One of the most well-known chapters in the entire Bible, Hebrews 11
is known as God’s Hall of Faith. I find this Hall of Faith amazing —
as much for who’s not in it as who is. I mean, think who’s missing:
Elijah and Elisha, Jehoshaphat and Jeremiah. I would have thought they
would have been shoo-ins!
But no, instead we find Sarah and Samson,
Jacob and Jephthah . . . and Rahab. Interestingly, Rahab and Sarah —
the only two women in the 17-member Hall of Faith — are both linked to
Abraham. Sarah was his helpmate. But, according to James 2, Rahab was
his soul mate, for she, like Abraham, had faith which showed itself not
just theoretically, but practically. As we look at Rahab, I want you
to see her in two ways: Both as a picture of the believer, and as a
problem for the believer . . .
An Example of the Believer
After wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the children of
Israel were ready to claim the Promised Land. Their first obstacle was
Jericho — a double-walled city which seemed unconquerable and
impenetrable. So Joshua sent spies into Jericho, who ended up lodging
in the house of a harlot named Rahab.
After hearing of the king’s
intent to capture them, Rahab hatched a plan to protect the spies.
Why? ‘I know the Lord, Yahweh, hath given you the land,’ she said. ‘We
have heard what you did to the two kings of the Amorites. And as soon
as we heard these things, our hearts did melt. For the Lord, your God,
He is God in heaven, and He is God in earth,’ (Joshua 2:9-11).
comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17). Thus, even
though Rahab never saw the Red Sea part, never saw the Amorite kings
get wiped out, she heard the Word, and she believed. Amazing, because
way back in the book of Exodus, after the Red Sea parted miraculously,
Moses was so thrilled he wrote this song:
'Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee,
glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou
stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy
mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast
guided them in thy strength unto they holy habitation. The people
shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants
of Palestine. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men
of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of
Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them . . .’
And that’s exactly what happened to Rahab. Not only did Rahab hear
the Word about God, she believed in God, and risked her life to serve
Him. That is why in the next scene, we see her hiding the spies among
the flax on her roof.
Perhaps the mention of flax rings a bell, for it
is also used in the classic Proverbs 31 description of the virtuous
woman. Now if virtuous women worked with flax, what was Rahab doing
with it on her roof? I suggest that after hearing about God, she who
was previously a prostitute had given up her former occupation.
She heard about God; she believed in God; she risked her life for
God; and she was changed by God. ‘We’ll take care of you and your
family,’ said the spies. ‘Behold, when we come into the land, thou
shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst
let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and
thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.’
‘According unto your words, so be it,’ answered Rahab. (Joshua
When at last Joshua led the people of Israel to march around
Jericho and the walls came down, one part of the wall remained: the
portion which held a scarlet thread — the scarlet thread of redemption
whereby Rahab’s house was saved. Truly, Rahab is a beautiful example
of the believer, for hers was a saving faith indeed — not only for
her, but for her family. But think with me about another aspect of
Rahab — for while she’s a picture of faith, she also poses a problem .
A Problem for the Believer
Rahab presents a problem for the believer because instead of just
trusting in the Lord by saying to the soldiers concerning the spies,
‘Kill me if you wish, but my lips are sealed,’ she said, ‘They’re not
here. They went that-a-way.’ She intentionally, purposefully told a
whopper of a lie.
En route to Seattle this past weekend, I had an
intriguing conversation with a well-known author. After interviewing a
number of Christian leaders, he came to the conclusion that they’re
all hypocrites. ‘Oh, no,’ I thought. ‘Not the age-old hypocrite
argument again.’ ‘You know, it’s interesting,’ I said. ‘Even though
he’s repented of wrong theology and foolish financial decisions, you’d
call Jim Bakker a hypocrite — yet you’d never say that of Hugh Hefner.
Why? Because Mr. Hefner doesn’t have any standards to violate.’
if anyone knows you’re a believer, sooner or later they’ll see you
struggle in some area or fail at some point and call you a hypocrite.
‘Watch me,’ you need to say, ‘and you’ll see me fail. I’m not what I
should be, but I praise God I’m not what I used to be, and not what I
would be if I had no standards whatsoever.’ You see, the higher your
standards, the more vulnerable you’ll be to what the world calls
The problem is, the world’s definition of hypocrisy is
totally amiss. Who did Jesus identify as hypocrites? Not Rahab, who,
in spite of her newfound belief in God lied openly. Not Jim Bakker,
whose excesses caused heartache and tragedy.
Jesus labeled only one
group as hypocrites: Those determined to keep others from the Kingdom
(Matthew 23). You don’t fall into that category. Neither do I. Neither
What did God do with Rahab? ‘Let the critic, the cynic,
the skeptic point out her failings, shortcomings, and flaws,’ He would
say. ‘But she is one of only seventeen I have chosen to be in My Hall
of Faith.’ That’s the kind of God we serve. The world finds flaws. Our
God finds faith. I know this because when He became a Man in Jesus
Christ, He found another loose woman, called her ‘gune’ — a term of
respect — and said, ‘Go call your husband.’ ‘I don’t have a husband,’
she answered. He didn’t call her a liar. He said, ‘Thou hast spoken
well. You don’t have a husband. You’ve had five. And the one you’re
living with now is not your husband,’ (John 4:16-18).
Only Jesus has the ability to extract the precious from the vile
(Jeremiah 15:19). The world does just the opposite. The world sniffs
out the vile in the precious. The world is quick to point to the
failures, shortcomings, inconsistencies in the lives of believers.
Why? Because the world is determined to keep people out of the Kingdom
of God. Thus, by Jesus’ definition, it is the world which is
hypocritical, not the believer.
Please remember this, gang, next time
the label of hypocrite is bandied about. It is not the breaking of
one’s standards which defines one as a hypocrite, but rather the
breaking of God’s heart by those whose goal is to keep people from
Him. May we learn the lesson of Rahab. And may we all celebrate the
grace and mercy of the One Who looks past our flaws to find our faith.
In Jesus’ Name.