By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11: 30 – 31
Did you know that Chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews is sometimes referred to as “The Hall of Faith”? It is here that the writer has given a list of heroic figures from the Old Testament who stand out as examples to encourage us in our faith. Interestingly, out of all the women in Scripture, only 2 were included – Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Rahab, the harlot.
We understand Sarah. She exemplified Christian values, but Rahab? She was a prostitute, and most likely she was a temple prostitute which would have been considered an acceptable line of work by the people of her land. But still, we may wonder why God would have chosen to recognize such an unlikely character.
Two words . . . “BY FAITH”. In this verse, we learn that it was “by faith” that the walls of Jericho fell, and it was “by faith” that Rahab risked her life to help God’s people take the city. By doing so, she and her family were the only ones saved among the inhabitants there who had refused to obey God.
We know the story of Moses leading the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 long years, and how as they were about to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, God transferred the mantle of leadership to Joshua. You may remember the story of Joshua and how he and his men marched around the city of Jericho, and with shouts from the people and the sound of trumpets, the walls collapsed under God’s command. You may also remember that Rahab was a signigficant part of the story.
Joshua had sent out spies to determine the strength of the city and the walls that surrounded it before entering. As soon as the two men entered the city gate, they went to the home of the prostitute Rahab, which may have also been an inn as it was situated on or within the great outer wall. When the King of Jericho heard that the men had entered the city, he immediately sent soldiers to her house.
Rahab must have somehow known the gravity of the situation because she immediately hid them under the drying flax on her rooftop and told the soldiers that the spies had left in the opposite direction. Then she made a covenant with the men. She told them that she had heard of their God and all the wonders He had done for His people and that her people “were melting in fear because of them”. She promised to remain quiet about their mission and to deliver them to safety if they would agree to spare the lives of her and her family.
By allying herself with God’s people, Rahab was laying her life on the line, but it was a risk she felt worth taking. Being a prostitute and living so closely to the outer walls, she had most likely entertained caravans and travelers from afar. She had been listening and learning, and she had heard stories about the nation of Israel and how they had been saved by the miracles of their God. Compared to the gods of her people who often demanded cruel rituals, this One loved and cared for His people. She longed to know this God, and when the spies entered the city, this became her divine opportunity.
Can you imagine their initial conversation? I wonder if she told them from the beginning that she had heard of their God and wanted to know Him more. And what a dangerous situation she put herself in as she lowered the men down by a scarlet cord and told them to hide in the hills for three days until the soldiers returned, and then they could go on their way. The men made it clear that in order to make their covenant binding, the same scarlet cord would need to be hanging from the window when they entered the city so they could save her and her family.
The men returned to Joshua and gave him the news from Rahab. Then God gave Joshua instructions for taking the city, told him the walls would collapse, they would destroy everything in the land, and the people would take the city, which happened as God had said. Only Rahab and her family were saved and they lived among God’s people for the remainder of their lives.
God saved Rahab and her family because of her faith. Interestingly, the red cord in this story has been symbolized as the “protection of the blood of Christ.” Because of the blood Christ shed for us on the cross, we too, live under His same divine protection. We live by faith, as Rahab did, and not by sight. We, too, hope to be found pleasing in God’s eyes.
What a story of how God often uses the least unexpected individuals to carry out His plans! Who would have ever dreamed that Rahab, the harlot, would become the great grandmother of King David and be in the family lineage of Jesus Christ Himself! If she could become such a noted saint of faith and courage and help fulfill God’s plan, then can we not wonder if He too could use us in some small way? Nothing is impossible with God. By faith, we follow Him.
Dear God, may we too have the faith and courage to follow you and be found pleasing in your sight. Thank you for the stories from your Word to remind us of the strength and protection we can find in you. Amen