahab’s place.
However word had somehow gotten out to the King of Jericho, who I would suspect was King like Peter Kelly is King of Halifax, that spies had entered the land. And he immediately sends his men to Rahab’s place. Must have been one of those “If I was a spy where would I go first?” questions and the answer was “Oh yeah, Rahab’s, she has that discount that she gives to spies.”
So the King’s men show up at the brothel but Rahab tells them, “Oh those spies, yeah they were here but they left earlier, they are heading out of town but if you hurry you can catch them.” The king’s men obviously believed her because they get a posse together and head out of town after the guys.
But, it’s here the plot thickens. You see the guys hadn’t actually left, Rahab had hidden them on the roof of her place and it was there they spent the night. Obviously this was the friendly welcome that is alluded to in the book of Hebrews.
As a reward for her saving the spies they agree to spare her and her family when the Hebrews eventually overthrow the city on their way into the promised land. And that is a whole other story that is mentioned in the previous verse in Hebrews 11. A story that you probably remember from Sunday School. And it if you don’t the recap is in Hebrews 11:30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
And it is immortalized in this song. (Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho). But that is a story for a different time.
When the battle breaks out, Rahab hangs a scarlet cord from the window of her home and she and her family are spared in the battle.
So what is it that we learn from the story? Hebrews 11:31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
1) Rahab Had a Past It was interesting as I was preparing this message how hard some commentators worked at cleaning up Rahab’s past. Adam Clarke writes “the word which we translate harlot, should be rendered innkeeper or tavernkeeper, as there is no proper evidence that the person in question was such a woman as our translation represents her. As to her having been a harlot before and converted afterwards, it is a figment of an idle fancy”.