Study #12 “Siding with God’s People” Hebrews 11:31
by Bob Burridge ©2022
The last study in this series was about the fall of Jerico, a pagan and immoral city. There was a woman in that city who came to trust in God’s promises to Israel. She was a harlot named Rahab. Hebrews 11 now takes us to Rahab who lived in that society.
Hebrews 11:31, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
The setting is found in Joshuah 2. Joshua was about to begin his conquest of the promised land fulfilling God’s promise. Spies were sent to gather intelligence on Jerico (the 1st fortified city they faced in their conquest of Canaan). They took refuge in the home of Rahab, a house built on the city wall.
Rahab was an unlikely example of
a committed faith in God’s promises.
She was a Gentile, not a descendant of Abraham. What’s more she was an Amorite, a race cursed by God for its wickedness. She was also a harlot, a prostitute. Her life-style made her a part of the corrupt Jerico society.
Rahab changed. She joined herself to the people of God! She betrayed her own evil nation and doomed people.
She was converted by confident faith in the True God She saw the evidence of God’s blessing on His people. The amazing crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of the kings of the Amorites.
The Holy Spirit gave her understanding and convinced her of God’s truth. She testified to the spies in Joshua 2:9-13 saying, “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.”
Like all the examples of faith, her faith was grounded in God’s promise. It wasn’t anchored in vain hopes. God gave her confidence in his promise to protect his people. Jesus’ parable of sower teaches that the word of God comes to many, but only when the soil is prepared will the seed grow. Rahab, like the other people in Jerico, heard what God was doing. Unlike the others, she loved what she heard. She trusted God.
The others living in Jerico were terrified over the reports. They said, “our hearts melted” (2:11). God told Moses back in Deuteronomy 2:25, “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.”
Those opposing God’s people are alarmed when they see God’s judgments fall. They often try to explain it away. They try to suppress their feelings of moral guilt. They try to turn it around by calling God’s people bigots and narrow minded, while they deny reality. They have often fiercely attacked believers with verbal assaults and physical attacks. Those trusting in those promises find comfort and strength to endure.
Rahab shows that even the most base of sinners can be redeemed by grace. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practics homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
No one is so deep in sin that God’s grace can’t deliver him. When true faith is put into a human heart, it will show itself by a desire to obey and worship God, and to show the fruit of the Spirit being evidenced in him.
Rahab’s obedience was evidence that her faith was genuine. James 2:25 “… was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
When faith is a genuine trust in God’s promises, it effects what we do, how we live. We will all be judged by our works. Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”
These verses aren’t saying we earn our salvation. Only Jesus could do that in His death on the cross. It’s saying that a true salvation will be proven, evidenced, by its works. Changed hearts demonstrate the salvation of God at work in them.
So, what did Rahab do? She received the spies with peace, and hid them. The king of Jerico found out that spies had come into the city from Israel. As his messengers searched for them, Rahab hid them among the stalks of flax on her roof.
The laws of Hamurabi demanded the death penalty for anyone not reporting outlaws. We ought to be ashamed before God when we fail to honor him because of our fear of consequences. Puritan John Owen wrote; “those who flee from public profession in times of danger and persecution, shall be no less assuredly excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem than unbelievers themselves (Revelation 21:8)” When times are rough, we learn who the faithful and true believers are.
Rahab lied to the king’s messengers: Joshua 2:4, She said, “I did not know where they were from” (she knew). Joshua 2:5, She said, “when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went.”
(But she had hidden them on her roof.) Then she said, “Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” (She knew they would fail.) When the way was clear, Rahab let the spies down the outside wall from a window by a rope.
Did she lie? No question about that. But we are never to help those intending to harm God’s people. The biblical text doesn’t comment on the lying issue here. She was commended for her faith in God’s word, not the means she used to protect the spies. We sometimes act wrongly when trying to do a good thing. Thankfully those who sincerely trust in God’s promises are forgiven by the work of our Savior. But there’s no indication that God sanctioned their being protected by a lie. Her intent was to not give aid to those intending to do something evil.
Rahab was blessed with the people of God.
She asked the spies for protection for herself and family, Joshua 2:12-13. The spies agreed on three conditions. She had to identify her house by tying a scarlet cord in her window. She had to keep everyone she wanted protected in that house. She was not to tell anyone about their business.
Joshua 6 reports that she was protected, just as they promised. 6:25 “she has lived in Israel to this day”. Hebrews 11:31 she “did not perish with those who were disobedient.” Matthew 1:5 lists Rahab as among the ancestors of King David and Jesus!
The world we live in is a growingly
pagan and secular society today.
Like Jerico; we live in a growingly immoral and pagan society. Our Christian beliefs are strongly opposed or distorted, even in many of our churches. In the case of Stone verses Graham in 1980 the supreme court ruled that Kentucky could not post the Ten Commandments on public school walls. Yet they hung on the wall in the supreme court room where the decision was made.
Some of the most offensive sins against God’s law are being protected by a growing body of federal court decisions, executive orders, and congressional actions. Unbelief and a new-morality are becoming the rule of the land!
Why should the 10 Commandments have become the target of a secular society? Note how our present standards measure up to this simple summary of God’s law:
1. God forbids us from having other gods. Ours is an age of pluralism. The narrow-minded call us narrow-minded bigots who believe God’s revealed truth about himself and about moral behavior. They claim to be tolerant of all beliefs — except those different than their own.
2. God forbids us to make images of any member of the godhead. Yet many think they know what Jesus looked like, how he acted, even his facial expressions. God tells us little about such things in the Bible. They rely on images of Jesus in plays, movies, statues, paintings, and illustrations. The Westminster Larger Catechism makes the Biblical position clear. It explains that the second commandment forbids, “making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever” (LC #109). The Bible doesn’t just tell us not to worship such images. God says don’t make them at all!
3. God forbids us to take his name in vain. Yet everyday we hear people use the words “God”, “Jesus Christ”, “Lord” in casual exclamations, not meaning anything by it, that’s what “in vain” means. At the same time people have been sued and charged with breaking the law when they have dared to pray in Christ’s name in school assemblies.
4. God commands us to keep his weekly Sabbath Day holy. Yet it’s become the prime day for businesses such as restaurants, stores, golf courses, pro-football to earn their money. Many churches, under the influence of modern dispensationalism, make excuses as if the coming of Jesus eliminated one of the 10 commandments (without ever actually telling us)! In Exodus20:10 it says of the Sabbath, “On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.”
5. God commands us to honor the authority of parents. Today, the upbringing of children is being taken over by the schools and government. God gives that authority to the parents to determine what they’re taught, how they’re to be raised and disciplined. Children are taught to question their genders and to be judged by the color of their skin. Homosexual parenting is openly promoted in books like the elementary school text “Heather has Two Momies”.
6. God forbids us to commit murder. Yet the media and our corrupt legal system excuses attacks by mobs and individuals if they can show they are only reacting to the unfairness of society and feel oppressed. Since 1973 many millions of unborn babies have been killed. Most of them because they inconvenienced their parents. One doctor reported that in his community in Los Angeles 99% of the babies were aborted because they weren’t the gender the parents wanted.
7. God forbids adultery. Divorce and adultery have become common-place tragedies to live with. Marriage has been reduced to just a mutual agreement based on feelings and are dissolvable at will. Intimate sexual activity outside of marriage is accepted as normal by many today. Today many American children are born to mothers who were never married!
8. God forbids stealing. But we’ve taken a wrong direction on crime and punishment. Our judicial system has more compassion for criminals than it does for the victims. Early release of convicts from prison is responsible for an explosion in violent crime. The courts see prison more as a state sponsored rehab for criminals than a place to punish them for what they’ve done, and to protect society.
9. God forbids lying. Yet it’s become the accepted way of life in politics, most of the media, and everyday business. When you buy something or listen to the news and political speeches we’ve come to wonder if someone is lying to us.
10. God forbids coveting. But without a moral foundation people lust after what others have. They fail to appreciate what God’s given them and prefer what others have. People covet money, power, reputation, talents, and intimacy with someone not their spouse.
By his covenant pledge, God promises to be with and to bless his people, when by faith they follow his ways and live by his principles. Our duty is to distinguish ourselves as his people, to stand boldly and joyfully with those God has pledged to love.
Those who hate the ways of God, ought to be terrified. Their attempts to silence us and attack God’s values, are destined to bring about their own destruction.
Those who stand with God’s people and obey by a sincere faith, openly confess God’s promises and live for his Sovereign glory. They humbly honor what God has said, even though its not popular. They will be comforted, encouraged, and stirred to obey God above the cost it may bring to them.
Rahab was a harlot, yet she cut her ties with her corrupt city and corrupt life, and joined with the kingdom of God. Her life changed dramatically!
Can a prostitute be a good example of a sincere faith for us to follow? Yes! Because she was a converted prostitute. She shows us the power of God to transform lives. She’s an example of how we need to abandon the corrupt ways around us and determine to do all for God’s glory.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“