Rahab: Faith That Puts Life in God's Hands
Passage: Joshua 2:1–2:24, James 2:25
Rahab put her life in God's hands and her actions showed it.
I’m sure you all have heard that famous saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s pretty clever. You speak using words. But this saying tells us that our actions actually do the speaking louder than our words do. When it comes to learning something about us, our actions tell someone more about us than our words do. Actions speak louder than words.
We are going through a series right now called Examples of Faith According to James. In James’ letter that he wrote to believers, he used four people from the Old Testament as examples of faith: Abraham, Rahab, Job, and Elijah. We are looking at their lives to see what James saw in them. Each of these four people went through a trial where their faith was tested. That’s a big theme for James.
Last week we focused on Abraham. Abraham was an example of faith in action. Abraham believed God and his faith in God wasn’t just “talk”; he really meant it. You could see he believed God by his actions - by how he lived, by what he did. The ultimate test of his faith was the story of offering up Isaac on the altar.
I think James would have been a big fan of the saying “Actions speak louder than words.” James actually said “Show me your faith apart from works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James said faith that’s all “ talk” is dead. If someone says they have faith but there is no godly action with it, James would say their actions speak louder than their words and they don’t have a faith worth anything.
This week we will meet Rahab. Rahab is also an example of faith in action. But her faith will be shown in a different way than Abraham’s was. Abraham’s trial tested to see if he loved something more than God. Rahab’s trial will test to see if she trusts God with her life. We will see that Rahab had a difficult choice to make: she could trust in herself and in her own abilities like everyone else was doing or she could trust in God. Let’s set up the story.
The people of Israel lived in slavery in the land of Egypt for about 400 years. God led them out using a man named Moses. He split the waters of the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land and escape Egypt’s armies. They travelled to Mount Sinai to worship God where they received the Ten Commandments and other guidance as a foundation for their relationship with God. Then they continued toward the land of Canaan that God had promised to give to their ancestor Abraham and his family. On the way, they defeated two kings that opposed them, Sihon and Og. Then they camped by the Jordan River on the Eastern border. Their leader, Moses, died and handed leadership over to a man named Joshua.
This is where our story picks up. The people of Israel were getting ready to go into the land of Canaan. This is the land that God had promised to give to their ancestor Abraham centuries ago. Now they have grown into a great nation like God had promised. God has freed them from slavery and they stand at the border of the land that God has promised. Joshua decides to send two spies ahead of them to check out the first city they are going to conquer, the city of Jericho.
Reenacting the story
Characters: Joshua, 2 spies, Rahab, soldiers sent by king of Jericho
Joshua: “Go, check out the land, especially Jericho.”
(Two spies walk to Jericho.)
And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.
(Spies enter Jericho.)
And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out all the land.”
What the king didn’t know is that Rahab had decided to hide the spies.
(Rahab hides the spies under a blanket.)
Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they come to search out the land.”
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.”
But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof to dry them out. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan River as far as the fords. Fords are a point of crossing in a river so the soldiers head to those places on the Jordan River to cut the spies off from crossing back over to join the rest of the Israelites.
(Soldiers leave Jericho.)
And the gate was shut as soon as the soldiers left to pursue them, which meant the spies had no way of getting out of the city.
(Shut Jericho’s gate.)
Before the spies went to sleep for the night waiting for the gate to reopen in the morning, Rahab came up to them on the roof and said to them:
“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. 10 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. 11 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. 12 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 13 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.” (Joshua 2:9-13)
The spies answered her: “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
Now remember, the gate was shut so they couldn’t get out. But Rahab’s house was built into the wall of the city. So she let them down by a rope through the window so they could escape the city.
(Let the spies out using a rope.)
And Rahab said to them: “Go into the hills, or the soldiers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the soldiers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.”
The spies agree to do as Rahab said and tell her to tie a red cord in the window through which she let them down. They also told her that any family she wants to be safe needs to be in her house and she needs to not tell anyone they were there.
And Rahab said: “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
(Put a red cord in the window.)
Then they went into the hills, and waited three days like Rahab said to do and the soldiers didn’t find them. Then they returned to the Israelite camp and reported to Joshua and told him everything that had happened.
A few chapters later, God tells the people of Israel how they are to enter Jericho. He tells them to march around the city once per day for six days and to have seven priests blow seven trumpets after marching around it. Then on the seventh day, they are to march around the city seven times and when the trumpets are blown, all the people are to shout and the walls will fall down flat. So the people do it and that’s exactly what happens. Then the whole city is destroyed except for Rahab and her family.
How does James see this story?
What does James want us to see in this story? James writes one verse about Rahab in James chapter two verse 25. Let’s read verses 25 and 26:
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:25-26)
For James, Rahab is an example of someone for whom faith isn’t just “talk.” Her actions speak loudly. When she says she has faith in God, she really means it. James calls the spies “messengers” and says that you could see her faith was alive and real when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. James sees Rahab’s faith in action when she helped the spies.
Actions speak louder than words. But we also need to ask a deeper question: what determines our actions? What does Rahab put her faith in?
Rahab doesn’t know much about God, but she knows enough to place her faith in him. She tells the spies what she does know in Joshua verse 9 through 11:
“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. 10 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. 11 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. (Joshua 2:9-11)
This is what she knows of God. Look at what she says at the beginning: “I know the Lord has given you [Israel] the land.” Look at what she says at the end: “for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Rahab is a Canaanite. She would have had her own Canaanite religion with her own Canaanite god that her people believed in. But here, she is rejecting the god of her people and accepting that the Lord is God of heaven and earth.
She also tells the spies how other people are reacting. Everyone else heard the reports about how God dried up the water of the Red Sea when Israel came out of Egypt and how they defeated the other two kings. When they heard this, they were afraid, their hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in them. But what’s the difference between everyone else and Rahab? Rahab heard all of this and she responded in faith. She put her trust in God. How did the rest of Jericho respond? They didn’t respond in faith. They prepared to fight.
The city of Jericho knows what God is capable of and they are afraid, but they don’t place their faith in him in a way that changes their actions. They still want to go on living how they’ve always lived. They hear the word about God but do nothing about it. They try to save themselves from the judgment coming their way. This shows the hardness of the human heart and the stubbornness of humanity. Even in the face of destruction, we will continue resisting instead of repenting. We’d rather do it our way instead of God’s way, even if our way is doomed to fail.
Jesus taught “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35). Deciding to take in those spies was a decisive moment for Rahab. It shows she had broken ties with the world and attached herself to God. Faith in God meant separation for her from her old religion and her people and her city. And it meant risk. Rahab risked her life by taking the spies in. She risked her life by hiding them and deceiving the guards. She risked her life by sending the spies out her window by a rope. These were works of faith. They showed that Rahab had put her life in God’s hands.
The region of Canaan and the city of Jericho stood under God’s judgment. As a citizen of both, Rahab stood under God’s judgment but experienced salvation and became a part of God’s people by faith. She put her life in God’s hands when she took in the spies and helped them. She had double-mindedness with one part of her loyal to the world and one part of her loyal to God. She risked it all and fully put her life in God’s hands. That act of living faith is when she found salvation. But the rest of Jericho was not willing to do that.
Actions speak louder than words. But we also need to ask a deeper question: what determines our actions? Rahab put her life in God’s hands. We don’t know what was going through her mind, but what might have we been thinking and feeling if we were in her shoes? We could have feared all that might have gone wrong about her plan. The soldiers could have not believed her or searched more thoroughly or someone could have seen her let them out her window or they could have been found hiding in the hills. The spies could have not held up their end of the deal. When the Israelites sieged and attacked the city, her house could have been destroyed accidentally and they could have been killed.
These characters we are meeting in this series are in some of the most extreme trials. You may never be in a situation where your city is being invaded and you might die because you are hiding some spies. But the fact that God comes through for Rahab and Abraham shows us that if God can be trusted in their most extreme trials, he can be trusted in our most extreme trials and in our small ones and in everything in between.
Rahab put her life in God’s hands. There were circumstances out of her control. There were people who could hurt her. She had to trust that God was the kind of God who was good enough to be trusted. She threw herself on his grace because she’s a Canaanite prostitute that doesn’t deserve anything from him.
What do we know about God? We know a lot more than Rahab. We have the gospel. Abraham was a father who was asked to offer up his beloved son on the altar. In the end God provided the sacrifice. The gospel tells us that our heavenly Father offered up his beloved Son as the sacrifice for our sin so we can have a relationship with him. Rahab risked her life and put it in God’s hands. Jesus, God’s Son, did lose his life. He put his life in God’s hands and died so we could be forgiven.
What are your actions saying about what you believe? Our actions speak louder than our words in telling those around us what we believe. I like 4Gs because they help us see what our actions would be if we believed these truths about God. We have many fork in the road moments to believe the 4Gs and act on those truths.
- God is great, so I don’t have to be in control. What actions in your life would speak loudly that you believe God is great?
- God is glorious, so I don’t have to fear others. What actions in your life would speak loudly that you believe God is glorious?
- God is good, so I don’t have to look for satisfaction elsewhere. What actions in your life would speak loudly that you believe God is good?
- God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself. What actions in your life would speak loudly that you believe God is gracious?
What’s out of your control? Put your life in God’s hands.
Who are you afraid of? Put your life in God’s hands.
Not sure God is you can trust? Put your life in God’s hands.
Not sure if you deserve it? You absolutely don’t. Put your life in God’s hands.
The gospel message is God saying to us, “I’m for you and I’m with you. I’ve got you.” That’s the gospel. We need to stop fighting against God and closing ourselves off to him. We need to open ourselves to him, take a risk, and wait on him like Rahab did.
What is God asking you to do that would look foolish if he isn’t real? He’s asking you to put your life in his hands. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die if he doesn’t come through. It means you would never do it if you didn’t have God in your life. It means you would never do it if you didn’t have God saying to you, “I’m for you and I’m with you. I’ve got you.”